Parenting journey

Goal: Help your teens learn how to cook for themselves and others

Teen cooking at a stove
Teaching your teen to cook for themselves is a crucial life skill that promotes independence, healthy eating habits, and can even be a source of enjoyment. Here are steps you, as a parent, can follow to help your teen become confident and capable in the kitchen.

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1 | Start with basic safety

Kitchen hygiene

Teach them about washing their hands before and after handling food, keeping kitchen surfaces and linens clean, and avoiding cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods.

Proper use of kitchen tools

Show them how to safely use knives, peelers, graters, and other sharp tools. Emphasize keeping fingers away from blades and the importance of using tools for their intended purposes.

Handling the stove and oven

Demonstrate how to turn them on and off safely, adjust heat settings, and use oven mitts to handle hot cookware. Discuss the importance of never leaving cooking unattended.

Dealing with grease fires

Explain that water should never be used on a grease fire. Instead, teach them to turn off the heat (if safe to do so) and cover the pan with a lid or use a fire extinguisher designed for kitchen fires.

Electrical safety

Discuss the dangers of mixing water and electricity, such as keeping electrical appliances away from sinks or wet hands. Show them how to safely plug in and unplug appliances.

Safe food handling

  • Avoiding foodborne illness: Teach them about the importance of storing food at the right temperature, understanding expiration dates, and properly cooking meats to safe internal temperatures.
  • Safe food preparation: Discuss the importance of using separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.

Organizational skills

Encourage them to keep the cooking area organized and clutter-free to prevent accidents, such as spills leading to slips or tripping over loose objects.

Emergency preparedness

Make sure they know where the first-aid kit is and how to use its contents, especially burn ointment and bandages. Teach them basic first aid for cuts, burns, and other kitchen injuries. Ensure they know how to call emergency services and the importance of knowing the home address for reporting emergencies.

2 | Introduce cooking basics

Basic techniques

  • Cutting and chopping: Show them how to hold a knife properly and practice basic cuts on various ingredients.
  • Boiling and simmering: Teach them how to boil water, cook pasta, and make simple sauces.
  • Sautéing and frying: Demonstrate how to sauté vegetables and fry an egg, emphasizing the importance of oil temperature and safety.
  • Baking and roasting: Start with simple recipes like cookies or roasted vegetables to teach the basics of oven use and cooking times.

Explore basic recipes together

Guide them through the process of reading recipes, emphasizing the importance of following steps in order and paying attention to details like preheating the oven or allowing ingredients to come to room temperature.

Choose simple, forgiving recipes that incorporate the techniques you've taught. Meals like soups, salads, pasta, and simple baked goods are great starters.

Teach measurement and conversion

Familiarize them with measuring cups, spoons, and scales. Discuss the importance of precise measurements in baking and how to convert units of measurement.

3 | Plan together

Menu planning

Involve them in planning meals for the week. This can include selecting recipes that balance nutrition and their personal tastes.

Grocery shopping

Take them grocery shopping, teaching them how to select fresh ingredients and stick to a shopping list to avoid impulse buys.

Helping your teen learn how to stick to a budget and still make healthy, tasty, filling meals is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Meal plan blog header

Empower your teens with the live-changing skill of meal planning

4 | Give them hands-on practice

Start simple

Begin with easy recipes that require a few ingredients and steps, such as pasta dishes, omelets, or salads.

Gradually increase complexity

As they become more comfortable, introduce more complex recipes that involve multiple steps or techniques.

Provide constructive feedback

Offer positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. Celebrate successes and treat mistakes as learning opportunities.

5 | Teach about dietary needs

Healthy cooking methods

Introduce them to healthy cooking methods such as baking, grilling, steaming, and sautéing with minimal added fat, rather than frying or using heavy sauces.

Understanding dietary needs

Explain that nutritional needs can vary by individual, including considerations for allergies, intolerances, and personal dietary choices such as vegetarianism or veganism. Teach them how to adapt recipes to meet these needs.

Understanding macronutrients

Discuss the roles of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the diet. Emphasize the importance of complex carbohydrates (like whole grains and vegetables), lean proteins, and healthy fats (such as those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil) over processed foods and saturated fats.

Balanced diet

Explain the importance of a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein sources (like meat, fish, beans, and nuts), and dairy or dairy alternatives. Discuss how different foods provide necessary nutrients, such as carbohydrates for energy, proteins for growth and repair, fats for energy and cell health, vitamins, and minerals for various body functions.

Portion control

Teach them about appropriate portion sizes and how to read food labels to understand serving sizes. Discuss the difference between portion size and serving size, helping them learn to moderate intake based on their activity level and nutritional needs.

6 | Encourage creativity and experimentation

Experiment with flavors

Encourage them to try different spices and herbs to see how they can change the flavor of a dish.

Recipe modification

Show them how to modify recipes based on the ingredients they have on hand or their dietary preferences.

7 | Teach them how to clean up

Clean as you go

Teach them the habit of cleaning up as they cook to keep the workspace organized and safe.

Post-cooking cleanup

Emphasize the importance of washing dishes, wiping down and sterilizing surfaces, and properly storing leftovers.

8 | Make cooking fun

Cook together

Make cooking a family activity where everyone can learn and enjoy the process together.

Theme nights

Have theme nights where you explore different cuisines, making cooking an educational and cultural experience.

9 | Address mistakes

Learning from errors

Encourage them to see mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failures.


Teach them how to salvage a dish that didn’t go as planned or make adjustments for next time.

10 | Gradually encourage independence

Supervised cooking

Initially, supervise their cooking, offering guidance and support.

Independent cooking

Gradually step back and let them take the lead, making themselves meals with less supervision.

Teaching guide: Basic cooking skills for teens

This guide will help you prepare your teen with basic cooking skills and kitchen safety.
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By following these steps, you'll not only teach your teen how to cook for themselves but also instill valuable lessons in responsibility, nutrition, and the joy of creating meals. This will serve them well into adulthood, equipping them with the skills to maintain a healthy, independent lifestyle.

What do you need help with?

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