For all parents, seeing the kids leave off to college knowing they will not depend on fast food or starve due to lack of cooking skills is a relief. But when can kids start acquiring some basic cooking and kitchen skills, and which should those be? A few solid basics will go a long way. After all, once you master the technique, you can cook anything.
Other than the technical aspects of preparing food, learning some principles from an early age is important as well.
Here at Junior Chef, we are careful that our kids cooking classes don’t overwhelm children with seemingly unattainable perfection. Cooking is and should always be a pleasure. That may very well be the first principle we want to emphasize. If you’re not having fun, don’t do it!
Let’s Start with Cooking Basics
This applies to any age group. Nothing happens in the kitchen unless everything is clean: hands thoroughly washed; station free of smudges, debris, wiped spotless even if it gleams already; produce washed, as well.
During the process, a few more cleaning stops are necessary: clean the cutting board when switching ingredients, immediately address spills (though not in drama mode. Spills happen, flour gets on the floor, eggs have a will of their own and break outside of the bowl…).
A clean kitchen is a safe kitchen.
Yes, patience is a virtue. When you start learning how to cook, everything feels slow. You’re so excited about the result, you’re tempted to take shortcuts, turn up the stove so it would cook faster, skip sifting the flour, forgo the double boiler and microwave the chocolate (which is acceptable in some cases).
While children are not the picture of patience, they do amazingly well in the kitchen. It could be the ritual-like quality of cooking, or that they’re eager to please and follow instructions. We suggest starting with kid-friendly recipes. This will achieve the perfect balance of learning and having fun, with no risk of chef frustration seeping in.
3. Respecting a Process
Too often are we inclined to read the recipe one line at a time and keep going to the fridge and pantry to fetch the ingredients, measure, slice, melt, etc. By learning the very basic of reading a recipe all the way through and gathering all that is needed at the beginning, children (and adults) can acquire the valuable skill of time management. Preparing all the items and utensils makes it so much easier when it’s time to add, stir, mix, or fold.
If you’re squeamish about entrusting your child with your utensils, get a few kid-friendly sets. They can help with tools that are easy to handle and safe.
Kitchen Skills That Can Set Them Free
Mastering essential kitchen skills presents several benefits for the children. Some physical components will improve their physical and spatial coordination. Other aspects will help them be more independent and able to cook for themselves rather than pop something in the microwave.
4. Knife skills
It may not be useful for many to know how to filet a fish, but proper handling of the knife to cube or slice is important (to us, anyway). Of course, we keep children in our group classes safe and would not send them home with a missing digit. The little ones can watch, older ones can use a butter knife to practice slicing apples with no risk of injury.
5. Table setting
What if your child is invited to dine with the Queen? Or, more likely someday required to attend a formal function involving more than one fork, knife, and glass? They have the option to wait and watch what other guests do; they can also be ready and confident enough to distinguish the fish fork from the salad fork.
6. Fixing Simple Dishes
None should enter life without knowing how to cook an omelet, prepare a PB&J sandwich, make salad dressing, and cook rice and pasta. We’d add it comes in handy to know how to prepare comfort food for those sick days when we are miserable and need a taste of home. So whichever food your kids love when feeling unwell, teach them how to make it.
All it takes to enter adult life serene and ready is a handful of cooking and kitchen skills. Like other necessary skills such as counting, reading, throwing a baseball, children can learn them from an early age, perfect them, and enrich their skillset. Start with the steps you feel more comfortable with, and watch your little chef grow into a culinary master. Enroll them in one of our group cooking classes, where they can share the experience with other kids.
And if you feel you too could improve your cookery skills, we’d love to have you participate to an adult cooking class. It will make you happy, parole de chef!