20 Foods Everyone Should Know How to Cook Slideshow

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Roast Chicken

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According to Scarbrough and Weinstein, roast chicken should be on the list of what everyone needs to know how to make. Why? "Because of your grandmother. [Because] it goes from a fancy meal to Wednesday night dinner. There's something for almost everyone: white meat, dark meat, and wings for the Hooter's crowd. It's easier to cook than boneless, skinless chicken breasts because there's less danger of it overcooking and becoming nothing more than chicken shards on your plate." Check out these tips on how to perfectly roast a chicken.

Pancakes

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With the scents of sweet maple syrup and pancakes hot off the griddle mingling in the air, it’s hard not to enjoy a Sunday morning breakfast. And pancakes are a favorite part of many childhood memories, so parents, don’t spoil your kids’ memories with doughy (read: undercooked) pancakes or burned messes. Instead, follow these easy tips for better pancakes and enjoy many happy days to come.

Hamburgers

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Whether your ideal hamburger is a thick, juicy one or a thin, flat griddle burger, there are some rules that apply to every type of burger. First, do not, we repeat, do not overhandle the meat. The result will be a tough, dry burger that no amount of cheese or mayo will rescue. For 10 tips for making that perfect burger, check out chef Jonathan Waxmans go-to advice.

Pasta

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It sounds simple: Add pasta to boiling water, cook until done. But there are many steps and variants along the way that can prevent the gummy end result of overcooked pasta. What exactly? From generously salting the water to when and where to add the sauce, TDM’s editorial director, Colman Andrews, gives basic tips in his What to Know When Cooking Pasta story.

Roast Turkey

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Admittedly, cooking a turkey generally only becomes a necessity around the holiday season, but since Thanksgiving will be happening every year for the rest of your life, it’s not a bad skill to learn. For tips on the ideal roasting temperature, the best seasonings, and how to achieve perfectly done breast meat, check out How to Make the Perfect Roast Turkey.

Whole Fish

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Whether it's roasted or grilled, a whole fish can be an easy dinner dish for one. Get creative with spice blends or go the simple route with fresh herbs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and some lemon slices. Yes, filleting it might be intimidating, but why not get your fingers dirty and pick it apart with your hands? No fanciness needed. For tips on grilling and how to know when it’s done, check how this How to Grill a Whole Fish video and recipe.

Mac and Cheese

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A perennial childhood favorite, this recipe is typically made with a classic béchamel sauce, though other variations are possible and have been popping up frequently. Of course, once you get the basics down, there are endless possibilities, like a high-end lobster mac or a meatier version with chorizo. Read this article for tips and tricks from the makers of the world’s best mac and cheese.

Tofu

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Tofu is a great vegetarian option and it's delicious for carnivores as well. But, it can be an intimidating food to work with, especially when deciding what type of tofu to buy. Check out these tips from Tofu Master Minh Tsai of HodoSoy Beanery and see some basic recipes that he offers. Quick cheat sheet? When grilling or making less saucy dishes, choose a firm tofu. Other types will leak out a little liquid during the cooking process, which is wonderful when making dishes like ma pa tofu.

Artichokes

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Steaming an artichoke will most likely take longer than you think, but it’s well worth the wait. Simply trim off some of the leaves on the bottom, snip off the sharp, pointy tips of the remaining leaves, and chop off the excess stem. Place in a steamer basket above a few inches of water, and add any aromatics like lemon slices, garlic cloves, or herbs in the basket along with the artichokes. Cover and cook until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Serve with a dip of your choice. 

Check out this Grilled Baby Artichokes with Garlic and White Wine Butter recipe.

Pie

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The all-American apple pie — whether you love it, hate it, or are maybe just plain sick of it, it’s generally a staple at most holiday meals and even cookouts in the summer. Instead of opting for a frozen pie crust, learn how to make a basic simple one and then play around with the fillings to give your own twist to this classic dish. Try this basic pie crust recipe and enjoy!

Scrambled Eggs

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Butter? Oil? A combination of both? Scrambled eggs are a breakfast favorite, especially when paired with crispy potatoes and bacon, but almost everyone has experienced the poorly cooked scrambled egg and it’s not pretty. Or tasty. Here, one cook explores the options available when making scrambled eggs and the best cooking fat to use.

Vinaigrette/Salad Dressing

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The ratios of a salad dressing might be set as three parts oil to one part vinegar or acid, but in all honesty, it comes down to your personal preference and should be adjusted accordingly. A tip from the pros, though: add the oil in last, after combining the other ingredients together in a bowl, whisking while drizzling it in to emulsify the dressing. Experiment and get creative by adding in herbs, shallots, garlic, or using different citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits as the acid. The possibilities are endless!

Potato Salad

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A favorite side dish at summer barbecues, potato salad is simple yet requires a little know-how to come out great. Here are a few hints from chef Dave Mawhinney, who recently taught a perfect picnic class at New York City’s Haven’s Kitchen cooking school. (Just in case you didn’t make the connection, potato salad is a perfect picnic food.) After boiling potatoes (preferably ones that are all evenly sized) with aromatics of your choice — think black peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, copious amounts of salt — drain the pot, then dress them while warm so the dense potatoes can absorb the vinaigrette. Hint from chef Mawhinney: Tarragon and potatoes is a match made in heaven.

Try this French Potato Salad recipe for your next al fresco meal.

Steak

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One thing that differentiates home cooks from professional chefs is the amount of seasoning used when cooking, and steaks are a perfect example. As chef Jason Landon Smith of Florida's Steak 954 says, when he's grilling a steak, it is white (with salt) when it's put on the grill. Of course, a lot falls off, but the rest permeates through the meat as it cooks to get that flavorful and juicy restaurant steak we all know and love. Check out his tips for perfectly grilling steak and chef Jonathan Waxmans recipe for hanger steak with salsa piccante.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

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A healthy snack or great source of protein in a salad, hard-boiled eggs come in handy in the kitchen. But the problem with them still being in the shell is that there's no way to look at them and know if they're done. Instead of ending up with over- or undercooked eggs, follow these basic tips and learn how to perfectly hard-boil an egg so you avoid cracking open a hot, gooey mess (unless thats what you're going for).

Cookies

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A childhood favorite for most, cookies are quick and easy to make. But this isn't to say that it isn't easy to mess up a cookie; they can be over- or undercooked, tough and brittle, and flavorless. Finding a good recipe is always key, but there are some basic steps and tips to follow so that the dough isnt overworked and comes out tasting great. Check out these tips for perfect cookie dough from the owners of One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Meatloaf

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A classic comfort food, meatloaf is generally popular amongst home cooks for its simplicity and low maintenance — also reasons that it made it on this list. Meatloaf is typically made with ground meat and a mixture of seasonings like herbs, vegetables, or spices, bound with eggs or breadcrumbs, and then baked in a loaf pan. As to what goes in it or is served on top of it — think ketchup, glazes, cheese, tomato sauce — that's up to the cook. Check out this easy meatloaf recipe to get started.

Pesto

"It's not one thing but a category — that is, it's not just basil as the herb, but various green herbs like parsley or sage in various ratios," say Scarbrough and Weinstein. "Pesto can be tossed with pasta, used as a pizza sauce, rubbed on meat before grilling, or thinned with vinegar to use as a salad dressing. Plus, you can freeze it in ice cube trays, more at the ready whenever you want it."

Try this arugula-pesto recipe to start.

Roast Vegetables

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An easy side dish to any winter roast or fish dish, roasted vegetables should be a staple in any cook’s kitchen. As Scarbrough and Weinstein explain, "They're tastier than steamed and the whole technique is basically the same for almost every veggie, asparagus to butternut squash — something we call 'the shove': cut or slice the veggie, put it in a roasting tray, oil it up, salt it, and shove it in a 400-degree oven." It really is as easy as that.

Basic Tomato Sauce

Whether it's used for traditional pastas or lasagnas, tomato sauce is a simple and basic recipe to know. Of course, there are endless variations, but we prefer this one from TDM’s editorial director, Colman Andrews. Try serving his basic tomato sauce with perfectly cooked noodles, steamed vegetables, or just dunk some hearty Italian bread in it.