Whether you’re making dinner for a date you want to impress or prepping for the week, there are a few dishes you should have down as an adult. What dishes, you ask? Well, that's all dependent on personal preference and taste.
If you're a little inept in the kitchen, you'll want to enhance your skills by knowing at least a few of these essential dishes. They'll certainly help you in a bind and keep your belly satisfied when the usual peanut butter and jelly just isn't cutting it.
1. Whole Roasted Chicken
Roasting a whole chicken is delicious, cheap, and can feed you for a long time. If you roast a chicken, you can use the various pieces and parts for multiple meals and even make soup or broth with the bones (or carcass). There's also nothing quite like the aroma of a chicken roasting on a cold winter day.
The skill of making well-cooked, fluffy rice is a skill that I only appreciated once I tried (and failed too many times) to make it myself. You might have an easier time if you have a rice cooker or pressure cooker, though be wary of the dangers of the latter. However, figuring out the proper method, the ratio of water to rice, and the length of time to cook your rice is a skill that may require time and patience.
3. A Roux
There are many uses for a simple roux, which is a simple combination of flour and oil or butter. For example, you can use a roux to make gravy, cheese sauce, or even to prepare a pot pie filling. A dark roux is typically used to flavor dishes like jambalaya and gumbo.
4. Chicken Cutlets
Do you know what goes with virtually anything? Chicken cutlets. Have a dish of pasta? Throw a cutlet on top. Cooking up some rice? Chop a cutlet and toss it in to make it heartier. Down to two pieces of bread? Toast them up and slap a cutlet in the middle. Breading and frying thin strips of chicken breast can give you days worth of leftovers. Best of all? You don’t even have to heat them up. When you realize what you can do with a cold chicken cutlet, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled across a life hack.
When the weather chills, there’s nothing quite like a nice hot chili. It’s a hearty dish comprised of meat, chili peppers, spices, and, depending on the region, sometimes beans. Have it in a bowl by itself, scoop it up with chips, or add in some rice for an even heftier dish. With a good chili, you definitely won’t go hungry anytime soon.
6. Stir Fry
Stir fry is a great way to use random leftovers or ingredients. The basic idea of making a good stir fry is combining your protein of choice with whatever vegetables you have on hand and adding spices and typically Asian sauces to your liking. There are a lot of different styles of stir fry out there, leaving much room for experimentation in the kitchen, but some of the best include fried rice or thin Asian noodles.
Fried, scrambled, and soft-boiled are my favorite ways to eat eggs. Unless you count deviled eggs, which feel like their own category. Whatever way you enjoy them, being able to prepare at least one style of egg should be high on the list of culinary skills to learn.
8. Steak and Potatoes
If you didn’t grow up eating the stereotypical “meat and potatoes,” it may not be a dish you know how to cook. Even if you don’t have a grill or a fancy pan, you can still make a delicious steak in the oven or stovetop. I love making a loaded baked potato or parmesan butter mashed potatoes alongside my pan-seared steak.
From a multi-layered lasagna to a simple oil and herb sauce, making an excellent pasta dish is an underrated skill. While you can find many recipes online, experimenting can produce delicious results. Even if you’re using pasta from a box, figure out what type of spices, herbs, and additional ingredients combine well and ask a friend to try the finished product for some honest feedback.
10. Grilled Cheese
Whether you’re focused on a simple white bread and Kraft single sandwich or a more elevated version with fruit, jam, meat, or fancy cheese, learn how to make a good grilled cheese. Using the correct type of bread, plenty of butter, and having the pan properly heated are all critical elements of a delicious golden brown outcome.
11. Biscuits and Gravy
You might already know how to make biscuits and gravy if you’re from the south. To make this classic breakfast food better than the local diners, focus on making biscuits from scratch and learn to make gravy with fresh ingredients without a packet. If you put a good gravy in front of me, I can find almost anything to put it on.
12. Mac and Cheese
There may be arguments regarding the best way to make mac and cheese or who has the best recipe, but you should learn to make at least one type that isn’t from a box. Earlier on the list, I suggested that you should learn how to make a roux, which can be used to thicken the cheese sauce in mac and cheese. Maybe you’ll get to know how to make two new dishes at once!
13. Soup or Stew
Many people will agree that soup is a fantastic dish for when you're feeling under the weather. There are endless soup recipes available online, and even if you’re the type of person who likes to follow your heart and not the page, you can still teach yourself to make soup. Stew and soup are very similar, with stew typically being thicker or chunkier with less broth.
14. Pot Roast
Typically, pot roast involves beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions. However, depending on your dietary choices, you can use various vegetables and even substitute pork for beef. There are a few essential elements to making a good roast, with my top two suggestions being to let it cook long enough and use plenty of spice.
15. Chicken Pot Pie
Put aside the frozen pot pie and look up a good recipe for chicken pot pie! You can take shortcuts to reduce your work, such as using store-bought pastry or frozen vegetables. Even if you don’t make your dough from scratch, it will likely turn out better than a frozen pot pie. I have never made a chicken pot pie from scratch, but it seems like a skill I should learn.
There are many different styles of curry from all over the world, many of which share common spices, such as ginger, turmeric, and pepper. When making a curry, the type or origin region of the recipe matters much less than being able to put together something tasty.
Like many of these recipes, what type of casserole you can make depends on your taste and where you're from. Most casserole recipes will lead you in the right direction regarding ratios, but you can use a variety of ingredients you have on hand to keep things exciting or reduce waste. Tuna is a popular casserole but is far from the only protein that fits.
Daisy Frisch is a writer and editor who grew up reading and writing before she knew much else. For nearly 15 years, she has focused on SEO content writing, which has included writing legal and medical copy for lawyers and hospitals all over the country to creating riveting blogs for landscaping and home decor websites. She is currently a contributing writer to Wealth of Geeks, where she focuses on lifestyle and media content. She loves any opportunity to write about food, movies and TV, and much more.
She studied English and Journalism in California, where she also worked in music journalism, interviewing artists as well as reviewing live shows and albums.
In addition to an appreciation for music, she is interested in many art forms and fandoms, including but not limited to her decades-old Pokemon card collection, old fighting games, and a fascination for why people do the things they do. If you sit her down with a fantasy novel or put a thriller movie on, it would be hard to tear her away.