Basic cooking skills?

Basic cooking skills?

In Medium Raw , which I’m reading now, Anthony Bourdain has a chapter on what he thinks should be basic kitchen skills for “all men, women, and teenagers”. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you have all these? His list seemed to me to have a certain bias toward traditional Western European based cooking. If you come from another culinary culture, are there skills you think should be swapped out for, say, boeuf bourguignon?

The list, in brief:

1) Basic knife handling, sharpening, & maintenance, along with rudimentary dicing, mincing, slicing.

2) Ability to make an omelet. (“I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able…to make them a proper omelet in the morning.”)

3) Roast a chicken.

4) Correctly grill & rest a steak. (He references the terrible state of backyard grilling.)

5) Cook vegetables.

6) Make a standard vinaigrette.

7) Ability to shop for fresh produce, have a sense of what’s in season, what’s ripe or rotten.

8) Recognize fish that’s fresh & how to clean & filet it.

9) Steam a lobster, crab, clams or mussels.

10) Roast meats & know when it’s done without a thermometer.

11) Roast & mash potatoes.

12) Make rice, both steamed & pilaf method.

13) Have fundamentals of braising (he mentions specifically boeuf bourguignon).

14) Be able to make stock from bones, plus a few soups.

15) Each person should develop his/her own “modest yet unique repertoire”, a few dishes that they love & practice preparing until are proud of result. “To either respect in this way their own past–or express through cooking their dreams for the future. Every citizen would thus have their own specialty.”

So what do you think? Can you proudly claim to do all? Would you suggest any changes to the list? What would be in your modest but unique repertoire?

Anthony Bourdain is not a sweets person, but I actually think that everyone who likes chocolate should know how to make a basic ganache (it’s extremely easy). And for Americans, how to make a cake/brownies/chocolate chip cookies without a mix, and bread. (French, on the other hand, don’t like cakes in the first place usually and have fantastic and cheap bakeries every block, so if you live there, let the pros do it.) And, while I think Anthony Bourdain might be opposed to this particular sauce-making skill, I will say that the ability to make a roux is easily acquired and is useful in all kinds of sauces.

What do you think?


  • I think this is a pretty good list. I’d quibble with the necessity of being able to filet a fish and make a roast without a thermometer. Is that really a necessary skill for a home cook?

    Also, when I met him, my husband made a mean meatloaf, but didn’t know how to make grilled cheese. Or, actually, oatmeal that wasn’t instant. Seems like a pretty necessary teenager skill, much more so than being able to roast a chicken.

    July 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm

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