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Cooking isn’t nearly as complicated (or expensive!) as it looks. Today, we’ve put together a list of quick and easy beginner recipes and techniques that make even the simplest foods taste amazing. While I can’t promise you’ll suddenly be a master chef, these beginner recipes are a great start.
You’ll want to invest in good equipment. Nothing beats a good non-stick pan for frying up eggs by themselves, but sometimes you want extra food bits to stick around—particularly if you’re cooking meat. You can make delicious pan sauces and stir fry dishes with the bits of food and juices leftover in the pan, so sometimes cast iron or stainless steel is the way to go.
We’ll list our recommendations on equipment after each section in case you don’t have something on hand or need a recommendation on new pans.
Quick and Easy Beginner Recipes
You probably know someone who’s a master at whipping things up in the kitchen—your grandmother, who has everyone’s favorite recipes that (still) haven’t been written down, or the friend that always seems to have the perfect dish for every gathering. Here are some recipes that are easy to modify—the perfect foundation for creating your own recipes once you have these beginner recipes down!
Bangkok Peanut Chicken Stir Fry
While I generally enjoy making my own sauces, I fell in love with House of Tsang’s Bangkok Peanut Sauce. This dish is super easy to make and if you’re not big on Thai flavors, you can easily substitute different sauce and veggies.
Bangkok Peanut Chicken Stir Fry
Bangkok Peanut Chicken Stir FryCourse: MainCuisine: ThaiDifficulty: Easy
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/2 cup of water chestnuts, drained
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup of Bangkok Peanut Sauce
½ cup unsalted peanuts, crushed
Olive or peanut oil for sauteing veggies
- Cover your pan (or wok) in olive oil (usually 2-3 tbsp) and heat to medium. Add chopped onion. Cook until it starts to look translucent (or just slightly soft if you like a little crunch), about 5 minutes.
- Add chicken and stir occasionally. Cook until the inside is no longer pink and the juice is clear. (About another 5 minutes.) Smaller, more consistent pieces are easier to cook evenly without drying out. Remove chicken and onions and set aside in a bowl.
- Add another 2 tbsp of oil to the pan, then add your veggies and water chestnuts. (8-10 minutes—broccoli can take a little longer to cook if you’re using a mix with lots of broccoli.)
- Add chicken and onions back to the pan with your veggie mix, then stir in ½ cup of Bangkok Peanut Sauce. Cooking until heated through. Great on its own or with some steamed rice!
Easy Beer & Beef Chili
It’s impossible to go wrong with a good chili, especially in the colder months. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can easily cook up your beef and throw that and the rest of your ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave for work.
Easy Beer & Beef Chili
2 lbs ground beef
1 large yellow onion
2 jalapenos (seeds in if you like extra heat!)
2 tbsp sriracha
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz, recommend Muir Glen Crushed Tomatoes with Basil), undrained
1 bottle Shiner Bock beer
- Toppings (Optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese
- In a large pot, cook beef, onion, and jalapenos over medium heat (about 10 minutes) until thoroughly browned, then drain.
- Stir in everything else (except for toppings) and bring to high heat. Once it starts simmering, reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes.
- Top with cheese, chives, and sour cream.
- If you’re doing this in the slow cooker, just brown your meat and onions in a pot beforehand and don’t drain the meat. Stir everything together in the slow cooker and let cook over low heat all day (at least 6 hours).
If you’re not big on beer and want a healthier alternative, substituting bone broth is a great way to get an amazing flavor. (I’m a huge fan of Kettle & Fire’s Chipotle Beef Bone Broth, which you can get on Amazon.)
This is where your stainless steel pans get a chance to shine. You’ll get to make a delicious pan sauce that will have friends begging you to teach them to make it! All it takes is a few extra minutes and it makes it easier to clean your pan afterward. (We’ll talk about pan sauces in the section below.)
If you don’t already have these on hand, you’ll want to get a good stainless steel pan and rubber tongs. (Rubber tongs are a must-have for both searing and deglazing. You’ll be thankful you got a good pair!)
When choosing steak, you’ll want to get Choice cuts, which are fattier and more flavorful than Select and Standard cuts. Learn what to look for here. 1” to 1½” thick steaks are best.
Pan-Seared Boneless Ribeye
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 tbsp of butter
Kosher salt and coarse pepper for seasoning
Red Wine Pan Sauce (recipe in the next section)
- 30 minutes before cooking, pat the steak dry with paper towels and generously season your steak with kosher salt. This helps create a dry surface for searing. (Don’t let it sit too long, otherwise, you’ll wind up with too much moisture on the surface.) We’re not adding pepper yet—wait until after you cook it. Set out a tablespoon of butter to let it soften.
- After 30 minutes, coat your pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat to high. The second you see wisps of smoke, your pan is ready.
- Put the steak in the pan and sear for 1 minute—no peeking! Turn and sear for another minute. Continue flipping each minute until each side has had 4-5 minutes (8-10 minutes total) and add butter to the pan when it’s halfway done.
- After it’s finished cooking, add the pepper to your steak for a little extra seasoning, if desired.
- Once your steak is done, take it out of the pan, but leave the drippings and fond (bits of food) in for this next recipe. We’re going to be deglazing and making this awesome pan sauce to go with your steak!
Note: Basically, you want 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare, 5 for medium, 6 for well-done (8 minutes, 10 minutes, and 12 minutes total). So you’ll want to turn your steak every minute, adding butter to your steak halfway into cooking. If you prefer rare, you can do 3 minutes on each side and just add the butter during the last two minutes.
My favorite section of our beginner recipes—pan sauces. They’re super easy, taste amazing, and save you some time trying to clean your pan. (And your friends will be left wondering how you made this wonderful sauce.)
We’re going to continue the steak recipe from above, so you can have a sauce to serve over steak and whatever sides you decide to serve with it.
1 cup of red or white wine (I love merlot for this)
1 cup of broth (Kettle & Fire beef broth works wonderfully)
2 tbsp of butter
¼ cup of chives
- After you’ve removed the steak, reduce heat to medium-high and add wine to the pan. Use rubber tongs or a wooden spoon to get the food bits off the bottom of the pan—you’ll want to keep these in the sauce, but they need to be loose.
- Simmer until reduced by half (about 2-3 minutes), then add broth and mix thoroughly.
- Add 2 tbsp of butter to your pan sauce, shaking or tilting the pan to mix it in as it melts. Mix thoroughly and cook until your sauce has thickened. It should have a syrupy consistency that coats your tongs or spoon.
- Serve over steak and sides—enjoy!
These are just a few recipes to help you get started, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy modifying these recipes and putting your own twist on them! As you get more comfortable with these and figure out your favorite flavor combinations, you can branch out into slightly more advanced dishes.
Like what you’re reading? You might also enjoy learning about brewing your own kombucha.