With a lot of extra time on our hands these days, my teens have expressed an interest in learning how to cook. In order to encourage them we’ve set aside two nights a week where they are responsible for cooking us dinner.
The girls are responsible for finding the recipes, comparing the ingredients to the food we have on hand, and providing us with a list of the groceries they need us to buy for them. It’s been a fun experience, and they’ve made us some delicious meals. There have also been a few misses where they have misread 1 1/2 cups as 11 half cups… but other than that it’s been a great learning experience for them.
Let your teen decide – Teens are exercising their independence, this also includes choosing the food they want to eat, and the food they want to learn how to cook. I have found that teens are more interested in cooking if they choose what they cook.
Be encouraging – Even if the meals they choose to cook aren’t your preferred meal (like nachos for dinner), positive reinforcement will encourage your teen to continue trying, and allow them to develop the confidence to try harder meals.
Take a step back – When encouraging your teens to cook, I have found that the best approach can be to help them organise the ingredients and the kitchen supplies they’ll need – and then take a step back. You can always be on hand if they need it, but helicopter parenting will almost certainly not be welcome in a hot kitchen.
Be available to them – While teens are independent, they don’t always read the directions carefully, nor do they always understand the directions. Stay nearby so that they can ask questions as they cook so they don’t become frustrated when they “get stuck” on a step.
Teach them how to handle raw meat – Share basic rules of safe meat handling with them, such as: Never put cooked meat back on a tray that held raw meat, wash utensils that have touched raw meat before reuse, and use hot water or disinfectant to wash cutting boards and counters to cut down on the risk of food poisoning, E. coli, or salmonella.
Use a notebook – Encourage your teen to keep a notebook to write down tips, recipes, and reference information they can use and build on later.
All you can do as a parent is to teach your children well and set a good example. As much as I would like to keep mine young and at home, I feel great knowing that they’ve been practicing their cooking at home and I’m confident they’ll be able to fend for themselves in their first apartments.
Easy Recipes for Teens to Cook for Dinner
I’ve put together a selection of recipes that not only will your teen love to eat, will help your teen to gain the basic skills they need to cook confidently on their own. Now all you'll have to argue about is the washing up...
Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole – it’s cheesy, it’s comforting and it’s made in an instant pot. With brown rice and broccoli it’s the perfect healthy comfort food that your teen can make for dinner!
This easy Baked Penne Pasta Casserole is the perfect weeknight dinner. It’s a delicious combination of hearty flavourful meat sauce, fresh spinach, and bubbly mozzarella cheese. This yummy pasta bake is something your whole family is sure to enjoy!
Quick & easy sliders made with slow cooker pulled pork, sweet & smoky BBQ sauce, and crunchy vinegar slaw. This is excellent for using up leftover shredded pork & it's a good excuse to make a big batch. Serve them as a budget-friendly party appetizer or a simple weeknight meal.
This easy Chicken Salad Sandwich recipe is loaded with flavor and perfect textures! This chicken salad features crisp red grapes, crunchy celery, salted cashews, and a perfect blend of seasonings to elevate the flavor!
If you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner you can’t go past this vegetable stir fry with noodles. Colourful vegetables are sautéed then mixed with a deliciously simple asian-inspired sauce. This healthy veggie stir fry can be made using ramen noodles or rice noodles, and will be on the table in under 20 minutes.
This easy One Skillet Mexican Rice and Beef Casserole comes together quickly in just 30 minutes! This healthy recipe is the perfect dinner idea for your teen to cook tonight! Mexican Style Rice and Beef Casserole is an easy comfort food you can enjoy guilt-free! It’s chock full of brown rice, black beans, and cheesy goodness. Save this lightened -up Mexican-inspired dish for later!
Tuna pasta salad (aka Tuna Macaroni Salad) is a classic dish that’s easy to make, delicious, and perfect for meal prep. Made with pasta, canned tuna, celery, carrots, green onion and dill, it’s a healthy and satisfying option for lunch or dinner. Learn how to make the best cold tuna salad with my step-by-step recipe.
If your teenager is looking for something quick and easy to make for your family you need to teach them how to make Sloppy Joes. With a handful of simple ingredients they can make homemade sloppy joes that your family will love. Add the meat to a bun with melted cheese and pair with your favorite side dish!
As hard as it is, giving your teen freedom to cook in the kitchen will allow them to develop a sense of autonomy that will set them up well for the future. Sure ovens are hot and knives are sharp and your kitchen will look like a bomb site. But with a small bit of guidance, and lots of practice in a safe environment they’ll soon have the confidence to cook unaided in their own kitchen when they leave home… however don’t hold your breath they will clean up as they learn…