Once, when cooking with a friend, I asked him to check if the artichokes were done. "Sure!" was the immediate response, followed by a pause, and then, "How do I know if they're done?"
When first starting to cook, there are many foods and dishes that can be intimidating to prepare or seem overly complicated. But the truth is that when you boil it down to the basics, they are typically quite easy. Remember that good-tasting food doesn't always take a lot of skill to make — just some basic know-how and good ingredients.
And yet, these run-of-the mill foods that should be requisites in any cook's repertoire often go overlooked for fancier or more exciting dishes. Take, for instance, the roast chicken: basic, easy and economical because one chicken can be turned into many other dishes for later in the week, but most cooks seem to avoid making it at home and opt for chicken breasts or store-bought rotisserie chickens instead. I can promise you this, nailing a roast chicken — we're talking one that's perfectly done, with tender, succulent meat and crispy skin — gives a great feeling of accomplishment. I still remember my first time.
Others on this list, like tofu or pesto, might not be personal preferences of yours, but they are versatile ingredients that can be used in a multitude of ways to keep cooking at home from getting boring. In fact, if a cook has these basics down, they can virtually make anything. Anything.
For some professional wisdom and good humor, we asked two accomplished cookbook authors, Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, about a few things they think everyone should know how to make. Look for their advice sprinkled throughout this list, and mark down the others for future cooking adventures.
View the slideshow above to see the list of 20 foods everyone should know how to cook, as well as the most common mistakes most people make when cooking these items.