30 Informative And Fun Food Charts For Anyone Trying To Eat Smarter
Knowledge about cooking and food is not always innate. While some of us seem to be born knowing how to dice an onion and having recipes from our ancestors baked into our brains, others are lucky to prepare a frozen pizza without burning it. There’s no shame in being inept in the kitchen, but if you’re looking to improve your cooking skills, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve compiled some of the most informative graphics about cooking and food from the Cool Guides subreddit to give you a crash course in culinary knowledge. So grab your apron and chef’s hat and dig into the informative list below, which even features an interview with a professional chef and the host of interactive culinary events, Chef Egg.
Don’t forget to upvote the guides you find most tasty, and be sure to share any delicious cooking tips or fun food facts you know in the comments section below. Then, if you’re looking for even more knowledge to add to your cooking arsenal, check out this Bored Panda piece next.
Everyone feels differently about cooking. Some people find it to be a relaxing, enjoyable act of love, while others consider it the bane of their existence and avoid it at all costs. Often someone’s opinion on cooking depends on how they grew up and what they are used to. If you were never shown an example as a child of making a home cooked meal using fresh produce, you’re not likely to venture out to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning to pick up ingredients for dinner.
Traditionally in most cultures, women have been expected to take the lead in the kitchen, and it seems some things never change. According to the World Cooking Index, women still cook meals twice as often as men. But culture also plays a role in how developed our culinary skills become. A 2018 survey in the United Kingdom found that one in four Brits can only cook three recipes from scratch. Meanwhile, in India, the average person spends 13.2 hours a week cooking. These stats aren’t particularly surprising though, as most people I know are much more fond of Indian food than British cuisine. And suddenly, I have an intense craving for curry…
The United States is also not among the countries where people tend to spend many hours laboring in the kitchen. In 2017, Eddie Yoon, a researcher for the Harvard Business Review, conducted a survey that found that 90% of Americans don’t like cooking, with half of those people saying they outright hate it. Lucky for them, it’s pretty easy to avoid making meals at home these days. Yoon credits the rise of restaurant culture and convenience foods for America’s distaste for cooking. The average US household spends over $3,000 on dining out each year, while the same meals prepared at home typically cost around half the price. While the temptation to hit up your favorite Italian restaurant or order sushi on Doordash becomes greater over time, it’s important to be aware of the financial implications of eating out.
We reached out to Chef Egg, professional chef, culinary instructor and host of interactive cooking events, to hear from an expert why it's important to know how to cook. The first reason Chef Egg notes is the financial benefit. "Restaurants charge 3x4 times the cost of the food," he told us. Next, he stressed how enjoyable cooking can be. "I like food…a lot. It tastes great. Once you have the basic fundamentals down you can literally create any recipes with good results." He notes that cooking can also be a good way to squeeze in more nutritious meals. "You will naturally eat more healthfully. Restaurant food can be awful for your health. Regulate salt, fat and carbs by cooking yourself."
Preparing your own food can also get you more in touch with your body. Chef Egg told us that cooking can "improve small motor skills, strength, patience, health, wellbeing as well as your sense of smell and taste". Lastly, he told us expanding our cooking skills can help "increase [our] knowledge of the world and different cultures". "Your food journey will enlighten the way you think about your fellow humans and the world in which we live. We are all connected."
If you’ve always been intimidated by cooking and assumed you lack the innate skills it requires, don’t lose faith yet. On her blog In Good Taste, Maris Callahan has shared four “Reasons Why You Might Think You’re A Bad Cook” to help readers understand that a few simple tweaks can exponentially elevate their kitchen skills. The first mistake Maris notes is beginners trying “to tackle complicated recipes with long ingredient lists”. While it can be exciting to delve into the world of cooking, as with anything else, it’s best to start with baby steps. Maris notes that it can be great to dip your toes into the culinary pool by making “simple one-pot type dishes that are flavorful, relatively hands off and require little cleanup”. Another common mistake people make is overcooking everything out of fear of food poisoning. Maris’ suggestion to resolve this issue is to invest in an oven thermometer. “It doesn’t have to be a fancy one, but it will keep you from eating rubber chicken for the rest of your life,” she notes.
Next, Maris reassures readers that taking longer to prepare a recipe than you originally thought does not mean you’re a bad cook. When a recipe says it takes "just twenty minutes!", that typically means it takes a professional twenty minutes. Allot yourself extra time, and prep ingredients before you get started to help everything run smoothly. Lastly, Maris addresses the misconception that being forgetful in the kitchen translates to being a bad cook. She recommends focusing on one step at a time to avoid chaotically searching for ingredients while your garlic and onions are turning black on the stove.
The Covid-19 pandemic has inspired some to take up the hobby of cooking. Being home all the time meant that hour we typically spent commuting could now be used to prepare meals, and as our boredom became painful, we had to find something to look forward to. Why not let that be trying new recipes? One 2020 survey found that 54% of Americans started cooking more during the pandemic, and 46% started baking more. These new habits also helped 75% of Americans feel more confident in the kitchen, with 73% of them reporting they even enjoy cooking more than before. While being home in lockdown inspired people to experiment with many new hobbies, learning how to cook is certainly a great choice for our health, our wallets and our overall enjoyment of food.
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Daniela Galarza of The Washington Post wrote a piece in 2020 examining the phenomenon of inept cooks suddenly scrambling to learn after being forced to isolate in their homes. Galarza notes that when people slip through childhood and adolescence without learning how to cook, they’re not likely to show interest as adults either. “I can make spaghetti or tacos, but I’m scared of burning rice,” says Amy Myers, a 29-year-old developer based in Chicago. “My mom is a single mom and worked full-time, so she didn’t have time to do a lot of cooking. We ate a lot of takeout.” Once the pandemic hit, however, Amy took interest in learning pantry cooking and how to combine spices. “It’s a whole new world, but it’s becoming easier to understand,” she says.
So once you’ve decided you’d like to venture into the world of cooking, where do you even begin? There are countless recipe blogs online, but the unlimited resources can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Elyssa Goldberg at Bon Appétit created a list of “The 7 Essentials of Becoming A Better Cook” to hold your hand through the beginning of your culinary journey. The first thing Elyssa notes that we must understand to be able to cook is different methods like roasting, sautéing, stir-frying, etc. Next, she recommends dedicating some time to understanding various ingredients. Learn which recipes are better with quinoa and which are more suited for rice. Would lentils or chickpeas be more complimentary of this sauce? Have fun and experiment to gain some knowledge. Elyssa notes that after tackling methods and ingredients, she moved onto spices. Understand which spices are appropriate for which cuisines and build up your repertoire. With a few simple tweaks, very similar recipes can be transformed by just substituting a few different spices.
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Next, Elyssa says not to underestimate the power of lemon juice (and all acids actually). A hint of vinegar or citrus can go a long way in a meal to “cut through anything that seems excessively creamy or fatty”. She then notes to learn your cheeses. “There are few things a generous grate of Parmesan or a few hefty slices of feta wouldn’t remedy,” Elyssa notes. She goes on to share how valuable soy sauce is to her. It’s a great swap for plain salt, and aside from the obvious use in stir-frys, it can also be great in salad dressings or on mushrooms and tofu. Lastly, Elyssa recommends having some culinary lifelines you can look to when in need of help. But if you don’t have any loved ones who are chefs, Google can be your best friend too.
So if you’ve made it this far, and you’re still not inspired, you may be thinking, “what’s the point of learning how to cook?” Well, buying your own ingredients and preparing meals at home can save you a significant amount of money. It also allows you to understand exactly what’s going into your food. And once your palate becomes more evolved, you can prepare foods specifically to your liking, whereas meals you buy out might be aimed at more generic audiences. Cooking is also a rewarding experience. Tasting the fruits of your own labor is more satisfying than being brought a dish that you had no part in creating. Once we open the box of cooking curiosity, we’re likely to want to sharpen our skills even more and continue learning more recipes.
Cooking is also a great way to experience and appreciate other cultures. If you grew up in Italy, your parents might not have prepared Mexican dishes very often, but there’s no reason you can’t learn the cuisine. Just open up Google or Youtube and you can find countless recipes and tutorials for street tacos, chilaquiles, tostadas and more. Understanding how a country eats provides great insight into their culture, and it can be a way to feel connected to the world when traveling is not always feasible for our budgets and work schedules. And let's not forget that trying new foods is fun!
Many people even find preparing and sharing food to be a sort of love language. A delicious home-cooked meal can comfort us when we’re down, remedy us when we’re ill and help us feel relaxed and safe when visiting home. Major holidays and celebrations almost always revolve around food, and breaking bread with others is a wonderful way to bond. According to Belmont University, food sharing can even be a form of intimacy to strengthen our romantic relationships. Men and women tend to view food sharing slightly differently, with women seeing it more as a form of care-taking and men viewing it as a more romantic gesture, but the result is the same in both cases. Bonds are strengthened, and intimacy is increased.
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While we’re all required to eat multiple times a day, it’s amazing that we can skate through life with minimal knowledge about what’s going into our bodies. Learning more about the foods we eat and how to prepare them can be great for our health, our social lives and our personal satisfaction (I mean, you get serious bragging rights if you know how to make a soufflé). We hope this list inspires you to dive a little deeper down the rabbit hole of food knowledge. Don’t forget to upvote your favorite charts, and fill us in on any fun food facts you know in the comments below!