Cooking 101: Plan for Success in the Kitchen


Do you have plans to make cooking a priority?  Make it easier on yourself and stock some basics.  While recipes will vary, here are some common items and terms you may encounter, as well as some resources to get you cooking.

Dry Goods & Pantry Stock Items

White (or whole wheat) pasta

Whole wheat flour

Whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour)

All-purpose flour

Breadcrumbs or panko

Brown Rice


Canned beans

Canned tuna

Canned tomatoes

Soy sauce

Cider, wine, or distilled white vinegar

Chicken or vegetable broth or stock

Olive, canola, or peanut oil

Peanut butter

Walnuts, pecans, or almonds

Honey and/or maple syrup


Dijon mustard

Spices:   cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, kosher salt

Perishable Stock Items




Frozen peas, broccoli, corn, and spinach


Greek yogurt

Parmesan cheese

Buttermilk (can be frozen)

Frozen shrimp

Recommended Utensils

Rubber spatula

Metal spatula or turner



8-10 inch chef knife (or other utility knife)

Measuring cups and spoons




Mixing bowls (2-3 different sizes)

Casserole dish

Saucepan with lid (large and medium-sized)

Baking sheet

Blender or food processor

Sauté pan, frying pan, or skillet (10-12 inches)

Common Cooking Terms

Boil: Heat liquid until bubbles continuously break on the surface of the liquid and steam is visible.

Broil: Cook directly under a radiant heat source, only a few inches from the heating element (often done in an oven).

Dredge: Coat a food item in a dry mixture, such as flour or bread crumbs, prior to cooking.

Fold: Gently incorporate ingredients using a rubber spatula by cutting down into the mixture and scraping the bottom of the bowl and then proceeding up the side of the bowl in a circular motion. This process is continued by rotating the bowl until the mixture is fully combined.

Roast: Cook an item in an oven using dry heat without the aid of a liquid.

Sauté: Cook an item in a sauté pan or skillet in a moderate amount of fat.

Simmer:  Cook an item in a liquid at a lower temperature than that of a boiling liquid; small bubbles will break on the surface of the liquid.

Zest: Remove the outer peel of a citrus fruit using a knife, zester, or vegetable peeler.

Recipe Resources to Get Cooking:


Cooking Light


How to Cook Everything (and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) by Mark Bittman

The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen

Real Simple Easy, Delicious Home Cooking: 250 Recipes for Every Season and Occasion edited by Allie Lewis Clapp, Lygeia Grace, and Candy Gianetti

The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Molly Katzen

Please note the links provided are meant as resources for you.  MGH does not officially endorse any of these items.


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Emily Gelsomin is a Clinical Nutrition Specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a registered dietitian, she counsels medical nutrition therapy on an outpatient basis and works extensively with the hospital's employee wellness program, Be Fit. She is also a freelance food writer and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Gastronomy, a multi-disciplinary food studies program that examines the holistic role of food in historical and contemporary societies, at Boston University.

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