We would all love for our kids to grow up to be confident, independent people, and learning how to cook plays a big part in this.
I always think that two huge markers of independence are learning how to drive and learning how to cook. Both allow you to look after yourself and depend less on those around you, and are excellent life skills you'll carry with you throughout your life.
If your teen is too young to learn how to drive just yet, learning how to cook could benefit them just the same. It means that when you're not around, they'll know how to look after themselves properly and as they get older, they may develop a keen interest in food and cooking.
If they've shown an interest already or if you feel it's time they know their way around the kitchen, here are some simple things to remember when you're teaching your teen how to cook.
Don't assume anything.
You might think that your teen knows how to peel a potato, put water on to boil or boil an egg but unless they've actually done it (or watched carefully as you've done it), then the chances are they don't. Try not to dishearten them with "I can't believe you don't know how to do [x,y,z]!" as this may make them be less inclined to get involved. Start with the very basics and encourage them all the way.
Hygiene is key.
There is no point in your teen knowing how to cook a gourmet meal from scratch if they don't do it on clean surfaces with clean hands. From the very beginning, teach them the importance of cleaning their hands thoroughly as well as wiping down surfaces before and after they cook.
Teach them how to handle raw meat.
Following on from the previous step, make sure you're teen is fully aware of the dangers of handling raw meat carelessly. Be sure that they know to wash their hands before and after touching raw meat, to never put cooked meat down on a surface where there was raw meat, to keep raw meat away from other foods, and finally, to wash and disinfect their hands and surfaces that touched the raw meat. If in doubt, clean the area anyway.
Follow a recipe with them.
You might be used to flying through a spaghetti bolognese without even stopping to think about exactly how much veg you used, or the time it took to cook the mince, but your teen can't. By following a recipe along with your child, you'll be able to show them how to get their ingredients ready, how to measure out what they need, how to get the temperature of the oven right and how to carefully follow each step of the recipe. You could even ask them what their favourite meals are to start with and teach them how to cook them step by step.
Don't give up!
Like a lot of things, sometimes you try something for the first time with all the hope and enthusiasm in the world and it still turns out to be a disaster. Remind them that you learn more from your mistakes than you do when things go smoothly, and encourage them to try again a different day. Some kids need more encouragement than others when trying new things, so don't let them give up on themselves (even if they did somehow burn a bowl of soup)!
Once they learn the basics of cooking, your teen will be able to follow recipes and build on these skills whenever they like. Who knows, they might surprise you!