Here's what every kid should know about getting started in the kitchen.
Ask an adult to stay in the kitchen with you and to lend a hand when needed.
Tie back long hair to keep it from getting in your way.
Roll up your shirt sleeves and wear an apron to keep your clothes clean while you cook.
Wash your hands with warm water and soap before you handle food and equipment.
Rinse and dry off fruits and vegetables before you use them. Handle delicate-skinned fruits and vegetables, like berries and tomatoes, gently. Give tougher-skinned produce, like potatoes and carrots, a good scrub.
Clear off and clean a space big enough to work comfortably.
Clean up work surfaces and equipment as you use them. Being neat as you cook makes for easy cleanup and easy cooking.
Work slowly and have fun!
How to Follow a Recipe
Before you do anything else, carefully read the recipe from start to finish.
Make sure you have enough time to complete the recipe without rushing.
Assemble all the equipment called for in the recipe.
Gather the ingredients called for in the recipe.
Prepare your ingredients as they are described in the ingredient list. This may include measuring and chopping, which is called mise en place (see definition below).
Mise en Place
Pronounced meez ahn plahs, this phrase is commonly used in professional kitchens. It means "put in place" and refers to having all of your ingredients measured and ready to use as the recipe directs. You might need to peel an apple, chop an onion or shred cheese. Having your mise en place—your ingredients ready—helps to make following a recipe easy and fun.
Playing It Safe
Always ask an adult for help when you have questions.
Clean up spills as soon as they happen.
Clear away equipment as soon as you're done using it.
Take special care when handling knives and other sharp tools.
Stay in the kitchen while the stove or oven is in use.
Use dry pot holders or dry oven mitts to handle hot pots and pans. Heat travels through damp or wet pot holders or oven mitts.
Let hot pots and pans cool before putting them in the sink or cleaning them up.
When you cook, it's important to use ingredients in the correct amount. Just think of pancakes made with too much salt or of cookies made with too little sugar! It's also important to measure or keep track of time. Have a set of measuring spoons and cups, a liquid measure and a kitchen timer on hand to measure ingredients and time as a recipe directs.
Spoon the dry ingredient into a dry measuring cup or spoon.
Do not pack down the ingredient, unless it's brown sugar. Brown sugar is always measured firmly packed.
Level off the ingredient with the back of a table knife.
Put the liquid measuring cup on a flat surface.
Bend down so the measuring lines are at eye level.
Pour in the liquid until it reaches the correct measuring line.
Use the measuring lines marked on the butter wrapper as your guide.
Set the stick of butter on a cutting board.
Line up a small, sharp knife on the appropriate measuring line and cut down through the butter to cut off the correct amount.
Use a kitchen timer to keep track of time when cooking.
Don't rely on time alone to know when food is done. Well-written recipes provide times as well as visual clues for knowing when food is ready.
Shapes and sizes
Ingredients can be cut into different shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, small, skinny pieces cook quickly and big, chunky pieces cook slowly.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Kid's Cookbook, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Time-Life Books, 2000).