In an earlier series, I talked about teaching your children well. The series covered ways young children can help in the kitchen, with laundry, and with overall house cleaning and organizing. In this series, I’ll look at ways to teach older teens life skills that will be invaluable to them once they go out on their own.
Whether they’re gearing up to venture off to college, university, or the working world, just entering high school, or mid-way through their teenage years, it’s important for teenagers to know the basics. Here, we’ll start with things worth teaching teenagers in the kitchen. It should be noted that every teenager is different. Use your best judgement when deciding what your teenager might be ready for and what they aren’t.
How to cook an egg
Any professional chef will say that the one test they use to determine if someone truly knows how to cook is to ask them to fry an egg. Of course, frying isn’t the only method for cooking an egg: you can boil, scramble, poach, and more. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea for an older teenager to know the basics of how to fry or boil an egg.
Set up a non-stick piece of cookware, like a cast iron skillet, and teach them about setting the heat to the correct temperature (not too hot), letting the pan heat up, adding butter, then cracking the egg inside and letting it sit and cook. With a proper non-stick pan, the egg should simply slide off into a plate once done. They’ll be mesmerized at how simple the process is.
For boiling, a simple pot of boiling water and cover will suffice. But any owner of the Instant Pot will regale the benefits of hard-boiling eggs in them using a specific method called 5-5-5: pressure cook them for five minutes, let them rest for five minutes before opening the lid (or releasing any remaining pressure if needed), and putt them in an ice-water bath for five minutes before peeling them open. For a teenager about to live on their own, or taking care of their own breakfasts and snacks, this is a simple thing they might be able to do. Once they cook up a batch, store the cooked eggs in the fridge. This allows for easy grab and go snacks, or to add to salads, sandwiches, and more.
How to boil pasta
It sounds simple, but if they have never done it, some teenagers might not know how to boil pasta. If you’re both comfortable with it, teach them to use a large pot filled about halfway (or three-quarters) with heavily salted water. Wait until the water comes to a rolling boil before adding the uncooked pasta noodles. I always use a timer on my stove so if I end up multitasking, I don’t forget to check on the noodles. Tech-savvy kids might prefer using a timer on their smartphone or even a smart speaker so they know when to check on the cook.
Teach them about safe handling, including using silicone gloves to lift the pot to the sink and pour out the noodles into a colander (or, if the pot has a built-in strainer, even better). Then, add sauce or butter and parmesan as desired. It’s a simple, not to mention affordable, dish teenagers can make with the right tools, safety measures, and know-how.
Note that the Instant Pot can also be used for simple, one-pot pasta dishes older teens can make with the proper supervision and instructions.
How to run a dishwasher
The more modern and advanced the dishwasher, the easier it will be for kids to understand. Most important, teach them how to load the dishwasher properly. This includes placing items where they should go (more delicate on the top rack). They should also learn to keep everything neat and tidy to fit as much as possible per cycle (without overloading it). This helps conserve water and electricity. Then, add the detergent tab or liquid and rinsing agent.
With newer intelligence features, the latest dishwashers can sense the load inside and adjust the wash cycle accordingly, which will make the task simple for teens. Many also include third racks for cutlery and adjustable racks to accommodate different-sized items. This will make the task a breeze for teenagers to figure out.
Organizing and cleaning a refrigerator
Organizing and cleaning a refrigerator can be a big job. But it’s important for teenagers to understand that a fridge needs to be clean and the food properly packed in order for it to function properly. Any time you do a big grocery shop or an annual defrost of the fridge, have the teenager take part in reorganizing and cleaning.
Show them how to remove racks and use mild detergent and warm water to wipe down crispers, racks, and shelves. Teach them to get rid of expired items and be prudent when it comes to food that might be passed its “best by” or “best before” date but is still safe to eat (they can always put everything questionable in a pile for you to make the final decision on).
Show them which items are best suited for which shelves and explain why. For example, having frequently used items like milk and juice up front and lesser used items at the back.
Thanks to the latest refrigerator designs with features like door-in-door technology, they can arrange the fridge based on their own habits, like placing juice, yogurt, and other snacks in the outer doors for quick retrieval. Teens are, after all, likely the family members who go in and out of the fridge the most. So why not let them take ownership of organizing it?
Keeping a grocery list
Whether they use an app or a whiteboard, or even the panel on a smart refrigerator, teenagers can get into the habit of updating a grocery list. Instead of letting you know they are out of milk right after pouring the last drops into their bowl of cereal, have them be pro-active and add milk to the list once you’re down to the last bag or halfway done the last carton. If there are items they enjoy, like bananas, bread, deli meats, and condiments, have them participate in the list-making. They might even be up for helping with the grocery shopping. This will teach them to be proactive and organized.
Life skills they’ll use
These simple yet important life skills are ones that teenagers will turn to again and again. What happens when they’re in shared housing, for example, and their roommates are starving during a midnight study session? Their ability to whip up a couple fried egg sandwiches or some hearty bowls of pasta in 15 minutes will have their friends wishing they learned how to do the same.
Meanwhile, they’ll take the habits of keeping things neat and tidy with them through life.
Check out plenty of kitchen appliances and cookware teenagers can use to learn these life skills in the kitchen at Best Buy Online.