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12 Food Pros Weigh In On The First Dish Every Beginner Cook Should Master

How many can you make?

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Learning to cook can be intimidating — and mastering the basics takes time.

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You might not become a culinary master overnight, but there's a few dishes that can help you get there.

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To get an expert opinion, we asked 12 food experts what dish they think every beginner should learn to make. Here's what they had to say:

1. Classic roast chicken

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"It’s one of the first things aspiring chefs learn how to cook, and it’s the first thing I cooked until I mastered it. Chicken is inexpensive compared to beef, and it's very forgiving."

Cat Cora, first female Iron Chef, author, and restauranteur

More: How to make classic roast chicken.

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2. Upgraded roast chicken with Aleppo pepper and lemon

Bryan Bedder / Getty Images, Kiboka / Getty Images

"I'd recommend this method: Roast chicken at high heat. Use a three-pound bird, set oven at 450°F (very well preheated), and roast for 13 to 15 minutes per pound until a thermometer registers 180°F in the inner thigh. Season the exterior aggressively with salt and pepper (I use Aleppo pepper); and stuff the cavity with thyme, lemon, and garlic cloves. You can also experiment with salting a day in advance, and using different herbs."

Ted Allen, host of Chopped

3. Chicken fines herbes

Simon Chetrit, Razmarinka / Getty Images

"One dish I think every beginner should learn how to make is sautéed chicken fines herbes with fresh fettuccine. This was one of the first dishes I learned how to make while attending culinary school. I fell in love with all of the fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme, and rosemary thrown into such a simple pan sauce with white wine and heavy cream."

Kristopher Edelen, chef and founder of HOTPANnyc

More: How to make chicken fines herbes.

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4. Homemade pasta

Linnea Geiger, Sabinoparente / Getty Images

"The dish that every beginner should learn how to make is pasta by hand. Although its history is Italian, there's not too many cultures that don't have a version of this versatile dish. Whether it's fettuccine, dumplings, spaetzle, shish barak, the basic ingredients are the same. A good basic recipe for pasta dough can take you a long way."

Deborah VanTrece, executive chef/owner of The Catering Company by VanTrece

More: How to make homemade pasta.

5. Challah bread

Nomi Ellenson, Violleta / Getty Images

"For me, baking challah bread was the key to demystifying so much in the kitchen. It was something I had grown up eating every Friday night with my family but I didn't bake it myself until I was much older. I think new cooks should always start by learning something from their own culture or background. Something that has meaning and that they'd want to share with others."

Liz Alpern, Co-Owner of The Gefilteria

More: How to make challah bread.

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6. A perfect omelet

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"A perfect French and country omelet."

Antoni Porowski, food and wine expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye

"Cooking eggs and mastering the perfect omelet is a must for upcoming chefs. It's very simple to make but takes patience and attention to make it perfect. It's actually very similar to the principle of being a chef — it takes a lot of patience and dedication to hone your skills."

Frances Tariga-Weshnak, executive chef of Eden Local

"An omelet. If you're new to cooking, start with eggs."

Josie Smith-Malave, chef/owner of Bubbles + Pearls

More: How to make a French omelet and a country omelet.

7. Chocolate cake

Neilson Barnard, Badmanproduction / Getty Images

"As a baker, I firmly believe everyone should have a great dark chocolate cake in their repertoire. Most recipes have just a few ingredients that people either already have on hand, or are easy to get; dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, butter and flour — and most recipes don’t require any fancy equipment or techniques, so the learning curve isn’t very steep. And who doesn’t like chocolate? An added bonus is that a simple chocolate cake can be dressed up with ice cream, fruit, whipped cream, or a glass of port or bourbon alongside, or just served on its own."

David Lebovitz, cookbook author, pastry chef, and blogger

More: How to make a classic chocolate cake.

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8. Eggs every style

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"It's important to know your way around eggs! Eggs are cheap, and there are so many variations to master: poached, fried, 7-minute, omelet, soft scramble. Or even its inclusion in carbonara, oyakodon, or quiche. You can make eggs for survival, or even entertain with them. They're affordable, filling, and impressive once you figure out the science behind them!"

Angela Dimayuga, Creative Director (Food & Culture) at Standard International

More: How to make perfect eggs.

9. Cookies

Copyright Hoffman Media 2018, Thitareesarmkasat / Getty Images

"I think beginners should start with cookies — there’s fewer ingredients, it's a faster process, and you achieve more immediate results. You get that rush from baking and pride in results, plus a confidence boost to try something new. Cookies offer a near-instant gratification."

Brian Hart Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief of Bake from Scratch Magazine

More: How to make classic chocolate chip cookies.

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10. Simple rice and eggs

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"They're incredibly simple staples that are at the base of a lot of classic dishes and meals globally — so if you can get into that then you're creating a really great foundation for yourself."

DeVonn Francis, chef and founder of Yardy

More: How to cook perfect rice.

Let's get cooking!

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Interested in learning more about these amazing chefs? Check out what they had to say about life, work, and LGBTQ inclusivity in the food industry here.

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