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Cooking skills blog 14. What are the best recipes to use in a cooking skills course?

One of the topics that I would like to find out more about is: What are the most successful type of recipes for community cooking skills courses?

‘Success’ for members of our cooking skills study group means recipes that are cooked again at home by participants, (and preferably repeatedly).

What’s the best way to choose the recipes?

Many of the practitioners in our study group encourage participants to choose the recipes they’d like to learn, often at the beginning of a course, and sometimes from a set of existing ‘healthy’ recipes. (Some of the recipes they use can be found here)

There is some evidence that health promotion interventions (such as many cooking skills courses) may be more likely to be effective if these include allowing participants to influence the activities and if activities are ‘relevant’ to participants. Asking participants to choose recipes seems like an obvious way to ensure both of these things, but there are several reasons that may mean you have to compromise on this approach, including:

  • your course is more structured and is less flexible to participants’ needs
  • participants want to learn different recipes to each other and your practitioner to participant ratio/ venue space means this is impractical
  • the aims of your funders/your course is contradictory to what participants want to learn (e.g. participants want to learn to make cakes and the course focuses on ‘healthy eating’)

Whether participants choose the recipes or you do, participants might still face challenges that mean they are less likely to use the recipe again on a regular basis, such as:

  • the recipe is too complex, has too many ingredients, or takes too long to realistically use regularly
  • the ingredients cost more than what they would usually spend
  • the ingredients are not available or affordable in the shops they usually use
  • the recipe uses equipment that the participant does not have at home or cannot afford to buy
  • the ingredients used are too far removed from what they, or their families, usually eat or they don’t like the taste
  • participants have not learned adaptations of the recipe to suit their tastes or ingredients available

If your cooking skills courses have different aims or outcomes to our study group, these challenges may be less of a problem. For example, if your course focuses more on social cooking, or it aims to develop catering skills, it might be less important that participants use ingredients that are familiar, or that the recipes are more complex.

The main message here is – what are the main outcomes that you are trying to achieve with your cooking skills courses? Are the recipes you are using best suited to these, and are they likely to suit the needs and wishes of participants? It might be a challenge to choose the best recipes to suit everyone, particularly when many groups are only able to run very short courses or can only learn a small selection of recipes, but if you have success with just one or two recipes, this may be enough to achieve some of your outcomes.



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