Only one in three are very confident cooking from scratch without a recipe
The continuing cost of living crisis - especially the increased cost of food - has prompted debate about how best Britons can save money on meals. Some commentators have suggested that people choosing easy-to-cook ready meals pushes up their grocery bills more than cooking from scratch would. Others argue that not everyone has the time or skill to cook from scratch and that budgets don’t always stretch to fresh ingredients.
A new YouGov survey explores how confident Britons are in the kitchen with different kinds of cooking, including how often they cook from scratch and how many meals they could make without instructions.
How highly do Britons rate their cooking?
Overall, most Brits regard themselves as decent cooks, with one in nine (11%) claiming to be “very” good at cooking and 47% saying they are “fairly” good in the kitchen. Only 12% of people own up to being poor chefs, including 3% who say they are “very” bad at cooking. A sizeable portion of the public (28%) say they are neither good nor bad when it comes to cooking.
Women (64%) are more likely to say they are good cooks than men (51%), with the main difference between the two being that women are more likely to say they are "fairly" good cooks (52% versus 42% of men).
Younger Britons are the least likely to say they are good cooks (42%), with a mere 3% saying they are "very" good. Nearly one in five (19%) of this group say they are bad at cooking.
Indeed, such skills tend to come with age. Those aged between 45 and 54 (62%) and 55+ (61%) are the most likely to say they are competent cookers.
How confident are Britons at cooking?
With most claiming the title of at least 'fairly good chef', how confident are Britons at different types of cooking? Unsurprisingly, the vast majority say they feel confident they could cook a ready meal (93%). Only 3% of people, including 9% of those aged 18 to 24, say they would not be confident doing so.
A similar proportion say they would be confident cooking with preprepared ingredients such as frozen foods and jarred sauces (91%). Around one in twenty (6%) say they wouldn’t be confident preparing food this way, rising to one in nine young people (11% of 18- to 24-year-olds).
Confidence remains high for cooking meals from scratch if following a recipe (83%). However, those saying they are "very confident" falls to 49%, with 34% "fairly" confident in their ability to follow a recipe. Even with the recipe, one in six Britons (15%) say they lack confidence in cooking with fresh ingredients, again higher in young adults (18% of 18- to 24-year-olds).
When it comes to cooking without a recipe, while most still feel confident to a degree (59%), only 28% say they would be "very confident" cooking without a guide. More than a third of people (38%) say they wouldn't be confident cooking fresh ingredients without a recipe – including 16% “not at all” confident doing so.
Men and women share similar levels of confidence in cooking ready meals and preprepared ingredients, but when it comes to cooking from fresh, women are more likely to say they would be both confident cooking with a recipe (89% versus 79% of men) and without one (66% versus 54%).
Among those who class themselves as very or fairly good cooks, 84% say they would be confident cooking a meal with fresh ingredients without a recipe. Only 10% of self-confessed bad cooks say the same.
How often do Britons cook from scratch?
Ability is one thing, but having the time, money or inclination to cook meals from scratch is another – so how often do Britons do so?
Around half of Britons (51%) say they often cook from scratch without a recipe, including 25% who do so "very often". A further 27% do, but not very often, while 19% say they never cook from fresh without a recipe.
A similar proportion of people say they cook from scratch using a recipe frequently (60%) – including 23% doing so "very" often. Three in ten do sometimes (30%), but only 8% say they never cook in this manner.
When it comes to quick ingredients and meals, 49% say they often cook with prepared ingredients, while only 29% say they often cook ready meals. Some 8% and 16% respectively say they never cook in these ways.
Seven in ten of those who regard themselves as good cooks (70%) say they often cook from scratch without a guide.
Those with children at home are also just as likely as those without to often cook from scratch using a recipe (60% in each case). Those looking after children are also no more likely than those without to often cook ready meals (27% versus 29%).
However, those with children in their household are more likely to say they regularly cook with prepared ingredients (55%), than those who do not have children at home (47%). However, people with children to care for are slightly less likely to say they often cook from scratch without a recipe (46%) compared to those without kids who say the same (53%).
Some argue that qualify fresh ingredients carry a high price point, which limits how well lower-income families can cook. The research shows little difference, however, between those with high and low household income when it comes to cooking from scratch. Among those with household incomes of less than £20,000, 54% say they often cook from scratch, while 17% say they never do. By comparison, 55% of those with incomes of £60,000 or more say they also cook this way regularly, while 16% do not.
How many meals could Britons cook without a recipe?
Conservative MP Lee Anderson sparked controversy when he said that the need for food banks in the UK was because generation after generation of people "can't cook a meal from scratch”. Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also gone on to say that the latest generation of Brits “can’t cook, and expect their food to be pretty much ready-made”.
The public do seem to lack much of an internal cookbook. When asked how many meals they could cook from scratch without a recipe, the median answer among Britons is just seven different meals.
Around a third (35%) say they could cook between one and five different meals from scratch without a recipe, and 24% could cook between six and ten different foods. Some 15% say they could cook between 11 and 20 meals, and 6% between 21 and 30.
The research shows that one in ten Britons (10%) say they would be unable to cook a single meal from scratch without a recipe.
Younger Britons they know how to cook fewer meals. One in twelve (8%) cannot cook a single meal unaided, while around half (50%) say they could only cook between one and five meals without a recipe, with a median answer of five meals.
Among their elders, just 38% of those aged 55 and over say they could only cook five meals or fewer, with a median answer of 10 meals overall.
See full results here