Food has a special ability to help us connect with what we love—whether we're sharing a meal at the same table or calling in from afar. That's why we've partnered with Zwilling—who's been helping you connect with what you love since 1731—to share our best ways to make the most of a month of cooking at home.

Together, we hope to keep you inspired to cook and share with us, which is why Zwilling is giving away one Zwilling Pro knife set to a member of our community. To qualify, simply cook and upload a photo of any Zwilling recipe featured in this article series and include the hashtags #stayhomekeepcooking and #foodconnects to enter until May 28, 2020. We're looking forward to this month of cooking at home with you!

While you might think the key to becoming a better cook lies in cooking difficult recipes, using wild ingredients or techniques, or learning to wield a knife like Gordon Ramsay, I’m here to let you in on a secret—that’s simply not true. While complicated recipes, techniques, ingredients, and Ramsay-like knife skills are certainly enviable and indicate some kind of prowess in the kitchen, the real test comes with the simplest things. If you can’t cook a perfect egg or sharpen a knife—are you really a masterchef? (I’m looking at you, Gordon—maybe making scrambled eggs a bit more complicated than it needs to be, eh?)

So if you want to take the time to “become a better home cook,” it’s our opinion that one of the best ways to do this is to refine, hone, and practice the basic techniques that you’ll use over and over again in the kitchen. Here are 3 of the most important ones to start with, plus ways to dig deeper into each and recipes that will inspire you to keep practicing.

1. Knife skills

The foundation of just about all cooking starts at the cutting board, knife in hand. No matter which type of knives you favor (and we’ll get to how to pick the right one a bit later), there is one thing that all home cooks and chefs can agree on: the knife must be sharp. A dull knife is not only difficult to work with, but it’s more likely to hurt you—the pressure you have to use to get a dull knife to slice is very high which could encourage slipping and accidents, which no one wants! Here’s how to sharpen your knives, plus how to maintain the sharpness thereafter.

How to sharpen a knife

How to sharpen a knife

→ Go to recipe

How to Maintain the Sharpness of Your Knives

How to Maintain the Sharpness of Your Knives

→ Go to recipe

To get some practice wielding your now sharp knives, practice these techniques and get cooking with the following recipes:

How to spatchcock a chicken

How to spatchcock a chicken

→ Go to recipe

How to butterfly

How to butterfly

→ Go to recipe

Peruvian-style roast chicken with green sauce

Peruvian-style roast chicken with green sauce

→ Go to recipe

Steak and chicken fajitas with fresh salsa

Steak and chicken fajitas with fresh salsa

→ Go to recipe

Greek-style salad with honeydew melon

Greek-style salad with honeydew melon

→ Go to recipe

Simple beet carpaccio with mixed herbs

Simple beet carpaccio with mixed herbs

→ Go to recipe

Buttery chicken and tomato pasta

Buttery chicken and tomato pasta

→ Go to recipe

Zwiebelkuchen (German onion pie)

Zwiebelkuchen (German onion pie)

→ Go to recipe

Creamy potato and leek gratin

Creamy potato and leek gratin

→ Go to recipe

2. Cooking staples

Basics are at the center of so many dishes—so having them high on the list of our priorities is a no-brainer. They serve to round out meals and give dishes their fundamental base of flavors, plus they can be the stars of a dish in their own right. Knowing how to prepare them will not only save you from cutting corners with more expensive convenience products, but will make for tastier meals all around. From rice to eggs, stocks to beans, here’s how to prepare the basics:

Homemade beef stock

Homemade beef stock

→ Go to recipe

Homemade chicken stock

Homemade chicken stock

→ Go to recipe

How to prepare dried beans

How to prepare dried beans

→ Go to recipe

How to cook basmati rice

How to cook basmati rice

→ Go to recipe

How to cook sushi rice

How to cook sushi rice

→ Go to recipe

3 ways to prepare eggs

3 ways to prepare eggs

→ Go to recipe

3. Choosing the right tools for the job

Often overlooked, our last item on the list is here because it is extremely important. If you don’t have a properly stocked kitchen there are workarounds, but you’ll need to know the characteristics of your tools in order to select a proper substitute that will give you the desired outcome.

Choosing the right pan might seem a bit daunting, especially when you’re thinking about replacing an old pan or stocking a new kitchen, but our guide makes it easy with clear distinctions between four common types of pans. Read it here, then get to cooking these recipes, which are all fried in their respective pans for good reason.

Pan-fried steak with basil butter

Pan-fried steak with basil butter

→ Go to recipe

Vegetable stir-fry with ginger-lime sauce

Vegetable stir-fry with ginger-lime sauce

→ Go to recipe

Pan-seared chicken in mustard sauce

Pan-seared chicken in mustard sauce

→ Go to recipe

French omelette with prosciutto and avocado

French omelette with prosciutto and avocado

→ Go to recipe

When it comes to choosing another of the kitchen’s most oft-used tools—knives—we’re often spoilt for choice. There are lots of different kinds out there, but there are really only three main knives that every kitchen should have: the chef’s knife, paring knife, and a serrated bread knife. Read more on why these knives come highly recommended here.

What are the skills you’d like to practice more? Are there any really important ones missing here? Let us know in the comments below!

More delicious ideas for you