Summer is the perfect time for your teen to explore a new hobby or deep dive into an area of interest like cooking. Our 30-Day Cooking Challenge for teens will help your teenager get engaged in the kitchen and off screens this summer.
The benefits of using our Cooking Challenge Ideas are huge! Not only will your teen gain proficiency and improve his or her skill with food preparation, but your entire family will also benefit from the delicious foods prepared and you will get a break in the kitchen. This is a win-win situation for moms and teens alike.
30-Day Cooking Challenge for Teens
I’ve published a free printable to help your teen keep track of progress in the 30-Day Cooking Challenge. You’ll find that at the end of this post. Our Teen Cooking Challenge has 30 cooking activities, divided into six technique categories with five cooking activities in each category.
How It Works
Your teen can have complete freedom in approaching this challenge. Have him or her set goals and come up with a plan of attack. It could be one challenge every day for thirty days straight. Maybe your teen prefers one challenge three days of every week for ten weeks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It could just be a challenge every time the mood strikes. You could even use this challenge as part of a Home Economics or Life Skills elective in your homeschool. Whatever works for your teenager will work for this cooking challenge. If you or your teen have an Instagram account, we hope you’ll tag us in challenge photos!
In some cases, I’ve included complete recipes in the challenge instructions or linked to a great recipe. In other cases, your teen is expected to find and use a new recipe or a family favorite.
Tip: Make sure to check out our photography challenge for teens, too!
Equipment for the Teen Cooking Challenge
Besides the free printable included in this post, your teen will need a few basic kitchen supplies to make the most of our cooking challenge ideas. These might be things you already have at home, but if this a hobby your teen is deeply interested in, it might be a good idea to start providing him or her with quality equipment. I’m including the basic things I would expect to find in every kitchen and a few more advanced extras for those who want to go deeper.
A Hand Mixer. Hand mixers are a cheap tool that tends to wear out over time, especially when used for really intense mixing like buttercream frosting. I like to buy the same brand of mixer every time it has to be replaced because then I have extra beaters. If you already have a great hand mixer — consider buying your teen the same one so that the mixers are interchangeable.
Mixing Bowls. Many recipes call for two different mixing bowls, so you should get a set with at least two.
Baking Pans. A variety of sizes will allow your teenager to make cakes, cookies, pies, and different entrees.
Saucepans. The best saucepans are thick-walled to prevent scorching and distribute the heat evenly.
Cooking Utensils. A basic set with a baking spatula, a flipping spatula, a stirring spoon or two, and a set of tongs is essential in every kitchen.
Teen Cooking Challenge Extras I Love
Stand Mixer. Perfect for making bread, heavy frosting, and many other applications.
Vitamix. A high-powered blender for smoothies, soups, and purees.
Breville Food Processor. The best food processor on the market allows you to cut lots of vegetables quickly and make dough or crust.
Instant Pot. A fantastic alternative to a slow cooker, this pressure cooker does certain meals really well.
Stick Blender. For making pureed soups, a stick blender is indispensable.
Techniques Used for the Teen Cooking Challenge
From knife skills to clean-up, review the basic skills needed for success in the kitchen
Using the oven to make bread, sweet treats and even savory dishes is the art of baking.
Explore different foods that can be cooked on the grill and different methods of grilling such as charcoal, gas grilling, and smoking meat.
Use a skillet to fix everything from side dishes to main courses when you explore the sautee method. Sauteeing is used to seal in and layer flavors. It is the method of heating a fat such as oil or butter in a skillet and cooking with it.
Soups and Sauces
Sauces are the secret of amazing comfort foods. That’s why it’s called secret sauce! Soups also form the foundation of family meals and provide both nutritional value and warmth to every meal.
Complete Meal Planning and Preparation
Spend the last week of the cooking challenge planning, shopping, preparing, and serving a full meal from start to finish. From bread to dessert, your family will enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Cooking Challenge Activities for each Technique
Food Basics Challenges
Nutrition. Read a few articles about proper nutrition and a good balance of food.
Food Safety. Go over the rules of food safety and make sure you understand the safe handling of food.
Shopping. Read about how to shop for groceries. Talk to your parents about how they shop for groceries. Do they meal plan? Buy whatever looks good? Look for deals? Look for information about choosing good fruits and veggies that won’t spoil on day one. Plan a pretend menu and make a shopping list.
Know Your Tools. Go over a list of common kitchen utensils and tools and make sure you understand how to use each one. We’ve included a basic tool list at the beginning of each post. If you see something you don’t know how to use, find a youtube video for that tool and get to know it better.
Knife Skills. Learning to use a knife is one of the most essential skills a home cook needs, and yet many times it is overlooked. You can absolutely learn to use sharp knives properly as a teen. Youtube can be good, but I highly recommend this Knife Skills Course. For this challenge, Use one of those two sources to learn how to chop an onion and or cube a potato. You’ll get lots of practice with knife skills throughout the teen cooking challenge!
Baking Cooking Challenges
Cookies. Find and make a new cookie recipe using the creaming method. The creaming method involves mixing the fats with the sugars first, then the remaining liquids. Dry ingredients are mixed separately and added last. Read more about the creaming method here. Nana’s White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies are amazing!
Pie. Choose and make a pie including the crust. Watch a video on how to make and roll out pie crust here.
Cake. Bake and serve a from-scratch cake. One great option is a chocolate sheet cake with homemade chocolate frosting!
Biscuits. Mix, roll, cut, and bake a batch of biscuits for a family meal.
Fish. Baked fish is incredibly easy and cooks up evenly for a perfect finish. I love to cook salmon in the oven! Slather your salmon or similar fish in olive oil, add herbs and spices, and bake if at 400º for ten to twelve minutes. It will even crisp up a little on the edges! For spices, you can use the ever-loved Old Bay Seasoning, or a blend of salt, pepper, and garlic. If you prefer, look for different seasoning options and pick your own.
Grill Cooking Challenges
Roasted Corn. Find a recipe for roasting corn on the grill and serve it to your family with dinner or for a snack like street corn.
Skewers. Use a marinade recipe and prepare vegetables and meat for a skewer. Soak the skewers first to prevent burning and alternate veggies with meat and grill according to your recipe. Plan to serve this meal over white rice.
Burgers and Dogs. Mix a homemade burger patty and make burgers and/or hotdogs for your family on the grill. This is the least difficult meat to grill and should be cooked until the juices run clear when pressed with the flipper. We usually just cut part of one open to check for doneness. Use a burger press to ensure that all of the patties are perfectly sized and will cook/finish at the same rate.
Chicken. Use a marinade recipe and serve the grilled chicken with freshly sliced tomatoes for dinner.
Steaks. Purchase and grill steaks for your family to medium or medium-well doneness. Use an Instant Read Meat Thermometer. You can read more about cooking steaks on the grill here.
Sautee Cooking Challenges
Onions. Sauteed onions are amazing on a sandwich, on top of steak, or even over rice with meat. To sautee onions you should use medium to low heat. It takes patience but cooked low and slow onions develop a deep caramelized color and flavor. Sautee some onions to add to your lunch sandwiches.
Vegetable Mix. Sauteed vegetables form the foundation of many dishes. Onions, celery, and carrots sauteed are called the “trinity” and are the base of many soups. Sauteed veggies of some type are used in many different cultures and cuisines around the world. Choose a mixture of vegetables to sautee for a side dish. Most sautees start with onion, and once the onions are translucent other veggies can be added. Be sure to add seasoning, including salt and pepper for sure. Other seasonings you might add include garlic, herbs, and spices.
Meat. Sauteed meat can be used throughout the week to make sandwiches and other quick meals for lunch or fast dinners. Take some time to sautee a pan full of diced chicken or beef to have in the fridge. This can be reheated quickly in a skillet or microwave any time you want a quick hot sandwich with some cheese.
Stir Fry. Create a stir fry by mixing meat and veggies for your saute and serving it over rice. You’ll need to cook the meat first, then the veggies, and then combine them with a sauce of some type. Make sure to season with salt as you go. Find a recipe, or make up your own! The store-bought sauces are super convenient, but if you like to make your own go recipe hunting!
Curry. Use the saute method to cook meat and veggies for a curry. Then make the curry sauce and serve it over rice or with naan bread.
Soup and Sauce Cooking Challenges
Gravy. Find a recipe for a traditional gravy and prepare it as a side for one of your family meals. You can choose a broth-based gravy or a milk-based gravy. Coordinate this challenge with whoever is cooking dinner! Gravy is tricky because you can make it really lumpy if the thickening is done incorrectly. Follow the instructions in your recipe of choice to make a slurry or rue that thickens your gravy.
Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce. This sauce is delicious over risotto, chicken, or even pasta. The fun part is — it’s made directly in the microwave. In a four-cup measuring cup, add one cup of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Place ten or twelve garlic cloves (whole) in the cup as well. Microwave this for ten minutes. Then stir, and microwave it for an additional eight minutes. Remove it from the microwave when your meal is ready, and whisk in the juice from one whole lemon at the table. Adding the lemon during the cooking process can cause the sauce to curdle. Something similar to this recipe is found in the cookbook called Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka.
Potato Soup. One of the easiest soups to make, you can build a basic potato soup with potatoes, onions, and vegetable or chicken broth. Dice six potatoes and three large onions into bite-sized pieces. Place in a stockpot on medium heat. Just enough broth to cover the vegetables is the perfect amount. Boil for about twenty minutes until the potatoes have softened. Remove from the heat and add a bit of heavy whipping cream. You can serve this soup chunky, or puree it with a stick blender. If you use a stick blender, be careful not to splash and get burned. Or try this cheesy potato soup.
Tip: Use this basic soup recipe with different vegetables! Carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or pumpkin all work with this method. You can also experiment with a combination of these kinds of vegetables.
Vegetable Soup. Use the summer harvest vegetables and your knife skills to make this delicious soup with layered flavors. The more uniform your knife cuts are, the more pleasant this soup becomes, but don’t worry it’s pretty great no matter what! Get your stockpot hot with a little olive oil, and then start layering vegetables one at a time. Always start with onions. After two minutes add carrots. Two more minutes and you can add zucchini. Keep adding vegetables as many as you want! I’ve put up to seventeen veggies in this soup.
After all of your veggies have been added one at a time, add enough beef broth or vegetable broth to cover them. Finish with two cups of grated cabbage. It adds incredible flavor. You can also add a partial block of parmesan and a drained can of cannellini beans right in the soup. It needs to simmer until the potatoes or carrots are soft enough to eat but still ever-so-slightly firm. The name of this soup is Minestrone. You could also try this Instant Pot Taco Soup.
Chili. A quintessential chili is necessary for every cook’s recipe box. You can make a traditional beef chili or a chicken chili. You have permission to leave out the beans if they gross you out. Try my favorite chili recipe or use one of your family favorites to complete this challenge. Chili is one of those things that works really well in the Instant Pot. If you have an electric pressure cooker of any kind, you can brown the ground beef, and add all of the ingredients in your recipe to the instant pot at once. Then cook on high pressure for ten minutes. If you prefer, you can use the traditional stovetop method.
Complete Meal Planning Challenge
Plan. Look for recipes and pick two complete meals to make for your family. Include an entree, bread, at least one side dish, and a dessert.
Prepare. Look through your family’s pantry and compile a shopping list for each meal.
Shop. Shop for the items you need and put them away.
Cook. Make a meal for your family.
Cook. Make a meal for your family.
Teen Cooking Challenge Printable
Grab the Teen Cooking Challenge printable below, download it and print one copy for each of your teens taking the challenge. It has the complete challenge checklist and a description of each challenge activity. Spice it up a bit! Invite local teens from your homeschool coop or friends to participate with you, share ideas, and perhaps enjoy field trips or related activities together.