Ten tips for cookery class

Since September 2014, cookery has been a part of the primary school curriculum in England. In response to this, my colleagues and I (in my previous school) were provided with training in this subject area. I haven’t thought about this for a while because, until this week, I had not taught it in Hong Kong. However, several students want to explore cooking as part of their passion projects, so I revisited what I had previously learnt from the excellent PD (led by Anita Cormac, OBE).

Here are the top ten things that I learnt:

Create the Set Out

Though the lessons are fun and exciting, they should also be organised and contained. By creating the Set Out, students have easy access to all of the equipment/ingredients that they will need during the class. As part of the Set Out, there should also be a reachable container for waste. Students shouldn’t need to walk around the room.

No need to be a measuring lesson every time

Undoubtedly, cooking is a fantastic way to teach/reinforce transdisciplinary content. One of the most obvious maths connections is measurement because students can use scales, measuring jugs, etc. However, if you are teaching very young children or children who already know how to measure, it might be an inappropriate waste of time. As an alternative, the ingredients can be measured out beforehand and be part of the Set Out. With a long recipe, this can save a lot of lesson time.


Provide a demonstration

Even at my age, I prefer to see something rather than read about it. For example, my first stop for instructions is usually YouTube. Students reading a recipe is great, but it’s important to provide a demonstration of what to do and how to do it safely. This will reinforce what is written in the recipe instructions. Create a place for yourself as part of the setup and buy enough ingredients for the demonstration.

Expect the bridge and claw cutting techniques

Giving knives to students can understandably be daunting, but there are two safe cutting techniques that you can share with your students and reinforce. The bridge technique involves students creating a ‘bridge’ with the thumb and fingers and cutting between this ‘bridge’. The claw technique is a way of protecting fingertips from cuts. When slicing, students should tuck their fingernails in rather than spreading their fingers out. This will create a safer claw shape.

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Images by Emma Christensen, The Kitchn

Make cleaning a team effort

Like it or not, part of cooking is the cleaning afterwards. Students should be taught that this is their responsibility. The cleaning would usually be a huge job for one person (the teacher or a cleaner), but it can be very quick if done as a team. Assign cleaning roles to your students and ensure that you leave the cooking room/equipment in the same condition that they found it, ready for the next class.

Don’t patronise children will silly food

One of Anita’s pet hates is silly food, dumbed down to appeal to children. Do pizzas need to have a smiley face on them? Use the cooking time to produce food of a high standard that anyone can enjoy.

Healthy food can be delicious

For me, one of the best parts of the PD was to be given a range of high-quality recipes. We used all of them as part of the PD and, as a result, enjoyed a lunch feast that was both healthy and delicious. I still use the recipes at home even when I don’t teach them. Childhood obesity remains a huge problem in many countries. We need to educate students that junk food is not necessary for enjoyment and unhealthy ingredients can be substituted with healthy alternatives without sacrificing taste.

Outline the risks

In cooking, there will usually be risks. These should not be feared, but they should be respected and made explicit. Outline these risks with the students to pre-empt any incidents. These risks might include hot ovens, raw eggs, boiling water, sharp knives, etc. Outline the health/safety rules and constantly reinforce them.

Highlight key words in the recipe

I just thought of this recently, now that I teach students who have English as a second language. However, it would also be helpful to native speakers. I have started to highlight key words/phrases on the recipe that might be unfamiliar to students. This week, these included ‘beat the egg’, ‘pre-heat’ and ‘wholemeal’. These can be explained during the demonstration.

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Appreciate food

One of my favourite things about teaching cooking is that students appreciate what they have made. I can’t think of a time when they didn’t. We need to model this, too. Ensure that students don’t waste ingredients and explain why this is important. Anita also discourages teachers from using food in other ways, such as art materials or part of reward jars (using dry pasta as a reward currency is quite common). We should not be wasting food when many people so desperately lack it.

As a PYP school, I want to make cookery an inquiry. Anita’s recipes will serve only as a starting point. I want my students to question new possibilities and substitutes, be creative in their ideas, analyse their results and consider improvements/next steps. I also want students to take action in some way. Let’s see what happens!

Do you have any additional advice? Do you disagree with any of the above? If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below. Should cookery be a compulsory subject at primary age? Is it part of the Maker Movement? As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas.


  1. It’s so lovely to see other educators views and tips. It shows you that we can always learn from each other. I will try some of these tips. Beautiful set out on the table

    1. Hi Jahseen,

      Thanks for the lovely comment. That’s the beauty of social media and global connections. The learning never stops!



  2. I’ve always thought the kitchen to be a wonderful place for learning. Preparation of food is a life skill we all need and it is great for children’s independence to be able to do so. I agree with all your points, especially for the richness of the learning opportunities provided. I had not previously considered that measurement need not be considered each time. However, my work was with younger children and providing this practice was one of the reasons for choosing the activity.

    1. Hi Norah,

      Thanks for the feedback. The measuring depends entirely on your students, their needs, how much time you have, your objectives, etc. Cooking is a fantastic way to learn, practise and apply this maths skill but if time is lacking and you want to focus on other skills, measuring things beforehand is a way to save precious lesson time. If students are too young for measuring or you know that they can do it already, you might choose to prioritise other skills. It all depends on your context.

      I’m glad you found value in this post. Thanks for your input!


      1. The needs of the students are what it’s all about, that’s for sure. It’s important to make that the focus of all we do as teachers.

  3. We do a unit on cooking in pyp grade 2. I appreciate that you listed risks as an important part. It seems that lately we are always protecting children from getting hurt, but not teaching them how to use tools properly. My suggestion would be to have properly sharpened and appropriate tools. It’s much easier to learn how to use tools properly when they are the right ones. We use sharp knives and hot tools and the only time we had any accidents was when we used the “kid safe” things.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      This is a good point! I totally agree! Just like we shouldn’t dumb down the food, we shouldn’t dumb down the equipment. There’s no need as long as we outline the risks and ensure that students know how to use the tools properly. Interesting point about the “kid safe” items. If the knives are sharp, they will work effortlessly. Blunt knives take a lot of force and can easily lead to accidents!

      Thanks for the comment.


    1. Hi Tima,

      Please do! I might also be able to share the recipes with you, as long as Anita doesn’t mind. They’re fantastic! Keep me posted on how the students get on and, as always, give me a shout if I can help in any way.

      If they need an expert (with an OBE!), consider contacting Anita. Just let me know if that would be helpful and I can put her in touch with you.



  4. It is such a novelty in the US and especially in California. Yes, we have school gardens and we produce a lot of veggies and some of the gardens raise chickens so we have eggs too but cooking is such an unknown in schools. As a sufferer of home economics in 1st and 2nd year of grammar school (which I hated) where we spent three hours learning 1) to make a cup of tea and 2) to boil an egg, 3) make radish flowers and cut tomatoes into shapes, the idea of starting real recipes earlier really appeals to me. I’d love to see every school here with a kitchen for the kids and some really fun dishes which they might actually use at home. The garden then continues its inquiry into the kitchen.

    1. Hi Anne-Marie,

      I agree. That would be great. Your experience of home economics sounds terrible! I’m so glad that teaching has moved on. Anita’s recipes are absolutely fantastic! Like I said, I use them myself. They’re not ‘child-friendly’ or dumbed down in any way. Why should they be? Students can create dishes and meals that are worthy of the whole family. Following these steps, it’s easier than it sounds.



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