British grocer Waitrose has released its annual Cooking Report on the United Kingdoms’ cooking habits. The report has revealed that the UK is a nation of quietly confident cooks with more than one-third (35%) rating themselves as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent cooks’, and a more modest 45% rate themselves as ‘fairly good cooks’. One-third of UK adults polled would go so far as to say they’re better cooks than their parents but despite this high level of confidence more than one in four UK adults have never boiled an egg and don’t know how to, fewer than a fifth (18%) have made a salad dressing and only 45% of those surveyed have baked a Victoria sponge cake.
Cost of living impact
Nearly two-fifths of UK adults wish they could spend more time in the kitchen than they currently do. The greatest motivation for cooking is to be healthy followed by the enjoyment of tasting new flavors and recipes. The cost-of-living crisis has added an additional incentive to cook with one-third of UK adults cooking because it ‘helps them stick to a budget and save money’.
Due to financial pressures, one in five say they’re entertaining more at home. Four in 10 are happy to choose cheaper cuts of meat and more affordable ingredients to economize when entertaining. One in eight say they’re prepared to economize during the week so they can spend more on their guests, and 7% are happy to ask friends to bring a dish or course.
Kitchen gadgets Brits cannot live without
Airfryers have become firm fixtures in many kitchens this year but it’s the humble microwave that has emerged top of a list of 24 kitchen gadgets that most adults said they couldn’t live without. Nearly three times as many people said they couldn’t live without their microwave as feel the same about air fryers (32% and 12% respectively); though they’re both energy-saving appliances compared to traditional ovens.
Searches for ‘microwave meals’ on waitrose.com are up 71% and sales of microwaves are up 13% at John Lewis (compared to the same time last year).
Top 10 Kitchen Gadgets shoppers couldn’t live without (people were asked which single gadget they couldn’t live without):
- Air fryer
- Slow cooker
- Coffee Machine
- Food mixer
- Food processor
- Electric whisk
- Hand blender
- Rice cooker
Martyn Lee, Executive Chef for Waitrose, said, “Food is a daily joy, and the cost-of-living crisis has hastened a change in how we cook.“For too long, we’ve been looking down on microwaves. You can do so much more in them than heat a cup of coffee. I make a great sponge in mine. I think it’s time to remember the enjoyment we get from the anticipation of their pinging.
“When you reheat a stew or a slice of lasagna in your microwave after the flavors have had time to develop, you enjoy what’s known as the 6th taste sensation ‘kokumi’ – which is lesser know than the other five tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.”
Martyn Lee continued, “Whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or not, our research found that sometimes we all make mistakes.”
Nearly half (46%) divulged that they often get distracted and let pans boil over, and nearly two-fifths (38%) revealed they had burnt something so badly the smoke alarm went off. More than a quarter (27%) have put too much salt in something, and 23% have undercooked or overcooked a dish, so it’s inedible.
Even the most confident cooks aren’t immune to the odd kitchen slip-up – a quarter of those who rated their skills as ‘excellent’ admit to having left a bottle of wine or Champagne in their freezer and ‘forgotten about it until it exploded’, while around a fifth (18%) have failed to remember they’ve cooked something in the microwave and found it the next day.
Mishaps aside, cooks also like to bend the rules: 46% ignore the sell-by dates on the packet, 38% use the ‘five-second rule’ for picking up food that has dropped on the floor, choosing to believe that food is less likely to get contaminated and therefore ‘safe’ to eat, while 16% are happy to scrape the mold off food to ‘eat or cook with it’.
Entertaining has become a more relaxed affair, with over a third (34%) thinking that the term ‘dinner party is old fashioned, and 29% always want their gathering to feel ‘effortlessly casual’. A priority for half (49%) of cooks surveyed is for the food to be quick and easy to cook. It’s no longer the norm to serve a formal plated starter as only a third (35%) of respondents say they ‘sometimes’ serve them. Instead of individual plated-up food, one in 10 like to serve charcuterie boards or buffet-style or Middle Eastern mezze-style dishes for guests to serve themselves.
Martyn Lee said, “We’re wanting to spend more time with our guests rather than with our backs turned at the stove, so food that keeps conversations flowing is key.”
Guests giving a compliment on the food is seen as the greatest sign of a successful get-together, and one in ten hosts would be delighted if their guests thanked them on social media by posting a photograph of the food.
While Brits mostly confident cooks, the most popular way to share photos of the food they have cooked or eaten is private via Whatsapp.
For inspiration, shoppers are most likely to turn to the internet and the explosion of recipes and technique tutorials available. One-third get their ideas on what to cook from TV programs and 5% have turned to Chat GPT for recipe inspiration. The average person owns just eight cookery books, though 7% own 20, or more.