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Most British Home Cooks Only Know Five Recipes

How do stir fry, spag bol, and beef casserole sound? Good because a new survey has found that over half of British adults know just five recipes or less by heart and cook them at least once a week.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user Moyan Brenn

Is there anyone who hasn't found themselves verging into "foodie" territory nowadays? Even your weirdly backwards high school friend has cottoned on to the #foodporn thing and started flooding your newsfeed with sepia-tinged pulled pork pics.

But just because we Instagrammed the ceviche at that amazing new Mexican place last night and queued for half an hour outside a poutine pop-up doesn't necessarily mean we know how to make the stuff—something that new research into the true extent of Britain's cooking skills may have just backed up.


In a survey of 2000 British adults commissioned by supermarket chain Tesco, researchers found that 54 percent of participants knew five or less recipes by heart and 51 percent admitted to making these dishes at least once a week. One third of people admitted to cooking just one new recipe per year.

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And what is this repertoire of recipes that is seared so steadfastly onto our brains? Perhaps a dependable curry or something vaguely fancy that involves baked fish. Maybe that cauliflower crust pizza recipe was so life-changing you can now make it with your eyes closed, or at least while telling your housemate how it totally, definitely tastes like a Domino's deep pan. Kind of.

Nope. The top five recipes Brits are subjecting themselves and their loved ones to on the weekly are as follows: stir fry, spaghetti bolognese, cottage or shepherd's pie, beef casserole, and the ever-ambivalent "Sunday roast" (are we talking homemade Yorkshires, goose fat roast potatoes, and lamb shoulder or dry chicken and instant gravy?). This leads to the worrying inference that nearly half of the population has to do a sticky fingered consultation of their iPhone every time they want to make mashed potato.

Despite having an internal recipe book that sounds like it was written by Delia Smith's unimaginative younger sister, Britain's home cooks aren't too keen on deviating from what they know.

Liverpool may be the city most open to culinary exploration, with one in 12 residents saying they cook new recipes every week, but the national average was just 5 percent. In Norwich, the highest proportion of respondents said trying to save money was a motivation for trying new recipes not y'know, making something that's really fucking tasty.

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To give us some credit, we're at least sharing our kitchen habits with the family. A quarter of parents with young children said they cooked together "all the time," and half of women said they had recipes passed down to them from their mothers, perhaps explaining the absence of Spiralizing or Spirulina from those memorised recipes.

Conversely, only one in 20 women said they had picked up recipes from their fathers, which is a shame because opening tinned hot dogs without dropping the remote is actually a great life skill to pass down to future generations.