Women reported higher cooking skills than men
All participants were asked if they are able to prepare a warm meal without a recipe, and if they are able to prepare different kinds of food, such as soup, gratin, cake, bread or sauce. Moreover, it was assessed who is responsible for meal preparation during the week and weekend within the household. Even though women spent less time in the kitchen than in the past, they are still mainly responsible for meal preparation in a family.
Additionally, there are differences in cooking skills between gender and age groups (Figure 2). First, men reported lower cooking skills than women in every age group, and in particular, older men’s cooking skills are low. One explanation might be that cooking classes for females were obligatory in the earlier years in Switzerland, while obligatory cooking classes for males started only in the 1980s.
Further analysis showed that younger women, at the ages of 20 to 30 years old, reported lower cooking skills than older women. The supposed decline in the intergenerational transmission of basic cooking skills at home, and people’s increasing consumption of convenience food may have led to the fact that cooking skills have become less frequently practiced.
Cooking enjoyment is the most important predictor for cooking skills
Women who enjoy cooking have higher cooking skills, independently of time or effort considerations. Interestingly, the association between cooking skills and cooking enjoyment is more pronounced in males than in females. Men’s motivation to cook might be different than women’s, because men cook when they are in the right mood and cooking, for men, is more often constructed as a fun activity than as an everyday responsibility. Another important factor for cooking skills is the presence of children. If there are children under the age of 16 years in the household, men and women are more likely to be able to cook. Parents may be more motivated to learn cooking and cook more frequently than individuals living alone.
People who are able to cook make better food choices
Our results suggest that there is a positive relationship between cooking skills and the consumption of vegetables. Accordingly, the higher the cooking skills are, the higher the vegetable consumption. In fact, cooking skills enable one to prepare different food items and dishes, and therefore, may increase food choice opportunities, as well as food variety.
Cooking classes in school and healthy convenience food
Our results have further strengthened the hypothesis that people’s food choices are influenced by their cooking skills. Therefore, the promotion of cooking skills should be a part of prevention strategies. Cooking classes in schools provide an opportunity to raise awareness of fresh foods, food ingredients and health-promoting diets, and might enable students to economically and quickly prepare healthy dishes.
Additionally, children and young adults, especially from low-income families, might benefit most from cooking classes in schools because they have limited access to other resources of information. Therefore, cooking enjoyment should be promoted and students (especially boys) should be encouraged to develop cooking skills. There is an increasing consumer demand for ready to eat foods, in particular, men reported eating convenience foods more often.
The consumers, as well as the industry, should be encouraged to focus on ‘healthy’ convenience foods, which are low in sugar and fat, and individuals (especially older men) with low cooking skills might profit from these ready to eat foods.