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Uncovered: The best cooks in the UK and the dishes we have mastered

Over the course of the UK’s lockdown, tombola discovered that almost a quarter (22%) of Brits have tried to develop their cooking skills and attempted to try new recipes. What’s more, searches for ‘how to cook’ increased by 59% at the height of local restrictions (March-April 2020), showing Brits are determined to start honing their skills in the kitchen.

With that in mind, tombola - whose 200,000+ strong community regularly share cooking tips online - has surveyed 1,500 of the British public to reveal just how good in the kitchen we really are. Read on to discover the go-to recipes for Britons, what we’ve been doing during lockdown and just who are the best cooks in the country.

1 in 4 Brits can cook just one meal from scratch

how many meals can brits cook

While nearly a quarter of people (22%) have been attempting to develop their culinary skills over lockdown, tombola discovered that 28% of Brits surveyed can cook just one regular dish from scratch.

We asked if the public could cook 12 popular meals* - which included a Sunday Roast and chicken tikka masala - and discovered that 36% couldn’t cook any of the dishes without help. A further 12% said they could only master two dishes. Similarly, just 7% said they had the ability to make six regular meals from scratch.

27% couldn’t make any of the suggested meals from scratch

What’s more surprising, however, is that almost a third (27%) couldn’t cook any of the 12 meals provided within the survey. 

This could be because time to cook is becoming a luxury for many. Today, it’s estimated that women spend less than an hour in the kitchen each day preparing meals, while men spend as little as 20 minutes doing the same.

40% of Britons only ever cook the same meal with almost a fifth scared to attempt difficult dishes

Almost half (40%) of people surveyed said they only ever cook the same meal for themselves or their family from scratch.

What’s more, 13% said they wouldn’t even attempt to cook a difficult dish as they are not confident in their skills. For some (4%), that’s because they are scared of wasting money on ingredients, especially if the meal doesn’t go quite as they planned.

But 22% have been trying to improve their cooking skills during lockdown

Britain's cooking skills

As mentioned above, however, 22% are trying to build on what skills they do have to improve their meals. But the reason that so many of us are struggling to make things from scratch in the kitchen could be due to convenience.

8% said they rely on food subscriptions for their meals, which could be why only 1 in 4 can prep and produce only one dish from scratch. However, so many of us are time poor due to the pandemic, and food subscriptions provide a lifeline for many.

Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist from Goodness Me Nutrition, said: “Lockdown has created significant worries for many and so, for some, cooking has become a pressured point in the day. For other people, however, the lack of a commute, and less money spent socialising has created space and funds for enjoyment cooking.

“I hope people will spend time making nutritious meals now we are all working from home more frequently. For some people, it can feel a bit wrong to spend time cooking at lunchtime. But actually, if you were at the office, you probably went to a canteen or cafe and spent time queuing up to get your lunch anyway.”

So, just what are we cooking?

Sunday Roast is the easiest meal for Brits to cook from scratch

The Sunday Roast is a staple for many British households, and it’s the go-to dish for 28% of Brits. 

When asked to choose from 12 well-loved dishes, over a quarter said they could rustle up the traditional meal from scratch. However, the second most popular dish for Brits to cook from scratch has Italian origins…

25% said they could knock up Spaghetti Bolognese. This is closely followed by Sausage and Mash, with 24% saying they knew how to make the meal.

It appears the Great British Bake Off might also have inspired a new generation of cooks, with 14% able to make fresh bread regularly. 

the easiest meals brits can make from scratch

However, it seems that Brits struggle with seafood more than anything else, with only 13% able to cook popular seafood dishes. 

But this could be because tombola identified that 13% are scared to attempt difficult recipes and 4% scared of wasting ingredients, meaning more people could be sticking to traditional recipes for fear of failing.

Men v Women: The battle of the chefs

This has been a hotly contested debate for many years, but tombola’s survey can reveal that women can, in fact, cook more meals for scratch than men.

9% of women said they could cook six meals from scratch, while only 6% of men said the same. Similarly,1 in 6 women (16%) knew two dishes they could cook without a recipe but only 10% of men could do this, suggesting there is a big difference when it comes to skills.

Out of all 12 meals provided, 40% of men couldn’t cook any of them. However, just 27% of women were unable to cook any of the meals.

This could be because 71% of women, on average, prepare food for themselves and others once a day, but only 46% of men do this.

The best cooks in Britain can be found in the North East

tombola’s survey can also reveal that people from the North East can cook the most dishes. A staggering 21% said they could knock up six dishes from scratch, while only 4% said the same in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Coming a close second are residents in the West Midlands, with 13% able to make six dishes from scratch, followed by 11% in the East of England. In London, only 6% of people surveyed could match the North East and cook six recipes, which is surprising as a number of famous chefs hail from the capital.

What are Britain’s most common cooking dilemmas?

tombola’s survey shows that some of us have been getting to know our kitchens better. Home cooking is becoming increasingly popular, so we’ve been analysing what cooking dilemmas seem to be baffling Brits.

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Do you find you struggle to cook vegetables? If so, you might not be the only one. ‘How to cook vegetables’ is the most searched for cooking question in the UK, closely followed by ‘how to cook meat’.

So, what are the answers to the most common questions? tombola has contacted experts within the field to help you in the kitchen.

Nutritional therapist Anna Mapson says: “If you're not a confident cook, instead of worrying about making complex impressive dishes or recreating Instagram photos, concentrate on making your meals more nutritious instead. This will give you the biggest improvement in health.”

How to cook vegetables


Prepping vegetables can be daunting for many but there are many methods to do this. Some of the easiest are to blanch or roast your veggies, and there are plenty of videos available to help you understand the process.

Anna also says: “If you're looking for ways to up level your diet, you can't go wrong with adding one extra vegetable to each meal that you eat. So, if you're making a pasta tomato sauce, don't just use tomatoes and mince. Instead, start with frying onions, celery, carrot and garlic, then add the tomatoes. If you've got fussy eaters in the family, blend up the vegetables into tomato sauce before adding any protein like meat or beans.”

How to defrost meat

If you are looking to defrost meat, the best and safest way is to do this in the fridge overnight. This should help it completely thaw. You can then keep ground meat, poultry and seafood in the fridge for an extra day or two. This can extend to 3-5 days for red meat.

How to ripen fruit

If you are looking to ripen fruit - perhaps for a banana cake - you can do this by placing the fruit in a paper bag and closing it, as it traps gas and speeds up the ripening process.

How to cook seafood

There are many different types of seafood with different methods of cooking, which can be found online. However, it is important to store these correctly. When storing fresh seafood, keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. This will be the bottom of the refrigerator as cold air sinks, meaning the bottom shelves are typically the coldest. 

How to cook turkey

Again, there are various methods to cooking a turkey but there are some rules to remember. Try and choose a fresh turkey where possible, keep an eye on the oven temperature and timings and let it rest before serving.

How to tell if food is off

Nobody likes to waste food but there are some ways to check if food is still safe to eat. If your food has changed texture, smell or even colour, then it’s best to get rid.

How to chop an onion without crying

If you keep the onion cool, in your fridge, there will likely be less irritants that make you cry. There will still be some, but this should help.

How to peel garlic

One tip to peel garlic quickly is to pop individual garlic cloves in a jar and cover it. Give the jar a shake for up to 30 seconds and the outer layer should be easier to remove.

How to stop pasta from sticking together

Make sure your water is boiling when adding the pasta and stir for the first few minutes to make sure they don’t stick together or to the pan. Once drained, run the pasta with cold water to stop them from sticking.

Should you put eggs in the fridge?

If you want your eggs to stay fresh for longer, keep them in the fridge. But, to avoid fluctuations in temperature which can cause salmonella, keep them in the main section of your fridge.


For anyone that is looking for further tips on cooking, Anna says: “Instagram is the perfect place to look for new meal ideas, and many nutritionists offer quick healthy follow along cooking.”

 If this has whet your appetite, we’ve also discovered the nation’s favourite takeaway




tombola provided respondents with 12 popular dishes to choose from after analysing polls regarding popular British food and recipes that required different skill levels. The dishes range from easy to difficult and were chosen to analyse the different skill levels Brits have when cooking with particular ingredients. Participants were split into two groups and could pick multiple options. Respondents surveyed in November 2020.

  • Sunday Roast
  • Sausage and Mash
  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Beef Wellington
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Lobster
  • Scallops
  • Scotch Eggs
  • Freshly Baked Bread
  • Coq au Vin
  • Ramen