I Asked My Teenager to Make Dinner. Here’s What Happened.

My teenager, Logan, took over in the kitchen for one night. Here's what he made for dinner—and what the whole family learned.

Yes, it’s true. I asked my teenager to make dinner last night, to take a short break from his phone and video games. The reaction I got was not surprising—pretty much the same as when I ask him to help rake the yard or clean his room. Undeterred, my husband and I held our ground, not only because having him make a meal would give us a night off from cooking, but because it would give Logan a hands-on project to build meal planning and cooking skills.

To sweeten the deal, I told my son that he could make anything he wanted for dinner. I immediately realized my mistake—leaving things that open-ended meant we might find cold cheese sandwiches and corn chips on our dinner plates. But to his credit, Logan actually spent time perusing this cookbook, and he chose a recipe for Loaded Chicken & Gouda Calzones.

He loves calzones but had never tried making them before. Logan’s dinner-making adventure was about to begin!

Learning New Kitchen Skills

My teen has a few kitchen techniques under his belt, but I knew this recipe would require new ones. I’m lucky he was willing to let me stay nearby to answer questions. The first dilemma arose at the store.

Substituting ingredients

The first skill he got to practice is substituting ingredients when the ones listed in the recipe aren’t available. This recipe calls for frozen whole-wheat bread dough. When we couldn’t find any the store, nor any yeast to make our own dough, I asked my son: “What do you want to do?”

His reply: “Use pizza dough?”

That works! Later, when he found the package of Gouda didn’t quite yield two cups, he added in a little Monterey Jack cheese he found in our fridge. He also saw how some ingredients can be optional, like the mushrooms (which none of us care for) in this recipe.

Teenager checking out ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Mise en place

When I saw my son turn on the burner before he had any ingredients or pans out, it seemed like a great time to talk about mise en place. Meaning “everything in its place.” This is a skill chefs learn early on: to have ingredients out, prepped and measured before beginning to cook. So he checked the recipe and pulled out every ingredient. Doing so made him realize there was work to be done! The recipe didn’t just call for chicken, spinach and onion but for shredded, cooked chicken, thawed, drained and chopped spinach and chopped onion. This brought us to the next lesson:

Prepping ingredients

Shredding cooked chicken.Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Logan suddenly found himself slicing and chopping ingredients he had never handled before. He squeezed out soggy spinach. He pulled leftover cooked chicken into shreds—and was grateful that he didn’t have to deal with raw meat. We talked through some knife skills, like the best way to grip it and tucking fingers out of the way while holding food. I shared with him a mantra learned from a cooking class, “if it’s round make it flat,” which helped him safely cut an onion without it rolling under his knife. He even let me show him a trick of making long cuts through the onion before slicing as a shortcut to dicing. And there was bacon to cook, something my son had never done before. He learned to watch for browning and crisped edges while cooking the strips in a skillet.

Now that all that was done, Logan was finally ready to begin the recipe.

Calzone filling in a skillet.Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Making Dinner—and Following the Recipe

The prep had taken longer than expected, so when it was time to cook the calzone filling, Logan wanted to just throw everything in the pan, including the cheese. (He was getting hangry.) I tossed him a snack bar and encouraged him to follow the steps in the recipe. Once he got rolling, he knew why taking that shortcut would have been a mistake. He saw that the onion needs time to soften and that garlic cooks quickly, needing less time in the pan. The cheese is called for later in the recipe, and it would have been a mess had it gone in the hot pan.

Calzone filling on a circle of pizza doughNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Filling the calzones is where my son really had fun. He impressed me with how deftly he handled the pizza dough, cutting portions and rolling out perfect circles. I had no idea he could do that! After filling each circle, he folded them over without hesitation. He crimped the edges closed, and I was thrilled to see this skill stayed with him from a pierogi making class we took the previous year.

My son with his finished calzones.Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

The Final Results

I encouraged my son to make the call on whether the calzones were done baking, checking how the dough pockets had browned and listening for the sizzle of the filling. When he pulled them from the oven, the aroma was so tantalizing! We quickly sat down to eat… and those calzones were amazing. The bacon, spinach and chicken flavors with the melty Gouda were a delicious combination we hadn’t tried in a calzone before. And I could tell our son was really pleased with how much his dad and I enjoyed them. Better yet? He told us he had fun making dinner, despite the fact that his feet were “killing him” from standing so long. (LOL!)

Dirty dishes in sink.Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

I think I can convince my teenager to cook dinner for us again — especially since in this house, the cook doesn’t have to do the dishes!

How to Help Your Teen Cook

To give your teenagers the confidence and willingness to cook, I have a couple of helpful hints:

  • Let them choose the recipe, even if it’s outside of your usual dinner rotation.
  • Be available to answer questions and lend a hand when asked, while resisting the urge to step in and take over.
  • Be patient and OK with imperfection. The overcooked veggies, burnt edges and messy kitchen—that’s how we all improve our skills.
  • Offer generous encouragement, praise and gratitude!
Recipes That Teens Should Know By Heart
1 / 34

Popular Videos

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.