Survey to see if Aussie cooks rule in kitchen

Sep 14 2016

Dr Tamara Bucher and Professor Clare Collins

Whether you slice and dice like a sous-chef or can barely boil an egg, a new online survey by University of Newcastle (UON) nutrition and dietetic researchers is aiming to determine how handy Australian cooks are in the kitchen.

The study was developed as part of an international research collaboration to see which country has the best cooking skills, and why. It will also inform future intervention programs to help Australian families eat better.

“We’re putting the focus back on cooking skills to see how closely it relates to healthier eating choices and dietary knowledge,” chief investigator Dr Tamara Bucher, from the UON Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition and HMRI’s Cardiovascular Program, explained.

“People who spend time cooking have better eating habits and eat more foods of a higher nutritional quality, especially vegetables and fruit. They are also more likely to be of healthy weight and spend less money on take-away foods.”

The survey gauges basic proficiency levels with chopping, stirring and mixing, for example, rather than exploring cultural differences. It questions how competent cooks are at preparing raw meat, poultry and seafood. How confident they are in trying new styles – do they follow recipes or get creative? Can they make a sauce or gravy from scratch?

“The survey looks at what type of cook they are; if they’re adventurous, if they plan meals or follow a budget and whether they enjoy cooking,” NHMRC Senior Research Fellow Professor Clare Collins said. “Some people have cooked their whole life but still find it a chore, while others are not so confident but try to cook up a storm.

“We’re also interested in where people learned their skills. Whether it was from grandma or from cooking shows. Some countries have cooking classes integrated with the school curriculum yet in Australia there are people who still can’t boil an egg.”

“It’s also about having access to the right cooking equipment and having time – if you’re under pressure when you get home it’s very easy to get take-away delivered to the door.”

Dr Bucher adds that home cooks mostly use less salt and fat in their cooking compared with packaged products and also serve more appropriate portions.

“When you eat better you perform better, so understanding Australian cooking skill levels is fundamental to us helping people improve their diets. It’s something we can address in a range of ways, either through online cooking videos or lifestyle interventions,” she said.

The 20-minute survey is online now at tinyurl.com/cookingskills. It’s open to anyone over 18, regardless of whether they’re the primary cook.

All survey participants go into a draw to win one of five $100 Coles Myers vouchers.

More details at tamara.bucher@newcastle.edu.au.