Prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of cooking skills in UK adults: cross-sectional analysis of data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey

Background:
Poor cooking skills may be a barrier to healthy eating and a contributor to overweight and obesity. Little population-representative data on adult cooking skills has been published. We explored prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of cooking skills among adult respondents to wave 1 of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–9).
Methods:
Socio-demographic variables of interest were sex, age group, occupational socio-economic group and whether or not respondents had the main responsibility for food in their households. Cooking skills were assessed as self-reported confidence in using eight cooking techniques, confidence in cooking ten foods, and ability to prepare four types of dish (convenience foods, a complete meal from ready-made ingredients, a main meal from basic ingredients, and cake or biscuits from basic ingredients). Frequency of preparation of main meals was also reported.
Results:
Of 509 respondents, almost two-thirds reported cooking a main meal at least five times per week. Around 90 % reported being able to cook convenience foods, a complete meal from ready-made ingredient, and a main dish from basic ingredients without help. Socio-demographic differences in all markers of cooking skills were scattered and inconsistent. Where these were found, women and main food providers were most likely to report confidence with foods, techniques or dishes, and respondents in the youngest age (19–34 years) and lowest socio-economic group least likely.
Conclusions:
This is the only exploration of the prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of adult cooking skills using recent and population-representative UK data and adds to the international literature on cooking skills in developed countries. Reported confidence with using most cooking techniques and preparing most foods was high. There were few socio-demographic differences in reported cooking skills. Adult cooking skills interventions are unlikely to have a large population impact, but may have important individual effects if clearly targeted at: men, younger adults, and those in the least affluent social groups.

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