Clueless Cooks: The 2024 Report

When it comes to cooking, not everyone can be a celebrity chef or grill master.

Whether due to a lack of confidence, time, skills, or simply kitchen intimidation, many Americans fall short when it comes to cooking abilities. In fact, some are just downright clueless.

But how many Americans admit to being bad cooks? To find out, we conducted a nationwide survey to ask Americans about their cooking skills – or lack thereof. We also examined Google search volume for terms related to basic cooking skills, utensils, and techniques to determine which cities are home to America’s most “clueless cooks.”

Key highlights:

  • More than half of Americans (54%) admit they are not proficient in the kitchen
  • Nearly one in five describe themselves as “beginner” cooks
  • One in three (33%) have received negative feedback about their cooking skills
  • More than one-quarter (28%) are embarrassed by their cooking skills and three in four have failed “miserably” at cooking a meal
  • Among married respondents, 31% said their spouse is not a good cook, and more than half (57%) have opted not to reveal that to their spouse
  • 35% say they won’t ever try to become a good cook
  • Cleveland, Ohio, is home to the nation’s most “clueless cooks,” according to Google search volume analysis

Cities with the Most Clueless Cooks

City with most clueless cooks (2024)

Looking for America’s national capital of “clueless cooks”? Look no further than Cleveland, Ohio.

According to our analysis of Google search terms related to basic cooking skills, Cleveland tops the list for most “clueless cooks” per capita. To determine our ranking, search terms and keywords related to basic cooking queries were analyzed across cities with a population of at least 250,000. While there’s no specific region associated with a lack of cooking skills, our research suggests certain cities are significantly behind the curve.

Interestingly, some cities with thriving restaurant scenes, such as Seattle, Washington (No. 3), Portland, Oregon (No. 6), and Austin, Texas (No. 7), rank within the top 10 list of cities with the least-savvy cooks.

Midwestern cities like Madison, Wisconsin (No. 4), and Minneapolis, Minnesota (No. 8), also make the list, along with two cities with industrial roots, Lubbock, Texas (No. 5), and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (No. 2).

Rounding out the list are two unexpected cities. Despite its cobblers, cornbreads, and collard greens, Atlanta, Georgia, comes in at No. 9. Nashville, Tennessee, with its countless famous down-home dishes, claims the No. 10 spot on our list.

Clueless Cooks: The 2024 Report

In our nationwide survey, over one-quarter of respondents (28%) admitted to being embarrassed by their lack of cooking skills, and nearly a quarter (24%) avoid hosting dinner parties because of their lack of cooking chops.

These feelings might come from the healthy slice of humble pie served up by friends and relatives. One-third of all respondents (33%) say they have received negative feedback about their cooking skills.

Not everyone is looking to improve upon their shortcomings in the kitchen, though. More than one-third of respondents (35%) say they have no desire to become a good cook.

Common Pitfalls to Better Cooking

What holds us back from honing our cooking skills?

The majority of respondents (54%) cited lack of time as the top reason preventing them from cooking more. Nearly half (49%) admitted that it comes down to laziness or lack of motivation.

A significant number of respondents also blamed lack of exposure and access for their reluctance to cook. More than four in ten (44%) said they lack adequate experience, 34% lack the necessary kitchen resources, and one in four (25%) confessed that they simply don’t have the confidence to get started.

How Americans Rate Their Cooking Skills

In terms of cooking skills, nearly one in five (17%) describe themselves as “beginner” cooks and only 14% claim their kitchen skills are “advanced” or “expert.”

When Americans are looking for cooking inspiration, nearly half (48%) say they follow food influencers on social media, and almost three-quarters (73%) say they watch cooking videos online to learn new recipes.

That same percentage (73%) also say their parents were good cooks, so maybe some of the prowess is handed down. Then again, 70% of bad cooks also claim their parents were good cooks. Bad cooks also enjoy online cooking videos, with 67% reporting that they watch cooking content.

How Many Americans Are Too Intimidated to Cook?

Kitchen Intimidation

If it’s just before dinnertime and you’ve decided to cook from scratch, you might be feeling the pressure.

More than one-quarter (27%) of respondents admit they are intimidated by cooking a meal from scratch, and a resounding majority (78%) say dinner is the most intimidating meal to prepare.

Drilling into the potential fear factors lurking behind the dinner-making process, half (50%) of respondents are most concerned about time constraints, 43% dread the cleanup, 39% feel recipes are simply too complex, 26% say they are too inexperienced, and around one in five (19%) say they are paralyzed by fear of failure.

When it comes to cooking meat, many Americans need to brush up on their skills. Overall, 55% admitted they don’t know the correct temperature for cooking meat.

Cooking Fails

Let’s face it, mistakes are part of the cooking process, but epic fails can throw a major wrench into dinner plans. One-quarter (75%) of our survey respondents admit they have failed miserably at cooking a meal, with the most common problems being either over- or undercooking. Nearly three-quarters (74%) have burnt a meal, and 54% have undercooked their food.

Other regular fails include forgetting a key ingredient (51%), misreading the recipe (42%), breaking cookware (19%), and using spoiled ingredients (10%).

With all these mistakes, it’s little surprise that nearly one-quarter of respondents (23%) say someone has refused to eat what they’ve cooked.

Kitchen confidence

Chances are you know your way around a microwave, but what about an oven, stove, or blender? According to respondents, 23% say they find some appliances difficult to use, and one in five (20%) avoid using certain appliances altogether because they do not know how to operate them. Elsewhere, 40% have never cooked on a charcoal or gas grill.

Aside from cooking implements, Americans are also wary of certain ingredients. Well over one-third of all respondents (39%) aren’t comfortable cooking raw meat or fish, and 23% often resort to takeout or dining out due to a lack of confidence in the kitchen.

Kitchen distractions

Cooking is less a meditative art than it is a multitasking exhibition in America. Over three-quarters (77%) say they multitask on things unrelated to cooking while preparing food, with 59% admitting to checking their phone while cooking. Elsewhere, 59% confess that they have left a stovetop or burner on after they finished cooking. This might be because one-third (34%) say they get impatient while cooking.

Unfortunately, impatience can affect the final product. Four in ten (40%) say distractions ultimately impact the quality of their dish.

Americans also reported more dire consequences in the kitchen. A majority (72%) of respondents say they have cut or injured themselves while cooking, and more than one in ten have started fires while cooking.

Is Your Spouse a Good Cook?

Cooking and relationships

Be honest: Do you really like your spouse’s “famous recipe”?

When asked directly, 31% of married respondents said their spouse is “not a good cook.” But sometimes things are better left unsaid. More than half (57%) have opted not to tell their spouse that they don’t like their cooking.

For some, cooking can be a major factor in their attraction. Nearly one-third (31%) of all respondents agreed that a lack of cooking skills is a turn-off.

It’s never too late to teach yourself the art of cooking, even if you’re a novice in the kitchen. From grilling to stovetop cooking, there are plenty of simple recipes to get started with during your cooking journey. With time and patience, you can be on your way to becoming a pro in the kitchen or at least building up the confidence to host a dinner party or two.


In May 2024, we conducted a nationwide survey of 2,010 respondents. Respondents were asked about their experiences with cooking and their cooking skills. Among respondents, 59% were female, 39% were male, and 2% were non-binary. The average age of respondents was 41. Income: Under $25,000 (19%); $25,000-$34,999 (11%); $35,000-$49,999 (14%); $50,000-$74,999 (21%); $75,000-$99,999 (14%); $100,000-$149,999 (14%), $150,000 or over (7%). Marital status: Married (37%), single (33%), in a relationship/not married (19%), divorced (8%), separated (1%), widowed (2%).

Total respondents: 2,010

Margin of error: +/- 3%

Country: United States (USA)

Region: All Regions

Gender: All Genders

Age of respondents: 18-84

We analyzed Google search volume for this analysis to determine search interest for basic cooking skills. Our analysis included terms related to cooking simple dishes, preheating an oven, basic cooking techniques, and everyday cooking utensils. Then, we analyzed those terms in all 50 states as well as cities with a population of at least 250,000 and calculated the average monthly searches per 100,000 in each state and city.