Which U.S. States Are Home To The Best Cooks?

Published April 9, 2024

A header image for a blog about states with the best cooks

There are those among us who can cook an entire meal from scratch, knowing exactly what every course needs to bring out all the right flavors in every single bite all without even needing to consult a recipe. Some people just have a knack for cooking. And some don’t. To the point where they might somehow burn that pot of water sitting on the stove.

Given the wide breadth of cooking ability from person to person, we wanted to try and pinpoint the parts of the country that would have the highest concentration of exceptional chefs. We surveyed people from every state about all things cooking, analyzed their responses to create scores, and indexed them to find out which states have the best and worst cooks.

So savor the flavor of our culinary exploration as we take a look at how good the cooks are in your neck of the woods.

States With the Best and Worst Cooks

A U.S. heat map showing the states with the best and worst cooks

To uncover the culinary prowess of people across the U.S., we collected first-hand data by asking residents from every state questions to gauge their cooking proficiency, comfortability, and confidence. Our analysis revealed some interesting regional trends.

States With the Best Cooks

The most striking of these trends is how well Southern states performed in our index. The top three states overall, and five of the top ten, are all located in the South, demonstrating the rich culinary heritage of the region.

Leading the charge is Kentucky, earning the best overall score of 77.7 out of 100. Residents of the Bluegrass State excelled in the ranking because they’re comfortable using many different cooking techniques and their confidence in the kitchen is off the charts.

Following closely behind is Florida, securing a score of 74.4. Floridians demonstrated a remarkable knack for cooking across diverse cuisines and rated their overall cooking abilities higher than any other state.

Louisiana claimed the third spot with a score of 73.9, underscored by a distinct flair for culinary improvisation. Louisianans report rarely using recipes and regularly use different cooking techniques when preparing their meals.

Oregon and Oklahoma round out the top five with scores of 72.8 and 67.2, respectively. Oregonians minimize cooking mishaps as they set the smoke alarm off less frequently than any other state, while Oklahomans report liberally employing a variety of spices to elevate their culinary creations.

States With the Worst Cooks

On the opposite end of the spectrum lie a few states that might benefit from spending some extra time watching the Food Network.

Hawaii placed last in our analysis of the states with the best cooks with a score of just 20.1 out of 100. Residents of the Aloha State reported a general lack of confidence in the kitchen, often resulting in mishaps, as they set the smoke alarm off more often than any other state.

Following closely behind is Minnesota with a score of 28.9. Its poor score can be chalked up to a lack of confidence in preparing a delicious meal from scratch. Illinois, meanwhile, scored third-worst with a 31.1 because they report having the least-equipped kitchens of any state in the study.

Rounding out the bottom five states are Massachusetts (scoring 32.2) and California (33.1). Massachusetts residents report under-utilizing spices while Californians use very few different cooking techniques and burn their food more than any other state.

Insights into American Cooking Habits

A graphic illustrating survey insights about how Americans generally cook

Now, let’s take a look at how the average American feels in the kitchen.

45% of survey respondents rate their cooking ability as above average or excellent, and 48% claim they’re comfortable cooking cuisines from different cultures, telling us that the American melting pot can take some credit for giving the country a diverse array of flavors to explore in the kitchen.

When it comes to the ability to confidently cook using different techniques, Americans exhibit a commendable level of proficiency with baking (85%), boiling (84%), steaming (71%), and stir-frying (70%) ranking among the ones they’re most comfortable with. This adeptness across various cooking methods highlights the versatility and adaptability of American cooks.

Of course, no culinary journey would be complete without its challenges. The food-prep faux pas that concern Americans most are over/undercooking meals (24%), mastering the art of timing to ensure everything is ready at once (23%), and injuring themselves (11%). Despite these apprehensions, a notable 19% of respondents report never being nervous about cooking for any reason.

Interestingly, only 1 in 10 Americans report having a fully-equipped kitchen with everything they would want in it. Not having the right equipment can cause some frustration when trying to prepare a new dish for the first time. There is one notable (and essential) piece of equipment that many Americans seem to be missing: a fire extinguisher. Over one-third of Americans (35%) report not having a fire extinguisher within easy access to the kitchen.

The final interesting piece of information we gathered from the study may not be the most surprising. Age emerges as a defining factor for how confident (and likely good) a cook someone is. Gen Z rates their confidence at 5.3 out of 10, Millennials rate it at 6.3, Gen X rates it at 6.9, and Baby Boomers rate it at 7.3. Experience comes with age, and that seems to be especially true in the kitchen!

Closing Thoughts

While there are surely great cooks everywhere you go, we hope our exploration into the American kitchen has shed some light on potential home-cooking hotspots across the country. Places where people are regularly using just the right ingredients to take their dishes from ordinary to extraordinary.

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To determine the U.S. states with the best and worst cooks, we surveyed over 2,200 people from 44 states and asked them a series of questions about their cooking ability, confidence, and habits to gauge how good of cooks they really are. The survey took place over two weeks in March 2024.

Our “cooking score” is based on respondents’ answers to the following 10 questions. Answers were provided on a Likert scale and were assigned values after the survey was complete. Answers that indicated the respondent was a better cook resulted in a higher value.

  • How would you rate your cooking ability?
  • How often do you burn the food you’re trying to prepare?
  • Have you ever set your smoke alarm off when cooking?
  • How often do you cook meals at home?
  • When making dinner, how often do you use a recipe?
  • How comfortable are you cooking cuisines from different cultures?
  • Which of the following cooking techniques are you comfortable performing? (Select all that apply)
  • How much variety in spices do you typically use when cooking?
  • How well-equipped is your kitchen for cooking
  • How confident are you in your ability to cook a delicious meal from scratch without a recipe?

The average value for each question was calculated for each state and scaled from 0 to 10, so the best state for a given question received a 10 and the worst received a 0. We equally weighted each question and totaled them to give us a “cooking score” for each of the 44 states in the study.

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