For those cooking for the first time, it's difficult to know the ins and outs of how to cook meat. This guide is an introduction to cooking various meat staples: chicken breast, ground beef, and fish fillets. While chicken, beef, and fish definitely aren't the only protein option (eggs, tofu, and beans are great sources for those who don't eat meat), these are some of the most versatile and convenient staples for college meat-eaters out there. 

Remember to always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling raw meat, as well as cleaning your cooking equipment (knives, cutting boards, etc) well with dish soap after you are done using it. 


Grilled Caribbean Chicken Breasts

CandyTX on Flickr

Chicken is one of the healthier meats because it's so high in protein while low in fat and cholesterol. It can aid in muscle development and growth and boost nutrition with its high content of vitamins and minerals.


Chicken breast


Make sure to flatten chicken breast pieces first by pounding them with your hands. Chicken breasts are usually thicker in the center, so the flattening will ensure an even cook. Either add your favorite seasoning, or, if you have more time, marinate the chicken the night before. 

For baked chicken breastsif you want juicier meat bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. If you want drier meat, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Didn't have time for your frozen chicken breast to thaw? You can also bake from frozen

If you're making chicken on the stovetop, rub oil and seasoning on the chicken breast before cooking. Each side should cook for around 10 minutes on medium heat, or until the edges are opaque and do not look raw. Generally, let the chicken cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

You can either serve the chicken breasts whole, dice, or cut them into strips to add a nice protein boost to salads, pasta, sandwiches, pita, and quesadillas. For those short on time, an alternative is to buy pre-cooked chicken strips or shredded rotisserie chicken. 


Raw pieces can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days, and in the freezer for up to 9 months. Cooked chicken can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and in the freezer for up to 4 months, and is best stored in strips or diced pieces. 


meat, beef, oatmeal, ground beef, cereal, mince
Alex Frank

While it doesn't boast as many health benefits as chicken, ground beef still offers protein, flavor, and convenience with its fast cooking time. It can be added in dishes like spaghetti and chili, or can be rolled into patties and meatballs. 


Ground beef


Generally, ground beef with a higher amount of fat is less expensive. However, keep in mind that it shrinks more in the cooking process. Ground beef with more fat will have more flavor, while leaner options are considered healthier. A good balance is 85% lean and 15% fat. 


When making ground beef on a skillet, using a wooden or heatproof spatula is best. Make sure to break up the ground beef so that it cooks evenly, adding cooking oil so that your ground beef doesn't stick. Each pound of meat takes around 7 to 10 minutes to cook. While it cooks, add seasoning like salt and pepper for flavor. The key part is to keep stirring, and it will be ready when no pink can be seen. 

After your ground beef is cooked, be sure to drain the fat from your skillet. Then, scoop the cooked brown beef onto a plate that's lined with a paper towel to absorb any fat that's remaining.

Alternatively, you can also make ground beef in a pot by bringing it to a boil in water on medium-high heat. Again, keep stirring until all of the meat is brown and then drain out the water and oil. 

Keep in mind that the drained oil from ground beef is very hot, and be sure not to dispose of the fat in your kitchen sink, because it will clog the drain.

Ground beef can add nice flavor to spaghetti, tacos, nachos, and chili. You can also make burgers, meatballs, or meatloaf


Ground beef can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months if placed in a freezer bag or tightly wrapped in cling wrap. 


seafood, meat, fish, vegetable, salmon, sauce
Hiu Mei Ting

Fish has tons of omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect our body from disease and maintain brain and heart health. Our bodies don't make these beneficial, fat-based nutrients themselves, so eating fish offers both health benefits and a daily source of protein. 


Fish Fillets (tilapia, salmon)


A single person can eat around a 6 to 8 ounce fillet, so keep that in mind when thinking about how much fish to purchase. 

Before cooking, make sure to pat the fish dry with a paper towel on both sides before adding seasoning. 

For cooking fish fillets in the oven, use a temperature of 350-375 degrees. It will take around 20-25 minutes to cook. You should be able to stick a toothpick into the middle of the fish and have it come out clean. For a nice brown crust to form on the fish, cook at a higher temperature. Typically you won't need to flip the fish if you are baking it in the oven. 

For making fish on a stovetop, cook fish in olive oil or butter for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat, and flip when the underside is golden colored and crispy. Then, cook the other side for 2-3 minutes as well. 

When the fish is ready it will be opaque and should flake easily when you cut into it. Squeezing lemon juice before or after the cooking process will add a nice tangy flavor and eliminate fishy odors. 

Besides eating the fillets on their own, you can also add fish to tacos, rice, and pasta. More recipes can be found here


Store fish in your fridge for 1-2 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months. Store cooked fish in the fridge for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for around 4-6 months.

Party, Indian Food, Sparklers, Sangria, sushi
Carolyne Su

As hungry college students, we need protein to fuel our bodies. Instead of reaching for those packs of instant ramen, try these basics for cooking meat staples! Let us know if you use any of these tips in your meals.