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Public perceptions of cooking and the implications for cooking behaviour in the USA

  • Julia A Wolfson (a1), Katherine Clegg Smith (a2), Shannon Frattaroli (a1) and Sara N Bleich (a1)



Despite the importance of cooking in modern life, public perceptions about what it means to cook are unknown. We aimed to examine perceptions of cooking and their association with cooking confidence, attitudes and behaviours in the USA.


We designed and fielded a nationally representative survey among US adults (n 1112) in April 2015. We used factor analysis to identify perceptions about cooking and multivariate ordered logit and Poisson models to explore associations between those perceptions and cooking confidence, attitudes and behaviours.


Nationally representative web-based survey of US adults.


US adults aged ≥18 years.


Americans conceptualized cooking in three ways: the use of scratch ingredients, convenience foods and not using heat. Respondents who perceived cooking as including convenience foods were less confident in their ability to cook from scratch (OR=0·52, P<0·001) and less likely to enjoy cooking (OR=0·68, P=0·01) than those who did not. Although individuals who perceived cooking as including only scratch ingredients reported cooking dinner (4·31 times/week) and using packaged/boxed products (0·95 times/week) the least frequently, few notable differences in the frequency of cooking meals were observed.


Cooking frequency is similar among US adults regardless of how they perceive cooking, but cooking confidence and enjoyment are lowest among Americans who perceive cooking as including the use of convenience foods. These insights should inform the development of more specific measures of cooking behaviour as well as meaningful and targeted public health messages to encourage healthier cooking.

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