Date Night Tips for Men Who Can't Cook

How to pull off the at-home dinner date when you can't cookHow to pull off the at-home dinner date when you can't cookAs third- and fourth-date deal-clinchers go, cooking at home is one of the best ideas. It's intimate, there's activity involved, and it's one of the few times in which the transition to the bedroom doesn't require either party to utter any variation of the unfortunate "back to your place" cliché.

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The problem for many single men (and some women) is that we don't know how to cook; we either get in over our heads and embarrassingly fail, or make such simple dishes (grilled cheese, Skillet Sensations) that the evening has the opposite effect, becoming a totally unimpressive and unsexy display. Or worse, our culinary shortcomings prevent us from even trying in the first place.

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I speak from experience here. One particularly awful attempt nearly caused me to hang up my chef's jacket for good. I tried to grill marinated chicken breasts on a stovetop grill pan, but all the smoke set off the fire alarms. So while I manically tried to transfer the breasts into the oven, my date was blinking her watery, smoke-filled eyes while waving a dishrag at the ceiling. In my haste to move past this disaster as quickly as possible, and because I'd completely lost track of how long the chicken had been cooking for, I prematurely took them out of the oven - so when she cut into the breast, it was just blood red. When I put them back in, we were left with plates of steamed broccoli and white rice.

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Amazingly, we never went out again.

But failures like these ultimately haven't defeated me. After giving it several more tries, I've found that if certain precautions are taken, and you bite off just enough for you to chew (forgive the metaphor), you really don't have to be a Top Chef to pull it off. Following are tips, detailing advice for how best to prepare for the meal and then how to pull it off.

Jupiter ImagesJupiter ImagesManage Expectations
You're not a great chef, so don't try to fake it when you tell your date you want to cook for her. Mention that you're no Batali but that you enjoy improving each time you do cook. She'll appreciate the effort, and you'll feel a sudden drop in pressure.

ThinkstockThinkstockSet Out Pre-Meal Snacks
Have snacks out for both of you - ex: olives, cheeses, baguette - so there's no rush to eat.

George DoyleGeorge DoyleInvolve Your Date
Don't insist on doing everything yourself. When she offers to help (which she will), don't make her sit there twiddling her thumbs while you're pacing around stress-sweating. Have something in mind she can help with, because beyond being helpful, it's also significantly more fun to partake together than for the other person to just watch.

ThinkstockThinkstockCook to Her Taste
Use "taste tests" to mask your utter uncertainty. If you start to lose confidence once you're in the trenches, ask her to taste the sauce or risotto as a means of soliciting help without raising suspicion. If the taste is off-course, she'll likely have a suggestion for how to correct it - and this is much better than waiting until everything's finished.

Jupiter ImagesJupiter ImagesIf You Screw Up
If the meal does get messed up irreparably, consider two pieces of advice: First, accepting failure with grace is a chance to show character, and second, if you're in good supply of wine (which you should be), the date is by no means over. Make a few self-deprecating jokes, put in a call to the nearest takeout place, and crack open another bottle.

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- Kevin Armento, The Daily Meal

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