When you are just starting out in the kitchen, it can be intimidating. You've no doubt seen someone standing over a stove at some point furiously throwing things in a pan, and stirring wildly and thought, hmm, I could never do that, but cooking is absolutely like every other skill you've ever had to learn to do in your life from walking, to shoe tying, to driving your car. Instead of leading the charge with I can't, or that's too hard, or I'll never get it, realize that with all those other things you've managed to do in your life, you weren't perfect on day one, or ten for that matter. It took a lot of trial and error, a lot of falling, a lot of mistakes, but you kept at it, and now you can do them. Cooking is no different. Stop focusing on the idea that you have to be Martha Stewart in the kitchen, and focus on you and your skill level right now, and how you can keep improving upon that.
1. Keep a Clean and Organized Kitchen
If you have a messy pantry, utensils all over the place, a disorganized fridge, a helter skelter spice rack, or just an overall messy kitchen to begin with, it is going to be difficult once you get started to find what you need. Spend a little time putting things in order so that when you begin you can work with efficiency because no one wants to wait 3 hours for you to cook a simple meal because you can't find anything. Also once you get going, clean as you go. When you're chopping things, have a trash can or bag or bowl nearby to easily discard odds and ends so you don't have to keep stopping and starting because you're walking over to a trash can across the room. Wipe down/disinfect surfaces after using cutting boards especially when it comes to raw meat with bacteria, don't cross contaminate your cutting boards (keep one for meat, one for every thing else), and once you use something wash it and put it away or put it back in storage so at the end of cooking your fantastic meal, you won't have a sink full of dishes leftover.
2. Learn How to Cut Food (Not Yourself)
I'm pretty sure you enjoy your fingers just the way they are. In order to ensure that they remain intact, you need to learn to master basic knife skills. Not only will this save your fingers, but this will save you a tremendous amount of time. I cannot stress the absolute importance of this lesson because cutting and chopping are a skill you will use over and over and over again in almost all your recipes.
3. Learn To Read a Recipe and How to Measure Ingredients
When a lot of new cooks start out, they sometimes assume they know what they are doing quickly go off the reservation that is the recipe listed in front of them adding more ingredients then are called for, upping temperatures on ovens, skipping ingredients because they don't have them, or making substitutions with ingredients that simply look alike. Learn to follow recipes as written and then over time, you can begin to adapt and know what does and does not work, what you can and cannot substitute, what each of the spices are, etc. Also, equally important, especially when it comes to baking is that you know how to properly measure ingredients.
4. Learn to Season Your Food
There is a reason so many people over the centuries have fought and died in the name of spices. Spices and seasonings help enhance or bring out the flavor in the foods we eat. We've probably all had a set of overly salted fries that made us give a sour face or had a bland piece of chicken that had us reaching for the salt shaker. Learn to be a master of seasoning on a most basic and universal level first, with salt and pepper. It is extremely rare that you will ever find a savory dish that does not call for salt and pepper. Even desserts often employ salt in them, especially baked goods. Simple tip for beginners, never take a full bottle of salt or pepper and begin pouring it over your food. Put the seasoning into your hand first so you can see exactly how much is going in, and then sprinkle on top of your food because lets say that salt shaker is loose; you will have poured an entire bottle of salt into your food with no way to recover it. Start with a pinch and work your way on up one small pinch at a time to your desired taste level. You can always add more, but once you dump a whole bunch in without care, there is no going back.