Breath of the Wild doesn’t go out of its way to explain its cooking system, which is weird, given how important it is.
You could wander upon the Old Man in your first hour or so, and he may tell you something opaque about cooking. Or you could miss this interaction all together and play for several hours before working it out on your own. Don’t do the latter. Start cooking as soon as you can.
What can I cook?
There are two broad categories of things to cook in Breath of the Wild: food an elixirs. No matter what you’re making, it works the same way.
How do I cook?
Approach a metal bowl. Light a fire underneath it if necessary. Press + to enter your inventory screen, and choose up to five ingredients to hold. Approach the bowl and, when prompted, press A to cook. It’s that simple.
Apples are the simplest example of a cooked food’s benefit. Eating a raw apple restores a tiny amount of your health — half of one heart. Cooking an apple turns it into a baked apple, which restores a whole heart. Cooking two apples together creates simmered fruit, which restores two hearts but only takes up one inventory slot. The same holds true for the Hyrule herb. Eat it raw, and it’ll restore one heart. Cook it, and it’ll becomes fried wild greens, which restores two hearts.
This is the base benefit: Cooking makes items better, more potent, more effective.
It gets more complicated, and that’s where experimentation comes in. Much of what you pick up can spice up your meals. Raw meat will get you hearts in a pinch. But raw meat combined with herbs could regenerate your stamina, too. Or provide a defense or stealth boost.
Elixirs work like food, except that they’re liquid, and they have status effects. You need two things to make an elixir: a critter and a monster part.
Monster parts are everywhere. Every time you kill a monster, it drops a horn or a tooth or some other grotesque body part. Mix them with a critter — Breath of the Wild’s term for little creatures like frogs, fireflies and lizards — and you’ll create an elixir.
Cooking is about experimentation. Don’t be afraid to throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl and see what happens. It might be a disaster, but you can always find more meat and apples.
That said, here are some general tips for cooking in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
- No matter what you’re cooking, make sure to read the item descriptions when you’re preparing your concoction. That’s how you’ll know if what you throw into the pot will boost your stealth or stamina or defense.
- Food and monster ingredients don’t mix.
- Don’t mix status effects. Whatever you make will only get one status effect, and you’ll wind up wasting the others if you mix them in.
- If you cook something you like (or get something you like as a reward), navigate to the item in your menu and click on it to see the list of ingredients. The Switch’s one-button screenshot feature couldn’t be easier. Grab one and refer back to it if you want to make it again.
- You can cook your way out of a difficult battle. You may not need better armor or more hearts. You may just need a heart meal that boosts your defense.
- Cook with ferries. They provide an incredible boost to your meal.