There are two ways to cook in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, just like in the original The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: You can place food items near a fire to roast them into more effective snacks, or toss them into a bowl over a fire to cook a proper meal. On paper, cooking in both games is simply the mechanic by which Link can heal and power himself up. The right dish can load the hero back up with hearts lost squabbling with Bokoblins or warm his bones enough to take on freezing temperatures.
But Nintendo made cooking compelling in Breath of the Wild, a bright spot of simple joy in a sprawling video game world. There are more than 100 recipes in Breath of the Wild, and even more in Tears of the Kingdom; it’s delightful to experiment with ingredients to make new dishes or power-ups, listening to Link hum while carrots and beef dance in the simmering pot. Cooking, even the simplest forms in video games, has a way of grounding the world it exists in, creating a link between our world and the game’s own — in this case, Hyrule. There’s so much emotion and meaning behind food and culture, and cooking mechanics in games pull on those threads, invoking that feeling in the world.
Breath of the Wild’s cooking mechanics did just that, but Tears of the Kingdom’s somehow made the mechanic better.
Functionally, cooking works the same in Tears of the Kingdom as it does in Breath of the Wild — roast over a flame or cook in a pot to create food with different variables, like cold resistance or increased attack damage. But Nintendo’s addition of recipe cards makes cooking even easier; in the materials menu, you can now click “Select for recipe” on an ingredient to pull up recipe cards showing how you’ve made dishes in the past. If you have enough of all the ingredients from a card, you can select the card to put all the ingredients in Link’s hands. (No scrolling to find things in Tears of the Kingdom’s messy menus!)
It’s especially helpful in tracking what you’ve made, but also in ensuring you’re always making what you need (unless you’re just experimenting). It’s one of those quality-of-life changes that Breath of the Wild players hoped for in the years leading up to the sequel.
Nintendo also added in a Zonai device called a portable pot, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a one-use pot that’s pulled from the Zonai devices menu, allowing Link to set up camp almost anywhere to cook, no fire required; gone are the days where you have to stock up on meals before heading into a big fight, or worse, to leave a dungeon or fight to get more food to heal up. Instead, the portable Zonai pot is there to make whatever you specifically need, wherever you want. It’s not flashy, but also one of Tears of the Kingdom’s best new additions.
You can get portable pots out of the Zonai vending machines in the sky islands, so make sure you stock up.
Beyond these quality-of-life changes, Nintendo’s made one tiny improvement that I would argue makes my experience better, even if there’s no practical need. Link still hums along while his food is cooking, but in Tears of the Kingdom he hums classic Zelda tunes like Epona’s Song or Zelda’s Lullaby.
This, too, is one of the ways Nintendo has grounded Tears of the Kingdom. Music and cooking fill out Hyrule with so much life; Link humming these tunes invokes his playful spirit, a feat for a seconds-long little melody. It’s such a lovely little infusion of history and a nod toward longtime Zelda fans, and a perfect addition to Tears of the Kingdom.
But now, if you excuse me, I’m going to go back to Hyrule to find new ingredients to play with.