In most adventure games, next to getting good with your weapons, food is one of the most important considerations in game play -- especially when the games approximate real life with respect to eating as is the case in Minecraft. We say "approximates" because it doesn't really follow the process (you don't necessarily eat three times a day and you don't have to look for somewhere to take a dump in the woods -- which is too bad because the necessity to craft bog rolls would be pretty cool if you think about it)...
What you do need to do is maintain your Health Bar (the Heart Bar), and your Nutrition/Energy Bar (the Food Bar), and to do that you have to eat regularly. When the Food Bar is full any hearts in the Health Bar are restored over time at the un-boosted rate of half-a-heart per tick -- faster if you use items that boost it like potions. Because of that most players only eat when they need to, rather than eating whenever the Food Bar starts to drop, which is fine as far as that goes, but if the Food Bar completely empties both time and activity will start removing hears, which is a problem since, theoretically you could starve to death.
When you first begin playing you arrive in the world with a full belly and full health, which means that you do not really have to worry about eating for a couple of days, and so you can focus on your more immediate needs like shelter and safety, and acquiring the materials you need to craft a weapon and, eventually, armor and all of the other items that make life better for you -- among which is your food supply. Ultimately obtaining a constant and reliable supply of food is of significant important to you, not just because it keeps you alive and in good health, but because it also saves you time and effort, and in the world of Minecraft ANYTHING you can do to save time is a good thing. The days are short, the nights are dangerous, so time management and efficiency quickly become a focus below the surface of your play.
Adding efficiency wherever you can is one of the goals for play, and in the case of food and health the obvious means for making it more efficient is to have access to the types of food resources that are the most effective for healing a lot of damage and filling a lot of Food Bars -- which means cooked meats usually -- but also having access to a variety of food stuff that restores different numbers of Food Bars so that you can eat and be full without over-eating. You would not want to grow obese, or end up with high cholesterol or a heart condition because you failed to eat properly, yes?
Diversity in Resources = Options in Eating
You can look at the entire process of eating as a long chain made up of special links -- the first is supply of raw food resources, the next the capability to process and store the resources and convert them into useful forms, and finally the ability to obtain a source for the resources that does not involve constantly having to hunt for them, which wastes an incredible amount of time that can best be spent doing other things!
That being the case, cooking, farming, and ranching are all areas of crafting you will want to master as soon as you can, even if you just memorize the recipes that are useful to you (Xbox players will not need to do that, they just need to discover the recipes that they want to use which can be selected from the appropriate crafting menu and, as long as they have the correct ingredients they will auto-magically craft the item).
Initially as you first begin playing the game you will want to focus upon obtaining a stash of food that is convenient to carry and use and that requires little in the way of ingredients and preparation. Meat is good, Apples are easy and you will be obtaining some of those as a product of your logging efforts anyway. To start with though you need to know the recipes, and here for your edification and pleasure are the food-related recipes (including the resources and ingredients required to craft them):
See the entry for "Red Apples" in this section...
-- Bone Meal
While Bone Meal is not strictly speaking food as such, it is very valuable to you and naturally ends up in the same storage box as your other food-related resources because of its special properties as a fertilizer. It can be used to instantly mature crops including Wheat and Mushrooms, so we include it here as it may be helpful to you to know this.
The Bone Meal Recipe
Bone Meal is obtained by crafting the Bones obtained from killing Skeletons (you can also obtain Bones by scrounging for them each morning as the Sun will kill any Skeletons who are in the Overworld when dawn arrives).
The Bread Recipe
- Bread ( 3 food)
A very easy food to create in the game, Bread is made from Wheat, which you can grow by collecting seeds from tall grass and planting them in irrigated, tilled soil inside your Stronghold walls or in fenced-off crop space nearby. With sufficient light sources you can even grow Wheat inside buildings, mines, or underground bunkers.
Bread is crafted on the Crafting Table (or Window) by placing three pieces of Wheat in a horizontal line, and surprisingly it does not require a Furnace to bake it, so in theory you should be able to make this any time you need it. That is actually the point to it as a basic tool for survival since wild Wheat plants are relatively easy to find in the game world, so if you harvest some while gathering the Wood and other materials for your first shelter that can easily be crafted into a convenient food.
Note that while you can use Bonemeal to grow Wheat, it is not recommended since a single application of that valuable resource will only grow a single Wheat plant. You are better served by simply planting a very large field of Wheat and allowing it to grow normally. The same is not true with respect to some of the other plants -- including Mushrooms.
All things being equal, over the course of one in-game week you should be able to grow and harvest two full crops, which should provide you with a nice stockpile of Wheat, and therefore nearly unlimited Bread.
The Cake Recipe
-- Cake ( 1 Food per Slice 6 Food Total)
Let them eat Cake! OK, perhaps Marie Antoinette never actually said that, but still, having your Cake and Eating it too is possible in the game because you can just make more! The recipe though, is one of the more complex for food, in that it includes Milk, Eggs, Sugar, and Wheat -- and it is also not what most players think of as survival-type food because unlike most other foods, it cannot be eaten directly from your hand, but must be placed upon a flat surface to be eaten, and once it is placed on that surface it can only be removed by eating it (it cannot be picked up and carried).
Naturally in following the spirit of Minecraft, many players consider Cake to be a symbol of their success in the game, and it is not uncommon to find special "Cake Tables" in the designated dining area or kitchen of a player's den, some examples of which are quite innovative and interesting. Because it is a social food on SMP Minecraft players often place their Cake Table in an area of their den that visitors are most likely to enter, so that they can eat it if they are hungry.
Cake gets a place of honor in most dens
The Story of Cake
The addition of Cake to the world of Minecraft has an interesting story to it -- it was not originally a food in the game, but as the 2010 Video Game Indie Game of the Year Awards approached, Notch spontaneously declared that if Minecraft won, he would add cake to the game. Of course it did win, so Cake was added on the 13th of January 2011, in celebration.
As mentioned above, Cake is one of the few foods in the game that can be shared among players in multi-player. Be aware though that once you place the Cake on a surface, unless you have a Pickaxe that is enchanted with Silk Touch, the only way to remove it is to eat it! Also of note is that making and placing a Cake has an Achievement associated with it -- The Lie -- which is an homage to the video game Portal.
The recipe for Cake requires three Buckets of Milk, two piles of Sugar, a Chicken Egg, and three sheafs of Wheat, and is created using the Crafting Table, not the Furnace.
With respect to that many players theorize that the Furnace is not the in-game equivalent of a stone, but rather the equivalent of a bar-b-q broiler as a side-effect of the incredible heat it produces for smelting. The idea being that the the Crafting Table represents more of a suite of surfaces and devices, a stove being one of them.
-- Chicken Eggs
One of the basic building blocks for cooking, Chicken Eggs are largely found wherever you find Chickens, who tend to lay one every 5 to 10 minutes or so. If you decide to raise your own Chickens in your Stronghold, expect to have a ready supply, but any reasonable exploration venture is likely to also see you harvesting a fair number of these as well, and you will want to have a few stacks of 16 for cooking in your kitchen!
Chicken Eggs can be thrown like Snowballs, and when you throw them there is a small chance that they will spawn a Baby Chicken -- which makes starting your own Chicken Farm very much an easy task since you do not have to lure the Chickens back to your Stronghold!
-- Cocoa Beans
Found as loot in chests in dungeons, these are used mostly for making Cookies, though they can be used to dye Wool Blocks brown, though since Brown is a natural Sheep color, that would appear to be a waste.
The Broiled Chicken Recipe
-- Cooked Chicken ( 3 Food)
This stack-able cooked meat is obtained by cooking Raw Chicken, and heals 3 units of Hunger and 7.2 units of Food Saturation, making it slightly superior to Bread or Cooked Fish.
When you consider how easy it is to obtain this food resource -- most Sword types will kill a Chicken in one swing -- and you consider the fact that Chicken are one of the food-resource animals that are very easy to find (appearing on most maps) and are without question the easiest to raise in your ranch inside your Stronghold (they can be spawned by throwing Eggs at the ground and breeding using the standard Wheat method works well) they are perhaps the perfect food resource animal for players just beginning a new map and world.
The fact that they also serve as the source for Feathers, which you will need for making ammunition for your Bow also makes this a desirable animal to breed and raise.
-- Cooked Fish ( 3 Food)
Obtained by catching Raw Fish with the Fishing Rod, and then cooking it in the Furnace, Cooked Fish only restores 3 Food Bars, so while it is a convenient food item, it is not really as effective as other cooked meats.
The Porkchops Recipe
-- Cooked Porkchops ( 4 Food)
Raw Porkchops are obtained by killing Pigs, and placing the Raw Porkchop into your Furnace with some sort of Fuel will then create Cooked Porkchops, which can be stacked and eaten as needed, and heals 4 Hunger Units and 12.8 Food Saturation, the same as Steak, which makes these the two most efficient cooked meats / food products for you to use.
-- Cookies ( 1 Food)
While it is a well valued food item, Cookies are not one of the items that can be made through harvesting and farming, since they require Cocoa Beans in addition to Wheat, and Cocoa Beans are only obtained as loot from dungeon chests. Still, no self-respecting player will consider their kitchen supplies complete without a stack of Cocoa Beans and, naturally, some Cookies!
Just like in real life, Cookies are not a primary food source, they are a snack. This is reflected in the fact that they are a very inefficient food source that provides very limited nutrition. Consider them a treat, not a survival food item. When you accomplish something good in the game, give yourself a Cookie!
The recipe for Cookies is two Wheat Sheaves and a one Cocoa Beans.
The Golden Apple Recipe
-- Golden Apples ( 2 Food Higher Health Regen 4 Seconds)
Crafted from Red Apples and Gold Nuggets, Golden Apples are the only food item in the game that causes temporary health regeneration that is not dependent on the player's hunger status. These rarely appear in chests, and so if the player wants them they may well find that it is quicker and more reliable to simply harvest Red Apples and mine Gold and then make them in the Crafting Table.
-- Melon Slices ( 1 Food)
Obviously Melon Slices are obtained from Melons, which are grown from Melon Seeds which are initially obtained from treasure chests in Dungeons and Abandoned Mines. To grow Melons one needs to create an irrigated section of land and then till the soil, planting the Melon Vines between rows of open space so that the fruit has a place to spawn.
Once your first crop of Melons has been grown they are harvested to obtain the Melon Slices, and then Melon Slices can be placed in the Crafting Window to obtain Melon Seeds from them, making them a self-perpetuating food source.
For ease of storage, nine Melon Slices can be recombined into a Melon Block. Melon Slices are also an ingredient in the Brewing item Glistering Melon.
-- Milk (Clears all Status Effects)
Just like in real life Milk is obtained from Cows, but unlike in real life you need a Bucket to get your Milk, and once you have it you can carry it around in your inventory and stash it in your kitchen boxes and it will not go bad! You obtain Milk by placing a Bucket in your Hot Bar and selecting it, then right-clicking on a Cow or a Mooshroom.
Milk can be used as a recipe ingredient or as food by itself, and in addition to that, it is also a cure for most Poisons! It should also be noted that drinking Milk will stop all Potion effects, so if you accidentally dose yourself with a negative Potion, now you know what to take to counteract it.
Note that Buckets are made using three Iron Ingots in the Crafting Table.
The Mushroom Stew Recipe
-- Mushroom Stew ( 4 Food)
A food item that can be both crafted AND obtained by milking a Mooshroom with a Wooden Bowl, Mushroom Stew when created by the player is made by combining a Wooden Bowl with a Red and a Brown Mushroom in the Crafting Window.
Mushroom Stew is a very effective food resource, though it does not stack, which makes carrying it less convenient to carry prepared, but as long as you have stacks of Wooden Bowls, and access to both types of Mushroom, you can make this whenever you like in your personal Crafting Window.
-- Raw Beef ( 2 Food)
Obtained from killing Cows, who drop from 1 to 2 Raw Beef, and unlike Raw Chicken, eating Raw Beef will not put the player at risk of food poisoning, though cooking your Raw Beef and turning it into Steak seems like the better choice... Cooking Raw Beef yields Steak, a food item that restores 4 units of the Food Bar and 12.8 saturation when eaten, whereas Raw Beef Raw Beef restores just 1.5 units of the Food Bar and 1.8 hunger saturation. Obviously cooked is better...
-- Raw Chicken ( 1 Food)
Obtained from killing Chickens, while Raw Chicken can be eaten without cooking, doing so carries the risk of contracting food poisoning and so is not recommended. It is better to cook your Chicken BEFORE you eat it, in other words, but like other cooked meat it can be cooked in quantity and carried conveniently in stacks for later eating!
Catching Your Lunch
-- Raw Fish ( 1 Food)
Obtained by using the Fishing Rod on water (you do not obtain Fish mind you, but Raw Fish when doing so). A Raw Fish heals 1 hunger point, so if you are really in need of food, it is very effective, as it is very easy to gather. Bread heals for the same as Cooked Fish, if that puts it into perspective for you...
-- Raw Porkchop ( 2 Food)
Obviously these are obtained by killing Pigs -- and you should note that each Raw Porkchop restores 1.5 units of the Food Bar and 12.8 hunger saturation -- and it known that Raw Porkchops do NOT cause food poisoning, so in a pinch you can eat them raw if you cannot cook them.
The Red Apple
-- Red Apples ( 2 Food)
Obtained as a drop while chopping tree branches and leaves, Red Apples are both a Food Item and a Crafting Resource in that they can be used to create Golden Apples when they are crafted with Gold Nuggets.
Eaten as a food item, Red Apples only restore two Food Bars (AKA Health Points), so they are not what you would call a very efficient source for food, but in a pinch they work fine, and when your Food Bar has only one or two bars to be filled these are an obvious choice.
Acquiring Red Apples in any quantity naturally involves chopping through a very large number of Branch and Leaf Blocks; Apples do not grow on the trees, but are dynamically spawned when a Leaf Block is destroyed. There is a .5% (half of one percent) that an Apple will spawn when you destroy a Leaf Block, so under ideal circumstances the spawn rate should break down to 1-in-200 harvests, but it does not really work that way in practice, as they often spawn in runs rather than complete rarity.
-- Rotten Flesh ( 2 Food / Poison)
OK, yeah, this does not exactly sound like you know, a good choice for nutrition... But in a pinch if it is all that you have AND you have some Buckets of Milk... But maybe not even then. Still, it is a food item -- but more important than that, it is also a food item that is ideally used for taming Wolves! That is correct, there is a use for this stuff!
You obtain Rotten Flesh by killing Zombies -- or find it on the ground after the sun has burned the Zombies in the morning -- so why not pick some up for when you want to tame some Wolves? Yeah!
-- Spider Eyes ( 1 Food / Poison)
Erm, yeah, you actually can eat these... But when you do it poisons you, and costs you two hearts of health, so maybe that is not a really good idea... Still since it can be eaten, we include it here as a food item -- but you are better off holding on to these rather than eating them, since they are an ingredient in crafting Fermented Spider Eyes, which is in turn an ingredient for Brewing. So hey, win-win!
Note that in a pinch if you really do need to get some Hunger Bars restored, eating these WILL do that, though it will cost you two hearts in health. Still, if you restore a few Hunger Bars you at least will not be taking Hunger Damage to your Health, I am just saying.
-- Steak ( 4 Food)
Obtained by cooking Raw Beef, which is obtained by killing Cows, Steak restores 4 units of the Food Bar and 12.8 saturation when eaten, and can easily be cooked in quantity and stacked, making it an easy to carry and easy to use nom.
Created by crafting Sugar Cane, Sugar is presently required for making Cake and Fermented Spider Eyes in crafting, and in Brewing it is used for making Potions of Swiftness.
Bearing in mind that Sugar Cane is not available in all of the Biomes, and assuming logically that you will be constructing your player Stronghold in the Overland area, where it IS available, obtaining Sugar Cane to plant inside your Stronghold walls so that you can control your supply of this valuable resource is a given.
It may sound odd but Wheat is a utility plant of sorts because it is used for making food -- by itself it makes Bread, and as part of a recipe it can make Cake and Cookies -- but it also allows you to get animals to follow you (by holding the Wheat in your hand) so you can lead them back inside your Stronghold walls and into the animal pens you have built for them.
In addition to luring animals and making food, Wheat is also used to induce your farm animals to breed.