Whether it be a souffle, a spaghetti carbonara or just a perfectly flipped and folded omelet, for many Americans there is that one dish that is their signature one or the one they dream of perfecting.

Although four in five U.S. adults (79 percent) say they enjoy cooking, just three in ten (30 percent) say they love it and almost half (49 percent) say they enjoy it when they have the time. One in five Americans say they either do not enjoy cooking (14 percent) or do not cook (7 percent).

These are just some of the results of aHarris Interactivepoll of 2,503 adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010.

Certain groups love cooking more than others. Perhaps because they have more time, 33 percent of Matures (those 65 and older) love cooking, compared to 28 percent of Baby Boomers (those 46-64), who are possibly being pulled in many directions. Men are more likely to say they love cooking (32 percent versus 28 percent of women) perhaps because the daily chore of cooking dinner may not fall on their shoulders.

Frequency of cooking

Many Americans enjoy cooking, but how often do they actually do it? Two in five (41 percent) say they prepare meals at home five or more times a week and three in ten (29 percent) do so three to four times a week. One in five (19 percent) of U.S. adults prepare meals at home one to two times a week and 11 percent say they rarely or never prepare meals at home.

There is a generational difference in frequency of preparing meals at home. Over half of Matures (52 percent) cook at home five or more times per week, yet younger Americans do so with less frequency-just 33 percent of Echo Boomers (those aged 18-33) cook at home five or more times per week.  When they are cooking at home, just over one in five (22 percent) say they often cook only for themselves, while three-quarters (76 percent) often cook for their family and 22 percent often cook for friends.

How people cook

Among those who prepare meals at home, four in five (81 percent) say they cook what they are familiar with very often. There is also the issue of cutting corners to save time; three-quarters of those who prepare meals at home (75 percent) say they very often or occasionally will use pre-prepped and/or frozen ingredients and kitchen appliances such as microwaves and toaster ovens to both speed up the process and clean-up involved.

Looking at where inspiration is gained, 22 percent of those who prepare meals at home say they very often look for and use new written recipes to try new foods and techniques while almost half (46 percent) say they are likely to do so occasionally. One in five (20 percent) say they often gain inspiration from food-related articles, online postings and cooking shows, but do not follow their recipes exactly, while two in five (41 percent) say they occasionally do this.

So what?

Given the popularity of cooking shows and Americans not dining out as much to save money, cooking at home has probably increased over the past year or so. But, is it more of a necessity or do people actually enjoy it? Very few hate it, but considering the proliferation of cooking channels and cooking shows, one might expect more people to actually say they love to cook. Maybe this is one of those times where people enjoy watching others do what they themselves cannot do or do not like to do.

Harris Interactive, New York, N.Y., conducted its U.S. online poll between May 10 and 17, 2010 among 2,503 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.