Have you ever noticed how neat, tidy, and well-organized chefs on television shows are? Try to imitate them at home, however, and things can end up disastrously! You start wondering whether you forgot some of the steps of the process, or you missed a key ingredient, or you just don’t have the chef’s talent, confidence, and flair? Not to worry: there are a few simple procedures you can implement that will make things go smoothly the next time you tackle a recipe. Adopt these good kitchen habits and cooking will become more than something you have to do to feed the family – it will become a true joy!
1) Being well organized in your kitchen is a crucial part of the process
For example – make sure you’ve got all your utensils close at hand, so you aren’t reaching for something, only to find it’s still on the pantry shelf. There is a great deal of inspiration for tidy pantry organizations that can be found on the internet. As a rule, we are used to organizing with a few sealed canisters. Thus, we can ensure the food is stored under the best condition.
This is really important – have all your cooking tools and ingredients close to you when you start a recipe. Everything will go more smoothly, and more quickly if you implement this good kitchen habit.
2) Have the recipe nearby
Try to imagine chopping up beef, and suddenly you forget whether the recipe calls for one cup, or a cup and a half of meat – then what? It’s crucial that your recipe is nearby, whether you’re using a “hard copy” printed from your mum’s old collection, or it’s one you found online and you’re reading it on your phone or laptop.
Have the instructions nearby so you don’t waste time washing up, drying your hands, then opening a file on your phone, or retrieving a recipe from a cupboard. That way you can review all the steps involved before you begin, and while you need not memorize them, you’ll be familiar with what comes next.
3) Be sure your cutting board grips the work surface
Not all cutting boards are designed for gripping the counter; some don’t have rubbery bottoms that prevent slipping and sliding. That’s not just a nuisance, it can be downright dangerous. If your cutting board tends to slide around easily, simply place a damp tea towel or paper towel beneath it before you begin chopping ingredients. That gives you a super steady surface on which to work.
4) Sharpen those knives
Knife sharpening is almost an art form in the right hands, and it’s a crucial part of prepping before you begin slicing, dicing, and chopping your ingredients. A well-sharpened knife ensures your food is consistently sized, and not “bruised,” if it’s delicate – like herbs, for example. A dull knife can easily shred an herb rather than chop it, and even cause it to discolor and wilt. And dull knives impede your progress, so when you’re getting out your tools, make sure all your knives are sharp and ready to go.
5) Have a bowl beside you for food waste
Rather than running from the counter where you’re prepping the dish and the garbage container, have a bowl beside you, into which you can put rinds, eggshells, peelings, and other scraps from your ingredients. That way, once you’ve chopped something on your cutting board, you can simply pick up what’s leftover and toss it into the bowl. But be sure you save things that might be useful later on – like chicken bones for soup stock, for example. As the old saying goes, “Waste not, want not!” Touche’!
6) Have a few clean towels handy
Have you ever noticed the way chefs have a tea towel or hand towel across one shoulder or tied into one of the strings of their apron? There’s the logic behind that. They are used for all kinds of things while cooking, like drying herbs by gently squeezing them in the towel, taking hold of scorching hot handles on pans, and sometimes even cleaning up spills. (They are never used on raw meat, however!) You should adopt this good kitchen habit and have a small, absorbent towel close at hand whenever you need it, just like the pros do.
7) Properly care for pots and pans
The metal used to make pots and pans – whether it’s stainless steel, copper, or some other material – can influence the flavor of the foods you prepare, so it’s vital that you clean them thoroughly. This not only protects the food you’re making, but it also means that the cooking equipment lasts a lot longer. But for the daily care of any pot or frying pan, after using it simply wash it with warm water and soap. Don’t use a harsh scrubber or you might scratch the pot’s surface.
One other important note: dispose of whatever oil you used to cook by putting it in a container and recycling it. Don’t pour it down the drain, please! Doing so wreaks havoc with your pipes and drains, and it’s terrible for the environment. Recycling is definitely the 21st-century solution for safely disposing of old oil.
8) Thoroughly clean your work surfaces
Think about all the substances that come into contact with your counters – raw meat, vegetables, fruits, juice, dairy products, and more. Potential contamination is a very real problem in your kitchen, and it’s important to keep your work surfaces clean and sterile. Minuscule bits of food can attract insects and ants, too. As long as your counter isn’t made of granite, clean it thoroughly with a mixture of white vinegar and warm water, which leaves kitchen counters sparkling and clean – and disinfected. You should do this every day, even if you haven’t cooked an elaborate meal, as it’s a good kitchen habit to get into.
9) Check your supplies in the pantry regularly
Have you ever started making a recipe, only to discover that one of the ingredients you need has passed its “best before date” but is still sitting on the shelf in your fridge? Isn’t that annoying? The way to avoid those situations is by doing a check on your inventory, reading all the labels, and making a list of what you need to buy or replace. You should also take note of the foods you need to use up soon so that fewer perishables go to waste.
For example, if you have a dozen eggs that need eating by the end of the week, why not bake something your family loves? Remember, lots of things affect how long food lasts, like temperature, light, and moisture. So don’t keep six heads of lettuce in the fridge just because they were on sale if you won’t use them in a week or so. Other items can be stocked up on, like flour and sugar, because they last a long time in the pantry. And the more staples you’ve got on hand, the less you’ll have to go shopping!
Chefs make cooking look so easy, don’t they? Truthfully, though, they make it look that way because they are well organized and have all the steps in their head before beginning a recipe. They know what to pull from the shelves and what tools need cleaning and sharpening, and they take care of all that before they start cooking. Those good kitchen habits get them to the finish line faster, and they can get you there, too!
Start developing good habits in your kitchen, and cooking and cleaning will go smoothly and efficiently. Perhaps you’ve already got some great kitchen habits in your routine that we haven’t mentioned here? If you do, by all means, contact us and let us know! We’ll share them one day with our readers, and we can all become even more organized in our favorite room – the kitchen!