Read This Before You Cook Again
Friends, before you get ready to cook or bake something, what do you do? Do you have a process that helps you make the recipe prep smoother? Maybe you always use the same cutting board and your favorite knife, or you stand in the same place in your kitchen?
Chefs have a philosophy that they adhere to religiously. It’s called “mise en place” or “meez” as it’s referred to in restaruant kitchens. This refers to the preparation of having every ingredient and tool in its place and ready to be used. For professional cooks and chefs, not having everything they need to prepare a dish means they can’t get the dishes out to the waiting diners on time. When you’re on the other end of that scenario in a restaurant, it means you are waiting and waiting for your food to come out.
So, what does this mean for you at home? Well, we have all certainly been the recipients of the pleading words “when will dinner be ready?” And, those words aren’t fun when you’re in the throes of cooking after a long day.
There are some things that you can do to make your life easier when it’s show time in your kitchen.
- Read Through the Recipe. If you’re making a new recipe, the first thing to do is to read through it. The first thing you need to know is whether you need to buy any of the needed ingredients. Once you know you have all the food in the house, you’re looking for several things: ingredients you need, tools you’ll need, whether you need an oven or the stove and how long it will take to cook.
- Prep work. I know it’s boring and annoying to suggest that you do a week’s worth of prepping on Sunday while it’s still a relatively chill day. I secretly roll my eyes at the idea of having neat little containers ready with everything needed for a week of cooking.
But consider this...if you know that you’ll need onions and garlic for the week coming up, you can do these ahead of time. Once you’ve minced up your garlic and onions, refrigerate them separately in glass jars with a bit of oil on top to preserve them.
You can peel and cut your carrots ahead of time, too. Put the cut carrots in a glass jar with water and keep them in the fridge. You can also do the same with potatoes and squeeze a bit of lemon juice in the water. Potatoes will keep for 1 day this way.
- Measure your spices. Have you ever noticed when you are cooking from a recipe that it will say to add salt and pepper to your taste? Unless you are purposely cutting down on salt intake and prefer not to salt your food, the rule of thumb is to add ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. You can measure these and any other spices you need and keep them ready to go.
- Contain your excitement. Take out the bowls or containers you’ll need to mix up what you’re cooking. I like to have a “garbage bowl” ready to hold peels, eggshells, seeds and other things you’re discarding.
- Work the triangle. According to wikipedia, the primary tasks in a home kitchen are carried out between the cook top, the sink and the refrigerator. These three points and the imaginary lines between them, make up what kitchen experts call the work triangle.
Set up your prep station near your stove so that you don’t have to take extra steps while getting the food into the pan. Or if you don’t have ample surface area near your stove, then do your prep where you have the space and then shift everything over to the place where you’ll be cooking / baking the meal. Then, gather the dishes and get them into the sink and out of your way.
And as always, I would encourage you to enlist your little sous chefs to help with some of the steps. Do you have a salt and pepper grinder? Kids love grinding up spices!!
Do you need potatoes to be washed? Set up a bowl with a small amount of water (prepare for any spills by placing a towel under the bowl and give them the potatoes to wash.
The kids can throw out the stuff in the garbage bowl and they can put dishes in the sink. They feel part of the process and we will take every little bit of help we can get!
Are there other things that you do to help you set up for success in the kitchen? Comment below and tell us!