Cooking, or the act of transforming raw ingredients into deliciousness, may officially begin only when the oven or a pan on the stove has heated up, but it really starts before that. It begins the moment you enter your kitchen and decide to prepare a meal. Stop before pouring some oil into the pan and turning on the burner. If you do these five things first, your cooking session will be much less stressful and much more enjoyable. (Honestly, I can testify to my stress levels because I began cooking before these items were in place.)
1. Read the complete recipe from beginning to end.
A stunning photograph on a new recipe draws you in, and a quick peek at the ingredient list shows you have everything you need. So you dig right in, only to discover halfway through that, oops, you forgot to save half the lemon juice for the sauce, and, uh-oh, the beans need to soak overnight (but you're starving!). Does this ring a bell?
Friends, stop scanning and start reading! Before you begin, read the full recipe — all of the instructions, from beginning to end. “When you read through all of the processes, you can get a sense of how the meal should take shape and save yourself some potential back-pedaling later on,” we've noted before. You can even save time by identifying activities that can be completed ahead of time, such as bringing a pot of water to a boil or softening butter while you conclude making other ingredients.”
2. Make as much work space as possible.
Your upbeat attitude may help you in other parts of your life, but it doesn't help you when you clear a tiny strip of countertop space in the middle of a stack of dirty dishes and declare, "That's good enough for me!" No. No, it isn't. I know because I've done that, and the result is that things grow even more crowded, dishes tumble to the floor, you dump the scraped carrot skins into the pot rather than the carrots themselves, and there are simply too many piles by the end.
Preparation room is limited, especially in a tiny kitchen, so wait until you've emptied as much as you can. This usually starts with a clean cutting board and clearing the counter. As the phrase goes, "set yourself up for success."
3. Make sure the dishwasher and sink are both empty.
You'll have a place to keep all those dirty plates you're about to generate if you start cooking with an unfilled dishwasher. You've just mastered clean-as-you-go with a fast rinse in the sink and then into the machine. What if you don't have a dishwasher? Make absolutely sure your sink is free of dirty dishes so you may stack them neatly when you can get to them. Put out a soapy bowl and use the sink for washing greens and other prep work if you don't want to clutter up your basin with dishes just yet.
4. Find your pot holders and hold a side towel
A bar towel, also known as a side towel, is used by professionals because it is so versatile. To handle hot pans, clean up drips, steady mixing bowls, or pat-dry damp plants, keep one tucked in your apron or tossed over your shoulder. Set out pot holders ahead of time if you like to handle a hot pot with your hands, so you don't have to look for them while your casserole burns.
5. Prepare all of your ingredients by laying them out on the counter
Although there is some controversy about whether mise en place truly saves time, I believe it does save your sanity. If you've read the recipe completely (see first option), you'll know when to add each ingredient and how long they should cook before adding the next. It's tough to slow down or halt without damaging the meal after the heat is turned on and the “cooking” stage of the procedure begins.
Preparing those ingredients beforehand and, putting them in pretty bowls will make you feel like a TV chef, and then you're ready — truly ready — to start cooking. Nothing kills a good cooking flow like delaying too long because you're still chopping, washing and rummaging in the pantry for cumin.
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