The Dilemma: You love to cook, but your kitchen looks like a tornado when you're finished. You find a recipe, buy the ingredients and start to cook. Two hours later, you are still on step three because you are paralyzed by clutter and inefficiency. You would love to find a way to stay organized in the kitchen, but you're not sure where to start.
The Solution: There is a better way, and it will save you a lot of time and energy. It takes some initial effort as you have spend time organizing before you start cooking, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be one step closer to becoming an efficient cook. Your kitchen will feel calmer and so will you.
1. Always start with a clean kitchen.
Empty the dishwasher, wash the dishes and make sure your counters are clear. Trying to cook in a cluttered kitchen is going to take more time and create stress, confusion and chaos.
2. Read the recipe from start to finish before you start so you know exactly what you have to do.
Visualize each step. If you are reading the recipe as you go, I can promise this will double or triple the time you spend in the kitchen. Same goes if you are not using a recipe — think through what you are making.
3. First, take out the equipment you need for the recipe.
If the recipe calls for boiling pasta, you’ll need a large saucepan and a colander to drain. If you are making a sauce, you’ll need a smaller saucepan, perhaps a food processor and a vegetable peeler. If your recipe calls for five different ingredients have five bowls ready so that when you've finished chopping, you have a place to put your ingredients. Take out absolutely everything you need before you begin. No matter what, you are likely going to need a chef knife and a cutting board (both integral parts of cooking). Take those out first.
4. Now, take out the ingredients you need for your recipe.
If using a variety of vegetables, it helps to have one large bowl to place them in. If you only need one stick of celery, don’t take the whole bunch out — snap off what you need and place the rest back in the fridge. The less clutter you create in the kitchen, the less time cooking is going to take.
5. Before you begin cooking, chop.
Chop your veggies, your meat, your tofu, etc. and measure out your liquids and spices. Place these in small bowls. If you’re not a fan of washing a bunch of bowls, use one cookie sheet and make small piles of each ingredient. This process is called a mise-en-place and it’s professional cooking basics 101.
6. Plan ahead.
If you know you are cooking an ingredient that has a longer cook time — like brown rice — put that on first.
7. If you’ve already measured out an ingredient and no longer need it for your recipe, put it away immediately.
Getting into this habit also reduces kitchen clutter, which saves you time, and keeps your ingredients fresh for next time.
8. Place your favorite salt nearby in an easily accessible small bowl.
I leave mine on the counter. Whatever cooking oil you use should be accessible as well. Salt and oil are the fundamentals of cooking and you need them handy.
9. Place all your baking supplies in one basket in the pantry.
This way baking powder, baking soda, flour, cinnamon, vanilla extract, basically all the ingredients you need for your recipe are handy in one place.
10. Lastly, clean as you go.
This gets easier over time. Don’t let the dishes pile up until you’re done cooking. I like having a plastic bin near the sink to put my dirty dishes so that the sink is clear if I need to wash vegetables or use a colander.
Practice these skills. Over time, you will find yourself with a clean kitchen by the time dinner is ready.