Organize Your Cooking

Chopping BoardOrganized cooking is as important as an organized kitchen: it goes faster, and and is less stressful. Here are two basics for streamlining meals.

First, do what chefs do: set up a prep station around the food processor or cutting board and have your tools ready to hand before you start cooking. Use bowls to hold chopped and measured ingredients such as chopped herbs, chopped onions, spice mixes, and lemon juice. Mix and measure spices up front.

Second, keep your workspace clean while you cook. Prepare food next to the sink if you can, so that you can sweep crumbs and spilled food into the sink in a quick motion (keep bar towels around for this rough cleanup work). Clear the prep area of empty bowls and containers of ingredients as you empty them. Rinse your knives as you go, so that you can use them for the next task. Use cooking or simmering periods to wash dishes.

Simplify for Easier Meals

To cook healthy meals on busy weekdays, simplify the work.  Try freezing fish or chicken in marinade, ready for defrosting and cooking. Prepare side dishes and salads on weekends, ready to serve throughout the week.  Prepare vegetables first and serve them at room temperature. Or blanch them at the beginning of cooking, then finish them at the last minute. A rice cooker is very versatile and keeps food warm while you finish the rest of the meal. Clay roasters are also good for simplifying meals, leaving you with time to prepare the salad or vegetables without distraction.

Throw it Out!

The most organized person I know said this of life in the 21st century. If it’s less than a year old…it’s on the Web, and if it’s more than year old…it’s probably irrelevant. So look through the paper in your office, and throw it out!

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A Kitchen is a Workshop

Here’s how to think about organizing your kitchen: arrange everything around zones with a specific purpose.

The heart of your kitchen is the primary prep area: usually, a counter near a sink. Keep your knives, cutting boards, prep bowls, mixing bowls, measuring cups, lemon squeezers, and other tools close to that counter.  Also your spices. And towels to mop up spills and sweep away messes.

Store pots and pans near the cooktop. A shelf over the stove is an excellent way to keep large pots and casseroles handy. Keep a container of wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks, strainers on the counter near the stove, so you can grab them when you need them. Also keep salt and pepper, and maybe a few other spices that you add when you’re cooking. And don’t forget the potholders. Baking dishes, roasting pans, and tools go near the oven.

Keep serving dishes in a cabinet near the counter that you use as a staging area for completed dishes. This is also where you should keep your slow cooker, your rice cooker, your coffeemaker, and your electric skillet. Serving spoons, salt and pepper, corkscrews, water pitchers, should be nearby, so that they can all be moved to the table together.

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