Working Cleanly and Efficiently
Always plan your work area. When I train my cooks, I always make sure they plan their task before they start cutting or chopping. Do you have enough containers or bowls for the finished product? Is there a place for the garbage or scraps handy? Asking yourself these questions will streamline your work and help keep you focused.
Organize your cabinets. If you haven't used it in a year, you probably never will. Get rid of unnecessary items. If you are a pack rat and have trouble throwing things out, place your seldom-used kitchenware in a box, tape an inventory list on it, and store it in the cellar or attic.
Organize you fridge by keeping raw foods and foods that are more sensitive to heat in the bottom of the fridge. Check to see that all the condiments in the fridge really need to be there.
Inventory and organize your pantry. Take a hard look at what you have. Throw away spices and flour that is older than two years. Check to see if any oils have gone rancid. (Smell them, don't taste!) When in doubt, throw it out. Do this once a year and either cook or discard items that you have forgotten about.
Then, organize your pantry and cabinets in a way that makes it easy for you to see what is on hand. This will make creating shopping lists much easier. Keep all cans in one area, pastas and grains in another, and ethnic ingredients in a separate section. Do what works for you, but keep it consistent. Your life will be much easier.
Set up a scrap or garbage container on the counter. This will stop the endless moving across the kitchen to throw out an onion skin or plastic wrapper. If your garbage container can be placed on the floor next to you without inconveniencing you, this is also a good option.
Work in an “assembly line” method. If you have to peel and dice carrots for example, peel them all at once, then cut them. Do not peel one, trim one, and then cut one. This is an inefficient use of time. Envision yourself in a factory, and think of how things would run there.
Try to use a single pot or pan for multiple tasks. For instance, if the recipe calls for a piece of fish to be browned before braising but also has a vegetable component, cook the veggies first, cool them, wipe the pan, and brown the fish. I tried to be specific when writing recipes in the book to mention such techniques, but use common sense and think ahead.
Have enough bowls and containers. Keeping you prepped veggies and other foods in small containers on your countertop in a ready-to-go position saves time. The new disposable “Tupperware” type containers are very useful and can be stacked up to save counter space.
Clean as you go. Taking a minute to wash a bowl or pan between cooking tasks is a very efficient way to work. You can easily wash a pot while your chicken is browning in the pan. Keep your countertop organized. Have a spot for finished product, prepped product, and untouched product. This avoids needless shuffling about.
Have fun with it! Pretend you are setting up your own little restaurant. You can organize things however you want. Remember, just because things have been one way forever doesn't mean they have to stay that way. Mix things up a bit. Start a new culinary life for yourself. Cook!