Before the Cooking Begins
This post is part of our Cooking With Recipes Series
Cooking With Recipes Series
After you have found, and read, a recipe, you should be confident enough to dive in and start making it, right? Actually, there are still a few steps people tend to miss before they start making a recipe.
There is a surprising amount of prep work that you should do before you start making a recipe. Even experienced professional chefs make the mistake of under-preparing for a recipe. Here are a few tips that you should follow whenever you make any recipe.
Double Check Your Equipment
There is nothing worse than being in the middle of cooking a recipe when you realize that the food processor, blender, or waffle iron was not properly cleaned or is missing parts. Halting the cooking process mid-stream could be a disaster, and will make the whole process frustrating instead of enjoyable.
To prevent this, make sure that before you prepare any ingredients, you have all of your equipment at the ready. Check that it is clean, assembled and able to do its job.
Check the Ingredients
Just because you bought all the ingredients at the store a few days ago, doesn’t mean they are available now.
- If you live with others, someone may have inadvertently eaten some or all of them.
- You may find that some of the produce you thought was fine, no longer is.
- You may have underestimated how much of an ingredient you need.
It is always better to discover that you need to make a store run at this point, instead of when you are entrenched in the cooking process.
Mise En Place
Mise en place means “everything in place” in French. It is very important when cooking and it involves having all of the ingredients pre-measured and prepared (chopping, dicing, shredding, peeling, etc.). Once prepared, the ingredients are placed in their own small dishes.
For years I ignored this concept and 9 times out of 10 I ended up forgetting ingredients or doing things in the wrong order. I now consistently follow the concept.
Think of a working kitchen in a restaurant. They have people dedicated to preparing the ingredients before the recipe is cooked. This is because the cooking part is usually a lot quicker than the prepping part.
Using the mise en place concept takes on an even greater importance if you are cooking in a very small kitchen. Many small kitchens do not have enough room to have a cooking area and a prepping area.
Wash as You Go
So many cooks make the mistake of waiting until the recipe is cooked before they start cleaning up. Let’s face it, washing dishes is a chore and having a mountain of them is a great way to suck the fun out of cooking.
A much better strategy is to fill a sink with warm soapy water so that it is ready to receive any dirty dish you make.
I used to think that I could do this easier by filling the dishwasher with dirty dishes as I went, but later abandoned that idea. It always turned out that I needed some of those dishes during the cooking process and would end up having to fish them out of the dishwasher and hand wash them anyways. Now I just use the sink.
If you are following the mise en place concept (which we hope you are), it is easy to just quickly wash the dishes you used when prepping your ingredients. There are a few advantages when doing it this way:
- If you need any of the knives, cups, boards, etc., during the cooking process, they are washed and ready
- Any dishes used with ingredients that will harden on dishes will have time to soak and will be much easier to clean
- Cleaning at the end of the cook is much quicker because there are a lot less dishes
- It helps to keep the kitchen less cluttered and more organized
Caution: Do not throw dirty knives in a sink of water. If you reach into the water, you may accidentally cut yourself on a knife. I have a separate shallow container that holds my knives that need washing.
All of these pre-cooking steps will make cooking a much more enjoyable experience. It creates an organized, safer, and less stressful environment.
Do you have other prepping tips that for out readers? Let everyone know by commenting below.