Cooking For Success

Feb 7, 2018 | Cooking Tips

The task of cooking can seem overwhelming. There are a lot a variables at play that can make your meal a success or a failure. There are multiple things you have to keep track of simultaneously which at times may seem next to impossible. In reality it’s way easier than it may at first appear to be. All you need are a few expert tips on how to stay organized in the kitchen and before you know it, you will be cooking for success.

Mise en place

In cooking we use a lot of French terms and words. None of these is more important than mise en place. If you are looking for the single biggest secret to any Chef’s success look no further than his or her mise en place. So…what the hell is mise en place? Essentially, it means being ready and having everything you need within arms reach. Prep! Read your recipe and have all of your ingredients and tools ready to go.

If you are making a dish and the recipe said that you needed to saute onions for two minutes and then add two diced carrots and two diced celery stalks what would be the better way to do this?

Option 1 – Dice your onions, put them in the pot and while those are sauteing dice your carrots and                     celery.

Option 2 – Dice your onions, carrot, and celery. Saute your onions for two minutes and then add                           your carrot and celery.

Option 2 would be your best bet. You likely cannot peel and dice two carrots in the two minutes it is going to take to saute the onions, let alone dicing the celery as well. This is where a lot of people get caught. They either burn their onions, or have to pull the pot off the heat which will extend and disrupt the cooking. Have everything you need ready. It will make things so much easier and more efficient. Be realistic though. If the recipe said to caramelize the onions for twenty five minutes before adding the carrot and celery, you could the prep them while the onions were cooking.

Working Clean

Something that I find helps me a lot when I’m cooking at home is having a sink full of hot soapy water at all times. When you have a second, wash a few dishes or wipe down your work area. It is really easy to get overwhelmed with dirty dishes and countertops when you are cooking. Stay on top of it. Not having such a big mess in your kitchen when the cooking is all said and done will make the entire experience much more enjoyable.

Having a sink with some hot soapy water is also a good idea if you are working with chicken, fish, meat, or anything where your hands are going to get really messy. You can just give your hands a quick wash in the sink and then once they are pretty much clean turn on the tap and finish the job. This works well when you are trying to not fully contaminate your kitchen with salmonella.

Making a plan

When you are cooking it is always a good idea to have some sort of plan or strategy mapped out in your head or even on paper. Prep lists help a lot with this and keeping organized. Write down everything you need to do, in the order you need to do it, and check things off as you go. If you’re following a recipe, read it thoroughly before starting. You do not want to be half way through cooking something and realize that you missed a big piece that needed to be predone or that there is an ingredient that you don’t have.  Even if you’re just winging it, grabbing things out of your fridge and cupboard, have at least a broad idea of where you want to end up. Think about the ingredients you have and the basic flavours you want to use. Planning, is planning for success.

Rolling with the punches

The final bit of advice I have for you today is to roll with the punches. If something goes wrong, don’t let it destroy you. Move forward. If you are missing an ingredient, figure out another ingredient that you do have that could subin for it. Cooking is as much about thinking on your feet as it is about planning. The saying hope for the best but prepare for the worst is thrown around a lot in professional kitchens. No matter what happens you have to be ready to shift gears, alter your plans, and advance. This comes with experience but having this mindset will help you if and when something does go wrong.

I think that if there is one thing I want to leave with it’s that home cooking is not supposed to be perfect. Aim for a more rustic approach and you will find yourself much happier. Perfection is overrated and by its nature leads nowhere. Strive to always do better and learn more, and watch with amazement as your cooking becomes better and better every day.

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