Cooking can be loads of fun, but it can also be a little bit hectic. Fortunately, there are a few simple adjustments you can bring to your kitchen that make the cooking process significantly easier. If you want a faster and less-stressful kitchen experience, follow these seven tips:
1. Consider Your Work Triangle
The refrigerator, stove, and sink are usually the most utilized parts of your kitchen. Depending on what you're cooking, however, your work triangle could be slightly different. If, for example, your baking process doesn't involve much rinsing but includes plenty of mixing, your triangle might be your oven, refrigerator, and counter. Whatever the three busiest parts of your kitchen are, try to reduce any clutter or obstacles between them. If you have a movable kitchen island, for example, make sure it's not blocking the path between your stove and your fridge. That way, you can move quickly and easily between different work areas.
2. Label Everything
Use painter's tape to stick labels on containers holding staples, leftovers, small tools – whatever you have stored around your kitchen. Though sticking a label on something might seem like an unnecessary step, the time it takes to open a container and figure out what's inside adds up for each bin you have to use. When it's labeled, there's no problem – you simply grab and go. If you don't like the look of labels, you can also use clear containers. Anything that lets you see what's inside at a quick glance will speed up your cooking process dramatically.
"Taking notes while cooking helps you build on your experience."
3. Hang a Notepad
If you don't already have a notepad hanging up in your kitchen, now's the time to get one. A magnetic notepad and pen set is basically the perfect solution. Not only can you use it to keep a running grocery list throughout the week, you can also jot down quick notes about recipes, ingredients, or anything else you think of while cooking. Even if you're already great in the kitchen, there's always something new to learn. Creating an easy way to write down revelations will encourage you to build on your own experience and come up with new and exciting meals.
4. Think in Ripples
Think of yourself as a stone dropped into the pond that is your kitchen. The ripples closest to you should hold the items you use most often – knives, common spices, chopping board, and whatever makes sense to you. As the ripples get wider, however, they should start holding the kitchen tools you use less frequently – cookie cutters, for example. Like the work triangle, this will depend on your cooking style. If you bake frequently, you might want the cookie cutters closer than someone who only bakes once in a while. It may take some trial and error, but if you notice you're frequently going out of your way to grab a particular item, that might be better stored closer to where the action happens.
5. Create Zones
If you only bake or make things like candy on special occasions, you probably don't need to set up different cooking zones. If you regularly bake, however, having a cooking area and a baking area could make both processes much easier. Your cooking zone can include all the things you use to make regular meals, like your chopping board, knives, and cooking spray. Meanwhile, your baking zone can hold flour, sugar, and dry measuring cups. Though you may use items from one zone while cooking in the other, this kind of set up will still cut down on unnecessary movement around your kitchen.
6. Sharpen Your Knives
This isn't as organization-focused as the other tips on this list, but it's incredibly important. Make sure you sharpen your knives before or after every use. Not only will a sharp knife allow you to work faster in the kitchen, it will also make your cooking process safer. Many people think they're less likely to injure themselves with a dull knife, but the opposite is actually true. A dull knife is still plenty sharp enough to cut through skin, but it's much harder to control. If your knife is sharp, it will sink down into the food you're slicing instead of skidding across the surface. This means the knife will only go where you want it to – no where else.
7. Build Time-Saving Habits
There are plenty of little habits you can build while cooking that will make you more efficient. For example, rinse prep dishes as you go to make washing them easier, or move them into the dishwasher as you're working. You can also create a scrap bag or bowl where you discard skins, odd bits, or anything else you might throw away while cooking – this way you don't have to lose your flow walking over to the trash can. A huge time-saver: prep bowls. Measure out your ingredients before hand and set them out in prep bowls. That way, once it's time to use them, you can just grab the bowl and pour.