How to be more efficient and organized in the kitchen
1. Set up your cooking station
This first tip is the foundation of my cooking process. In a professional kitchen, every cook has their own "station" where they keep their most frequently used tools, so it's a good idea to set one up in your own kitchen. It's usually best to set it up next to your stove; that way, you'll have all of the main things you need at your fingertips during the cooking process. (I affectionately call mine my "Bennett Station.")
Here are the key items you'll want to round up:
The beauty of my "Bennett Station" is it's got everything I need to season, prep, cut, heat, and cook whatever meal I'm making. And because it's always there, I never have to look for anything. (After you use it, be sure to wash and put everything back where it was. It's so simple, but makes such a difference!)
2. Think ahead
The saying "when it rains, it pours" is especially true in the restaurant industry. On most evenings, it's common for a huge rush of food orders to come in all at once, so being prepared and organized BEFORE that happens is essential to success. (This is what professional chefs call mise en place.) For example, if your recipe calls for chopped onions, cut them all up ahead of time; it not only helps you get ahead, but it also ensures you aren't missing any ingredients and have the correct amounts.
3. Label everything
Yes, EVERYTHING. This includes your pantry bins, fridge drawers, and plastic food storage containers.In professional kitchens we label everything so there's never any confusion about what ingredient you are about to grab. (If you're feeling ambitious, you can also add the date so you know when to throw things out.)
Adhesive kitchen labels are easy to use and work well. Personally, I love using erasable chalk markers label all my ingredients--the chalk ink is easy to wipe off and re-label as the contents of my pantry or fridge change.
4. Keep everything visible and sorted properly
Whenever possible, use transparent or translucent containers for food storage. Clear containers are perfect for storing dry ingredients because you'll instantly know when you're running low on something and need to restock.
I also suggest grouping similar items together. For example, all canned goods should be stored on the same pantry shelf, and then sorted into groups of like-items. Dry goods (lentils, dried beans, rice, etc.) should be stored in matching containers and stored together as well. In the refrigerator, I like to have all liquids (such as milk, juice, and canned beverages) on the top shelf. I use clear bins to group different veggies instead of just having a big drawer full of random veggies that aren't labeled. In my lower fridge drawers I keep all the dairy products on one side and raw proteins on the other to prevent cross-contamination. Every drawer and bin is labeled, and this allows my husband and friends to know exactly where to look for what they need.
5. Shop smart
In the restaurant industry, every sous chef keeps a list on a clipboard where they write down ingredients that need to be replenished. Similarly, you should create a grocery list for your household and split it up into categories: meats, dairy, pantry staples, grains, snacks, etc. (The note app on your phone is a great place to keep this list.) I love having a grocery list because it gives me a road map for what to buy instead of going rogue and buying ten bags of chips I don't need.
Also, try buying what you can from the bulk bin area at the grocery store. Not only is it more affordable, but I also find those items to be more fresh because they are constantly being changed out. Plus, it's less wasteful and much more sustainable because you avoid a ton of extra packaging!
So there you have it! My tips may be nerdy and super-specific, but they have certainly made my home cooking a lot easier!
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