When your kitchen is full, with every counter exploding with pots, pans and ingredients, cooking can really feel like a stressful chore. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all felt like throwing up our hands and just walking away from the whole sorry mess.
But a few simple changes to your habits and some proactive preparation can make cooking a joy, rather than a messy chore. And if you’re still a little flustered and bewildered after reading our tips, you can take a cookery course to get your skills up to scratch.
So, with that said, let’s look at some essential prep tips that will have you whirling around the kitchen in confidence.
Collect Together Everything You Need
One of the biggest mistakes many home chefs make is working as they go. This means dipping into cupboards and shelves looking for things while your focus should be on what’s cooking.
Get all the pots, pans, ingredients and tools you need together before you turn on the stove. You will find that this will save you an enormous amount of time. You’ll have everything you need to hand, and you won’t find yourself cursing that lost spatula, because you already know where it is!
It’s never nice when you’re in the middle of whipping up a feast and you find yourself with random collections of leftover vegetables and sauces all over the kitchen. That’s why it’s a good idea to have quick and easy storage options close to hand.
Some simple, air-tight plastic containers will do the trick – make sure you’ve got a range of different sizes – and this way you can put things away as you go. No more clutter, no more annoyances, just a cooking space that has the room you need to do your thing. This also makes it easier to actually prep your meals in advance as you can also use those storage containers to keep chopped veg, prepped grains and fresh herbs to hand so it becomes quicker to get meals underway. Use them to store leftovers after dinner too, so you have an easy lunch the next day.
Prep Your Meat Before You Freeze It
Cooking more than you need is a problem for many when it comes to meat and this is usually because it goes straight into the freezer when you get back from the shops.
A good tip is to separate out meat into meal-sized portions before you freeze – you can even season them at this stage to save time later – and store them this way. You won’t have to try hacking apart frozen chicken breasts ever again, and you know just what you’ve got with a quick glance in the freezer.
Freeze Your Stock in Ice Cube Trays
This is just like those pre-prepared stock options you might use or see in the supermarket, but they’re better because they’re homemade and cheaper.
Simply mix up a batch of stock, let it cool off and then decant it into ice cube trays for a convenient, quick option to add into your meals as needed. You can also do this with things like yoghurt and milk to add a boost to your breakfast smoothies.
You Don’t Need to Peel Everything
It’s a hallmark of British cuisine that we’re very insistent on peeling everything, but this isn’t always the most nutritious or time-saving course of action.
Many vegetables and fruits hold huge amounts of nutrients and fibre in their skins, and that’s lost nutrition if you’re peeling them and throwing all that goodness away.
Not peeling ingredients also saves you a great deal of time. Think of all the countless, accrued hours you’ve spent peeling things like beetroot, carrots and sweet potatoes and now realise you never have to do it again – feels good, doesn’t it?
Get Your Pans Ready
One of the biggest mistakes many home cooks make is starting with a cold pan, adding in some oil and waiting for the entire thing to heat up. When you’re itching to go, this wait can feel like an eternity.
Instead, put your pan on low/medium heat while you prep all your ingredients – sans oil – and by the time you’re ready to get cooking, your pan is warm and waiting. Proper prep is all about shaving off wasted minutes and this is one area where you can do just that.
Cook Double (Or More)
Certain foods like soup, chilli and roast chicken are great meals in their own right, but they’re also excellent for doubling up and ensuring you’ve got meals stored away in the fridge and freezer.
After a few runs through this cycle, you’ll have plenty of leftovers and full meals to parcel out as you need – perfect for evenings when you don’t have the energy to cook!