General Food Preparation
Cooking is a very rewarding experience, especially if you're preparing a meal for other people. It should also be enjoyable but so many people get stressed and are ready to collapse in a sweaty heap by the time dinner is ready to be served. By doing everything in the correct order and preparing ingredients in advance, you can ensure you remain calm and collected.
Advance WarningWhether you're following a recipe or preparing something you know off by heart, the first thing you need to do is make sure you have all the ingredients you need to make the dish. There's no point starting to cook and then having to rush out to the shop to buy a key ingredient, while pans are bubbling over. Take all the ingredients out of the cupboard (leave things in the fridge until you actually need them) and line them up on the work surface. It's not just a case of having an ingredient; you need to have sufficient space to make the meal.
Prepping Your IngredientsIn a professional kitchen chefs will prep all their ingredients well in advance and have everything set out on their workstation so it's easy to access. Then, when an order comes in, they just have to assemble and cook each meal. If they had to chop onions and peel garlic cloves with every order, there'd be a few irate customers. The same should apply when you're cooking at home. Here are some quick tips for prepping your ingredients:
- Wash, peel, chop, dice and grate everything you need before you begin cooking.
- Wash all your vegetables and chop everything into even-sized pieces so they cook at the same time.
- Use different chopping boards for meat and vegetables and clear up as you go so you keep surfaces clear and don't end up with a pile of pans and utensils building up.
- Wash your hands after handing raw meat and also after handling chillies.
- Defrost any meat or fish well in advance of cooking by placing it in the fridge.
- Keep chopped vegetables in a pan, covered in water, to stop them drying out and discolouring, until you're ready to cook.
Time KeepingBad timing can be a disaster in all areas of life but none so much as in the kitchen. Get it wrong and a meal can be ruined. If you're following a recipe then follow it exactly, don't guess or round things up. Make sure you set the oven to the correct temperature and don't forget to adjust it accordingly if you have a fan oven - many a lovely meal has suffered a crispy fate due to this error! It's also important to preheat the oven so do this while you're prepping your ingredients. You just can't put a dish into a cold oven and expect it to cook to perfection.
If you get the preparation right, it's hard to go too far wrong with the actual recipe. You'll be calm and in control and can keep an eye on the food cooking, rather than searching for ingredients or utensils. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy the meal!