If you are one of those people who hate cooking, chances are you are just not doing it right. Fix that problem, and you’ll do great!
This post was made possible thanks to my husband, who happens to be a good cook that hates cooking.
I’ve heard my husband’s college roommate and friends talk about how awesome his roasted potatoes are, but I’ve never had a first-hand experience at his cooking prowess. Now don’t get me wrong, he is super helpful around the house, but when it comes to cooking, he is just happy being my assistant (chopping, dishes and the like…) Maybe I’m at fault too, since I love to cook and hog the kitchen all day…
But one Sunday, a couple of months back, I was pushing a deadline and completely forgot to make lunch. Seeing how oblivious I was, completely immersed in work, my sweet, sweet husband stepped in and cooked a freaking awesome meal, complete with two vegetable sides (including the famed roasted potatoes) and he even set the table and everything!!!! *gasp*
I was speechless at that shocking display of cooking (I thought I was the only cook in the house, turns out I’m not), so the following week, I asked that he make the same roasted potatoes he made the other day, sat back and just watched him cook.
And I did that a couple more times and figured out why my husband, who is actually a pretty good cook, hates cooking. He was doing it wrong!!! Not the recipe., oh no, but the work flow behind the counter.
So I did a study of the things he could fix, and thought I’d share it with you here, so you can pass it on to the people in your life who hate to cook.
I’ve found that those who learn to cook purely from watching cooking shows or reading cookbooks exhibit the same inefficient traits. Those who learn from their mothers or other family members on the other hand, are taught these nuances of cooking during training. Like for example, my mother taught me that when you take down a spice bottle for seasoning and stir it into the pot simmering in the stove, as your right hand stirs, the left hand should be busy putting the spice back where it belongs. And she made sure I learned that lesson right.
Little things like that may seem insignificant, but according to me, they’re actually as important as the recipe itself.
Let’s get started on the basics.
Find the shortest route
There is more to cooking than just the recipe!
Whether you are following a printed recipe or just doing it all from memory, you should always, ALWAYS find the shortest, most efficient route.
Also, make sure that you read the entire recipe, several times if you have to, and as you do, visualize yourself making the recipe. Identify wasteful movements, and rectify it when you actually cook.
Does the same ingredient feature more than once? Ex: Onion is used in the main recipe, and also as a garnish. Chop them both together all at once (paying attention to whether you need it diced, sliced or as rings). Cook in your mind before you begin to light that stove.
When you set up your chopping station, keep a bowl (on your left) to collect scraps and peels. It will save you a lot of time during cleanup. Keep your knives, peelers, zester, etc on top of your chopping board, keeping only one tool at a time on the chopping board. If your chopping board isn’t big enough, have a large plate on your right to move chopped vegetables into. If you are working with vegetables that oxidize on contact with air, a bowl of water nearby helps. Set up your workstation before you actually do the prep work. It will save you time walking from the fridge to the sink to the counter repeatedly.
Keep things in the kitchen where you would normally need them. The coffee grounds, sugar, mugs, tea bags should be kept near the coffee maker. Oil, salt and pepper go on the counter near the stove. You’ll hardly cook something that doesn’t need at least one of the three. Popcorn kernels, powdered/flavored salt are stored together in the cupboard over/near the microwave. You get the idea. The next time you re-arrange the kitchen cabinets, keep these things in mind and club ‘similar’ things together.
Can you prep ahead? TV time at night can be doubled as prep time. Chop and freeze all the vegetables you need for the week, and see how much time you can save!
Grab more things
I found that my husband did a LOT of walking in the kitchen. He’d grab a plate, bring it to the counter and go back and grab the knife and chopping board separately. Do it all in one trip, grabbing as much as you can carry back. Think of it as shopping in a super market. Use a large plate (or even your chopping board) to hold all the ingredients/tools you need and bring it back to the counter in one go!
Note: It is incredibly unwise to carry knives and other sharp tools perched so precariously on top of the produce like I have in the above picture. NEVER, ever do that! It’s OK to make another trip to grab the tools, if it lets you keep all your toes intact.
Don’t underestimate sharp knives
And that goes both ways – take care that you don’t cut yourself, but also make sure that you are not working with blunt knives. Blunt knives cause more damage than sharp ones do, trust me!
Invest in a sharpening stone (I bought mine from Dollar Tree for $1), and see this video tutorial on how to properly sharpen your knives. See the knife in the photo above? It had a broken tip, that I resharpened back into a point.
Your knife is good to go, if you can slice through a ripe tomato without a flood of juices on your chopping board.
Clean as you go
A clean kitchen is an efficient kitchen. Keep a kitchen towel/cleaning rag near you to wipe up accidental spills and oil splatters as you work. Here’s why:
- Hot messes are easier to clean when it’s still warm. If you let it cool, the spills will cake and harden and you’ll need to soak+scrub them to remove them.
- Cleaning as you go means you have a cleaner kitchen at the end of your cooking time, which in turn means that you can get to bed a little bit faster at the end of the night.
- Just seeing a messy kitchen can be quite exhausting. A clean one on the other hand energizes you.
Practice makes perfect
Everything that feels difficult just needs a little bit of practice to get right. We didn’t learn to walk in a day, did we? We fell down a thousand times before taking that first step. Cooking is just like that. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot cook. Everyone can cook. And most importantly, everyone must. Fending for oneself is a fundamental law of evolution, and if cavemen could do it, I think you should too.
Start with an omelette, or other recipes that need just a few ingredients (I have a whole series of recipes that need just 5 ingredients or less, and yes, water, salt and oil are counted too!). Move on to bigger, better things. Keep repeating recipes as practice, and you’ll find yourself getting more and more efficient in the kitchen with every attempt.
And before you know it, you’ll be cooking all three meals from scratch all by your lonesome self! 🙂
To all the experienced cooks reading this: have any more tips for me and my readers? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add it to the post.
Good Luck and Happy Cooking!