I treat my home kitchen like a restaurant. After so many years working in and running kitchens it’s really the only way I know how to operate when put before the tools of my trade. My wife and I operate quite differently in the kitchen, and after a lot of reflection I’ve deduced that these are what separates the pros from the home cook. If you want to enter the pro category then here are a few suggestions to step your kitchen game up:
- Clean As You Cook. No one, including me, loves to clean up a huge mess of dishes, pots, pans and spatulas after cooking and enjoying the dinner you spent so much time preparing. So wash up and keep your work area clean as you cook, it will make your work more efficient and save the hassle of cleaning up a huge mess.
- Pregrind Your Pepper Before Starting To Cook. I like to always use freshly ground pepper. When I’m going to start cooking I make sure to grind a batch of pepper in a dedicated coffee grinder and put it in a container ready for seasoning right next to my salt well. When you need that extra pinch of seasoning then it is always at hand and can adjust your flavours as they are building.
- Utensils At Hand. Make sure you have a vessel with all your most commonly used utensils (spatulas, wooden spoons, whisks, slotted spoons, tongs, etc) at hand on your counter near your cooking area.
- Flavor Builders On Hand. My fridge always has an array of herb purees, half made sauces, béchamel, marinating tomatoes, pickled this and that, and all other kinds of things that allow me to add that extra little something to that dish I’m currently working on. Often these flavour builders are leftovers from a previous meal. I’ll make a little extra just for this purpose. Make sure these containers are labelled clearly and dated so you can keep track of their freshness.
- Saving Foods. Before that fresh bunch of herbs you bought a few days ago goes bad, place them on a tray and put them on a shelf so that they dry out. Usually drying fresh herbs like this only takes a couple of days but this way you always have vibrant flavours to add to your dishes just when you need it.
- Save Those Stems. After picking herbs like Thyme and Rosemary, I will always place the stems on a tray to dry. After I’ve collected a fistful of herb stems I will add them to a bottle of extra virgin olive oil and let it infuse over the next month or so in my pantry. I’ll always buy a couple bottles of olive oil at a time so I can dedicate one whole bottle for infusing with herb stems. Use the herb infused Olive Oil for finishing, salad dressings, drizzling on grilled bread and other similar last minute uses.
- Freeze Fruit. Before the fruit on your counter goes bad (bananas, peaches, berries, etc) and hits your municipal compost heap, place them on a flat tray in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid then transfer them to a freezer bag. Use up the frozen fruit for smoothies, homemade ice cream, and baked goods.
- Cast Iron Cookware. Use cast iron cookware to replace all of your non stick pan needs. Not only will these pans become seasoned with flavour and repel stickiness over time, they will also survive generations. Your grandkids can cook eggs in the same pan that you did when you were learning to cook in the kitchen as a teenager. Memories like this are priceless.
- Buy Good Quality Knives. Like good cast iron cookware, a good set of knives will not only last generations if maintained properly but they will also make cooking a joy and much less frustrating. Also, using sharp knives are significantly safer to use than dull ones as food is less likely to slip and move around as you will exert less force to get the job done.
- Buy What’s Fresh. Even the worst cooks will prepare a delicious meal if they use the best quality ingredients their money can buy. This will usually be the freshest and best looking stuff in your local grocer. Its easy to do good work with good tools, regardless of what your trade is; cooking is certainly no different.
I could go on for a very long time with this list but all things must come to an end…maybe this post will need to be continued. Wait for it…
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