Timing is Everything

Plan Ahead for Stress Free CookingOne of the most stressful aspects of cooking is trying to get everything finished at the same time so it is still hot when it is time to eat. This troublesome conundrum has been the thorn in a chefs’ side for many years.

While making sure food comes out hot and ready to eat, there are a few things that can help keep the devastating reheat setting on the microwave from getting all the attention.

Counting back

Sure, it may take more time to actually sit down and do a little prior planning, but it will pay off in the end. By going through your menu and thinking about the amount of time it will take to cook each aspect of every dish you plan on making, you will have a great understanding of what exactly is needed to get everything to the table on time.

Grab a sheet of paper and start jotting down how long it will take to fix each portion of the meal. Once you have that done, break it down into portions. For instance, it will take about ten minutes to brown the meat for the spaghetti and twenty minutes for the water to boil and cook the pasta; about twelve minutes to boil water and eight minutes to cook. Once you have this, you know that in order to have your dinner ready by 6:30, you need to put the water on the stove around 6:10 and then start the meat about 6:20. While the water is boiling and meet is cooking, you can be heating up the pasta sauce, which shouldn’t take more than the twenty minutes.

Keeping track

So you have all the times you need to begin each step. Great! With the pasta example above, it is pretty straightforward and there is not much thought that needs to go into keeping track of the full twenty minutes. However, if you are in charge of preparing a holiday meal, you are in for a big surprise. With all of the different courses and dishes, things can get a bit hectic.

First you need to chop stuff, then put things in the oven and next thing you know, you are putting the milk in the cabinet and the cat in the freezer. It can be a bad picture if you catch my drift. One of the best ways I have found to keep track of times and tasks is to have a clock, a timer (or two) and a bunch of post-it-notes.

Don’t underestimate the power of a post-it in the kitchen. They stick to anything and make great recipe markers in case you have to close your cook book to make room to bread the turkey legs. Putting post-it notes in order of need, you can have a visual time line of your cooking, not to mention, they are great to write down “time in” and “time out” as reminders.

The clock and timers are self-explanatory as they are just for keeping track of time without having to count out the seconds yourself. I use my watch to make sure I am sticking to my time schedule, then the timer on the over for the food in the oven and an egg timer for food on the stove.

Properly planning your meals may not cancel out the stress of cooking for the masses, but it sure will help out knowing that you are actually right on schedule. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take a little prior proper planning.

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