It’s true. Cooking can feel like a burden sometimes. It can feel like yet another thing that has to get done in the day, another obligation, another chore. And yet we also all know that eating home-cooked foods is better for our health, our wallet, and our emotional well-being. So how do we reconcile these two competing realities? How do we find a way to make it less of a chore and even more enjoyable?
There are things we can do to change the environment while we are cooking such as cooking with someone, playing fun music, or having a glass of wine. But there are also some simple steps you can take to make the actual cooking easier. They will save you time, which will, in turn, make the whole process feel less burdensome.
1. Start with a clean kitchen. Have you ever been making a meal and suddenly you run out of counter space? Or have you found yourself piling things on top of each other or precariously balancing a bowl while you quickly do something at the stove? Or maybe you have been in the middle of a recipe and suddenly realized that the measuring cup you need is dirty? I’ve done all of these and it is super stressful! Well, starting with a clean kitchen helps you to avoid all those hectic and stressful moments. I know, starting with cleaning sounds like a bummer, but trust me on this. Putting those dishes in the dishwasher, quickly washing that pot you used to heat up breakfast, and making sure the counters are clear will help your cooking dramatically and here’s why: starting with a clean slate, so to speak, means that you will be better organized, you won’t be juggling things to make counter space, and you will spend less time searching for things.
2.Clean as you go. I know, I know, you are thinking, “another cleaning tip?! We’re supposed to be talking about cooking!!” One of the biggest complaints I hear about cooking, though, is actually that the cleaning up after is what drives people crazy and I totally get it. There is nothing more disheartening than finishing eating a meal that I cooked only to find the kitchen overflowing with dishes (even if I don’t usually have to do them, thanks to my wonderful husband). That’s why I try very hard not to let that happen anymore. If I have downtime while I wait for the next step in the cooking process I clean up a bit. Maybe it is just throwing some dishes into the dishwasher, maybe it is washing a couple of dishes, maybe it is wiping down the counter where I spilled the flour for the 1,000th time (I’ve really got a serious spilling problem), but I do little bits here and there and it has made a huge difference in my ability to enjoy the meal I prepared both while I am eating it and afterwards, which then makes me more likely to want to cook again the next night.
3.Prep-as-you-go. Almost all recipes are written in such a way that you prepare all the ingredients before you even start cooking. This is called mis-en-place and it is great for restaurant kitchens but it is a useless time suck for home cooking. Instead, read the recipe through, think about the order in which things should happen, and then prep-as-you-go. So, for instance, if you are starting a recipe with onions and garlic getting sautéed in a skillet, chop those first and start them sautéing while you then chop the other vegetables. This may be a little bit challenging if you are not a fast vegetable chopper, but as you cook more, this will become easier and easier. So just plan it out based on your own ability—it will still save you lots of time!
4.Let the food be. Unless the recipe calls for you to stir constantly, hovering over the food doesn’t help it to cook any faster or come out any better and, in fact, will probably just increase your stress. So instead use that time to prep-as-you-go or clean up a bit, and then just check on the food occasionally.
5.Timers are your friend! Cooking can be a multi-tasking feat so use the tools that are right there in your kitchen (and on your phone) to help you to not have to keep track of everything at once. Set timers to remind yourself of when to check the rice, stir the roasting vegetables, flip the pancake, etc. That way you can do other things at the same time and not burn anything.
If these tips resonate or have made a little light bulb go off in your head, then join the 10-Day Cooking Challenge, which starts next Wednesday (January 20)! The Challenge is designed to teach you skills so that you can cook quickly, efficiently, and with less stress! Plus you’ll make delicious food that is good for your body and your wallet! What could be better than that?!