The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Home Cooks
Anytime you’re learning a new skill, whether it be cooking, knitting, a sport, or anything else, you should always take time to learn the rules first. When you take the time to learn the rules of the game you become a master of the foundational aspects of it. In turn, you will be able to form your own habits, strategies, and tactics that work best for you.
Momma Chick and I have been cooking together a long time. She taught me, Baby Chick, the rules of cooking early on and ever since I have been finding ways to work better in the kitchen according to my own style. New habits have formed throughout the years. I’ve researched how many chefs work, think, and act in the kitchen and have come up with a list of rules and habits to help you get started in the kitchen too!
Below are the top 7 habits (of many) that great home cooks can agree on:
- Make Planning a Priority: Every great cook has a plan of attack before starting to cook. Do you have all of the ingredients? What about cookware? How will you use the space in your kitchen for each step? Read the recipe all the way through so that you know what to expect, have the proper amount of time set aside, and avoid any mistakes in the process.
- Give Yourself Time: Most recipes will tell you the approximate, total time it takes to make the recipe. This total time is usually given by the chef who has made this recipe a thousand times. Ignore it. Give yourself the time you need to prepare and make the recipe. (Note: You should not ignore the cook, bake, sauté, etc times – those are instrumental to your success)
- Know Your Ability: Ever see the movie Julie and Julia? Remember when Julia Childs took that huge sack of onions and chopped them until she mastered the skill? You should do the same in your approach to cooking recipes. Decide what kind of food you’d like to learn to cook. Choose the most basic recipe, master it, and then move on. If you start with advanced level cooking, you’ll get defeated and miss reaching your true potential. (NOTE: This applies to entertaining people. Don’t attempt something new. Stick with what you know)
- Take Notes: We all cook differently. If you decide to change up a recipe, or your oven or stove cooks hotter than the recipe calls for, note it. You’ll be thankful when you return to that recipe at a later date and everything you learned is right there waiting.
- Stay Organized: A chaotic kitchen does not help you succeed. Cooking can be stressful, so give yourself a head start by staying organized before, during, and after the event. Have your knives, spoons, spatulas, and other tools kept clean so they’re ready to go. Clean as you work through the recipe, rinsing dishes and such so when you’re not stressed when you finish. An easy way to do this is by keeping a bowl or trash can near your workspace to discard any unused, or garbage items. Lastly, be sure you have an organized recipe system so when it’s time to cook there are no questions about where to find what you need.
- Mise en Place: This is french for “putting in place”. It means that you should prepare your ingredients ahead of time by chopping, peeling, measuring, etc. everything you need. When it’s setup, it will save you time in the kitchen and help keep your stress levels at a minimum. It will also ensure that you do not have to rush through to the next steps.
- Choose Quality, Not Quantity: Every great homecook agrees that the quality of the meal is more important than the quantity of it. Think about it: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Applebees, and many other fast food and chain restaurants focus on the quantity of the food. Personally, I’d prefer my food to taste like that of a gourmet restaurant than a chain, so quality is the way to go. This is easier to do if you focus on seasonal, local ingredients.
Not too bad right? If you plan, prepare, and execute effectively every recipe you create will be delicious! What other habits do you think should be included on this list?