Meal Preparation

Less stress with 5 steps

In my mind meal preparation is different than meal planning. While the two terms might sound similar to me one is how do you put the meal together meal preparation and what are you planning to make, meal planning.

In the past my meal preparation was always mixed up.

  • I would start prepping the food too late.
  • I would usually turn the pan on way too early and end up having a pan full of smoking oil.

I'm not sure why but it seemed like I always did it in that order. I was chopping and prepping the food, see the smoking pan, turn off the pan and go back to prepping.

Here’s a tip…

as you read a recipe and it states to heat the pan to medium heat, don’t heat the pan until the food you want to cook is ready to go in the pan.

So to keep the stress down when it comes time for meal preparation, Chef is going to give us 5 simple steps that we can use each time we begin to cook.

I can tell you step number one Chef does…he always does this step.

Clean the kitchen before starting to cook, so you have room to work.

I usually tried, unsuccessfully to cook in the clutter. I would have to move this or that out of the way in order to work...or get to the smoking pan.

I would often lose the spatula, tongs etc in the mess and end up getting out another kitchen gadget to replace the lost one…now I have two to clean.

5 Steps to Easier Meal Preparation

1. Clean

This allows for clear counters for food prep and it’s easier to find your equipment. An empty dishwasher and sink gives you somewhere to put your dirty stuff and a head start on cleaning. Remember to clean as you go. This is a key tip for meal preparation.

2. Check the refrigerator for items that may go with the meal.

A little left over roasted sweet potatoes will add a nice richness and color to my mashed potatoes for example. I can now use up a left over (perishable) and save the raw potato for another day.

3. Put all the food on the counter that you need and determine the order to start each item.

If I am making pasta and have a bunch of knife work (need to chop a lot of items) I start the pasta water, since it will take a while to boil.

Then onto the next task that takes time. The prepping part is where most people get distracted and then try to make up that time later…you can’t.

  • The idea is to think one step ahead and plan not just go one step at a time.

The goal is to have all my knife work done by the time I want to assemble food into the appropriate pans or oven etc. This is your mis en place… things in place (where you want them & how you want them.)

Professional kitchens always have their mis en place.

If I have a cook that can’t prepare their mis en place in time, I don’t have time for that cook, they move on to another kitchen.

4. Start to clean (again).

At this stage I have most of the prep done, some items cooking and so I put the unnecessary utensils, pans and whatever in the dishwasher. Because I started with the dishwasher empty, I can add the dishes that I’m finished with while the food is cooking.

5. Heat the pan/s and start assembling mis en place (food that is chopped and ready to cook) and start cooking.

Since I have everything "ready to go" once the pan is hot I can give all my attention to the process of cooking.

This is the fastest part and the part that needs the most attention. I watch and listen to the foods bubbling, searing, frying etc. They tell me what to do next.

The other 10% comes from passion, creativity, desire and preparation.

A Recipe is Only 90% of the Dish

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The only thing chefs have not been able to be creative with is gravity. We cannot levitate items so keep the counters clear and clean. Poor planning will force you to be creative, or stress.

Need Meal Planning Help?

Setting yourself up before you cook is one easy way to reduce the stress when cooking. Another cooking skill is to plan your meals. We know planning sometimes can be the hardest part.

We want to be your Sous Chef - and help you plan, so you can prepare with dinner with ease.

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No matter what the meal Chef always does these 5 steps. Starting out each time with these steps will insure you are set up for success.

In addition to following these steps, successful meal preparation can improve by having a good quality chef knife as well as confident knife skills.

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