Over the years, I have (almost) perfected my workflow when it comes to cooking. Whether I’m working on a new recipe or something I’ve made hundreds of times, my steps for cooking are the same.
If you are a beginner cook, then this is a great place to start. If you’re someone who has been cooking for years, this may help you if you are struggling with a recipe. If you are a pro cooker, well then maybe you can leave me a comment if I’ve missed something here.
Read Through The Recipe
This is probably my biggest piece of advice for someone who is just starting to cook more often. Always read the recipe. Read it through the entire way, all the ingredients, all the steps, all the tips. And if it’s on a blog or online, read the comments to see if anyone has made some suggested changes or figured out any hidden tricks to make the recipe easier. By reading the recipe, you will have an idea of what you are doing, and know when there is a step that requires you be quick or constantly stirring so you can plan accordingly.
Get Ingredients Ready
Prep all your ingredients. A lot of recipes will have things in the ingredients list such as 1 onion, chopped. Before you even start cooking, chop up that onion so it’s ready when the time comes. Or maybe it’s butter, softened. I even made a few things that call for heavy cream or cream cheese to be at room temperature and that takes some time so it can’t be rushed. Not only will this help you get everything ready, but you will also be double-checking that you have all the ingredients you need before you are in the middle of cooking and have to figure out a substitute (been there, done that!).
Prep Your Utensils/Cookware
Same with the ingredients, I find it helps to prep your utensils and cookware as well. Are you going to need a large saute pan and a medium saucepan? Then go ahead and get those out and set them on the oven. If you are going to need a pasta spoon and a whisk, set them on the counter so they are close at hand. I hate when I am working on a dinner and realize the pizza cutter is in the dishwasher and now I have to either stop what I’m doing and wash it or ask Justin to come help me and wash for me.
Determine The Cooking Order
If you are making only one recipe, then just follow the instructions. But if you are making a meal with a main dish and a few side items, then you want to decide what order you need to cook it in so that everything is warm and ready at about the same time. Also, look for any downtime you may have in a recipe, such as while something is baking, and use that to get something else cooking.
Plate Food As Needed
Sometimes, while you are cooking, there’s nothing to do except to plate some of your foods. For example, if you need your saute pan to cook the main dish, but need the same one to get the vegetables sauteed, then you are going to have to move the food somewhere. At this point, go ahead and start to plate your food and just cover it with a paper towel or similar to keep it warm.
Keep Foods Warm
Think about what will get cold too quickly, and make that last. If you are making a vegetable with dinner, more than likely that will get cold quickly, so you want that to be one of the last things you make. On the other hand, if you have something in the slow cooker then it can sit on warm while you finish up your other foods.
Last, but not least, set the table. Whether you are just having some grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for dinner or having a full holiday meal, some things will need to be brought to the table. Set out the plates, utensils, and cups at the least. Most nights, that’s all that’s really set at our table. When we have a larger meal or have people over, we usually set the table a little nicer. No matter what meal you are working on, there will be some table setting that needs to be done before you can sit down to enjoy the yummy food you’ve made.