Bad habits are very easy to come by in cooking. Just the other day, I was able to come up with 9 kitchen habits that I was guilty of and set a goal to break them all. Some have been easier than others, but all have made me a better cook, which in some cases means better food! Take a look at the bad habits that might be slowing you down in the kitchen.
- Not Double Check the Recipe – While you may, at first, be all–“wait I thought you said before that you don’t really follow recipes–why do I have to?” Let me be the first to admit that I have ruined recipes with such oversight. Even though you might be in the throws of prep, take a few seconds, reread your next steps and recenter.
- Wasting Water – Having come from apartments with low water pressure, it’s been an adjustment to a brand new faucet with loads of pressure–literally. Do you ever think about how much water you’re using when you are cleaning fruit, hand washing dishes, or just washing your own hands? You may be able to ease up on the flow, and in the long run you’ll save some water (and your spouse will stop giving you expectant sideways glances).
- Making A Mess – This one is nearly impossible for me to fix because it’s really a two parter–not only clean as you cook, but also making sure that you prep so that you don’t spend the whole time cooking scrambling for ingredients and measuring implements. Measure your spices (or at least put the measuring spoon next to the spice on the counter), wash your veggies and get them cut up, and consider timing of each addition. Then you will find that you have more time to clean as you go. You’ll also be well ahead of the curve if you check your dish mat and dishwasher to make sure they have room for the incoming dishes. Look at you! You are so well-prepared for this recipe!
- Leaving the Oven Door Ajar – Have you ever caught yourself staring that the muffins with the oven cracked open? You’re letting out important heat! Close the door and check them through your oven window. Can’t see anything through yours either? Might be a sign that it’s time for a deep clean. If you must open the oven to check on things, wait until you are close to full baking time. Do not check things within the first 5-10 min as you are removing heat at a time that it’s crucial for rising or other early development.
- Not Tasting – Who doesn’t love eating raw cookie dough? Why not extend that idea to other items. Winging a recipe? So long as there’s no raw meat involved (I’m cool with raw egg), dip a (CLEAN) finger in and take a taste. You should get a pleasant idea of where your recipe is headed. It’s pretty likely you’ve under-salted too, by the way, so throw a few more pinches in for good measure.
- Wasting Paper Towels – The below items are my newest addition to our kitchen and they have put me over the moon. Previously we’ve always had just pretty towels in the kitchen. They don’t do too much, which increases our dependence on disposable items like paper towels. There’s a better way to do this. Order yourself some new towels and use them! Apartment Therapy just did an article on some different options available. I went with the flour sack towels through Amazon, and you could not wipe the grin off my face the first morning I used them. They are white, so they can sit right next to your pretty towels and not clash. They are faster drying, more absorbent, and easy to clean. Have I convinced you yet? How about this–they come out to about $2 per towel.
- Distractions – Turn off the TV, set the day’s events to the side, put on some light music, and become one with your meal. Trying to gather ingredients while you’re cooking also counts as a distraction! Avoid long phone calls, or guests talking to you while you’re cooking–work to get everything done before guests arrive so that you can enjoy their time fully. You will be less likely to over mix something or (oops!) drop an ingredient in much too soon (guilty).
- Not Having A Dinner-Ready Table – Setting the table each day will keep it from turning into a landing strip. I can tell you off the top of my head that on my kitchen table right now there are no eating utensils nor plates. It’s covered in food props (placemats), motorcycle gear, photography lighting, and magazines. Embarrassing? Yes. Easy to fix? Sure–set a precedent for keeping a clear table, set and ready for dinner (or the unexpected dinner guest). Your kitchen will thank you.
- Forgetting What You’ve Got – every 2-3 months I go through and clean out our pantry, veggie shelf, and fridge (or at least I start in one spot and try to make it through them all). During this time, I am purging, but more importantly I’m working to incorporate what we already have into a meal or snack. Crystalized ginger? Hmm perhaps it’s time to make some cupcakes. Lots of open bottles of vinegar? Looks like we might be doing some fun salads with oil/vinegar dressing this week. I’m sure it all makes sense–have some fun with what you’ve got! Get cooking!