A lot of people don’t like prepping before cooking because they think it’s a waste of time (it actually saves you time in the end). Well, I sometimes I hate cooking when I come home from work, but I do it anyway. I always hate washing the dishes after dinner, but I do them anyway too! See where I’m going with this?
A recipe is like a set of instructions, but instead of putting together a dresser from Ikea, you are assembling dinner. And I can almost 100% guarantee you dinner will be faster and easier and result in fewer curse words.
Have you ever tried putting something together without making sure that you have all the required parts? That is such a big no, no, but tempting when you are in a hurry. Trust me, your lack of effort will cost you more time. A few months ago I bought a towel stand for my bathroom. I hastily put it together only to realize that the stability bar – a crucial piece – was missing. Needless to say I had to disassemble the stand and return it to the store. I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my time if I had just taken inventory first.
A recipe requires the same attention.
Regardless of what your mother or grandmother might have told you, no one is born knowing how to cook. Sure, you can pick up things here and there in your childhood, but no one is born wielding a wooden spoon, spouting out a recipe for the family sauce. No, cooking is a learned art. That’s why there are schools for it. And you, too, can master the art with a few helpful tips. For me, it’s all about the prep.
Read through your list of ingredients and make sure you have everything you need before beginning. If you are going to make substitutions, be sure you have the right equivalents. If the recipe calls for brown sugar, granulated sugar won’t usually have the same effect. If something calls for 1 cup but you only have ¾ of a cup, you will have to adjust the entire recipe based on the difference.
Don’t just read through the ingredients, read the entire recipe – twice if you have to. If you don’t understand any of the terms (such as double boiler, blanching, etc.) do a quick google search to help you. You want to avoid any surprises that might be lurking in the directions. Say you are making sugar cookies to bring to a party later in the day. Skimming the recipe, you see that they only take about 5-8 minutes to bake, so you wait until the last minute. What you didn’t see was that the dough needs about 2 hours to chill. Now what?
It helps to prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time, before beginning to cook. Get yourself a nice set of prep bowls and rinse, peel, chop, and slice away! Setting everything in front of you will help you to check your inventory and ensure that you have everything you need. It also makes it easier to follow the directions without stopping to prepare more ingredients. Here is when you should get out the pots and pans that you will need as well. There is a reason most recipes come with a prep time. (And why all television cooks have their ingredients ready when the show starts – it saves time and energy.)
Now that you are completely prepped, there shouldn’t be any surprises. You have your ingredients, your cooking utensils, and your deciphered recipe. You are ready and set to start cooking!