04/14/14

The Secret to Kitchen Success is…

Reading a recipe

…reading your recipes. Read Twice…then read twice more!

Professional chefs have a phrase they like to bandy around the kitchen. They call it the Six P’s:

“Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.”

Sorry, but we ARE talking about chefs, lol. You can shorten that to five p’s when working with kids. :)

Let me explain…

Some home chefs find a recipe they’d like to try, often one with a pretty picture, and assume that all they have to do is buy the listed ingredients and they’re ready to start cooking.

Honestly, I’ve done it many times myself.

This habit has probably led to more frustration and disappointment than any other single issue in the kitchen, and many a new home chef has thrown their hands up and said, “I’m just not a good cook!” when, in fact, what they’re not is a good planner.

Stumbling across a technique you’re not familiar with, say reducing a sauce, or deglazing a pan, and being forced to do a desperate Google search for a how-to video is NOT something you want to be dealing with while your sauce is bubbling away to a black mess in the pan!

When trying a new recipe, read it at least twice from beginning to end before you even go shopping, then read it again before you start doing any cooking.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists! Your free membership helps us teach valuable cooking skills to at-risk youth !

Set up your mise en place*, organize the gear and utensils you’ll need, maybe even jot down a quick timeline (starting at the time you want to serve, and working backwards, step-by-step, to your start time).

By reading the recipe twice, in advance, you’ll know if there are any steps or techniques you’re not familiar with, and either be able to research those, or decide if you need to put this one back in the box until you have more time.

You’ll find out if you’re missing a piece of gear  (it takes a LOT longer to mince 4 cups of veggies with a chef’s knife than with that food processor that the recipe calls for – believe me, I know!) By reading it again before you start cooking, you’ll determine that you have all of the necessary ingredients BEFORE you reach for something that’s not there.

Plus, you’re a lot less likely to skip a step (yes, it happens a lot) which can be the ruin of even the simplest recipe.

All of that said…don’t be a slave to a recipe either, even one of ours.

Unless you have a good reason to copy, exactly, the way the original chef prepared it, give yourself permission to add or remove ingredients, switch up a sauce, make it hot & spicy (or not). In other words, feel free to experiment with your  cooking – just be sure that you’re making choices intentionally, not in a panic to fix something you missed.

Cooking isn’t hard to do. Like most things, there’s a learning curve, one you can climb at your own pace.

Cooking shouldn’t be a frustration, either.  In fact, your best cooks will often say, in the midst of a seemingly chaotic kitchen, than the preparation of food relaxes them, puts them into an almost zen state. Let’s face it, chopping a bag of carrots is a heck of a lot cheaper (and more interesting) than a hour-hour with a therapist!

So, enjoy the process, read and re-read, and remember…Prior Preparation…

Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans.com

*Mise en place: A term our meal plan subscribers have become very familiar with, it’s a standard professional kitchen phrase meaning, “Everything in Place”. It’s the process of organizing your ingredients (having spices ready, cutting veggies and herbs, prepping meat, so that everything is ready in advance to be used as the recipe calls for. Mise en place can be the difference between kitchen frustration, and being a happy, successful home chef.

Read more about mise en place, in our article, here.

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