Becoming a better cook is more than just knowing skills and techniques. It’s also knowing how to organize like a cook, so that you start to think more like one. A well-organized kitchen will create a more efficient environment for prep, cooking, and cleaning. It’ll save you time and reduce that post-cooking mess that nobody wants to deal with!

Organize your kitchen like a cook, and you’ll start to think more like a cook.

Do you find yourself constantly running to the fridge or pantry for ingredients while making a meal? Does your kitchen look like it was hit by a natural disaster after each meal? Well, we’re gonna share our 3 Steps to Creating an Efficient Kitchen to help you clean up your act in the kitchen so that you can get comfortable in the kitchen and get dinner on the table a bit faster every night.

1. create 4 kitchen zones and organize items around those zones

Contrary to popular belief, a larger kitchen does not equal a better kitchen. Unless you have a small cooking staff or everyday is Thanksgiving dinner, a smaller kitchen is not only just fine, but often better. You can maneuver around more quickly, multitask more easily, it’s a lot less to clean, and you’re much less likely to load it with things you don’t really need.

Here are the zones:

  • Prepping Zone – where you prep all your ingredients prior to cooking
    • Tip: Choose an area where you have the most countertop space and try to keep the tools and ingredients that you mostly use during prep. These items can include a cutting board, a sharp knife, kitchen towels, a trash can, prep bowls, salt and pepper, and oils and vinegars.
    • Benefits:
      • It’s easy to put everything back when you’re done prepping.
      • Setting trash aside means an uncluttered work space.
      • Having ingredients in prep bowls means it’s easier to move them all to your cooking zone.
  • Cooking Zone – where you do all the cooking
    • Tip: Once you move your prepped ingredients to this zone, you’ll want to keep these items within arm’s reach to make cooking very efficient – tongs, wooden spoons, cooking oils, salt, and spoon rest (to rest your cooking tools, so your cooking zone won’t get too messy).
  • Clean-Up Zone – where your sinks is and where all the cleaning gets done
    • Tip: If you have a small kitchen, your clean-up zone is likely pretty close to your cooking zone. Save time by washing a dish or two, or loading up the dishwasher, while your soup simmers or you’re waiting for a pan to heat up. (However, if your clean-up zone is far from your cooking zone, this isn’t the best idea.) Remember, clean as you go for more efficient cooking and a tidy kitchen!
  • Putting Away Zone – when dinner is done, and it’s time to put things away in your fridge and / or freezer
    • Tip: Keep items that will make the end-of-meal task a breeze close to this zone. These items can be tupperware for packing leftovers, saran wrap, foil, and a magnetic white board and dry erase markers to keep inventory of what you put in your freezer.

2. Practice the concept of “mise en place”

“Mise en place” is French for “everything in its place,” and it’s a very important concept in cooking. Restaurants would not be able to prepare meals quickly if they didn’t already have proteins marinated and vegetables chopped before you put in your order.

You can apply this same concept at home, too! It’ll relieve a lot of pre-cooking stress and also keep your cooking space tidy and organized.

Tip: Read through the recipe first before you start cooking and make a prep list, such as 1) Season meat; 2) Chop carrots; 3) Dice onions.

As you prep each item, transfer the prepped items into prep bowls to clear out space on your cutting board and keep your ingredients organized. Items that get cooked at the same time can be put into one prep bowl. For example, if the recipe says to add onions and garlic at the same time, there’s no need to separate them into separate bowls. They can be kept in one. When it’s time to cook, everything is ready and organized and can be easily moved to the cooking zone.

3. clean as you go

Don’t wait till the very end of cooking before you start your clean-up (this makes cooking a lot less fun!). Here are some way to tidy up as you go:

  • After prepping, transfer prep tools to the kitchen sink before cooking.
  • If your cooking zone and clean-up zone are close to one another, wash a few of those prep tools while you’re waiting for a pot to heat up or a piece of meat to sear.
  • Stack up prep bowls when they’re done and move them straight to your clean-up zone. Set them into the sink or load them right into the dishwasher.
  • Call in reinforcements! If you’re not the only person eating, you shouldn’t be doing the cooking and the cleaning. Even young kids can learn to wipe messes or load non-heavy items into a dishwasher. Train ‘em early!

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