Top 3 Tips for Getting Organized in the Kitchen

Working as a personal chef has taught me a lot about being efficient and staying organized in the kitchen.  My clients are interested in the results I give them, not how long it takes me to achieve them, so it was in my best interest to work as efficiently and professionally as possible.  I'm not interested in working at breakneck speed or cutting corners, but as I cooked more and more, I realized simple decisions like where I stood in the kitchen or what order I did things in, often shaved down or added to my time considerably.

As I began to offer private cooking classes and one day intensives, I noticed that I'm not just teaching recipes, knife skills and seasoning.  I'm also sharing how to be more minimalist and organized in the kitchen too.  When you are surrounded by clutter and dishes and feeling generally chaotic, it can zap the fun out of cooking, making it less likely that you'll want to do it everyday. 

Obviously your home kitchen doesn't need to run like a professional one, but there are a few techniques I've adopted in my business that have helped me stay organized in my own cooking and have helped my clients be faster and have more fun in the kitchen as well.

My Top Tips for Getting Organized in the Kitchen and Saving Time:

1. Mise en place...with a twist.

In restaurant kitchens, we use the French phrase mise en place when prepping.  It means "putting in place" and refers to all the little bowls and containers filled with chopped ingredients that are ready to go when you start cooking.  It allows you to make sure that you have everything you need and that cooking will run smoothly because you won't have to stop halfway through to slice some onions.  You can mimic this technique in your home kitchen by chopping all your ingredients first and placing them into separate bowls before you turn on the stove.  But chances are you don't have that much counter space and also...who wants to wash 13 bowls when you are just making a stirfry?

I started to mise en place using a half sheet tray or baking sheet (see above photo).  I line it with parchment paper and then create neat little piles of my prepped ingredients until they are ready to cook.  Then clean up just involves tossing the paper and rinsing the tray.  Also just having one tray next to my cutting board is a lot less clutter than countless bowls, which instantly makes me feel more relaxed.

2. Work next to the stove.

Open floor plans have really accentuated the kitchen as the central location in the home, which means that vases, appliances, toys, mail, and documents are all taking up prime location on the kitchen counter.  When you go to cook, you are often clearing away clutter first or working in a remote area of your kitchen, not because it's the most convenient but because it's the one area that doesn't have the coffee pot on it.

In order to speed up your cooking time, leave a 2-3 foot area next to your stove (or close by) totally cleared at all times.  Then whenever you want to cook, set up your cutting board and mise en place sheet tray next to the stove so you can chop and cook without having to run from one side of the kitchen to the next.  

One funny thing that I've noticed cooking in other people's homes is that the bigger and more glamorous the kitchen, the longer it takes me to cook!  It's really just because I have to take 5-10 extra steps from the sink to the stove to my prep area.  Multiply that a couple dozen times and you can see where the extra cooking time appears.  Try to close that gap as much as possible by working next to the stove and your overall kitchen time will be reduced.

3. Use a garbage bowl.

This is a technique I stole both from food tv (thank you Rachael Ray) and from restaurant kitchens.  Instead of peeling carrots over the trash can or running back and forth to it after you trim each item, keep a designated mixing bowl to the left or right of your cutting board and throw all trash in that.  Then you'll have just one trip to make to the trash can when you are done prepping.  Similar to working next to the stove, cutting down on these short little trips can easily turn a 40 minute meal into a 20 minute one.  

So these are my favorite ideas for saving time in the kitchen and getting organized.  What are yours?  Share below.

Want to get more organized in the kitchen?  Read more about Private Cooking Classes or email me to inquire about a One Day Intensive.