Hi, Elise!

My question for you is about organizing your time in the kitchen.  It seems like when I make anything more complicated than a one-pot meal, I have a very hard time getting the timing of each component right. My steaks gets cold while I am feverishly mashing the potatoes, or my burgers morph into hockey pucks on the skillet while my french fries sit in the oil, refusing to brown any faster. I am embarrassed to say that I often have to reheat each plate in the microwave, as my hungry family sits, waiting, so close, yet so far from dinner. How do you successfully structure your time as you’re cooking so that everything comes out hot at once?


Discombobulated in the Kitchen


Dear Discombobulated,

First of all, fear not. You are not definitely not alone! Your question is one that is asked often.

Time Management: The first thing I address in every cooking class is the menu. I share with my students how important knowing how long each item takes to cook is. Knowing this will help you determine the order in which your food needs to be prepared. This will help you get everything out on time. We always start by starting with what takes the longest to prepare or the longest to cook. Once the food is completed it may have to stay warm and this is what I do:

A 200 degree oven will just about keep anything you have cooked up warm enough until you are ready to sit down. If you are concerned about drying out your food, simply place a baking dish filled with water in the bottom of your oven. If you are trying to keep something warm like a crispy chicken do not place water to your oven; steam you do not want!

Warming drawers: I adore my warming drawer and can’t imagine life without it now. Warming drawers are great additions to the home cook’s kitchen. The drawer can be a part of the oven or a separate appliance with its own thermostat. Warming drawers heat at lower temperatures than are achievable in a conventional oven, making it good for warming foods without burning them. The more you cook or entertain, the more likely you will be to use your kitchen’s warming drawer. I love my warming drawer and even use it to proof bread and pizza dough. It is also great for warming up bowl, cups, plates, and… leftovers!

don’t feel bad about serving one pot wonders. They are wonderful!  Who doesn’t love having their meal all in one pot? It not only saves you time not having to wash so many pots and pans, but it is all done at once. You are not cooking three different recipes: consider things like casseroles, pasta dishes, soups and stews.

Keeping it organized and clutter-free as you go: Keeping your kitchen clean as you go along; washing items right away, putting things back in the pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer, immediately discarding items in the trash or in the recyclable bin will also help you stay on time, be more organized and will ultimately leave you feeling less “discombobulated.”

Take help from your slow cooker: While slow cookers obviously take a very long time to cook, they are an invaluable tool. Once set up you can leave them alone to do the work for you. The end result is a one pot wonder filled with flavor. Not only will your slow cooker help you get your meal out at once, but it will help you save money. Inexpensive cuts of meat are often used in slow cookers. The slow-cooking process, breaks down your meat to a tender pot of, well, food heaven.

I see many warm meals in your family’s future!

Elise xo