Run Your Kitchen Like a Restaurant
Nobody knows how important it is crank out delicious meals quickly more than chefs. Whether it’s a local Applebee’s or that chic little French place down the street, expediency is the key to every restaurant’s survival.
As a home cook, you probably don’t have to prepare a variety of meals at once. Still, you’ve got plenty on your plate. Who wants to hang out in the kitchen any longer than they have to? We asked chefs from restaurants across the country for their top tips on kitchen organization. Here’s their collective recipe for getting more done in less time:
Keep Everyday Tools Handy
To avoid taking unnecessary steps, “keep the tools you use every day—such as tongs, a wooden spoon, spatulas, and whisks—in a crock next to where you work,” says Joanne Weir, author of “Kitchen Gypsy” and owner of Copita in Sausalito, California. Store kitchen tools you use often, such as a Microplane grater or zester, a thermometer, or meat skewers, in a flatware organizer in a drawer.
Station Seasonings Next to the Stove
“Keep ingredients for your favorite, go-to dishes in a convenient location, especially salt, pepper, oil, and seasonings,” says Fabio Viviani of the Bravo network TV show “Top Chef.” Store spices you use less often or in baking on a spice rack in alphabetical order so you don’t have to scramble when you’re ready to roll.
Stow Pots and Pans Above the Counter
Nicolas Bour, the chef at Humphreys restaurant in San Diego, recommends wall-mounted storage for pots, pans, cookbooks, and utensils. “A wall rack eliminates the rummaging and constant bending over to get pots and pans under the counter, and keeps everything you need during cooking within reach,” he says.
Batch Cook and Freeze
Not everything you order in a restaurant is prepared on the spot. Make-ahead meals are key for the speedy home cook too. “Make dishes in bulk and portion them out in containers to freeze for future use,” says chef Betty Fraser, co-owner of Grub in Los Angeles. Examples of dishes that freeze well include tomato sauce, chili, chicken soup, meatballs, cream-based soups, and braised short ribs in sauce.
“Label and date all freezer items—no more mystery meals,” adds Robin Miller, the chef-owner of Carb Free Café in Chicago. Once a month, rearrange your freezer and move the older items to the front and the new items to the back. Use the oldest items first—first in, first out, Miller advises.
Put Your Pantry in Order
“Store dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and panko bread crumbs in clear and labeled stackable storage containers so you can access them more easily and save on space,” says Karla Williams, the executive chef at Hilton Head’s Healthy Kitchen. Push the ingredients you cook with most often to the front of your pantry.
Yuki Horata—the chef at Mama Mia Italian Ristorante in Hollywood, Florida—says that, all told, to speed prep time, “Every item and ingredient in your kitchen should have an assigned spot.”