Find out what the pros know. KITCHEN ORGANIZATION 101
Keeping your equipment, tools, pantry and work space neat sets the stage for successful cooking.
6. Fresh herbs are for finishing. “Even if a recipe calls for herbs at the beginning of cooking time, feel free to add some chopped herbs at the end,” says Tara Bench, recipe developer and author of Live Life Deliciously. “This will enhance the essence of flavor cooked into the dish, plus it looks amazing.”
7. Salt your salad greens. Even if you’re using a dressing, add a pinch of salt to your salad greens just before tossing to brighten the flavor.
8. Brine your chicken. Brining boneless, skinless chicken breasts will make all the difference in flavor and juiciness. Dissolve ¼ cup coarse salt in 2 cups of warm water then stir in 2 cups cold water. Add the chicken, cover and chill for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
9. Buy spices at ethnic markets. Asian, Middle Eastern or other ethnic markets not only tend to be less expensive than supermarkets, but the spices are usually fresher, too.
10. Balance flavors.
The key to great flavor is a balance of sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami (savory), says chef Sara Moulton, host of
Sara’s Weeknight Meals
on PBS and author of
Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101. If you go too far on one, you can fix it by adding another (for example, a touch of sweetness can balance acidity, and salt can fix bitterness).
11. Account for pan color. Darker-colored pans absorb more heat than lighter ones, resulting in more caramelization – great for roasting vegetables but not so much for a delicate cake. For the latter, lower the oven temperature by 25ºF.
12. Mellow out your garlic. To tame garlic before adding it to dressings and sauces, place it and a small amount of fat in an unheated skillet. Heat on low; when it begins to sizzle, cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
13. Use all five senses. “Learn to intuitively use all five senses,” says Teri Hull, cooking school manager for Stonewall Kitchen. “Smell the aromas and sometimes the burn, know what food looks like when it’s fully cooked, listen for a healthy sizzle and know what too much sounds like, touch your food to gauge the proper firmness, and, most importantly, taste as you go.”
14. Build flavor in layers. “If you’re going to braise, make sure you sear first,” says James Peisker, cofounder and COO of Nashville-based sustainable butcher Porter Road. “Sweat the onions and bring out their natural sugars. Let tomato paste caramelize to bring out those rich, deep flavors.”
15. Use ingredients in unexpected ways. Fish sauce can add a touch of umami to a salad dressing; miso can take deviled eggs to a whole different place.
16. Avoid clutter. The kitchen is often the hub of a home, which means things can accumulate there. Keep mail, kids’ homework, items for recycling and other clutter from piling up. Carve out a few minutes every day to tidy up.
17. Freeze responsibly. Label containers with the contents and date, and include any special instructions, such as how to reheat. Store like with like to make inventory easier; for example, keep frozen produce in one section, frozen meats in another, prepared meals in another.
18. Cycle through frozen items. At least once a week, go through your freezer and use up items to prevent overcrowding and overbuying.
19. Manage your pantry. Go through the shelves and pull out bags or boxes with just a little bit left, and make plans to use them up (top muffins with those stray oats; add the last bit of rice to a soup). Create a system so you know where everything is, frequently used items are most visible, and older items get used up before newer ones. Invest in clear containers to store items that can get stale, such as crackers, or that can spill, such as dried grains or pasta. 20. Have a go-to pantry meal. “Master at least one recipe that you can make entirely from pantry and freezer staples,” says chef and Clean Eating contributor Sarah Sweeney. “This will help eliminate the urge to order in when your fridge is empty. My go-to is tuna puttanesca, using canned tuna, canned diced tomatoes and olives. I bulk it up with frozen spinach or kale.”
21. Refresh your dried herbs and spices. Dried herbs and spices lose their potency over time; generally one to three years for dried leafy herbs like oregano or basil, two to four years for ground spices like cumin or paprika, and three to four years for whole spices like caraway seeds or allspice berries. If a spice has faded in color and fragrance, it’s likely past its prime.
22. Use up less-popular spices. We all have that jar of something we bought for a recipe and never used again. Find a recipe that utilizes it, or simply add it to neutrally flavored dishes like scrambled eggs or chicken breast.
23. Upgrade small tools. “Invest in simple upgrades that make a big difference,” Hull says. “Replace those old veggie peelers and can openers, or buy a new cutting board.”
24. Speaking of cutting boards...
“A cutting board that slips around can result in inaccurate cutting, and it also poses a safety risk for your fingers next to a sharp knife,” Bench says. “To stabilize your cutting board, place a flattened, damp paper towel under it.”