I used to work with a young Chef at Osteria Del Circo, and he would always tell me things like “work swiftly, not quickly” and “work smarter, not harder”.
I’ll never forget it because HOW you do things really matter.
An efficient kitchen is a smoothly run kitchen. The definition is as follows:
- achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.
- (of a person) working in a well-organized and competent way.
1. Mise en place and organization is at the base of all of this. Grab all the items you need ahead of time, including tools. Always keep your most used items accessible. For example, oil in squeeze containers, salt in a salt cellar and peppermill. Spices don’t need to be alphabetized; instead organize them in the order that you use them most. I hardly bake, so all my sweeter spices and the like are up higher where I don’t need to grab that often. Everything should have a “home” that everyone in the household knows where it goes – just like the flatware drawer. This way you don’t have to think twice, you just move.
2. Plan/Prepare -This is part of Mise En Place too! Cook it in your mind first. When you envision what you will be doing, it will help you mentally prepare. Believe it or not, it shaves off time, because your brain knows what to do when you put it into action! After a few weeks of doing this, it will become second nature. You will know instinctively what tools and ingredients to grab and what you can prep ahead given your schedule. For holiday prepping or larger meal prepping, it’s helpful to create prep lists and see it on paper. You can use my system to help plan your meals.
3. Knife skills, Workflow, Task Breakdown (link)- Obviously, having proper knife skills make you quicker. Workflow is is how you set yourself up when prepping. Working in a logical direction without a lot of extra movements. This is task breakdown, and I recommend it for any job that has multiple steps. Inside and out of the kitchen
4. Clean as you go – I know you’ve heard this before, but what it actually means is “resetting” your station every time you do something new. When you finish any task, like chopping onions (and now they are in the pan cooking) wipe down your area and cutting board; think of what can be put away, like tools or spices you are no longer using. This helps bring you back to a clean slate and helps you work smoother.
5. Knowledge + Technique – I say this time and time again, but it boils down to this. Without techniques and methods there are no recipes. When you cook freestyle, you focus on the techniques and methods and experiment with flavors instead of recipes. This helps you also save time trying to read a recipe back and forth to try and follow it exactly.