Follow these 5 tips to help take the stress out of cooking and baking and give you better results. They may be basic, but they’re useful for everyone, from beginner to experienced cook.
1. Wash your hands and find your apron
When you cook, you’re always washing your hands:
- Before you touch any food
- After you’ve handled raw meat or fish
- If your hands get sticky from handling pastry or dough etc
Make wearing an apron when you cook a habit and you will save your clothes from spills and splashes. However careful you are, one day it will happen – I speak from bitter experience!
2. Read through the recipe
It’s a great temptation to just start cooking, but reading through first does help to:
- Spot everything you will need, e.g. grater or sieve, and get it out
- Remind you to get ingredients such as butter and eggs to room temperature before you start
- Make sure you understand all the techniques used
- See if you need to add in time for chilling or standing
3. Get out all the ingredients and equipment you need before you start
This isn’t something that I’ve always done but I always get all the ingredients out first now because:
- You don’t leave anything out
- You don’t end up searching for an ingredient you don’t actually have or you’ve mislaid
- You are calmer when you cook
Likewise, with equipment:
- You don’t have to stop half-way through to search for something
- If you are baking a pause can affect the results
- You can focus on the cooking and enjoy the process
Don’t forget your oven gloves!
4. Do your prep
Preparing ingredients and equipment before you start cooking means that everything is ready and the process runs more smoothly. Even though I’ve been baking since I was a child, I still find this makes a ton of difference to my state of mind (calm vs. dashing about) and the dishes turn out better for not waiting while I peel the potatoes or wash the cherries.
Some recipes give you clear preparation instructions, but if not, scan through the recipe to find what to do, e.g.:
- Turn the oven on before you start making the recipe
- Grease and/or line baking tins and dishes
- Wash, trim, peel, chop vegetables and fruit
- Juice, zest, grate, sieve as required
- Put eggs in warm water to bring to room temperature if necessary
- Soften butter in the microwave (carefully) if it’s needed at room temperature
- If you need hot water, boil the kettle
- Weigh everything
5. Clear up as you go along
Very boring and tedious, but it has to be done. Take advantage of the time when:
- The mixer or processor is going
- Food is cooking without needing attention
- Food is chilling or standing
During that time you can:
- Put used ingredient packets away
- Throw out vegetable peel, empty packets etc.
- Wipe down surfaces
- Load the dishwasher
- Run a sink of hot soapy water for utensils to soak in
- Start the washing up
So, start to take the stress out of cooking, but most important of all, keep calm and enjoy your cooking and baking!