I think there's nothing more important than staying organized and clean even if you're cooking at home. I always say that a cluttered space is a cluttered mind and makes it easy to create mistakes or even accidents in the kitchen that can be easily avoided. Here are a few tips for cooking efficiently and cleanly when cooking during the holidays (or any day)!
December Cooking Hacks
#1 Get your dishwasher ready
Have your dishwasher ready to go by being clean and empty so you can get rid of dirty dishes immediately and never clutter your sink. There’s nothing worse than cooking a dinner and realizing your dishwasher is already full and needs to be emptied before you can put all of the other dirty dishes away. You will stay more clean and organized by doing this simple step first.
#2 All hail the garbage station
Make a garbage station on your counter while you're prepping so you're never working into a trash can. I always need a bowl next to where I’m chopping and cooking to use to put all the scraps that are for compost or trash. This way, you’re not bending or hurting your back over a trash can the entire time that are on the ground. Save your back and energy by using some kind of bowl to dump everything in as you're cooking and then you can dump that out in one shot when you're cleaning up.
#3 Secure your cutting board
I always want to secure my cutting board before getting to work so I'm not chasing my board around as it slides on the kitchen counter. There are two things you must do before using your cutting board. First, always put a damp towel underneath the board to prevent slipping (this could save you a finger!). Second, if you're using the board to slice anything that might be juicy like cooked meats or ripe fruits, I always put the board in a sheet tray to catch any of those juices. That way, everything is contained in one area and won't create a mess on your counter.
#4 Labeling is your friend
I label things religiously with masking tape and a sharpie so I know what everything is and when it was prepared so the refrigerator, freezer and dry storage is not a mess. Once some things are frozen, it can be hard to tell what they are, so labeling is also important for that crucial reason. I live by the FIFO rule: “First in first out” mentality - dating is crucial to ensure the oldest product gets used first so things don't go bad!
#5 Glove up!
I use latex gloves when I'm cooking even at home. If I'm working with raw meat or anything super greasy or messy I like to use gloves to speed up the process and to prevent contaminating other surfaces and having to spend time scrubbing down so often. I like to scrub down once everything is complete. On a similar note, try to do all your produce prep first if possible so you can use the same cutting board for your proteins right after without the risk of cross contamination.
Photos by Alex Lau