Guest article contributed by Spoon Fundraising Director Kevin Xie ’15.

Often times we bull-rush our way into the kitchen intent on whipping up something fantastic for the gang or that special someone, but without a little planning and strategy, it can soon devolve into absolute chaos and embarrassment.

1. Set up beforehand.

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Photo courtesy of Dartmouth student Erica Hsu ’15 from The United States of Erica

Many new chefs tend to get overly excited and jump right into whatever they’re cooking while forgetting a crucial part: prep. Take a couple of minutes before you cook to get comfortable with your cooking environment, making sure you know where everything is and planning out the order for your dishes.  

2. Maximize efficiency.

cooking tips

Photo courtesy of Earth911

One of the main contributors to kitchen anxiety is devoting an inordinate amount of time to a singular aspect of the meal. Rather, allocate your time wisely and efficiently to. For example, have a waste bowl handy for scraps and peels so that you’re not taking multiple trips to the trashcan. 

3. Be versatile.

cooking tips

Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

Kitchens can often get cluttered very quickly due to all the ingredients and tools needed. Get the most out of your kitchen tools by being versatile and creative. For example, vegetable peelers are wonderful for grating thin slices of cheese and chocolate as well.  You don’t need a million different pieces of equipment to crank out a delicious meal.

4. Waste not.

cooking tips

Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

Always make the most of your ingredients and leftovers.  This not only saves costs, but it also saves time the next day in prep and can lead to some creative combinations.  Innovation is what drives great chefs as they experiment. Leftover boiled potatoes?  Mash them or make some homemade gnocchi the next day.  With some ingenuity, you can make your ingredients (and your dollar!) go a long way.

5. Don’t fight the process!

The Joy of Fresh Oranges!

Photo courtesy of Cobalt123 (Flickr)

Cooking is about having fun in the kitchen.  If you’re stressed out all the time, you won’t enjoy yourself and will be less likely to go into the kitchen the next time.  Try switching up your routines, experimenting with new ingredients and getting out of your comfort zone.  Remember building all sorts of different things with Lego blocks as a kid?  Cooking is like that, playing around with fundamental ingredients and making a big mess.  Instead of sugar, try some freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice to give your dish some surprising fruity kick.  Build on what you know and branch out!