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Ask the Well Done Chef: 8 Tricks to Find Time To Cook?

a photo of me making homemade vanilla extract

Find time to DIY - you won't be sorry you did

About a week back, I put out the question on Twitter, Facebook and this blog:

What’s stopping you from making it yourself?

The #1 answer won by a long shot: There’s not enough time to cook it by myself.

I can totally identify with that. You arrive home, it’s late, the kids have to go to karate, dance class or swimming lessons, there is that report that you are 3 days late on, and dinner has to fit somewhere into there.

No wonder you all reach for the premade stuff, or worse, through the drive-thru.

Here are a few thoughts to fix that:

  1. Stop f&*ing around. Put away the email, Facebook, Blackberry, Twitter for at least an hour and get cooking!
  2. Plan your meal for the next day. Notice i didn’t say the whole week, or month. I find that you should be a little more flexible. I like to name the days of the week by protein. For instance, Monday could be chicken. What that meal will be depends on what I have on hand, or what is on special at the grocery store. This week it might be star anise braised chicken legs with fennel.
  3. Prepare most of the dish the night before. If you have figured out what will be the dish for tomorrow, the preparation will go much more smoothly if you spend a few minutes preparing your steps to the point before cooking. For example, you might have a stir-fry dish. Chop the onions, carrots, celery, peppers the night before and put them in a container. Marinate your pork. That way, you can just toss them into your wok and cook them up. That is how we do it at the restaurant. We don’t cut up our items to order, Mise en Place!
  4. Adopt and use a slow cooker. It is not exactly sexy, and sometimes can be downright different. I will tell you a secret though – nothing is more awesome than knowing in the morning that tonight’s Cacciatore chicken is finished. I set it to cook overnight and put it away in the morning before I head to work. Some rice or noodles, and dinner is ready.
  5. If you must watch TV, consider moving it into the kitchen. I learned this from my MIL. I can’t stand the TV in the kitchen, but some people might actually like to cook and watch the tube at the same time. Combine the two activities, and get more done. Watch your fingers while you are cutting though!
  6. Pick a day and cook! As crappy as it is, if you have Monday and Tuesday off, cook some meals ahead on one of those days. You will thank yourself when you have those crazy days where you can barely think, let alone cook and get everything done.
  7. Press your family into service. Turn off the TV, unplug the computer, do whatever. Get everyone involved somehow. I always thought that cooking should be a family event.
  8. Learn how to cook. Read magazines, this blog, other blogs for ideas. Think in your mind on how to make the dish following the above advice. (Prepare most of the dish in advance.) Try not to have the same old thing all the time, unless your family really digs that. The reason I pick proteins for the day is to keep it fresh. I can’t imagine serving Cacciatore chicken every Friday.

What do you think you could do to find more time to cook?

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • vanillasugar July 11, 2010, 10:19 am

    gosh if i didn’t find the time to cook i would explode. it’s like working out for me–it must be done.
    and #8 is exactly the reason i cook the way i cook; i see something in a book, magazine, or tv and think why didn’t they add this? hence the creativity begins…

  • Jason Sandeman July 11, 2010, 10:31 am

    @Dawn – I agree. Something in me just needs to… now, if I could only apply that to excercise! LOL

  • Sudeep July 11, 2010, 7:44 pm

    Cooking is an art and yes it needs some planning I agree. But once you master the art you really need one hour to get some nice dishes out. Why not just master couple of basics and then use them to do different variations.

  • sippitysup July 12, 2010, 8:04 pm

    It’s like you read my mind. I have been considering just making my own vanilla and I see from the pic that you have too. My big question is this. I have been considering making it with dark rum. Whaddaya think? GREG

  • Jason Sandeman July 12, 2010, 9:32 pm

    @Sudeep – I think I may have an idea about a post… thank you sir!

  • Jason Sandeman July 12, 2010, 9:33 pm

    @GREG – Dark rum would be nice. If you do, make sure you send me some!

  • John K. July 16, 2010, 8:59 am

    Great post! It’s so easy to let a busy life keep you from doing things you enjoy — like cooking for those of us who read your blog. I have more time for cooking on the weekends, so I do most of it then. I plan for some leftover meals and go to town. Lately it’s been big batches of meat in my smoker. Brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey breast. Those are delicious the day of cooking, and make for wonderful main parts to weekday meals. Pulled pork pizza…brisket soft tacos….smoked turkey salad (one of my favorites!).

    I like all of your suggestions….especially number 1!!

  • Jason Sandeman July 20, 2010, 2:17 pm

    @John K – Thank you for the kind words! I would love to be in your back yard, with your smoker and all! I can’t imagine pulling off a whole smoked hog… great! Now you have me salivating!

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