- Wear the appropriate clothing: It may sound silly, but just like wearing business attire makes you sharper and more professional at work, the same can be said for the kitchen. Pull back your hair, tie on the apron, and wear comfortable shoes that cover your toes. You'll be appreciative if a knife or something very hot or heavy falls near (or on) your feet.
- Read the recipe, then reread it again: Familiarize yourself with the recipe including the list of ingredients, tools, and techniques. It helps to be confident about the next step in the cooking process, so you may only need to glance at the recipe while watching the food.
- Set up your mise: The French term mise en place means "setting in place," and it's the process of prepping all of the ingredients and pulling out all of the equipment needed ahead of the cooking time. Use small glass or aluminum prep bowls and organize them according to the order you will use them. You'll be amazed by how much easier it makes the actual cooking process, so you are not scrambling to measure or chop something quickly.
- Keep the area clean: A dirty kitchen is a sign of a scattered, stressed cook. Develop the habit of returning ingredients back to their proper place in the pantry after using them, and quickly rinse and store dirty bowls in the sink. Keep a damp sponge handy to whip down any spills. Cleaning as you cook is a win-win situation: you won't have to do it later, and you'll feel better organized and in control.
- Practice, practice, practice: Ultimately, cooking fast requires practice and a lot of it. Professional chefs chop cases full of vegetables before they dice perfectly cubed, confetti-like brunoise. By your third try in the kitchen, you'll start to channel Julia Child and have the utmost courage of conviction behind the stove.
What lessons have you learned that have made your food prep more efficient?