Managing a kitchen is a tough job. Whether it’s at home or in a professional setting, a busy kitchen is a place where time management and safety concerns make for a high pressured environment. Whether you’re cooking day-to-day for your family, impressive dinner parties, or in a restaurant setting, these 6 tips will help you stay safe, and manage time effectively in the kitchen.
Safety in the kitchen is key. Between the high-powered electrical appliances, sharp utensils and high temperatures, a mismanaged kitchen can be a dangerous place. To ensure safety, be aware of all emergency procedures, and keep them posted in a visible spot. Keep your fire extinguisher within an easy reach in case of a grease fire.
Scalding is a high risk in a kitchen. Keep pot handles turned safely inward to prevent accidentally knocking them or splashing. Keep high-traffic areas clear of clutter and debris to avoid dangerous spills or falls. Avoid overfilling cupboards. Don’t overload kitchen sockets, and keep an eye on the stove.
One of the most important aspects of kitchen management is time management. The secret to good time management in the kitchen is to stay organized. Cleaning out your refrigerator and pantry regularly will avoid food-borne illness and clutter. It also helps you keep track of exactly what you have in your kitchen at any given day. Write expiration dates on everything in the freezer so that you can see them, especially if you pre-prep and freeze meals.
Keep the tools you use where you use them. For example, hanging pots up near the stove will mean they are out of the way but easily on hand when you need them. Hanging paper towel plastic wrap on a hanging rod instead of a standing rod will keep it at hand while maximizing counter space. Keep your pantry organized by using shelving and clear bins, so that everything is visible and where you need it. Use clear plastic containers for dry ingredients, and clearly label your spices. This keeps them easily recognizable so they are always at hand. Make sure everyone who works in your kitchen knows where everything is, and where it should be stored, to avoid confusion and mislabeling.
Whether you’re a novice chef or running a restaurant, you should always go into the kitchen with a plan. That means knowing everything you need, and everything you need to do with it. Know your recipe ahead of time, and make sure you have all the ingredients. Some recipes require marinades or sauces to be made and rested ahead of time in the fridge. Keep these labeled and in a space where it is easy to reach them when you need them, and they can’t be knocked over or spilled.
If you are buying frozen instead of fresh, be sure to take out the food the night before to defrost in the fridge. Make sure all the kitchen tools you need are available and functioning. For your own safety, you should replace any kitchen appliance that is malfunctioning. This includes making sure your knives are sharpened, and that you are using the correct knife for your purposes.
Industrial kitchens tend to separate their kitchen space into different work zones. This helps with organization, time management, and safety. No matter the size and layout of your kitchen, organizing into separate zones allows you to keep your food prep, cooking space, and cleaning area organized according to their functions. It’s also a safe way to avoid the spread of bacteria while you’re chopping multiple items.
If you cook with another person, you may need extra space for an extra prep area. If you bake often, you may want a separate area specifically for baking, and a specific cupboard for your baking equipment. Think of the best way to utilize the space in your kitchen. Consider using spaces like the inside doors of cabinets, by installing hooks, or using magnetized shelving or storage on the side of your fridge.
A spotless kitchen can lose its shine after a day of cooking, especially if your kitchen is on the small size. It’s also a danger. Bacteria in food can cause food-borne illnesses. Not having adequate space to work can cause dangerous spills and falls in an active kitchen. The best way to handle a mess in the kitchen is to clean as you go.
Put dishes you aren’t going to use again, like spatulas, bowls and spoons, directly in the sink, to keep them off of counter tops. Use pot protectors and oven mitts far away from the stove. Scrub your counters and wash your dishes as you go, to avoid transfer of bacteria, and save time cleaning afterward.
The single most important thing any restaurant owner will tell you, is to have the right team in your kitchen. Make sure everyone knows the kitchen safety rules, and make sure everyone knows their job in the kitchen. This is also true when you’re kitchen is at home. For safety’s sake, it’s a good idea to keep kids, especially toddlers, out of the kitchen while you’re working. We’ve already talked about separate sections for each cook to prep food.
Keeping safety rules visible for all is another good idea. Difficult and time-consuming jobs in the kitchen should be done first. This avoids cooking while fatigued, and also avoids the mistakes that can be made while cooking in a rush. Additionally If you have help in the kitchen, make sure everyone knows their job. This avoids interruptions and helps keep high traffic areas clear. Remember, in a kitchen, safety always comes first.
Managing a kitchen takes some considerations. It can be intimidating, whether at home or in a restaurant setting. With some extra time to prep, and a little organization know-how, you can keep your kitchen clean, uncluttered, and a joy to cook in. Knowing you and your family are safe, comfortable and confident in the kitchen, means you will find yourself able to successfully manage any kitchen, for your family at home, to cooking for dozens.
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