8 Small Cooking Habits That Make a Big Difference

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Being a good cook isn't just a matter of knowing the big, impressive skills you can show off to friends and family, like roasting a turkey or making challah bread. It's also about the small habits you practice daily, the ones that transform cooking into a more effortless and joyful part of your day. These 8 simple habits are easy to pick up, yet make a major difference in your cooking.

1. Make your cutting board non-slip. Putting a damp paper towel, damp kitchen towel or piece of non-slip cupboard liner under your cutting board before you start chopping will give you a stable surface to work on safely.

2. Keep your knives sharp. Regular honing will keep sharp knives in good working order. If they aren't sharp to begin with or are dull even after honing, it's time to stone them or get them professionally sharpened.

3. Wear an apron. Aprons protect your clothing from burns, food splatters, and even mysterious holes. They also provide a handy way to carry a kitchen towel.

4. Wear clogs or other supportive shoes. Comfortable shoes aren't a necessity when throwing together quick weeknight meals, but for big dinners or weekends when you are spending hours in the kitchen, they save you from back and leg pain, and protect your feet from spills or other accidents.

5. Carry a kitchen towel. Sure, have pretty tea towels hanging on the front of the stove for drying hands, but when there is serious work to be done, grab a plain kitchen towel, tuck it into your apron and use it to wipe up spills, grab hot pans and dry your knife in between rinsings. (Use a separate towel when cooking with raw meat, and keep plenty of clean ones on hand to change out as needed while cooking.)

6. Practice mise en place. You don't need to prep all your ingredients when cooking something simple, but when preparing a complicated recipe or one that comes together very quickly, like a stir-fry, this technique is a necessity.

7. Use a "garbage bowl." Collecting your scraps into a bowl, bucket or bag keeps your counters clear and save trips to the trash can or compost bin, making you a cleaner and more efficient cook.

8. Clean as you go. Getting in the habit of clearing counters and washing up as you cook makes cooking a much more efficient and pleasant experience, and makes post-meal clean-up less of a chore.

What small habits make a big difference in your cooking?

Related: Healthy Kitchen Habits: Cleaning Tip Roundup

(Image: Chris Perez, from Jeanine & Jack's Zesty White Kitchen)