Good Question: Cooking w/o Making a Mess

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Dear The Kitchen,

How do you cook neatly, without making a mess? I am just getting into cooking and would like some tips.

Thanks,
Olga

(photo: Belly timber.com)

Olga,

What a question! I'm sure we'll get a lot of answers to this one; I tend to believe certain people thrive in a messy kitchen and others work best under neat conditions. It's hard to "change" yourself, although I will say that in culinary school, where you are forced to be very tidy and clean, many students confessed to being previous mess-makers while cooking and felt "reformed." Being a neat cook myself, I can't imagine cooking in a messy kitchen, but there are those days where things get a little out of control.

If you'd like to try being more neat, here are some tips:

Plan your attack: know what you're cooking, when it needs to be started, how each dish will be timed, etc. Then prepare your mis en place (everything in place) - which means any measuring of dry ingredients or liquids is done ahead of time, as is all washing and chopping.

Clean as you go: try to wash dishes as you cook, and if you can't multi-task this much, see if someone will help you in the kitchen as you cook, washing anything that will not be used again and putting it away.

Allow enough time to get everything done: haste makes waste.

Good luck!

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.