This Smart Trick My Neighbor Taught Me Makes Me a Better (More Organized) Cook
While I’d love to be one of those home cooks who has a bunch of recipes, tricks, and facts memorized, I’m not. Sadly, “mom brain” and time has come for me and, while I might have had the conversion from ounces to grams in my brain at one point in the past or had once been able to make my favorite chocolate oat bars without looking at the cookbook, I simply do not have the storage in my brain anymore. It’s full of kids’ sport schedules, work deadlines, emotional trauma, and, for some reason, celebrity trivia.
Fortunately, my neighbor showed me a smart trick that has helped me be a better cook: taping information into cabinets.
While it might look unseemly to tape information to the outside of a cabinet (excuse me while I quietly move the school lunch calendar), hiding info inside the cabinet is a great idea for keeping need-to-know facts at arm’s reach without having to have cookbooks strewn about or a million tabs open on your phone. I used to have to google “what are the proportions for the no-knead bread recipe?” multiple times a year before this trick. Now, I tape the “recipe” (if you can call it that), onto the inside of the cabinet where I keep the flour.
In the back of most cookbooks are conversion charts that are relevant to the information in that cookbook — usually things like how many teaspoons to a tablespoon to a cup, etc. — but also what substitutions one can make in a recipe and how the recipe might need to be adjusted as a result. If you make recipes from these cookbooks often, remove the conversion chart and tape it near the spices, or in the cabinet above your measuring spoons and such.
I mostly remember how hot the internal temperature of meat needs to be — especially during grilling season when I’m frequently making the same things — but I’d hate to mess up (is it 135 or 165 degrees?) and serve undercooked food. To prevent this potentially dangerous misstep, I tape the temperatures for common meats and cuts (ground beef vs. steak, etc.) to a cabinet near the stove so I can double check before serving.
If you’re the main cook in the house but sometimes have a backup (such as my neighbor who is usually in charge of food but frequently travels for work, leaving her less experienced husband in charge of feeding their kids), it might be a good idea to tape some tips to the inside of cabinets for these occasions. My neighbor says she puts instructions for how to cook rice and how to clean the cast iron pan in a cabinet for this purpose. If your sous chef finds this condescending, gently remind them of the time they made EZ Mac and skipped step two (add water). This is a true story, but not about my neighbor’s husband (you know who you are). Simple kitchen instructions can also be a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen.
While there are many “kitchen hacks” that involve a trip to the store or a remodel of some kind, this simple trick is free and an easy way to keep information where you need it for when you need it. In a high-paced kitchen like mine (the kids are mean when they’re hungry), it’s good to have the information right where I need it.