Cooking can be a daunting task, especially for somebody who doesn’t have a lot of experience. But learning how to prep your kitchen for cooking first can make it so much easier. By having everything ready to go, cooking can not only be easy, but enjoyable.
This article aims to simplify cooking for anyone, whether you find cooking scary or it’s just another chore that adds stress to your life.
What is prep work in a kitchen?
Prep work in a kitchen means preparing all of the ingredients ready for cooking. This can range from boiling pans of water to chopping vegetables. Doing this means that everything will be ready to go as soon as you’re ready to begin cooking. You can do some prep work way ahead of time. For example, you could prepare your meals for the whole week in one night. Or even the month! (Just make sure you’re following food safety guidelines).
Here is everything you can do as part of your prep work:
- Measure ingredients and seasonings
- Mix together dry ingredients
- Washing and chopping vegetables
- Cutting up other foods (such as cheese or meat)
- Boiling water
- Parboiling food
- Group ingredients for each recipe (if prepping for more than one meal)
What you do to prep will depend on what you’re cooking, and when you’ll be cooking it. For example, you wouldn’t need to boil water if you’re not going to use it, or if you’re not boiling anything until the next day.
How do you prepare food hygienically?
To ensure you’re preparing food hygienically, you should follow the four C’s of food safety at home. According to NHS inform, the four C’s stand for cleaning, cooking, chilling, and avoiding cross-contamination.
This step is all about making sure your hands, surfaces and equipment are clean. You will need to make sure that all 3 are clean before, during and after cooking too. Doing this will ensure that bacteria does not end up in your food, and therefore avoiding food poisoning.
Washing your hands
To avoid the spread of bacteria, you need to wash your hands before, after, and between each cooking task. Unwashed hands can lead to the spread of Salmonella, Campylobacter, MSRA, Impetigo, and Flu.
Below we have a helpful guide for good hand washing practice:
- 1: Wet your hands and apply soap.
- 2: Rub your palms together, and then rub each of the back of your hands against your palms.
- 3: Interlock your fingers with palms facing each other and rub together.
- 4: Wash the back of your fingers and under your nails by rubbing them into your palm.
- 5: Rub your finger tips in a circular motion into the palm of your hands.
- 6: Clasp your thumbs and rub them rotationally.
- 7: Clasp your wrists and rub them rotationally.
- 8: Rinse your hands with water, and then dry them using a single-use towel.
It should take you between 15-30 seconds to wash your hands.
You need to wash your hands before and after preparing food.
You need to wash your hands immediately after handling uncooked food.
Poor hand hygiene can spread Salmonella, Campylobacter, MSRA, Impetigo, and Flu.
Keeping your surfaces clean
To further prevent the spread of bacteria, you need to wash all of your worktops with soap and water before use. This also includes any chopping boards.
You will also need to wash your surfaces after preparing food. This is especially important if you prepared raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables.
You can also use kitchen disinfectant to kill harmful bacteria. Ensure you follow the instructions of the disinfectant.
How to keep your equipment clean:
Any and all cooking equipment you use needs to be washed with soap and water before and after each use. This means they will also need to be washed between tasks.
For extra precaution, we would advise you to use different utensils for uncooked and cooked foods.
Cooking equipment includes, but is not limited to:
- Appliances such as ovens, stovetops or microwaves.
- Cooking utensils, such as knives or spoons.
- Bowls, plates, or other containers.
- Dishcloths and tea towels.
There isn’t usually a lot of cooking, if at all, when preparing to cook food. However, if your meal prep does include any cooking, you need to ensure that you are cooking or reheating your food correctly. This is because harmful bacteria is killed by cooking and reheating food at the right temperature for the correct amount of time.
Before cooking anything, always read and follow the cooking instructions on the food label. Once cooked, it’s important to check that the food has been cooked properly before eating it.
As a helpful guide, here is how to check that different types of foods are cooked:
Chicken, duck, pork and offal
You will know when chicken, duck, pork and offal is cooked when:
- There is no pink meat (Remember to cut it to see if it is pink in the middle)
- The juices run clear
- The core temperature reaches 75°C
- It is steaming hot throughout
These meats should never be eaten rare or pink.
Beef and lamb
Steaks and whole joints:
These can be eaten rare, as long as the outside has been cooked. This will kill any bacteria left on the surface.
Burgers and sausages:
These need to be cooked all the way through. This is because harmful bacteria such as E. coli found on the surfaces of the meat may have made its way into the middle when minced.
You will know when burgers and sausages are cooked when:
- There is no pink meat
- The juices run clear
- The core temperature reaches 75°C
- It is steaming hot throughout
Fish, shellfish and crustacea
You will know when fish, shellfish and crustacea are cooked when:
- Fish flesh turned opaque, and flakes easily with a fork
- The core temperature of fish reaches 62°C
- Shrimp and lobster flesh turns opaque
- Scallops become firm and opaque
- Mussel, whelk and oyster shells will open (Important: never eat shellfish if the shell remains closed after cooking)
Some seafood can be eaten raw. But, you must ensure that the seafood you have is safe to do so. If you are not 100% sure, do not eat it raw.
Chilling and storing food
To keep your food fresh and safe from bacteria, you will need to store your food appropriately. This often includes making use of a fridge or freezer to chill or freeze your food.
Foods that should be put in your fridge include:
- Ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads.
- Cooked dishes
- Foods with a use-by date
If you have recently cooked food, you will need to allow it to cool before placing it into the fridge.
Food that should be kept in the fridge should not be kept outside of the fridge for more than four hours.
Most foods can be stored in the freezer. However it is always recommended to either check the label to see if it is suitable for freezing, or to do your own research.
Some safety precautions to keep in mind when freezing food include:
- Most food can not be stored past 3 months.
- Leftovers should be defrosted and eaten within 24 hours.
- Do not refreeze leftovers
(The only exception to this is if you defrost raw food, cook it, and then refreeze)
- Never freeze food past its use-by date
- All food should be placed in freezer bags or freezer safe food prep containers
Cross contamination is the spread of bacteria from one surface to another. For example, when raw food touches cooked food.
To stay safe, you need to do everything you can to prevent the spread of bacteria onto ready to eat food. To do this:
- Keep raw meat and unwashed vegetables away from each other at all times. This includes during preparation and storage.
- Use different chopping boards and cooking equipment for raw and cooked food.
- If you can’t use different chopping boards and cooking equipment, ensure that they are thoroughly washed between uses.
- Keep hands, cooking equipment and surfaces clean, especially after touching raw or unwashed foods.
- Keep raw meat in sealed containers when storing in the fridge.
- Never wash raw meat (the spray of water will spread bacteria into your sink and surrounding surfaces)
- Use separate shopping bags for raw and ready to eat foods.
- Wash (and peel if applicable) fruit and vegetables before cooking and eating.
- Wash these by rubbing them in a bowl of water to avoid splashing onto nearby surfaces.
- Keep unwashed fruit and vegetables separated from ready to eat foods.
Kitchen Tools for Easy Meal Prep
To make meal prep even easier, there are lots of tools and appliances you can use. Food preparation time can be significantly reduced through the use of additional cooking tools. They can also make it easier for those with mobility difficulties.
There are many different kitchen gadgets available now, but we will go through the most basic of items that every kitchen needs.
A must-have in every British kitchen, a kettle makes boiling water a really easy task. Taking just 2-4 minutes to boil, simply fill the kettle and turn it on. Whilst your water is boiling, you’re then free to do other food preparation tasks.
On average, a kettle can cost anywhere between £20-£200. This large price gap largely depends on quality. Cheap kettles tend to be made cheaply and are more likely to break early-on. More expensive kettles are usually made from quality materials, and often have added benefits. For example, some have a removable and washable limescale filter. This not only keeps your kettle water clean, but it will extend the lifespan of your kettle.
For a quality kettle with a removable and washable limescale filter, check out our range of aesthetically retro Smeg kettles.
Boiling Water Tap
Need boiling water even quicker than what a kettle can deliver? Why not invest in a boiling water tap.
Our range of boiling water taps will give you instantly boiling water at ~100°C, saving you a plethora of time. Our boiling water taps range from £470 – £2060.
Have a look at our full collection of boiling water taps, and see which is best for your kitchen and needs.
Blenders are most commonly used to make smoothies and other blended drinks. But they can also be fantastic for meal preparation.
Effortlessly blend together ingredients for salad dressings, dips, and sauces. Blenders are also fantastic for making soup too.
At Appliance City, we carry top quality blenders in a wide range of fun and bold colours.
Get the perfect match for your kettle with a Smeg retro blender.
With a massive range of capabilities, a food processor is food prep royalty.
Chop, grind, grate, puree, slice, mix, and knead your way effortlessly throughout your food preparation.
You can get yourself a decent food processor for less than £100. But, some come with advanced features which can dramatically increase the cost.
Another great appliance to use when preparing your meals is a stand mixer.
These are particularly helpful when baking. However they can also be fantastic for kneading dough, mixing meat, and, of course, whisking.
Our retro Smeg stand mixers will not only perfectly match your own Smeg appliances, but also come with 10 speed settings, many accessories for different uses, and anti-slip feet.
Lets not limit ourselves to prepping just for meals; you can also juice prep!
Using a juicer makes juicing fruits and vegetables quick and simple. And the great thing is that fresh juice can be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hours whilst still tasting amazing.
Up your pancake day game by juicing fresh lemons with your brand new Smeg citrus juicer.
Food Prep Containers
There’s little point to preparing your food ahead of time if you don’t have anywhere to store it!
Food preparation containers come in all shapes and sizes, so whatever you need to store you’ll be able to find a container for it.
Storing your food in containers makes it easy to separate ingredients, and prevents cross contamination.
We have many more kitchen storage ideas if you’re looking to de-clutter.
Reusable Food Bags
Much like food containers, food bags are ideal for storing your freshly prepared food.
Reusable food bags are better for the environment than single-use bags, and are also available in countless colours and patterns. And the best thing of all is that they’re often really cheap.
Many online recipes now come with cup measurements, and not just the American ones!
Many people have had to adapt to using cups as a measurement. But it can be annoying needing to convert everything from cups to grams or ml when using scales or measuring jugs. Measuring cups takes out the middle-man and saves you time.
Simply scoop up your ingredients, scrape off the top, and you’re done!
For those that find cooking a struggle, prepping your kitchen for cooking can transform a daunting recipe into a fun cooking experience.
By preparing food ahead of time, following proper hygiene practices and using the right kitchen tools, you can streamline your meal preparation, minimise stress, and ensure that your dishes are not only delicious but also safe to eat. All without a single cooking class!
So, roll up your sleeves, stock your kitchen, and cook with confidence.
If you have any questions about the mentioned small appliances, our expert sales team would be more than happy to help. Give us a call on 0115 965 1937.