Batch Cooking: Part 2 of 2
So yesterday we started talking about Batch Cooking, and how it can make your life so much easier. I mean, what’s not to love about cooking only once a month?!
Today, we’re diving into the actual kitchen work, taking your batch cooking from idea to reality.
Step 3: Prep to Prep
Prepping before you do your prep work is like stretching before boot camp. You want to jump right in, but you’ve got to get a little warm first. Here are a few of my tried and true rules for a successful start to your kitchen extravaganza.
- Eat a solid meal. You don’t want to go into this hungry for obvious reasons. This also applies to Step 2.
- Start with an empty sink and dishwasher, a clean counter, and fresh dish towels. You may even wish to wipe down the fridge and freezer. If possible, tuck away any kitchen appliances not involved in the process and put the tools you’ll need out in their place.
- Gather your recipes. I put mine in plastic page protectors because I’m a mess in the kitchen. (Hence using paper recipes instead of putting an electronic device on my kitchen counter.) It’s also a good idea to put them at eye level. I like to stick the recipe I’m using immediately to the stove hood or tape it to a cabinet for quick reference.
- Dive into your pantry, fridge, and cabinets. Group your tools and ingredients. Pull out everything you need and divide it by recipe. Little things like letting butter soften and eggs reach room temperature ahead of time will make your day go much faster.
- Plan the order in which you’ll be cooking. I group by things I can cook simultaneously. If the spaghetti sauce needs to simmer for an hour on the stove, I can get two loaves of pumpkin bread mixed and baked in that time.
- Create a holding space for items that will need to cool before you can divide them into their storage containers.
- Plan for your time commitment. The point of batch cooking is to create a large quantity of meals from scratch. This is not a quick fix. Are you cooking for a day, or splitting the work into two? No matter how you cut it, you’re going to clock a lot of time on your feet. (Here’s a great time to wear your pedometer!) Take breaks, drink water, have a seat or stretch, and walk away for a few minutes if you’re feeling burnt out.
Step 4: Let the Cooking Begin!
We’ve finally reached the fun part! Pour yourself a big glass of water, turn on your favorite cooking music or a podcast you’ve been meaning to catch up on, and get rolling.
Allow appropriate time for cooked foods to cool before preparing them for storage. It’s a good idea to keep a food thermometer on hand. Always maintain cleanliness and basic food safety. If you are creating crock pot freezer bags of raw meats and other ingredients, you may want to consider getting these done and put up in the freezer first.
If I’m creating an old standard, I usually make it to family taste and specifications. If there’s a new recipe on deck, I like to make it to specification the first time, taste as I go if possible, and tweak as needed. Also, if you’re converting an old recipe – say a recipe that includes white flour or butter to a Paleo recipe, check to make sure that your ingredient tradeoff is as close to one to one as possible. This is your party, so enjoy it!
Step 5: Package Your Product
We’re almost finished! Here are a few quick and clean tips for packaging freezable meals for freshness:
- Freeze liquids flat in two layers of gallon zip bags. If the bag is folded over, it’s harder to thaw. The same goes for cookie dough, sauces, etc. Stack these flat bags on top of one another once they’ve frozen. Not only are they easier to thaw, they become easier to store and see, and you maximize freezer space.
- If you’ve created any sort of burrito or sandwich, wrap it in parchment paper or plastic before rolling it individually in foil for freezing.
- If possible, freeze energy balls, cookie dough, and other serving size items preformed. Roll your individual pieces, place them in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up, and then place in a bag.
- If your household won’t eat an entire batch of sauce, soup, chili, casserole, etc. in one go, divide into servings before freezing. This might be better done in a plastic container with a lid than in bag. Be sure to store upright.
- Label each item. It is also helpful write preparation instructions on the outside of the container or bag to save time later.
- If you’re super OCD like me, you may wish to keep a freezer inventory so that you know what you have and how many servings. You can use this later to plan the weekly menu.
- Note the date the dish was made and frozen. You’re stocking up for the foreseeable, not forever.
Step 6: The Home Stretch…Dishes!
Congratulations! You’ve just prepared a treasure trove of fresh, healthy, homemade meals for yourself and your loved ones! Now somebody needs to clean up this mess…
I prefer to clean as I go. My kitchen isn’t huge, and when it’s a wreck, it’s smaller. Between batches, during cooling time, or when the oven and stove are both rocking is a good time to do a few dishes. You may like to do all of the cooking first and then clean in one go. Consider enlisting some help, or pour a little wine and enjoy being done…as soon as you hit “start” on the dishwasher.
Finished? Turn off the kitchen light and be secure in the knowledge that if you don’t feel like cooking tomorrow, you don’t have to!
Bon appetite, Mamas!
Peace, Love, & Burpees,