I recently took a chef position at an upscale restaurant. I’ve worked in kitchens before, but nothing as classy as where I work now. In college I was a janitor and dish washer in our local dining hall. I also worked for a chain restaurant for a bit. While those places had systems and structures, they where nowhere near as well run as my current kitchen.
I am a systems and structures guy. I love patterns and organization. I thought my home kitchen was set up and run well. I have since begun changing some of my home patterns to bring them in line with my restaurants.
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Many of you could learn a thing or two from professional kitchens too. Simple tips and techniques and secrets could make your own kitchen safer, cleaner, and more easy to work in.
Here are my tips for making your kitchen look and feel like a professional one.
Ok, so if you are the only one in your kitchen, this tip is not for you, but it is a great habit for anyone to get into if there is more than one person in your kitchen. Restaurant kitchens are noisy places. Everyone knows where the other is and what they are doing. It has to be that way. If I didn’t know you were behind me, I could bump into you. That means at least an inconvenience, but could be much worse if I had a knife or sizzling hot pans on me. Safety is a prioroity, and that means we all need to know everything about the other person.
I’ve begun to use this over communication at home. If I am going behind my wife, I say loudly, “Behind.” Carrying a knife? Announce, “Sharp.” Walking across the room with something hot? Say, “Hot!” Even when I enter or leave the room, I’ve taken to saying, “In,” or “Out.” These five phrases will tell everyone where you are and how dangerous it would be to get in your way, and visa versa. It may feel strange at first, but it will become second nature, and you will be better off for it.
2. Sharp Knives
in my post about how to buy knives, I talked about how sharpening them is a priority. Dull knifes cause more accidents in the kitchen every year than anything else. Instead of cutting through the food, they slip off of it. Professional kitchens know this, and they can’t afford an accident. Beyond insurance and workers comp, having someone go to the ER on their shift means they are a person down. That’s no good. Keep your knives sharp. That means sharpening them often. Depending on how much we have chopped, diced, and minced that day, we may sharpen the knives two times a shift. Of course a home cook doesn’t need to sharpen their knives everyday, but once a week should be the goal.
“Simple tips and techniques and secrets could make your own kitchen safer, cleaner, and more easy to work in”
Professional kitchens are not afraid of heat, and I don’t mean spice. We have to cook dishes fast, which means either half the food is par-cooked, or we cook at a high temperature. The oven at my station is set to 450-500º F. We cook pizza, veggies, and a few other dishes in there. Most home recipes call for an over of 350-375º F. Restaurants would never get any food out at the cooking rate 350º gives you. You can cook on high temperatures at home, too. It is a little riskier. You have to watch the food more closely. Theres a greater risk of burning the food or drying it out. If, however, you can perfect cooking hot, you will cut your cook time in half, or more. That’s a good thing.
4. Hanging Utensils
If your home kitchen is anything like mine, some of your drawers are a mess of cluttered utensils. When you need a whisk you have to push past your can opener, measuring cups, and meat thermometer. To get the big frying pan you have to move all the smaller ones stacked on top of it. Instead of drawers and nesting pans, try hanging them. We have hung our pots and pan in my house for years and it makes grabbing them way more convenient. I can also switch pans with ease because they are all hanging above my stove, only an arms reach away. Hanging utensils lets you quickly see where everything is, makes it easy to grab something on the fly, and if done right, looks pretty cool, too.
If you watch cooking shows or chef competitions you may have noticed they all have a towel over their shoulder. That is not a TV thing, it is a professional cook thing. Everyone in the kitchen I work for wears a towel on one of their shoulders. There are a few reasons for this. First, you don’t have to look for a potholder, and as I already said, professional kitchens are hot, so a potholder is a necessity. Second, you always have the ability to dry your hands after washing them. Third, you have a safety device when dealing with sharp objects. I wear a towel in my home kitchen at all times. So should you. It is a useful thing to have.
These are not the only thing that professional kitchen do better than the average home cook, but they are some of the bigger ones. By implementing this list you will have a safer more efficient kitchen that you will love spending time in!
Have you worked in a professional kitchen? What would you add to this list?