Organized Cooking

Joined Jul 13, 2010
Hi this is Jane and i am so much into cooking. I have been different dishes and menus for family gatherings, big and small parties and simply for everyday cooking. It seems that i am getting a little bit confused with my kitchen cooking and stuff especially when planning for big parties. I am also into catering and nowadays, i kinda piled up with things to do. Can you help me come up with a more organized cooking procedure. I usually do post-its, and a lot of written reminders at my kitchen cook board. This helps me, however, at some point everything messes up. I would appreciate any comment or suggestion that can make things work smoothly cause i really want everything to be organized. Thanks and have a great day!!! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Reading between the lines, I'd say you're having problems with time lines and mise en place.

Mise en place problems are the easiest ones to fix. Before starting to cook, make sure you have all the ingredients you need, in the correct quantities.

Do all your prep work so that once you start cooking everything you need is ready, and accessible. Make a mental (or written) note about duplicates. That is, if you're planning, say, five dishes, and three of them require chopped onions, do all the onion chopping at one time.

With your meeze ready, you can start to cook.

As to the time line, if nothing else works for you, try investing in a chalk board you can mount in the kitchen. Before starting to cook, lay out, in detail, what you have to do and when. Keep in mind wait time, and how to fill it productively. That is, say you are planning to bake bread as part of a meal. You might want to have dough mixing as your first to-do item, because you can then use the rise-time for other tasks. Etc.

Over time you'll find that establishing a time line becomes more or less automatic. But until that happens, there is nothing wrong with a written plan.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
To build a time line, I find I have to work backwards from when everything is supposed to be done. I have a wrinkled sheet of paper I use over and over again for Thanksgiving that has what needs to be done when all broken down for me. I haven't used it as much the last few years but I still review it at least once the day of Thanksgiving.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Either way is good, Phil. What's important, I think, particularly for a multi-dish meal like that, is that the cook have a fair idea of what has to be started, and when, so that everything comes together on time. A time line plan also helps with deciding what can be done ahead. Not only whole dishes. Very often, much of the meeze can be prepped the day before.

One thing that's sometimes overlooked by newish cooks, or those unused to multi-tasking, is that it isn't just the timing of individual dishes. You only have four burners on the typical home stove, for instance, and you have to coordinate when one of them will be free. There's probably nothing as frustrating as having something ready to fire but no open burner for it.

Jane: Again reading between the lines, I sense that your planning is dish by dish. That may be why the confusion.

Certainly you need to know how long each dish takes. But your time-line should be written to accomodate the entire meal. Written down, it will look like a series of unrelated instructions to yourself, because the "do it now" lines will not be sequential so far as individual recipes or procedures are concerned.

To give you an overly simplified idea, last night I grilled lamb chops, along with bok choy and sweet potato mash on the side. The bok choy takes about ten minutes, whereas the chops cook three minutes per side. Because the potatoes are done inside, I premade them, and reheated them to have with dinner. 

A written time line might look like this:

4:30: Remove chops from fridge. Bring water to boil. Prep sweet potatoes and cook until tender. Mash with flavoring additives. Set aside.

5:30: Rub chops with ras el hanout, brush with olive oil. Cut bok choy in half, brush with mustard oil. Turn on (gas) grill to preheat.

5:45: Adjust burner heat. Lay bok choy on grate.

5:49: Lay out chops on grate.

5.50: Turn bok choy.

5:52: Turn chops.

5:55: Transfer chops and bok choy to sheet pan. Set in microwave to rest. Start reheating potatoes.

6:00: Plate and serve.

Obviously, for something this simple, I didn't need to write anything down. But for a complex meal I most certainly would; particularly if there were guests involved.
Joined Jul 13, 2010
Hi there guys, I'm newly wed and I have to say I can be the worst cook you can ever meet. I wanted to impress my hubby with some stuff he has not tried yet. Dinner is the only tine we eat together so I would like it to be very special and I definitely need help from you, guys. Please recommend a one-week dinner menu and some other cooking tips. Suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks much!
Joined Jul 13, 2010
Time line - that's a good idea. It's like putting all things in one calendar of activities following every single step at a time. Thank you for your that suggestion. 
Joined Jul 13, 2010
Hi Sharrystew. First of all - Congratulations!!! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif. Planning for one-whole week of dinner menu is not that hard.  All you have to do is to make a balance of the ingredients that you can have each day. For example, you can have mashed potato and roast beef for Monday night, Tuesday night, you may wanna have pasta and garlic bread, Wednesday, how bout some steamed veggies and grilled pork ribs, Thursday have some fish fillet with tartar sauce and green salad, Friday you may want to prepare some burger patties which you can grill or fry. All these depend on your cravings. Mind you, all these are easy to prepare and cook. So Happy Cooking!!!/img/vbsmilies/smilies/drinkbeer.gif
Joined Jul 14, 2010
Hi JaneClark78

Cooking can sometimes be messy and i totally agree that things in the kitchen can sometimes be disorganized especially for large crowd cooking. I've been into catering and all i did was plan-cook-serve, for years. Since this is my field of interest, i did my research on how to make things in proper order. I too had that problem before of having too many reminders on my calendar board and sometimes things mess up that i had forgotten some things on my schedule. I did a good research and was able to acquire this product/software on the net which is called CookBook+Calendar. Sounds Good right? Well, this helped me a lot plan things out without any problem. This software is now installed in my laptop and comes in handy each time do some cooking activities. So why don't you take a peep of this one. I got it from this site: Now you can relax. Don't be stressed and enjoy our love for cooking. 


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Joined Jul 13, 2010
Hi Jane,

Thanks for that five-day menu.Now I am excited to get started. This sure has helped me lessen my worries thinking of a healthy and appetizing recipes. Please keep posting. I'll let you know how my husband will like them. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
Joined Feb 1, 2007

There's more then good food in store when you plan out a menu like that. It also helps keep your shopping organized, and helps you develop as a cook. Just be sure and include enough flexibility so that if something is on special, or piques your interest, you can make necessary changes to the plan.

Like all things, your menu plan should be a tool that helps you, not a straightjacket that binds.

One thing to keep in mind is that the total meal should be in flavor balance, just as each individual dish is. So you might try the approach I teach my students.

We use legal pads, only because they're almost large enough for a full week to be visual. Start by numbering the meals, leaving enough space between them to fill in all parts of the meal. Why numbers? Because it doesn't lock you into particular days. If, for instance, hamburgers are one of the meals, does it really matter which night you have them? Only if you're also having meat loaf that week.

Anyway, by each number you put a protein type. Sort of like:

1. Chicken.

2. Seafood.

3. Beef.

The goal here is to balance the proteins so that everything doesn't get to be samee-same.

Keep in mind that the "protein" entries should be broad, but that other forms could be thought of as different proteins. For instance, "beef" might mean whole cuts, while "chop meat" could be a different category. Similarly, you might divide "seafood" and "finned fish" into different categories. And so on. Nor is there any reason to not repeat categories if that's your desire. But if you have, say, two beef entries, choose different cuts and cooking methods when you get to that point.

Now, go back, and think about what you'd like to make for each protein. Write that down, with references to the recipe location (i.e., cookbook, recipe card, on-line source, etc.) Thus:

1. Chicken. Chicken-Tapanade Roll Ups.                Downloaded recipe 

2. Seafood. Crab cakes with remoulade sauce.       Recipe card.

3. Beef. Marinated flank steak.                              Meat  page 114

Once that's done, start filling in the sides and go-withs, again striving for overall balance. Depending on your style and desires, this might include:

1. Chicken. Chicken-Tapanade Roll Ups,  Downloaded recipe    

    Side: Rice

    Side: Succatosh                                 Recipe card

    Dessert: Raspberry Mascarpone Tart    Baking At Home   page 130

    Appetizer: Cauliflower Shrimp Salad     The Book of Tapas   page 53

Note the blank space after rice. That merely signifies it's a dish you can make off the top of your head.

Once you're done you'll have a complete menu plan that then serves as the basis for your shopping list.

I also recommend that you keep these menu plans, making notations about dishes you liked, ones you wouldn't make again, how you might change the recipe, ideas for other sides, etc.

I would also be careful about not biting off more than you can chew. If the main dish is new to you, and requires techiques you'll be learning as you go, I'd choose sides that you're already familiar with, or which do not require learning new techniques.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
With experience can come doubling, when you make potroast make 2 and have pot roast one night, sandwiches then make a shepards pie for the freezer, or enchiladas.

Some of the cookbooks from the 1950-60's have suggestions at the bottom of the page on what other options you can make....James Beard's cookbooks are loaded with them.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Some modern cookbooks do make recommendations like that. But, in general, they don't anymore.

Kind of ironic. In the '50s and '60s, when we'd learned to cook at our mothers' knees, there was less need for those match-ups. Now, when so many are new to cookery, and can use the pairing  help, they've all but stopped the practice.

A shame, really.

Doubling up is always a good suggestion. The key, as you note with the pot roast example, is to use the first dish as an ingredient in the second one, not merely serve left-overs as such. Indeed, if extra potatoes are made with the pot roast, then all the main incredients are in place for the cottage pie.

But it's only with families that making, say, two pot roasts is important. With newlyweds, where she's only cooking for two, a single pot roast is enough for recycling.
Joined Jun 27, 2010
I keep cooking organized by writing it down on my notes i called "to-do recipes". I plan everything a week before an occasion, party or even for the next whole week's meal. I Iist down all the ingredients for the recipes I need and go on from there. It's pretty basic but it works for me. Sometimes i list it down on my whiteboard on the refrigerator door just to double remind myself on what recipes to do. Hope you already have a solution to your dilemma Jane.
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Joined Jul 13, 2010
Thank You, thank you so much....Now I feel so excited cooking for dinner time with all these stuff you share with me. You're right sweetie, I need to come up with the simple sides first. I know I am not the best cook in the world but I can be one of them with all the things I learn from here. I bet your family enjoys a hearty and healthy food everyday. Let me drop by your house soon. hahaha/img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
Joined Jul 13, 2010
Hi tamtam,

I wanna learn more about that software you were saying and how can be helpful in the kitchen. Nowadays, laptops also part of the kitchen especially for research on food recipes and stuff. Please share how it works and how to get one. Hope it is not that pricey.



Joined Jul 14, 2010
Hi there !

Thank you so much for explaining a little bit of the software that is now installed in your computer.

Guess what, I came across and it seems this is also perfect for me because it includes costing as well as knowing the nutritional value of foods that we could serve.

Check this one out too and maybe it would be something that you could add with your application.

Thank you that you have introduced the product you have been mentioning and because of that I will be buying this weekend.

Now I feel so much better.

Good day dear!

Happy cooking!
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Sounds to me that you lack TIMING which no one or school can teach. This comes from experience and working with people who have been there..Software is not the answer. As the add says'''JUST DO IT''''  good luck
Joined Feb 13, 2008
I agree about 92.7% with Ed.  At the end of the day I think software is really going to help you that much, but also think "just do it," is a little harsh.

Timing things so you can everything on the plate at the same time, which is also the right time, does improve a great deal with practice as you become sensitive to all the little things to look out for, and become increasingly familiar with your recipes.

Some things impose their own timing changes.  Cooking for four requires different sequencs and amounts of time as cooking for forty, and you have to plan accordingly.

Ed is used to cooking for hundreds and hundreds, if you want to know about cooking in large quantities, you should ask specific questions and listen to him.  He is a fantastic resource. 

To my mind, there are a few things which really stand out in terms of planning and execution.

You need to know your equipment and its limitations.  If nothing else, larger quantities and residential pots and pans will often impose the need to cook in batches.  Cooking in batches also means a lot of cleaning in-between.

Be realistic about how many hot pans you can control at one time -- especially for saute or searing. 

Some pots and pans will be too heavy to use with large quantities.  Again, be realistic about your capabilities.   If a 12" pan is difficult for you, it's difficult.  

Never do anything for the first or second time if you're cooking for more than 6.

Divide your prep into several days.  If you need help the for the day before get help.  Plan on needing help for the day of.  That means asking (or hiring) in advance. 

Consider hiring a helper with catering experience.

Plating and/or plattering will take time.  Allow for it.  Plating and/or plattering will take SPACE.  Allow for that too.  That means as the end approaches, your kitchen can't look like a hurricane.  That's the way a lot of home cooks cook, but it creates havoc when you're working in quantities.  You can't jam 40 places into little places here and there amongst the detritus.  You really have to plan for the necessary space and keep it organized.

You really need to keep your space clean and organized as you work.  Wash whatever you can, whenever you can.  Keep everything wiped down.  Get prep off the board and into storage containers as soon as possible.  Label your containers if necessary. 

Clean and organize your refrigerator as part of your day-before prep.  You don't need week old orange juice.  Trust me.  As a place for short term storage the fridge is  less great if you have to jam stuff in and hunt for it later.

Don't be afriad to use large, insulated coolers to help a too-full fridge.  They'll also hold large roasts for hours. 

If it's the sort of even where people help by bringing food, make sure you know what their stove, oven, and refrigerator requirements will be in advance.

And so it goes,

Joined Jul 13, 2010
thank you for all your suggestions guys. Everything is noted here. It is just that i'm kinda looking forward to more cooking activities that need proper organization. It is not just about cooking for large-crowd parties but also, be training some other staff under my kitchen who will be working with me. Anything that will promote success is greatly considered. If TIMING and software both works together, why not grab all these opportunities. Nevertheless, these might all be good investment for my cooking. 
Joined Jul 14, 2010
Hello guys, Yes i would agree that TIMING is an excellent method for cooking but i just want to share this software that helped me lot come up with organized kitchen activities. Let me explain how the system works. Cookbook+Calendar is a program that you can install in your laptop or desktop. This user-friendly software can enable you to plan ahead for future menus, big or small all-day indoor or outdoor parties, you can also store a variety of recipes in it which you instantly browse on with just a click of the mouse. You can take control of every detail of activity that you want to have with this Cookbook+Calendar. It comes in handy too for grocery needs and also for diet planning and programs. You can search for any recipe at any time that is why this is very helpful when you are in a rush. Most restaurant managers use this software too because reservations and party plans can be easily organized. I find the price also reasonable because it is indeed a quality investment that you can have for your kitchen. Just check on this site:  and you will learn about the price and method on how to purchase one. I got mine online. 
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