These tips from our Test Kitchen will help you cook like a pro

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My job as a Southern Living food editor has allowed me to be a part of some amazing and informative situations: I have watched a whole hog being smoked in a roasting box on our back patio; I've observed years of our classic Great White Cake come together like works of art; I've had fresh Gulf oysters delivered to my desk in a Styrofoam cooler secured with duct tape. Some of the most awe-inspiring times, however, have been spent watching our Test Kitchen professionals–masters of kitchen organization–create, seemingly without effort, one great recipe after another. I figured there had to be some lessons there for me and other home cooks who struggle with organized cooking.  So here are some takeaways from our Test Kitchen team on how to become a well-organized cook.

Keep Your Pantry Organized: Know What You Have

This is an on-going process, because if someone puts the peanut butter on the wrong shelf, your whole system is out of whack. But it isn’t difficult to put a system in motion, and it really pays to be diligent. Think about what you use most, and keep those items at arms reach. If you bake a lot, keep your flours and sugars on a shelf that is eye-level where you can easily reach them (you can also see immediately if you are running low). I know I am preaching to the choir when I say keep canned goods such as tomatoes and beans together, group cooking oils, vinegars, and other non-refrigerated condiments together, and then grains and pastas can have their own shelf or corner. Figure out your own system and stick with it, and before long you can grab a bottle of balsamic vinegar with your eyes closed.

Maintain Proper Utensils: Know Where They Are

Having the right tools can help you prepare a recipe faster and with less mess. Along with measuring spoons, keep a set of both liquid and dry measuring cups, as they are specially designed to more accurately measure their respective ingredients. You also want to keep your knives clean and sharp; a dull knife is difficult to work, causing a lot of frustration, which leads to cuts! Have a place for everything; like the pantry, keep spatulas, wire whisks, and mixing spoons organized. Either assign them to a specific drawer or keep the items you use most often in a container close by your work station.

Check Supplies Before You Start Cooking

Have you ever gotten half way through a recipe only to discover you don’t have any all-purpose flour or your springform pan is dented? Now that is disorganization. To paraphrase an old expression, proper preparation prevents a poor performance. The simple act of checking supplies and organizing your ingredients and utensils before you start cooking will keep your kitchen from becoming a chaotic mess. And on that note, before you even power up the mixer go ahead and measure your dry and wet ingredients, crack the eggs, and grate the cheese. Having all the prep work done will help you stay on track with the recipe.

Clean Up After Yourself

Mama was right, after all. Clean up your mess and put things back where they belong, and everything will be in order the next time you need it. Period. 

WATCH: Tips For An Organized Kitchen

These are all so easy to do and remember. Proper organization is the difference between a stress-free kitchen and absolute chaos.

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