(Image courtesy of clipartkid.com)
And now, last but certainly not least…
Step 3: Use (and trust) your senses
Whether I’m making breakfast while packing a lunch or helping with homework while dinner is the in oven, I am often multi-tasking (read: distracted) while cooking. And that is why Step 3 is so incredibly important. If I don’t tune into my senses, meal prep would be a disaster.
What does that actually mean? You use your taste buds to taste the food. You use your nose to smell when something is cooking. You use your eyes to see when a pot is coming to a boil. You listen for the sizzle (hopefully ;)) when you sear a piece of meat. And you use your sense of touch to feel whether a cake is set or a piece of toast is crisp. But, it’s not necessarily that simple.
There are so many variables that affect what you are cooking. For example, your oven may be a little wonky, keeping the temperature a little too hot or not hot enough. Or, the size of the veggies you cut up may be larger than what the recipe recommends. OR, your meat is not quite the same size as the recipe suggests. You get the jist. That’s why it’s so important to use your senses and use cooking times as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule.
All this “use your senses” talk is all fine and dandy but how do you apply it?
Taste: Taste as you go. Example: Is your soup missing something? Identify what you can taste and what you can’t. That way you know how to adjust the seasoning accordingly before it’s too late.
Sight: Keep a least one eye on what you’re doing. Example: Are your veggies browning too fast? If so, turn down the heat. Not browning at all? You may need to turn it up or cook it longer.
Hearing: Listen to the sound of your food when it hits the pan. Example: Does it sizzle? If not, your pan is not ready. Alternatively, if it’s crackling and splattering, it’s probably too hot.
Smell: Use your sniffer. Example: Are you starting to smell what’s coming from your oven? Chances are, it’s almost done.
Touch: How does it feel? Example: Is your cake firm to touch? If so, time to poke it with a tester. If not, back into the oven it goes.
This third and final step is so important. It does take practice but trust yourself. The more you practice, the better you get. And, the better you get, the more flexibility you’ll have to multi-task and adjust dishes to your taste.