If you’re planning a big meal with friends and family, figuring out time management for the entire meal’s recipes can be difficult. Here is a little shorthand to help you figure out what to do first & next so it all comes out piping hot when your guests are seated.

Take a Sec! Double Check!

The last thing you want is to read a recipe that uses the microwave which you thought would be super fast and find out that it actually takes longer to cook than expected. Rice is a fine example of this, because young cooks assume everything in the microwave is a simple quick fix, but the rice does take longer and needs to be fluffed too, in order to be tasty. This also applies with checking frozen entrees – if it’s in the freezer, the cook time will be longer because it will have to be thawed first. So take a sec – double check!

Meat Meat!

Like they say in tv news broadcasting, “if it bleeds, it leads.” While in the nightly news, this refers to physical attacks meant to be ear-catching, in the kitchen, the same phrase can be used to remember to start cooking meats first. Meats typically take longer to cook than vegetables, as they are very dense substances. If you’re creating a dish that has a meat entree, like a pot roast or a baked chicken, start cooking this dish first – you’ll have time to work on vegetables while it’s in the oven.

Oven On

If you need to cook anything in the oven, this is the next step to take – you need to do prep work to make sure the oven is ready when you are. Preheat the oven to the recipe’s recommended temperature.

Also, this goes for preparation of individual dishes as well, since two oven creations, lasagnas and dense baked vegetables like roasting a full spaghetti squash, typically take a long time to cook as well.
Please note: lasagnas, due to their layers, take longer prep time than other dishes. So if you’re making a lasagna, this one is going to need to be started first, even if you’re also making thicker vegetables (spaghetti squash or baked potatoes).

Rice Is Nice

If you’re cooking rice in a rice maker, this would be the next start, since that typically takes 20-30 minutes in the rice cooker, depending on the quantity of rice being prepared and the variety – long grain rice takes longer to cook than the shorter white rice. Also, just as a helpful tip – double check the amount of water you’re using – a stich in time saves nine as far as rice sticking to the bottom of your rice maker is concerned. And you’ll want to relax after your delicious meal, not worry about soaking that off.

Bubble Bubble Toil & Trouble

If you have to boil water, get that going after you’ve started the preheat on your oven. This way if you have any vegetables or sauce work, you can start that while the water is heating up. Also, if you have any custom sauces that are going to want to simmer for a good 20-30 minutes, now’s a great time to get that ball rolling, too.

Chop Chop

If you have any vegetables that are being cooked on the stovetop or vegetables with shorter cook times, say a stir fry, then you’ll want to chop at this point, now that the other, longer cooktime dishes are going. That way your full attention can be given to the stovetop when you’re tossing these in. After stir fry veggies, then the prepwork for salads.

There you have it! A handy order of operations for the young chefs with their first big meal. What do you think? Is this the best order or would you change it around? Love to hear from you!

Happy cooking,

Cindy & Eric.