Illustrations by Jenny Mae Wong
It's no secret that cooking can be very stressful. Between the time it takes to prepare a meal, the constant worry about whether or not you have all of the ingredients, and how well received your meals will be after all of the effort you spend in the kitchen, there are more than enough reasons for someone to feel stressed out while cooking. Luckily, with 9 simple steps, anyone can significantly reduce their stress level without sacrificing any of their favorite meals!
1. Purchase all of the ingredients for your dish in advance
Make a list of all the ingredients needed before you go to the grocery store. This ensures you won’t forget a key ingredient and thus ruin your result. The second level of stress reduction stemming from pre-planning your shopping list is not overspending your budget on impulse items. Arrange them all on the countertop so you won't be scrambling to find them while cooking.
2. Prepare everything before turning the stove on
If you are not used to cooking or trying out new recipes, make sure all the ingredients are chopped and ready to go in the pan. This way, you will be less likely to burn or overcook anything. Trust me, the actual cooking process is so much more enjoyable when all you have to do is reach and pour or scrape ingredients into the pan, rather than frantically chopping while your eyes dart to the pan, checking if something’s burning!
3. Don't slave over the stove every day
Doing things at scale is basically the definition of efficiency. Spend some days making big batches of your favorite dishes, then freeze them. You'll just have to pop them in the microwave to reheat and enjoy the fruits of your previous labor. This is a great way to enjoy a delicious meal anytime, without using up your precious time cooking daily!
4. Clean while you cook
A lot of people don't like cooking because of the cleaning up afterward. I know that personally, staring at the disaster zone that’s left in the wake of my cooking escapades often makes me wonder if it was worth it. I’ve recently discovered, though, that it doesn’t have to be that way. If you clean items that you are done with while waiting for food to be cooked, you will only need to clean a few items after. What a relief! If you’re like me and in the habit of cooking first and cleaning later, the clean-as-you-go approach takes a ton of stress out of the equation.
5. Listen to music or a podcast while cooking
This will help you to get into the cooking “groove”, and focus on the task at hand; it also helps you to enjoy the process and not be stressed about anything else. Plus, it will make your time in the kitchen go by quicker.
6. Cook with someone that already enjoys cooking
If you find yourself feeling lonely and isolated in the kitchen while preparing meals, try cooking together with another person who enjoys cooking or likes spending time in the kitchen. You'll be able to share duties, talk while working, and get some extra help when it comes to preparing food.
7. Measure your ingredients for favorite dishes that you make
You don't need to create a new recipe with each meal, but for simple meals that you’ll cook often, like spaghetti and meatballs or pancakes, record the details of what turned out well in the past, and use the same measurements so that they turn out delicious each time!
8. Add Seasoning at the End
A common question I’ve had when cooking is when is the best time to add seasoning, spices, and herbs to the dish? A good and succinct answer was provided by the Eat By Date website, and basically, it depends on the type of seasoning you’re adding. They sum it up this way: “Dried and powdered spices will have more impact on the flavor of a dish if they are introduced near the beginning of the cooking process. Fresh spices and herbs picked from the garden are most flavorful if added in at the end of the cooking process.”
So, if a recipe calls for adding things like salt, pepper or butter before cooking them with other ingredients, do this basic seasoning first, and wait until after they're cooked before adding additional seasoning to your food. This will allow all of the flavors from everything that's been cooked together to infuse before tasting and adding in aromatics.
9. Give yourself time and love the process
It takes some people longer to cook than others and this is completely fine. Just make sure you give yourself enough time so that the task doesn't feel impossible or overwhelming at all times. Remember, like life itself, it’s about the journey and the process as much as the destination, so sink into the experience, put some love into it, and enjoy!
If you’ve read this far, it seems like the idea of reducing stress from cooking has resonated with you. That’s great! We want to continue sharing more tips and tricks that will help you reduce your stress and anxiety while improving your happiness in all areas of home life! Stay tuned!