You've been an adult for awhile now, but you hear your mom's voice in your head when you're cooking. You used to roll your eyes at those nuggets of wisdom, but now you understand the reasons behind what she said. Sometimes it takes hearing the same advice from a professional. Other times, it's just the discovery while cooking yourself.
Maybe your mom doesn't like to cook. That's cool. These tips come from moms all over who do, including this writer's mom (who wants to be called "mother," but this daughter thinks it sounds too stiff and formal). Here's some evidence your teachings weren't in vain, Mother, and all mothers out there. Your kids were listening. Vindication at last.
1. Clean up as you go. This is like the golden rule of mom kitchen teachings. While food is baking, boiling, or roasting, you can clean that cutting board, scrub that pot, and put away the ingredients you've already used. It's such a relief to not have a huge mess and pile of dishes to tackle after you've finally relaxed at the dinner table. After all, you're sated and no longer in work mode. How nice to have minimal cleanup afterward. Points for you, mom.
2. Read the recipe all the way through before you start, so you aren't caught off guard and have to run to the store halfway through cooking. Also, the recipe might call for equipment you don't have, so you need to be aware of that beforehand.
3. Line your baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper. These days, many of us like to use Silpat baking sheets, or similar non-stick silicone baking mats that make cleanup easier and reduce the amount of trash you create. Less soaking and scrubbing hard-baked bits off pans! Test the technique on one of our cookie recipes.
4. Add a bunch of salt to your boiling pasta water. Sometimes add olive oil if you want to prevent the noodles from sticking together. However, that can also mean the sauce won't stick to the pasta either, so pick your battles. Try one of our many pasta recipes.
5. Prepare your salad greens ahead of time. Rinse and dry your greens, right after you buy them if you're especially disciplined. Wrap your greens in paper towels to soak up remaining moisture and seal in a zippered bag in the fridge. My mom doesn't like a lot of gadgets, but she loves her salad spinner, which you can use to rinse, spin dry, and store your greens in the fridge. If you're not into the spinner, here's a quick video tutorial on how to dry your salad greens without a spinner. You can also make your salad ahead of time with the other dry ingredients (not tomatoes and items than can wet the lettuce) in a plastic container. Then you can pull it out when you want a quick salad and just add dressing — and possibly a wet ingredient. The salad lasts several days that way. Try one of our many salad recipes.
6. Turn pot handles to the side on the stove so you're less likely to knock them over or bump into them. If you're right-handed, turn the handles to the left side of the pot. This is especially important when small children are around.
7. Don't forget to take out the butter and eggs at the start of your recipe. That applies for cream cheese too, if making frosting. Many recipes call for these ingredients at room temperature, and you don't want to be stuck waiting 15 to 30 minutes for the butter to soften. It's pretty tricky to quick-soften it in the microwave without melting it.
8. Make-ahead meals are a busy mom's hassle-free friend. My mom loved casseroles in the 1980s. Other moms love stews or whatever can be made in a Crock Pot. The principle is this: try making dinner in the morning and sticking it in the fridge so that at night, all you have to do is bake or heat it up. Check out our casserole recipes.
9. Peel your potatoes after you boil them — if you're not eating the nutrient-rich skin, that is. When the potatoes are done, take them out of the pot and set them aside. Dump out the pot's hot water and fill it with cold water. Place the potatoes back in the pot's cold water to let them cool a bit. Take them out, and hold the potato in hand with a dish cloth to protect you, and under running cold water, peel off skin with a pairing knife and sometimes just your fingers. You save time this way, and you can lose vitamins if you cook potatoes already peeled.
10. Refrigerate your pie crust dough-ball. When chilled, it's easier to roll out and keep the dough together as you're shaping it. If you're not making your own pie crust and opt for a rolled-up refrigerated pie, you don't have to reveal that either. Try our Easy Pie Crust recipe, which calls for refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes.
11. Measure out your ingredients over the sink to catch the spills and overflow. It's yet another way to minimize cleanup, by not creating a mess in the first place. Never measure the ingredients over the mixing bowl, because you could bump your hand or it could spill out, and then all that excess is in the mix.
12. Cake mistakes can be covered up. Is part of the cake broken, cracked, ripped, or uneven? That's what frosting is for. You can flip the cake to the better side or just slather on a thicker coat of buttercream icing. No one will be the wiser. Besides you, that is. And mom. *Wink*
For more tips, check out these 48 Kitchen and Food Hacks That Will Change Your Life. For Mother's Day gift ideas or any time of year, see these best apps and services for mom.
— Head photo: Novogastrian.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.