No time to waste? Check the way you work

I cook, but I also like to get in and out of the kitchen in quick time, relying on time-savers worked out in the kitchen over the years.

Most are just common sense, but few know it, judging from a competition at Jurong Point recently where the cooks had to work against the clock, producing three dishes in 90 minutes. I was one of the judges at this contest where not only cooking skills and taste mattered, but also work methods.

And some work methods were clearly inefficient. Why did so many contestants try to mix a batter, for example, with a frying ladle, rather than a whisk?

I have three sizes of whisks just to work out the lumps that form when adding, say milk powder into coffee, coconut milk into a sauce, or flour to a batter.

When cooking, I also have a basin of water on hand, to give herbs and chillies a quick rinse and, afterwards, rinse my fingers and small utensils in that same basin. There is also a jug of water in which I place working spoons and utensils, used ends down, when cooking, so that I always have a clean spoon on hand.

To avoid cross-contamination, I have several cutting sheets to place on a cutting board, depending on what I need to cut, but I could also just turn over the board to use the other side, if I am in a hurry.

A roll of paper towels saves me from having to wash work bowls, for I can just do a quick wipe to obtain a clean bowl for the next use.

Sylvia Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'No time to waste? Check the way you work'. Print Edition | Subscribe