Ina Garten Offers 5 Tips to Make Cooking Easier

Filed under: Mealtime, Food

Ina Garten shares five ways to make cooking easier from her latest cookbook. Credit: Ina Garten

"Barefoot Contessa" host Ina Garten shares five ways to make cooking easier from her latest cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?"

1. Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry
Even with all the great recipes in the world, cooking will never truly be easy if you don't have a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Nothing is more annoying than having to run out to the store -- maybe more than once -- in the middle of cooking because you forgot to check whether you had olive oil in the house.

My spice drawer is organized so I can always see what I have and what I need to buy -- and I can put my hands on each spice without turning the drawer upside down! My freezer is stocked with a few important ingredients that I use all the time. Since I use the same ingredients over and over again, I know I won't have to shop for everything I need every time I cook. When it's time to make dinner, all I have to do is stop at the store and pick up a few perishables, like fresh salmon, fresh herbs and a vegetable. Maintaining a well-stocked pantry is a habit I got into early in my cooking career and it makes my life so much easier.

2. Have Good Equipment
Some people think that having every kind of pot and pan and kitchen gadget under the sun makes cooking easier, but I'm not one of them. I hate specialized equipment, like pasta machines and garlic presses, that does only one job. I stick to just good-quality essentials and I keep them within easy reach.

I love opening my pot drawer and seeing each pot sitting with its own lid on top. I don't have to excavate for the one I want from a pile of mismatched pans that I got for my wedding forty years ago. Even though I have the luxury of a good-size kitchen, the cookware I own is a perfect set of All-Clad pots, sauté pans and roasting pans, plus one huge stockpot for making soup, which sits right on the stove.

3. Set the Table Well
When I set a table, I always choose a one-color theme that's appropriate for the season -- maybe raspberry in spring or pumpkin in autumn. With my theme in mind, I'll look at what's available in the grocery store in the produce and flower sections while I'm shopping for dinner. And here's my trick: I always have Post-it notes in the kitchen drawer to make a seating arrangement; one color for the girls, one for boys. I put a name on each note and then I can move them around easily until I find the perfect seating arrangement for a great party.

4. Serve the Smart Way
A big part of keeping a meal easy is serving it in an easy way. Before I was in the food business, I would serve dinner the old-fashioned way. Everything was put into bowls and either arranged on a buffet or brought to the table and passed around for people to help themselves. ... Now, instead of passing all those bowls, I arrange Greek lamb with yogurt mint sauce down the middle of the platter, tomatoes roasted with pesto down one side, and couscous with toasted pine nuts down the other. If it's just a few people, I'll serve everyone at the table; if it's a big party, I'll serve it from a buffet in the kitchen or the sideboard in the dining room. It's easier to assemble, easier to serve and when everyone goes home, there's only one platter to clean up!

5. Have What It Takes to Bake
A few key pieces of equipment make all the difference when you're baking. First, I prefer a French rolling pin because I can really feel the dough while I'm rolling it out. Second, I have three timers on the stove so I can have several things baking at once -- and I won't forget about them! Next is a digital scale; if a package of chocolate chips is 12 ounces and I need only 6, a scale ensures that my quantities are accurate. Finally, I have lots of thermometers -- oven thermometers, candy thermometers and instant-read thermometers -- so I know when something is exactly the right temperature.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.