Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 20, 2008 09:19 AM

Do you prep in advance or when you're ready to cook?

I've been cooking for a long time (don't ask) and do most of the cooking in our house. However the wife and I like to relax on the porch before dinner and have a couple of cocktails, say from 5:30 TO 6:30. The problem that creates is that if dinner requires a lot of prep work, it can really be late before we eat.

I've always thought it was a bad idea to prep food (chop onions, shallot, herbs, etc.) in advance. But then I got to thinking that that's certainly how restaurants do it. It's not like they're going to chop a fresh shallot for every meal ordered. Of course they do all this prep in advance of cooking anything.

So more and more I have found myself doing all of my prep work before cocktail time. Chopping all the vegies (and wrapping them in plastic or putting them in a small dish covered), measuring out spices onto a plate, measuring and pouring any liquids such as stock or wine. I have even started pre-cooking or par cooking some items and then just either finishing them off or heating up at dinner time. Now when cocktail time is over, I can have dinner on the table in less than 1/2 the time.

Just wondering if everyone else already does this and it just took me 40 years to figure it out.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yes!! Having your mise en place ready in advance is a time-saver. However, being a ditz, I'll often realize after cooking, "Oops, forgot to dump in the shallots, etc." Even though the little dish is sitting right there in front of me....D'oh!! Adam

    3 Replies
    1. re: adamshoe

      Plus it can be quite dangerous to do the chopping after cocktail hour!

      1. re: janniecooks

        Ha, Ha, good point. That's why I keep bandaids handy.

        1. re: janniecooks

          Mise en place is the only way to go. Too many copas of "Sangre de Cristo" before slicing and dicing yields too many tazas of "sangre de veggo".
          And you control your cooking pace with different ingredients infinitely better.

      2. I prep as early as I can when I'm entertaining not so much when it's just the two of us. I haven't found that slicing and dicing ahead of time detracts from the food. And when we're entertaining, our guests arrive and I start talking and cocktailing and if I hadn't prepped to the nth degree I'd be doomed. I do this SO much that my favorite sentence by noon of the day of the gathering is "Well, dinner's done." And, no, I haven't always done this. And, yes, I had more harried times and lesser meals back then.

        1. I try to prep in advance whenever I can. Sometimes I will even cut or chop things up the night before. I work full time, so this way I can come home and it's a lot quicker to get things on the table.

          Sometimes I prep more than others, though. For example, if I am making fajitas for dinner, I will often cut up peppers and onions the night before and stick them in tupperware. Makes things go quicker. Other times I will measure everything out (spices, stocks, etc.) and line them up on my counter ready to go into the mix.

          I find that the more I measure/chop ahead of time, the easier it is all around. Of course, I end up with a million different bowls that are dirty, but they all just go into the dishwasher anyway.

          1. I only prep when I have to -- eg. multi-course meals, more elaborate stir-fries, etc. But I find that it takes more time when I prep beforehand. When I usually cook, I end up multi-tasking -- prepping for things while something else cooks or while a pan heats up. Eg -- if I'm making a simple stir-fry of sauteed greens, while the pan heats up, I wash my greens and mince my garlic, etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Miss Needle

              You are correct. I find the overall time does end up being more. But I'm not that much of a multi tasker in the kitchen. It reminds me too much of what I do at work. Kudos to those who can pull it off.

            2. I would definitely prep if you want to have a happy hour before dining. It is no different than prepping for a dinner party. Just cover with saran and put in fridge if you are concerned.