Most Chefs will tell you the Hardest Part of Cooking is Timing
And those chefs would be correct. There’s so much happening in the kitchen when the burners are lit. On the Molecular level, reactions are happening unfathomably fast and even get faster once you turn up the temperature. For every 10 °Celsius (18 degrees in Freedom units) the temperature increase, the reaction rate doubles. For example, if you are cooking chicken an the surface of your pan is 300 °F, the reactions between the surface of the chicken and pan would be reacting 2^5.5 or 45 times faster than if the temperature were at 200 °F. Although, the inside of the chicken would not be cooking that fast as the temperature would be lower as heating from convection takes a significant amount of time for the heat to permeate through the pan and chicken. Often times, this major difference in heating will result in a cooked or burnt outside with an uncooked center.
Now that we’re done with that simple thermodynamics lesson, lets, get onto timing. Starting with Organization.
Organization is the most important part of cooking. Or cooking well I should say. I always recommend laying all your ingredients out and organizing them into their respective pans. Sometimes my dishes are up to 5 or 6 pots so I try to group those together. This is beneficial so you always know where everything is and aren’t scouring through the fridge as your pasta is boiling over.
Prepping before you start. The last thing you want to do is have to dice garlic when you have three burners on. Because you don’t realize how long it takes to chop garlic until you finish three heads and turn around to find half your chili burnt to the bottom. My recommendation then. Chop everything ahead of time and use a food processor where you can. (Food processors work best for garlic and jalapenos, don’t do onions.) I have this little guy and I love it. But yeah, chop everything ahead of time and put it into individual bowls. And whatever you don’t use, throw it into a Tupperware, use it into tomorrows meal!
Now that everything is laid out, it’s best to think of each dish and how long everything is going to take to cook, and develop an order of operations. Make sure you are spending as little time on each task because you are efficient. Have your pot of pasta water boiling 3 minutes before you know you are going to need to start cooking your pasta. And make sure that finishes when your main course is finished. Everything should be timed to finish with the main course. Most items that have to go into the oven, once in require little attention, even less if you have a probe in there. That leaves the stove top and knowing your temperature sensitivity and what materials you are cooking on. There really isn’t much more to teach on this per say. It’s just practice and taking on a challenging dishes time and time again.
What needs to sit / what can I throw in a warming drawer.
Whenever I’m making any types of salsa for a dish, I always try to make them the morning of or even the day before. It all depends on when you have the time. If you are using fresh ingredients, there is no reason why your salsa will go bad within 5 days of making it, and I find that most salsas, especially Mexican taste best 6 - 8 hours after making it. Then if you are making a dinner for the family, with plenty of sides, make them earlier in the day and keep it warm for up to 6 hours. If any longer than that, I would recommend refrigeration and then a quick heat in the oven before serving. This works well with potatoes cooked any way, casserole, chicken dishes almost anything.