Even the most ardent of home cooks knows that getting a hot meal on the table every night of the week can be a challenge, especially if there are picky eaters or dietary restrictions to consider. There’s a lot you can do to make meals easier, starting with production cooking. Pick up a couple of chickens – roasters are a good choice, and cook the birds in a roasting pan until done. Savvy cooks know that you can get as many as five meals out of a chicken and you can do this whether you cook the bird yourself or buy a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.
When you are production cooking or cooking in bulk, the idea is to make two, three or four meals at the same time, thus leveraging the prep time and the cleanup time. One meal can be eaten right away while the others can be refrigerated for use over the next two to three days or frozen for use at a future time. When you roast a chicken you can serve the chicken as a meal or you can use it to craft a variety of dishes such as chicken salad, chicken pot pie, shredded chicken tacos, chicken noodle casserole or chicken soup. It is possible to use up just about every part of the bird, especially if you boil up the skin, leftovers and bones to make soup stock.
Casseroles are ideally suited for production cooking because they are easy to freeze and they can be pre-cut to individual portions which can be reheated in the microwave for a healthy lunch or a meal on the go. When you cook in bulk you can take advantage of special deals on club packs of meat and poultry along with fresh produce that must be prepared quickly before it goes bad. It’s easy to make up two versions of any dish – meatless lasagna along with regular lasagna for example, for a vegetarian diner or tuna noodle casserole with and without onions for someone who does not care for onions.
Production cooking does require more pots and pans along with extra food storage containers; if you need to pick up some glass baking dishes or some non-stick pans it’s a good idea to shop online to see what might best meet your needs. Bedbathandbeyond.com carries Rachael Ray® cookware along with other good quality brands and you can browse and buy any time of the day or night.
When you’re cooking in bulk, there are some essential cookware items that will make the process a lot quicker and easier. Think big. Dutch ovens are well suited for long, slow cooking, like roasts, stews and casseroles. This is ideal if you want to leave it cooking during the day while you are at work, requiring minimum effort in the evening.
Woks are becoming a popular cooking tool because they are so versatile. You can stir fry, make soup, stew, poach and much more. The long handles of these utensils allow you to work with the food without burning your hands.
Then there is the sauté pan or frying pan. A sauté pan has straight sides, which prevents sloshing over the side, as well as a wider surface area; ideal for searing meat or reducing a sauce. A frying pan, by comparison, has slanted sides, which is perfect for moving ingredients around a lot and serving straight from the pan. It has a smaller surface area than the sauté pan, which you can make up for by buying a bigger size.
With the basic cooking equipment and the right ingredients, you can make great use of the many recipes available online and turn your cooking nightmare into an enjoyable – not to mention rare! – experience. By spending one or two days cooking in bulk, you can very quickly go from dreading dinner time and feeling uninspired or too tired to cook, to feeling proud that you can so easily provide healthy meals for your family. In the meantime, the extra time you’ve gained in the evenings, you can spend with your loved ones, which is what life is all about.