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I am a distracted cook.
When I’m cooking, I’m almost always also:
- Keeping an ear on the rest of the house to make sure none of the kids are getting into too much trouble.
- Chatting with one or two kids who are helping me
- Finding tasks for my helpers to help with
- Thinking about an upcoming blog post or article I’m writing for a client
- Checking the recipe
- Trying to remember if I did all the farm chores or washed a particular item we need the next day
My brain has a bazillion things to think about, and focusing on cooking doesn’t happen.
But, cooking while distracted has it’s definite disadvantages. I’ve burned food. Or myself.
I’ve spilled and made huge messes. And gotten frustrated at my helpers.
It’s taken me some time to admit that I’m a distracted cook. But once I did, I was able to come up with some guidelines to help. These tips help me stay safe in the kitchen, even when I’m thinking about other things.
1. Never ever cook on high
My parents tried to teach me this one back in middle school, but it took a long time to sink in.
I’ll be a bit behind starting dinner, and think, “I’m going to turn the burner to high just to get this meal moving along a bit.”
High heat and distraction aren’t a good combination. No matter how much I think I’m concentrating, I almost always burn (or at least start to burn) food when I turn the burner up to high.
It takes seconds for something to go from okay to burned. And seconds go by really quickly when you’re chatting with a kiddo or thinking about the points you want your next post to include.
So, I am learning to keep the burners turned down. Medium is a good level, even if the food takes a little longer to get done. Not having to eat charcoaled food is worth the wait.
2. Simplify your recipes
Multiple bowls and multiple steps aren’t good for distracted cooks. I’ve shared before how I simplify recipes.
The less I have to keep track of, the better!
3. Don’t walk away (except for emergencies)
Leaving the kitchen while actively cooking almost always ends poorly. If there’s not an emergency, I plan on staying put.
This means I need to have a plan for the kids who aren’t helping me. Our current plan is for them to watch an episode of something. They get a little vegging time after a busy day playing, and I’m not constantly running out and trying to play referee.
4. Timers are your friend
My old stove used to beep once when the timer was done. Just one time.
Do you know how often I missed that beep?
The timer is one of my favorite features in my new stove. It keeps beeping until I shut off the timer. When something makes noise every few seconds, it’s a lot harder to ignore.
The timer on my microwave does the same thing. The only trouble when I have them both going is to remember which timer was for which reason.
But, setting a timer helps bring my mind back to the cooking game. It reminds me that I’m in the middle of something important and should go and pull it out of the oven, or stir, or something.
And yes, I have set a timer to remind me to stir a simmering soup or something. Because if I don’t remind myself, I completely forget and the bottom scorches.
Do what works!
5. Don’t use your phone for recipes
I still break this rule occasionally. But, I’m getting better.
You see, the smart phone has so many features. And while you’re waiting on a step in this recipe, it’s really tempting to Pin a couple of posts to a group board or skim your Facebook feed.
And while some people can handle it, I can’t. I get too distracted by what I am doing on the phone and forget that my primary duty right now is cooking.
So, I’m switching back to many of my cookbooks. They were good enough for years, I figure they’re still good now.
And if I want to make a meal from an online resource, I am back to doing what I did before I got a smart phone: printing the recipe.
This has an added advantage. I can simply keep the paper in a binder if the recipe is a hit and I don’t have to worry about finding the right one again.
Are you a distracted cook?
I know I’m not the only one who gets distracted in the kitchen. If you’re also a distracted cook, what other tips can you add?