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Shalmanese

Are you a bowl prepper or board prepper?

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For a typical meal, when you're preparing the mise en place, do you carefully separate each and every component into it's own separate bowl or do you leave everything in little piles on the chopping board?

I'm very much a board prepper. Things will be chopped and just shoved to the side, if there's no longer room on the board, I'll stop prepping and start cooking. Whenever I do big meals, I'll switch to bowls but for a simple, casual home dinner, it always seemed too precious and "cheffy" to have everything arranged in neat little bowls.

Keeping things on the board means I can take an instant glance and know what needs to be done next. Whenever I use bowls, I have a disturbing tendancy to forget critical components of a dish because that bowl has been shoved to the side somewhere. Also, board prep can help me time and pace my meal. For example, I usually don't start chopping garlic until the mirepoix is in the pan. The amount of time it takes for me to mince garlic is usually how long it takes for the vegetables to soften.

I have to admit, one downside to prepping on the board is that you occasionally find yourself tucked into some tiny corner of the board, dealing with some large unwieldy thing.

So, are you a bowl prepper or a board prepper?


Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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I mostly just prep at time of need, it's rare that I find the time to dice/slice/cut/prep everything up front. But if I do, I use little glass bowls to have things at the ready. Otherwise things are just waiting on the board or get dealt with as the recipe demands.


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I am a pretty obsessive bowl prepper. I'm not crazy enough to have individual ingredients in individual bowls, but I will say that the some of the most important pieces of equipment I have in my kitchen are my small stainless prep bowls.

I've turned on a good 5 or 6 of my friends into bowl preppers, as well, after they watch me do my prep.

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Board mostly, but it depends on how quickly I need to have things ready and how much board space I need. I'll move things to bowls, if I need the board, and I tend to put things in bowls for stir frying, because I want everything ready to go into the wok immediately when it's called for. I'll also move things like raw meat off the board, if I want to hold them for some reason and clean the board in the interim so I can do other things on it or put cooked food on it without worrying about cross contamination.

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DH and I make a lot of Chinese food...he is my sous chef and I love it :wub: ...and we are definitely bowl preppers. Of course we are making at least three dishes at a time. I must admit I have occasionally lost a bowl in the end....

Confectionery partner Barb and I are also bowl preppers.

I have amassed this staggering number of small stainless bowls over the last 50 years although I can't remember ever buying any of them. They must have followed me home. :wink:


Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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Both, especially with Asian.

Pinch bowls and plastic storage does it for me. I like my board clean and ready.

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I like the bowls. My stove is several steps from my cutting board so I make many trips, using some bowls more than once. Also, my board is round with an 18" diameter and my knife of choice is 12" so there's not much room for making piles.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

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Bowl prepper, definitely. The counter where I prep ingredients is opposite the stove, which means I have to turn around and take a couple of steps to get back and forth between them. In our house, that also means dodging a large dog (who is deep in prayer at that point) and probably stepping on a cat, with the result being about 5 seconds of screaming, minor pandemonium, and frantic scrambling - on the part of the cat, to get away, and on my part, trying to stay on my feet. :wacko:

After the obligatory expletives, I take a deep breath and am very thankful if nothing I'm carrying has landed on the floor. Murphy's Law dictates that such an ingredient would necessarily be the last of that one that I had in my kitchen. And of course, if I went to the store after more, they'd be out. :laugh:

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A little of both.

My kitchen is roughly the size of your average bathroom in a Manhattan apartment. Space is at a premium so I have to economize when possible. To the extent that I can use bowls, I do -- even the ironing board serves as a counter. Ditto for the board.

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For just my wife and I I'm definitely a board person, even if I need to use a couple of boards (of course I always separate proteins on their own boards). When of cooking for a larger group it depends on on how complicated what I'm preparing is. Preparing on the board just seems simpler to me.


I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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I am a board prepper unless I am preparing Asian food.

It's so funny to see so many others do the same.

Wonder what makes Asian foods so...um....bowl-tastic?

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Mostly bowls, except the last ingredient to be prepped stays on the board. I know a lot of folks keep several ingredients on the board and just shove them aside to make room to chop, but I like a lot of "elbow room" on my board -- somehow that growing percentage of my board given over to little piles of already-prepped ingredients feels like it's cramping my style.

And also I can be unpredictably clumsy -- it would be just like me to randomly spazz, or sneeze, or something while carrying a board full of stuff and dump the whole thing on the floor. Or go to shove one ingredient off a board into a pot, and manage to knock half of another ingredient in with it, before I meant to do so. Or be chopping a little too energetically and make a mess of my little piles of already-chopped ingredients. (When you're a lifelong Clumsy Person, you stay aware of all your possible failure modes. :laugh: )

Plus I like the little flotilla of bowls. :laugh:


Edited by mizducky (log)

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It all depends. If it's a very familiar recipe where I know I can prep and cook at the same time then I will just use the board. If it's an unfamiliar recipe, esp. one with many ingredients then I tend to use bowls but will combine groups of ingredients in a single bowl if they all get added at the same time. Since I am a poor baker then any baking recipes will get the bowl treatment. :biggrin:


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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I'm definitely a board prepper. That's why I have five Epicurean boards - one large, three medium and one small - all with permanant places on the counters in my small kitchen. They're much easier to clean than a bunch of bowls (just wash, rinse, dry and put right back on the counter), and I can use different boards for different tasks - one for meat, one for aromatics, etc. I love those boards! (I stick those little silicone "dots" to the backs for traction).

Also, keeping the boards permanantly in place on the granite counter saves my knives from well-meaning friends who would cut directly on the stone. :shock:


Edited by Special K (log)

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Board, even with Asian food. I just have this thing about washing as few items as possible so I'd put up with the inconvenience of chopping around piles of items just so I won't have to pull out extra bowl. Granted, sometimes I have to break down and pull out bowls for prep, but I do so very reluctantly.

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The board works if I'm making a couple of sandwiches or something similar that's going to finished right there and that doesn't take a lot of prep.

Otherwise, there isn't enough room, and there's no convenient way to move the mise to and from the fridge, the stove, etc. etc...

What size board do you guys have that holds all your prep? My main board is 16x22, my protein board is 14x18, and i have a couple of smaler ones for this and that. My kitchen would be unworkable if I had piles sitting around on all of them.

I use 16oz deli cups with lids for small quantities; 32oz and 64oz glad/ziplock containers for medium quantities (these are great, because they're square, so they take up very little room, and they're cheap); metal mixing bowls for large quantities.

My 2nd fridge is a lifesaver for big meals that can be pepped in advance. I keep a couple of shelves empty, so it's easy to slide in up to 4 half sheet pans full of prepped food whenever i need to.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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My main board is a 25x24" maple board, which usually has things on it, so 24x16" is normally available, without moving things around, but if I need the full space, it's not hard to move things. I'm always cleaning as I go to keep space available, and if I'm running out, then I'll start using bowls. The board is right near the sink and the stovetop as well as the mixer and blender, so I'm not transporting food any significant distance usually.

I've also got a few smaller boards.


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

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Bowl, not board.

Recipes have an order of operation: first this, then this, etc. Prep does not.

For prep, I impose a "messy, difficult things FIRST, unless temperature sensitive" order of operations, so prep gets easier as I get closer to the fun part.

I add each ingredient to a bowl (ramekin or small plate, usually).

Just before I begin cooking, I arrange bowls** in the recipe's order of operation, first to last, usually grouping 2 (or more) bowls of ingredients that are to be added simultaneously or immediately one after the other.

If there are lots of "then add this/these ingredient" stages, I put sticky notes in between each bowl (or group of bowls) that say "saute 5", "simmer 15", etc. so I don't have the look back at the recipe.

It might sound anal, but this way, I can crank out a Chinese banquet of 15 dishes all by myself.

**This is why I bowl, because I need to arrange. Is not feasible or easy on a board or takes too much time or is messy or ingredient x takes on flavour z or cross contamination. Also, I can chill or warm bowls and I can cover them with plastic wrap, etc. Bowls just have so many advantages.

These terracotta thingies are my favorite for prep. Cheap too!


Edited by fooey (log)

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It might sound anal, but this way, I can crank out a Chinese banquet of 15 dishes all by myself.

A friend of mine who's a sous chef believes the key to speed is "board management." If you keep your board and mise clean and organized and logical, no matter what, you can cook circles around people who are actually moving much faster than you.


Notes from the underbelly

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I find that it depends on what I'm cooking, and how much prep there is. If it's something where things are all time-critical and must be done in quick succession, I prep into bowls and then arrange the bowls in a line on the counter in the order they get added. If it's something where there is enough time between steps to "prep as you go" then I don't bother with bowls, just go straight from the board into the pan/pot/whatever. In general, the more ingredients, the more likely I am to use bowls, so I can more easily double-check that I have everything done before I begin the cooking and make sure I haven't forgotten anything. I don't always use one ingredient per bowl, however: if a bunch of ingredients are added to the pan at the same time, I frequently prep them into a single bowl (i.e. mirepoix, trinity, etc.).


Chris Hennes
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I was thinking about this while making dinner this evening, and I suppose another factor is whether I'm following a recipe or improvising. I think it's more important to work clean and be organized, and whether that involves using bowls depends on what needs to be ready and when.

So I go into the kitchen planning to make some kind of simple pasta dish with some nice heirloom plum tomatoes I got this morning. I start a pot of salted water boiling, dice up some pancetta and start it frying in a separate pan, clean the board, take out some Reggiano and the microplane, wash the tomatoes, and since they're really ripe, I can peel them using a knife without blanching. I reach over to toss the pancetta occasionally between peeling tomatoes, and think an onion would be nice, and I've got some shallots right there on the board, so I quickly peel and dice one, toss the pancetta, go up into the cupboard to grab an ziploc to start a new bag for vegetable trimmings for stock in the freezer, toss the pancetta, and peel the rest of the tomatoes. Pancetta isn't quite ready yet, so I can wash a few dishes that are in the sink, reaching over to toss the pancetta occasionally with one hand. Dishes done, shallots in the pan, and I can dice the tomatoes and chop a clove of garlic, wiping the board as needed. Water is boiling, add spices to the pan, toss, and there's time to label that ziploc, toss, add garlic, and when it's far enough along, put the pasta in the water. Set timer for four minutes, diced tomatoes in the pan, toss, stir the pasta to keep it from sticking. When the pasta is done, I transfer it with a spider to the pan with the sauce, toss, decide to toss in a little fresh parsley at the end, let it sit for a minute, put the bag with shallot peel and parsley stems in the freezer, and the pasta's ready to serve with some cheese grated over the plate.

The whole thing took about ten minutes. Adding a step of preparing things in bowls beforehand would have taken longer, left me with more idle time while cooking, and left more dishes to wash.


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

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Bowl prepper here. I don't know how many times at school, I was told to keep my cutting board clear. So as far as I'm concerned, the board is not ever a place to leave stuff.

Bowls. Period.

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I was thinking about this while making dinner this evening, and I suppose another factor is whether I'm following a recipe or improvising.  I think it's more important to work clean and be organized, and whether that involves using bowls depends on what needs to be ready and when.

So I go into the kitchen planning to make some kind of simple pasta dish with some nice heirloom plum tomatoes I got this morning.  I start a pot of salted water boiling, dice up some pancetta and start it frying in a separate pan, clean the board, take out some Reggiano and the microplane, wash the tomatoes, and since they're really ripe, I can peel them using a knife without blanching.  I reach over to toss the pancetta occasionally between peeling tomatoes, and think an onion would be nice, and I've got some shallots right there on the board, so I quickly peel and dice one, toss the pancetta, go up into the cupboard to grab an ziploc to start a new bag for vegetable trimmings for stock in the freezer, toss the pancetta, and peel the rest of the tomatoes.  Pancetta isn't quite ready yet, so I can wash a few dishes that are in the sink, reaching over to toss the pancetta occasionally with one hand.  Dishes done, shallots in the pan, and I can dice the tomatoes and chop a clove of garlic, wiping the board as needed.  Water is boiling, add spices to the pan, toss, and there's time to label that ziploc, toss, add garlic, and when it's far enough along, put the pasta in the water.  Set timer for four minutes, diced tomatoes in the pan, toss, stir the pasta to keep it from sticking.  When the pasta is done, I transfer it with a spider to the pan with the sauce, toss, decide to toss in a little fresh parsley at the end, let it sit for a minute, put the bag with shallot peel and parsley stems in the freezer, and the pasta's ready to serve with some cheese grated over the plate.

The whole thing took about ten minutes.  Adding a step of preparing things in bowls beforehand would have taken longer, left me with more idle time while cooking, and left more dishes to wash.

That's an excellent description of how I also do things.


PS: I am a guy.

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I rarely if ever allow multiple items to accumulate on the cutting board. I like to work with an empty board, no matter the board's size.

For dishes where I know the routine, I often prep as I cook. This is a huge time-saver. But that doesn't count as board prep, as far as I'm concerned, at least not in the sense of keeping multiple items on the board.

Where the timeline or organizational requirements rule out prep-as-you-cook logistics, I use bowls. I have a lot of small prep bowls in various sizes -- probably in the neighborhood of 30 -- as well as a couple of dozen regular bowls that can be conscripted when necessary.

I will say, prepping as you cook always involves some risk. This is probably a worthy topic of its own, if we haven't already covered it. Were I cooking for a visiting chef-instructor, I would never, ever prep while cooking. The margin of error is just way narrower when you're prepping while stuff cooks. If I want something to be exactly right, with the minimum risk of mistakes, I see little choice but to do mise-en-place as at a restaurant: everything in advance that can be done in advance. Even for dishes I've cooked a million times. But if I'm cooking a quick everyday dinner for immediate family, sure, I'll prep as I go.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It really depends on what I'm making. My style of cooking rarely involves to many ingredients that must be cooked at the same time that I can't prep as I go. For example, if I'm doing a braise I can prep the meat and brown that off in the pan. While I'm browning the meat, I can dice the onion; once the meat is done I can toss in the onion and start sweating that down; then I'll do the carrots and add them; then some celery; then some garlic -- all in sequence. My board is always empty and I'm not using any bowls.

If it's something where a lot of prepped ingredients need to be added in a short time period (stir-frying, for example) or where there is simply a large number of prepped ingredients (spring rolls), I'm likely to use bowls or small plates.


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