How to Write a Work Plan for Cooking

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An efficient kitchen layout makes it easier to implement a work plan.
An efficient kitchen layout makes it easier to implement a work plan. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A work plan for cooking can be a vital tool for creating a wholesome meal from scratch without wasting time or energy. Cooking work plans are especially useful when feeding a crowd because the steps involved in prepping and coordinating tasks are more complicated and time-consuming than the steps for preparing a family meal. Larger quantities of food are especially likely to burn, overcook, or get sticky if they sit too long, so a work plan can help you to time your processes and serve an appealing meal, right on schedule.

Identify the steps in each recipe that will take the longest amount of time. Recipes are written sequentially, so they often start with steps such as boiling rice or beans or roasting a chicken. These processes take a long time without necessarily requiring ongoing attention so they should be listed toward the beginning of each recipe. Although each recipe individually includes steps and timing information, the success of your kitchen work plan depends on understanding how these processes interface and scheduling them to facilitate work flow.

Create a timeline laying out the coordinated steps required to complete all of the recipes you plan to prepare. Plan prep steps to fill the time when initial processes and ingredients such as rice, beans and large roasts are cooking largely unattended. Schedule prep steps so they are completed before it's time to cook the prepped ingredients.

Schedule dish completion relative to how well the cooked dishes will hold once they have been prepared. A casserole that is fully cooked ahead of time usually holds up well in an oven warmer compartment if one is available, while a stir fry can wilt if you hold it for too long, so it should be prepared as closely as possible to its serving time.

Build a chart listing the tasks that must be completed, leaving space for the name of the person who is to complete that task. Be specific, and consolidate steps from multiple recipes when possible, such as prepping all of the onions together, even though they may be headed for different dishes. Assign tasks to individuals if you are working with children or you know your adult helpers well enough to recognize that a specific person would be best for a specific task. Alternately, allow your helpers to fill in their own names next to the tasks they choose.

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