Cooking Prep Checklist for Recipe Success

Have you ever been mid-way through a recipe and noticed you’re missing an ingredient or have skipped a step? It happened to me recently. Instead of reading the recipe before I began, I quickly scanned it. Bad idea. A cooking prep checklist would have saved me from the frustration that followed.

Checklist to avoid common cooking hiccups when preparing a recipe.

When we rush into preparing a recipe it opens the door to unwanted surprises. My surprise came when I arrived at step three of the Chow Mein Noodle recipe I was following. That’s when I noticed I was supposed to cook the noodles in the sauce. Whoops.

Thirty seconds is all it would have taken to carefully read the steps before I began. Instead, I added an extra step to save the dish – more time and more dishes to wash afterwards.

We use checklists to ensure we pack what we need for a trip. Pilots use a pre-flight checklist to ensure we get to our destination safely. Using a cooking prep checklist accomplishes the same goal – less chance of hiccups occurring during our journey to our food destination!

Cooking Prep Checklist

Kitchen Preparation

checkmarkIs the counter-top and stove-top clutter-free?  I’m often guilty of neglecting this step. Attempting to cook around the clutter makes prepping food more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be.


checkmarkAre you starting with a “let’s see what happens” approach or aiming to create a dish as perfect as the picture? The second approach can lead to disappointment. Use the picture as a guide, and remember, real food can’t be photo-shopped.

Before the Cooking Begins

checkmarkRead the recipe from beginning to end (use as a refresher if you’ve prepared the recipe in the past).

checkmarkEnsure cooking tools are within reach or easy to access.

checkmarkGather all the ingredients.

checkmarkDecide beforehand what substitutes you’ll use if missing a key ingredient.

checkmarkPrepare, measure and open ingredients before cooking.

Good Cooking Habits

checkmarkUse a timer (it’s easy to forget how long food has been cooking).

checkmarkSample as you go and adjust as necessary.

checkmarkWash utensils and store ingredients no longer needed while waiting for food to cook.

Take a few minutes to go over this checklist before preparing your next recipe and see if you arrive at your food destination with fewer unexpected detours along the way!

Want the Checklist?

It’s one of the many free cooking resources you receive when you sign-up for the College Recipe Cafe newsletter. Click anywhere in the box below to get started.

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Thanks for stopping in at the cafe. Cheers!

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