The Countertop Garbage Bowl
Most times I've watched Rachel Ray on Food TV (one of her cooking shows, not the other Rachel-Ray-empire shows), she always made a big fuss about her "garbage bowl." I hate to tell this to any Rachel Ray fans out there, but she didn't invent the practice of keeping a bowl on your kitchen counter to collect trash while you cook. It's actually a long-time habit of professional chefs and one that home cooks are smart to mimic.
I first learned it in cooking school. Putting a 10" stainless steel work bowl above our cutting board was part of setting up our work station. Every class started with the mise en place -- the prepping of all the ingredients -- and having a bowl to collect the garbage was part of this process.
What's the big deal, you may ask. The trash can is a step away and why add something else to an already crowded counter? Well, even if you have a tiny kitchen and little counter space, here's why adding a garbage bowl makes sense:
- City cooks already separate our trash between "wet" real garbage, paper/dry trash, and recyclables. (What? You don't recycle?! What kind of good New Yorker are you?) A bowl makes it easy to keep food garbage isolated.
- Most of us don't have in-sink garbage disposals, so by collecting all the peels and trash into one bowl, it's a single step to throw the contents out in the right (roach-repellent) place.
- If you're lucky enough to have a garbage disposal, it lets you collect things that still shouldn't go down the drain. Like potato peels (unless you live with a plumber then do whatever you like).
- When you're prepping a recipe -- whether it's making a salad or cutting up a chicken or peeling shrimp -- it's amazing how many times you have to throw things away. It may not save actual steps to toss trash into the bowl instead of an under-the-sink garbage can, but it will save effort.
- It's cleaner. You're not putting your hands back and forth between the trash and the cutting board.
- Whether you're a messy cook or obsessively neat, the bowl will be an improvement to your process.
Here's the biggest reason: you will keep the cutting board clean while staying focused on the task at hand.
Just try it once. The next time you're doing a big meal or anything special, just dedicate a spare bowl (big enough to be useful; small enough to not be in the way) to collect the trash. I am sure you'll wonder how such a small change in the process can make the cooking experience so much more effective.