What You Must Do NOW For Great Summer Meals

When daylight savings time comes around, it's said that you lose an hour of sleep. I just sleep an hour longer, but what I do lose sleep over is the state of my kitchen after a long winter of cooking chili, stews and soups. My kitchen is a mess.


Change the batteries in your smoke detectors, set your clocks ahead, but also start thinking about the best time of year for cooking. Summer is when the outdoor cooking starts. Summer meals are the ones for celebration. There are holidays, birthday parties, dining "al-fresco", and the blossoming of all the fresh fruits and vegetables. It's THE time of year I enjoy cooking most.

But, to enjoy great summer meals, I have to bring my kitchen up to summer standards and wash away all the frigidness of winter. When daylight savings time comes around it also reminds me to do a few things that I really don't want to, but I know that a season's worth of great food rides in the balance.

1) Start Outdoors - Inspect your barbeque grill. If it's charcoal, clean it well. Heat reflects off smooth shiny surfaces better than one that has caked-on char from last August. If it's a gas grill, inspect the entire gas line. Use a small brush on the gas feeder tubes to the burner. This is where spiders build webs during the winter that can clog your gas flow and potentially cause an explosion!

grillClean the grates of the grill. Again, a shiny smooth surface heats better. Inspect the gas burner to assure it has not corroded and will create hot spots on your grill. Also, test the connection from propane tank to the grill with some soapy water. If you see bubbles, you have a gas leak.

2) Sew Your Garden - Now is the time to take a small patch of land and start an herb garden. Herbs are often flavorless and expensive at the store, but cost pennies and are full of life when they come out of your own garden.

garden3) Fix That Wobbly Table - Your outdoor dining table has been snowed on and left in the cold all winter, but it will be the host of so many Summer meals that it deserves your attention. Tighten all bolts and screws, clean the surfaces and oil any moving parts on chairs so your al-fresco table will be ready all Spring and Summer.

4) Move Inside - If you don't have room for an outdoor garden, now is the time to start your window box herbs. Your cooking will have a fresher aroma and flavor with herbs you've grown yourself, even if you aren't a farmer.

5) Clean Your Oven - Just like the outdoor grill, the cleaner and more reflective your oven surfaces the more efficient your cooking will be. Remove the crumbs from the bottom, clean the racks with steel wool pads, and run the self-clean cycle if your oven has one.

pantry6) Inspect Your Spice Teams - Spices DO go bad. Using a seasoning that has lost it's flavor is like sprinkling styrofoam on your food. You're kidding yourself if your spices aren't the freshest. Discard any small jars that don't have a fresh and easily definable smell. If you're unsure, place a sticker on the bottom of the jar and when the clocks change next, we'll inspect again.

7) Review All Wares - All those plastic food containers with tomato stains have to go! If you don't have a lid for it, throw it out. Inspect all your utensils, spatulas, ladles, slotted spoons and measuring devices for cleanliness and replacement. If you have one of those rubber spatulas that is melted or has a chunk taken out of it, replace it.

scratch pan8) Clean All Pots and Pans - When cooking on the stove top, good heat conduction is essential. If the bottoms of your pans are dark with burns, make them clean and shiny and you'll use the optimal heat this Summer. Scrub the inside of the pans for the same reason, something smooth and shiny heats better. And, if you have non-stick coated pans that are scratched, THROW THEM OUT! Where do you think that chemical coating went? It went in your food and more will follow unless you get a new pan.

9) Organize Your Freezer - You may have items in there from Christmas. They're freezer burned by now and if they haven't made it into a leftover dish in months, it never will. Don't distract yourself with bits and pieces of past meals, Spring has sprung and better food is on its way!

10) Inspect Your Pantry - It's time to go through all those assorted canned goods you bought during the winter grocery sale. If you can't use them for your Summer cooking, consider donating them to an organization that needs them more than you. Clean out the crumbs, discard the containers that have been 10% full all winter and get ready for fresh food, not cans.

I know you don't want to do many of these things. Cleaning your oven, scrubbing pans, planting herbs sounds like a lot of work. It does take an effort, but like most great efforts it will yield results beyond what you put in.

If you follow these guidelines, your Summer cooking will be better, more flavorful, quicker, easier, and more enjoyable for you and the people you serve.

Have I forgotten anything? What else should be on my kitchen preparation list?
Leave a comment below and we'll add it for next year.

About Chef Todd

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.


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  • Mar
    11:55 PM - 11 March, 2014

    This is great information. I am going to send it to my brother. He does the grilling.


    • Chef Todd Mohr
      11:22 PM - 13 March, 2014

      Mar Mar!
      So great to hear from you! One of my original students everyone!
      Give your brother my best.

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