How to prep like a chef (without breaking a sweat)

Tom Walton recommends keeping sauces on hand, like chimichurri, to spoon over meat, fish and grilled veg.
Tom Walton recommends keeping sauces on hand, like chimichurri, to spoon over meat, fish and grilled veg. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Prepping ahead makes whipping up dinner a stress-free cinch. Be it crisp washed greens, a bold marinade or herby sauce, make-ahead standbys are key to everyday culinary success.

We grilled some of Australia's favourite chefs for their favourite home-friendly prep-ahead techniques.

Charlie Carrington of Atlas on how to keep greens crisp.

Keep greens crisp with an icy rinse. Photo: Supplied

Charlie Carrington Atlas Dining, Melbourne

For crisp, clean greens and herbs, wash well in ice water and allow to dry on an uncovered tray in the fridge. You will always have greens ready to go.

Stanley Wong - Eastside Grill, Sydney
One of my favourite prep-ahead tricks for peeling tricky vegetables is to peel ginger with a spoon. It means you can really get into those little nooks with ease.

Capsicum is simple to prepare too if you cut it open along its creases. It allows you to easily remove the white membranes in one go, preventing the seeds from spilling everywhere.

Grant Greyling - The Resident Bar, Perth

The secret to our signature crunchy roast potatoes and chips is to prep the potatoes up to two days before serving. For potatoes that are super-fluffy on the inside, with a killer crunch on the outside, take whole, unpeeled potatoes (we like the Royal Blue variety), and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C until just tender, then refrigerate overnight. To roast, cut the potatoes as desired, toss in olive oil and re-roast until golden. For crunchy chips, cut as required then shallow or deep-fry in a pan until crispy.

Sandra Foti of Piccolina Gelateria shares her gelati tips

Sandra Foti of Piccolina Gelateria. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Sandra Foti - Piccolina Gelateria, Melbourne


When making cream-based gelato, it's important to pasteurise your ingredients on the stove, bringing the liquid up to 80C (use a thermometer). You can churn [the mixture] straight after pasteurising, but a good prep-ahead is to let the liquid infuse overnight in the fridge. It gives the gelato an incredibly intense flavour.

Lola Migliore - Hola Con Lola, Melbourne

For my prepped-ahead tomato sauce, grate two very soft tomatoes, add a pinch of salt, and a splash of olive oil. I top it on Catalan bread for delicious tapas and pintxos. To serve, simply rub a garlic clove on lightly toasted bread, top with tomato mix, and season with salt. The tomato mixture keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Monty Koludrovic - Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Sydney

Up the ante on your cooking by buying seasonal produce from your local farmers' market every week. I frequent the Carriageworks Farmers Market [in Everleigh, Sydney] – it has everything I want. The produce is tastier and lasts longer because it hasn't been held and stored in trucks and warehouses. The day before your next market visit, cook up a big minestrone to make way for your next load [of fresh produce].

Tomislav Martinovic - Concept Burgers, Sydney
Brine your meat well ahead to enhance flavour. This works particularly well for a whole chicken, fried chicken thighs, pork belly or a leg of lamb.

Michael Bacash - Bacash, Melbourne
Prepping and freezing calamari up to two weeks ahead is a time-saver. Always use local fresh produce from a trusted fishmonger. Clean, slice or marinate your calamari, then pack in freezer bags. It allows the calamari to freeze quickly and retain its freshness. Thaw for an hour before cooking.

Dai Duong - Uncle, Melbourne

I use a sous vide technique for flavoursome, tender, and perfectly cooked meat without the expensive machinery. All you need is a deep fryer, a thermometer and a sandwich bag. Fill the fryer with water and adjust the temperature using a thermometer to 54C. Coat a piece of steak in  marinade, pop into a zip lock bag, then place into the water for approximately two hours.

Tom Walton recommends having sauces on hand and pre-preparing grains.

Tom Walton recommends having sauces on hand and pre-preparing grains. Photo: Brett Stevens

Tom Walton - the Bucket List, Sydney
Have some sauces on hand (I like garlicky tahini yoghurt and romesco sauce), as well as fresh herb-based dressings such as chimichurri, salsa verde and pesto. They are delicious spooned over grilled meats, fish and vegetables, added to a quick sauté of spring vegies, or stirred through yoghurt to accompany grilled lamb.

I also like to prep-ahead grains like quinoa, farro and buckwheat to include in salads or as an accompaniment on their own. They last well for two to three days in the fridge.