If there’s one thing every cook wants in their kitchen, it’s more time. Fed up of slaving for hours to get the dinner on the table? Here are 11 great tricks that will save you precious time in the kitchen — letting you enjoy the things you really want to be doing instead of all that dicing and slicing!
1. Take one minute to mentally walk through what you’re cooking.
Take a moment to think through what you’re about to cook, it will make a huge difference. When cooking multiple dishes, you’ll be able to pick out what takes the longest to cook and the exact order to prep and cook things. It’s a great benefit to have a mental plan so you don’t hit any time consuming obstacle, like forgetting to preheat the oven or boiling water.
2. Start with heat.
Preheat the oven, heat up a skillet, and set water to boil before doing anything else. Appliances and cookware always take time to get hot. Boiling water should be always your first move. As a side note, unless you’re baking—or roasting something that requires an initial blast of very high heat—you don’t have to wait for the oven to reach the desired temperature before putting in the food. Vegetables and slow-roasted or braised meat can be put in the oven before it reach the set temperature.
3. Load a baking dish with ingredients from the pantry or fridge
Pile up ingredients as much as you can at one time so you’re not constantly going back and forth. Take a rimmed baking sheet to the refrigerator and load it up so you only make one trip. Alternatively, you can put all the produce together in a colander and rinse all at once under cold water. Rinse foods like carrots and cabbage after they’ve been trimmed or peeled, so you won’t have to rinse again if there’s still dirt spoiling the peeled produce.
4. Cut food into small pieces
Thick pieces of food take longer to cook through than those cut smaller. Halved or thinly sliced chicken breast will cook in minutes flat in a stir-fry, whereas a thick, uncut chicken breast will take more time to cook. A whole chicken will take almost one hour to roast, while roasting cut chicken pieces will take only 20 minutes. If you decide to cook a pureed vegetable soup, go further by just grating your vegetable instead of chopping!
5. Use already prepped fruits and vegetables
Instead of being tied to your cutting board all night, use frozen vegetables that you can add to your creation quickly. Frozen veggies are already chopped and you can mix up different bags to make your perfect soup or stir-fry! You can also make your own frozen veggie bags: invest one hour of your time on a sunday and prepare your batches for two weeks ahead. Here’s a more detailed post where we show you how to make frozen veggie bags.
6. Double the portions
Make twice as much as you need so you’ll have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. This an excellent way to save both time and money.
7. Use a garbage bowl
If you don’t have a trash can or compost bin located directly next to your prep area, use a sturdy plastic bowl to collect food scraps, trimmings and other unwanted things as you prep. This reduce your moves around in the kitchen it also minimizes the chance of having food ending on the floor.
8. Make sandwiches all at once
Cut a baguette in half lengthwise, and assemble one (very) large sandwich, then cut that into as many pieces as you like. Useful for the kiddos lunch box ;)
9. Use the microwave
Your microwave isn’t just for reheating a cup of tea or coffee. It’s an efficient tool for cooking. As an example, in a regular oven, potatoes take about 45 minutes to cook, but in the microwave they take only about 20 minutes. Not everything is suitable for the microwave, but vegetables and lean protein sources like fish lend themselves well to being cooked in a microwave.
10. Use water or broth
A basic technique taught in many culinary schools is how to sauté vegetables to tenderness without overcooking them: Start them in a sauté pan with a splash of water, a dollop of butter, and seasoning. Once the water has evaporated, the vegetables are almost done cooking; all that’s left for you to do is let the butter brown them. Just keep an eye on it to avoid burning once water has completely evaporated.
11. Do the dishes as you go
Reuse pots and cooking utensils by rinsing them briefly while you cook, rather than letting them pile up the sink.