10 Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen May 14, 2018 – Posted in: How to, Kitchen, Lifestyle
We think making meals— and we mean tasty, nutritious, substantial food— doesn’t have to be an ordeal. With the right tools and some foresight, you’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more time having dinner with your friends and family.
1. Start with the right tools
Starting with the right tools is the best way to set yourself up for success. You’ll at least want to have a quality set of knives, and make sure to sharpen them regularly. Invest in a good set of pots and pans (including baking pans), a set of mixing bowls, and other basics like a peeler, spatula, big wooden spoon, grater, and measuring utensils. There are a number of other tools that will help speed things up, but this is a good start.
2. Keep your pantry stocked
There will come a day when you forget something on your grocery list or just need a quick addition to a basic meal. Keeping your pantry stocked with the right staples is key to saving time in the kitchen: canned beans and tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock, dried pasta, and grains that you can throw in last minute to add flavor and substance to soups, salads, or alongside a perfectly seared cut of meat. Having a variety of spices, oils, and vinegars in your pantry will also come in handy when you want to create unique flavors and aren’t looking to make an extra trip to the grocery store.
3. Read your recipes
Read through your recipe before you cook–but preferably before you shop. This helps you figure out exactly what tools, which ingredients, and how much time you’ll need. More importantly, you’ll know what to prep in advance and what you can work on during the cooking process. Normally, we suggest getting all your mise en place (prepping all your ingredients ahead of time), but often you can dice a tomato, whip up a salad dressing, and mince parsley while your onions are caramelizing to golden perfection.
4. Keep it small
You might love a good baked potato, but if you’d rather wait 20 minutes for dinner instead of 45, cut that potato into cubes and shave 25 minutes off your cook time. We suggest doing this regularly, whether you are sauteing or roasting. Grate zucchini and sweet potatoes for breakfast hash and finely dice peppers and eggplant for stir fries. Have a hankering for cooked carrots? Grate and sauté them to sweet perfection in no time. Need some protein? Butterfly your chicken breasts and pound beef into thin cutlets for quick cooking.
5. Put some skin in the game
Sick of peeling potatoes? No need. The skin is where most of the vitamins live, so keep them on when you can. Wash thoroughly, cut out any blemishes, and cook away. This goes for carrots, most root vegetables and squashes, cucumbers, apples, and even fresh ginger.
6. Turn up the heat
When you don’t have time to braise and slow cook your dinner, save beef bourguignon for the weekend and go for cuts of meat you can sear quickly, like ahi tuna, pork chops, or a medium-rare steak. Roasting veggies at upwards of 400ºF is another way to shave minutes off dinner prep.
7. Go big
Making soup for four? Why not make it for eight and save yourself another night of cooking? Doubling recipes is one of the best ways to save time in the kitchen and often dishes like soups and braises taste even better the next day. Not into leftovers? Double the sauce and use it in another dish, or do what we did in our roast chicken recipe and use the leftover meat for tacos, salads, and sandwiches. Who said leftovers have to be boring?
8. Batch it
Setting yourself up with options for the week is the only way you’ll be whipping up quick meals on late nights. Set aside a couple of hours at the beginning of the week to cook a big batch of grains (quinoa is a great quick-cooking option), roast a few trays of veggies, grill a couple pounds of skirt steak, and hard-boil a dozen eggs to make sure you always have things to mix and match for the week ahead. Making a large batch of simple homemade vinaigrette to use on salads or as a sauce for other dishes is a great trick. Imagine this Thursday night dinner: a scoop of brown rice, a cup of roasted red peppers and onions, skirt steak, (maybe a handful of canned black beans you have lying around the pantry) and a drizzle of vinaigrette with a squeeze of lime and sprinkle of cilantro. Not a bad five minute dinner, eh?
9. Everybody freeze
There’s nothing more exciting than walking home from a long week at work on a snowy day and remembering you have homemade soup in the freezer. When you double your recipes or batch cook food, you can freeze the leftovers. Make pesto in the summer and freeze half of it for the winter. See an expensive cut of meat on sale at the grocery store? Buy twice as much as you need and freeze the other half. Make an extra batch of pancakes on Saturday morning and freeze them for the week ahead, pulling out a couple whenever you need them. Freeze leftover tomato sauce, bananas for smoothies and bread, blanched vegetables, or those ten extra meatballs no one had room for.
10. Clean as you go
Nobody wants to clean up a messy kitchen after a relaxing dinner. Wash dishes as you go! Not using that cutting board anymore? Wash it. Done with that spatula? Throw it in the dishwasher. Measuring cup all greasy? Scrub it down with hot water. At the end of dinner you should be able to throw your plates and silverware in the dishwasher, clean the couple pots and pans that were cooling on the stove, and wipe down the counters. Having less clutter while you cook fosters creativity and makes the whole process more enjoyable!
BONUS: Get educated
Not all of us went to culinary school or have been cooking our whole lives. If you’re struggling to dice onions or aren’t sure how to check a steak for doneness, educate yourself. Take a knife skills class, buy a cookbook on the basics, or use other online resources. Simple tricks like how to properly hold and use your chef knife will save you tons of time and stress when it comes to dinner time.