20 Practical Tips From the Food Experts That Can Save Cooking Time
Whether you’re a seasoned professional in the kitchen, or a newbie who’s looking for direction, there are always ways that can make your culinary ventures easier. Find out how you can spend less time slaving over the stove and more time enjoying your delicious creations.
1. Read recipes in advance
I know it can be tempting to dive right in, especially if you’re in a rush, but this is a serious mistake. Not having a good idea of what you need to do ahead of time can end up costing you more time later. Do you really want to double check ingredients quantities 10 times before eventually realizing that you forgot an entire step?
2. Buy a good set of knives
Knives can be an expensive investment, but they’re well worth it. Not only will they chop things more effectively, they’ll also help you to cut things up much faster. Make sure that you also take proper care of them by sharpening them regularly and not leaving them exposed inside drawers.
3. Prep everything in advance
Look at everything on your ingredients list and if there’s anything that can be chopped, peeled or blended ahead of time, do it. This will save loads of time when it comes to cooking, and will make the whole process less stressful in general. I particularly like doing this the night before I plan on slow cooking a meal because I want as many extra minutes of sleep in the morning as possible.
4. Don’t bother peeling everything
This saves on time and benefits your body because the best nutrients can be be found in vegetable skins.
5. Save your leftovers
I don’t think I can describe this any better than Gio Bellino of Flavor Bombs:
“Get in the habit of freezing bits of meals! What I mean by that is saving small amounts of that fabulous gravy on your meatloaf, save the chicken fat you skim from your soup, save some of that bacon grease (especially the maple flavored mmmm), save some of that rub, marinade, herb blend. Saving small amounts of stuffing or vegetables will provide you with a savory mixture to either puree for a sauce or reuse as a breading. Having these elements in your freezer will make cooking future dishes a snap.”
6. Save your scraps
Don’t throw out those vegetable peels or meat cuttings, they can be incredibly useful! I like to freeze mine in order to make stock for soups, chili and stews. If you’re not a fan of making your own stock, save those peelings for the compost heap. Every little bit of recycling helps the planet!
7. Wash as you go
The absolute worst part of cooking is the washing up, so why make it harder on yourself? Avoid a huge pile of agony at the end of a meal by cleaning as you go. Your future self will thank you for it.
8. One pot meals for the win
Another way to save on washing up, and time, is by making one pot meals such as the aforementioned soups, chili and stews. They make life a lot easier and ingredients can often just be thrown in and left. You have to love low-maintenance meals!
9. Slow cookers for a bigger win
If you’re looking for some additional convenience, invest in a slow cooker. There is really nothing better than coming home after a long day to the delicious smell of dinner that’s already done. Plus, slow cooked food tends to be so much more tender and flavorsome.
10. Use pressure cookers for the ultimate win
If you want the effects of a slow cooker but don’t want to wait all day, a pressure cooker is the answer. It does basically the same thing, but in an insanely short amount of time. There is a scientific explanation behind it, but I prefer to attribute it to magic.
11. Don’t bother browning
You may notice in most slow cooker recipes that they ask you to brown your meat beforehand. If you don’t have time for this step, I have some literal secret ingredients for you. Adding a little tomato and soy sauces will give your meat the same in-depth flavor. You’re welcome.
12. Use produce that’s in season
Sometimes it can be slightly inconvenient, but I always try to cook with seasonal produce. Not only is it cheaper, but it actually saves on time because I don’t have to work as hard to showcase the delicious natural flavors of the food.
13. Keep basics on hand
There’s nothing worse than realizing you don’t have the basic things necessary for a recipe you really want to cook. You can avoid this by making sure you always have a well-stocked cupboard. Some of my staples include:
- Herbs and spices (many of which I grow myself, which I highly recommend)
- Asian basics such as peanut oil, chilli, garlic, kecap manis, fish sauce, coconut milk and a variety of curry pastes
- Baking basics such as flour, sugar and eggs
Basically, I only really have to worry about buying produce and meat unless something needs restocking.
14. Give yourself space
This may sound like an odd addition, but there is a method to my madness. Having a cluttered and disorganized bench space will make things harder to find and thus increase your cooking time. Get neat and organized beforehand!
15. Cook in batches
Instead of cooking every night, cook big batches to freeze. If you have a few hours spare, cook a few different things. A freezer full of precooked meals makes life much easier and happier when you’re too tired to cook. It will also prevent you from opting for fast food when you have such a convenient choice already available.
16. Invest in decent pots and pans
Similar to knives, investing in good quality pots and pans can be expensive. However, they’re more than worth it. Not only will you produce better quality food, the cooking process will be a lot faster. This is mostly because they will heat up faster, be non-stick and cook your ingredients through evenly.
17. Utilize leftover hot water
This isn’t so much of a time saver as it is a water saver. Instead of tipping out boiled water, pour it over your sponges to kill off germs. Alternatively, wait for the water to cool and then use it on your garden.
18. Time how long it takes to heat your oil
Knowing how long your individual pots, pans and wok heat oil means that during future cooks you can simply set a timer and throw your ingredients in once it goes off.
19. Roast beets whole
Why waste time peeling beets, and staining your hands, when there’s a far simpler way? Wrap them in some foil and place them directly in the oven. Once they’re done the skins will slide off easily.
20. Beat egg whites before yolks
If you have a recipe that calls for separated whites and yolks, beat the former first. This saves time because you won’t have to wash the beaters in between both jobs. You can’t beat yolks first because it can negatively effect the volume of the whites. However, a bit of whites in the yolk won’t make a difference.
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