Even if you love cooking, it can be tough to carve out the time to put a meal together every night. Here are five easy, chef-tested tricks to help you save time in the kitchen.
Read the full recipe before you start
It sounds simple, but if you’re feeling short on time, it can be tempting to just get cooking. However, taking the time to skim all the steps before you dive in will pay off. Knowing you’ll need a diced onion (and can do that while you boil the water) or that the oven will need to be at 425 before the veggies go in will save you time and stress in the long run!
Pro tip: All recipes can be divided between active time (ie chopping) and passive time (ie waiting for Brussels sprouts to roast). Use your passive time to get ahead on tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch!
Pre-slice veggies like a TV chef
Produce like peppers, broccoli, carrots, and squash can take some time to wash, peel, and chop, and can interrupt the precious flow of your meal prep if you forgot to read ahead (remember active vs passive steps!). Prep them when you have a spare 10 minutes (or even bulk prep on Sunday night), then stash them in a Tupperware. When the time comes to cook, you’ll feel like a TV chef with ingredients prepped and at your fingertips.
Pro tip: The only things you shouldn’t chop too far ahead of time are herbs and lettuces, as these will wilt if you cut them in advance. To quickly chop leafy herbs like basil or mint, stack the leaves in a pile like dollar bills, then roll like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons.
Leave the peel on
Before you spend ten minutes peeling everything, remember that many veggies are perfectly delicious with the skin on. Washed properly, you can and should eat the skin of your carrots, potatoes, beets, and sweet potatoes. Even squashes like delicata and kabocha are fine to eat with the skin on. Since many of the nutrients are in the skin of the veggies anyway, leaving it on is an easy way to make your meal quicker and healthier.
Pro tip: If you’re going to peel a tough squash like butternut, try roasting it or microwaving it for a few minutes first. This will soften the skin and make it much easier to remove.
Batch-cook grains on the weekend
Grains like rice, beans, quinoa, and farro are staples that can act as the foundation to dozens of different meals, and keep perfectly well pre-cooked in the fridge for a week. Having pre-made grains around can mean the difference between dinner taking minutes to assemble instead of closer to an hour. For extra flavor, we recommend cooking yours in stock or broth if you have it around!
Pro tip: For fluffy, restaurant-style rice or quinoa, be sure to rinse your grains before cooking until the water runs clear. This removes surface starch and impurities that make them stick.
Clean as you go
We all know that sometimes the biggest time suck in the kitchen isn’t actually the cooking, but the cleaning. If you make a habit of using the passive time in between steps in the recipe to wash a pan, put some plates away, or load the dishwasher, you’ll notice that the aftermath of dinner becomes much shorter and more manageable. It’s not glamorous, but this tip above all the others will make cooking faster and also more pleasant!
Save time in the kitchen even after you’re done cooking: Keep a squirt bottle of some homemade citrus peel vinegar cleaning solution by your sink. This way you can easily spray and wipe down your counters when you have free time and your counters will always smell awesome!