How to be a Faster Home Cook Slideshow
April 12, 2012
1. Organize the Spices From Asafoetida to Za’atar
Everyone has wasted minutes rummaging around the pantry trying to find that hidden jar of dried thyme. Skip the hassle and arrange spices alphabetically for simple searching. To save even more time, label the tops of the spice bottles and jars, then store them in a pull-out drawer instead of on a shelf. You’ll have a bird’s eye view — not to mention easy access — of all your essential kitchen flavorings.
2. Use a Microplane Zester Instead of Mincing
Minced garlic and ginger add vibrant flavor to stir-fries, but all that fine chopping can be tedious. Rather than dirtying up a knife and cutting board, invest in a Microplane zester and effortlessly grate the garlic and ginger directly into the pan.
3. Consider the Salad Bar
When shopping at your local grocery store or even at the corner deli, don't overlook the salad bar, which is often stocked with hard-boiled eggs, chopped vegetables, washed salad greens, and crumbled cheese, which can be used to minimize time spent prepping ingredients at home. It's also great for cooks who live alone and may only need two tablespoons of chopped celery for a recipe instead of an entire cup's worth.
4. Line Baking Trays with Aluminum Foil
Say goodbye to scrubbing and scouring dirty baking dishes. Simply line them with aluminum foil before using (use two layers if there's a lot of sauce in the recipe), then throw away the foil and pop the pan back in the cupboard when cool. A similar time-saving trick also works for messy countertops — line the kitchen workspace with plastic wrap before cooking, then scoop up any dripping messes easily.
5. Use a Garbage Bowl
When prepping vegetables or other ingredients, throw the scraps into a large bowl next to your workspace rather than making repeated trips to the garbage can. And if you don’t want to dirty up a bowl, line it with a plastic bag leftover from the grocery store.
6. Get a Hand Blender
Hand blenders (also known as stick blenders) are great time-saving tools in the kitchen because they allow you to purée directly in the pot you cook in. This means no more sloppy transferring of soups to the food processor and back to the pot. The cleanup is also much easier.
7. Make Ice — But Not Out of Water
Rather than spending countless minutes squeezing lemons and measuring out the juice, fill up an ice cube tray with extra lemon juice after you've used part of the fruit. Whenever a recipe calls for lemon juice, simply unmold a cube and throw it into the dish. A standard ice cube tray holds about one and a half tablespoons of liquid per cube, and this trick also works for tomato paste, chicken or beef stock, and minced herbs.
8. Chop Herbs with Scissors
To chop parsley, cilantro, or other herbs quickly, place the leaves in a glass and snip using scissors. You'll have finely minced herbs in no time and no dirtied cutting board! Or, just cut a bunch of chives directly into the pan or onto your finished dish for garnish.
9. Leave the Lid On
When boiling water for pasta or for blanching broccoli, don't forget to leave the lid on top of the pot while bringing the water to a boil. It prevents heat from escaping and boils quicker than it would with the top off, yet so many of us forget to do this!
10. Invest in a Mini-Chopper
Sure, it's cheating, but a mini-chopper is really your best friend in the kitchen. You can pulse nuts quickly, whip up salad dressings, and dice vegetables effortlessly. An added bonus? You won't become teary-eyed from mincing onions anymore. The ingredients may not be quite as uniform in size as they would be if you had chopped them by hand, but wouldn't you rather save 10 minutes of time for, you know, enjoying that glass of wine you deserve for making dinner?