On occasion, you can take your time with the cooking, sitting back and sipping on a glass of wine while the vegetables boil beautifully, and the meat becomes juicy and tender. For many, such opportunities are few and far between. Day to day, the kids are screaming for their meals, and on special occasions, you have guests that you do not want to keep waiting. Fortunately, our selected tips for getting quicker in the kitchen have been designed to suit any scenario. While we cannot reinvent the oven to get things done quicker, we can put you in the right frame of mind to get those meals on the table in record time.
1. Take a Minute to Make a Plan
A minute spent on visualising how crafting the recipe will play out is time well spent and will be a net gain on time saved when all is said and done. Use this time to plan out how long each item needs to be cooked for, what temperatures work well together and when is a good opportunity for the little things, such as boiling water or grating cheese.
2. Get Your Equipment Ready
Fumbling around with whisks or waiting for the oven to preheat is not just time wasted but can also throw the plan you formed in the previous step into disarray. Fortunately, it is pretty difficult to forget to preheat the oven as it is usually mentioned in the recipe, but the sooner you do it, the quicker you can get on with making sure everything is ready. If you’re really forward-thinking, your oven may even have a timer that will start it up just as you’re ready to cook. Outside of this, make sure everything you will need is out and easily accessible like fryers, whisks and other tools.
3. Boil Water Early
If you need boiling water for a recipe, generally for vegetables, pasta and similar foods, then get it cooking at the earliest opportunity. While a common joke in the cooking community, it is impossible to burn water, and so it is better to leave it standing in its heated state than to be waiting around for it to reach the right temperature. It requires little supervision too, so you know something is getting done even while your focus is elsewhere.
4. Use your Pans to Carry Ingredients
This one depends on the size of your kitchen and whether you keep some ingredients outside the kitchen. Essentially, you want to cut down on trips back and forth. Ideally, all the ingredients will be laid out prior to you starting cooking. If not, then take as few trips as possible and use large containers that you have to hand like those pots and pans to carry everything.
5. Only Wash what You Need
The need to wash vegetables can be a real pain when in a rush, so doing it as efficiently as possible makes perfect sense. Cut away any defects and parts that you will not be using and then only wash what you need. Further to this, lump as many vegetables together as possible and wash them all in one go wherever possible.
6. Modify the Recipe for Speed
If you are following a recipe and have access to it prior to cooking, do some of the legwork early on. Order ingredients to match when they are needed and combine steps where possible so that one is being done in the background while your attention is dedicated to another.
7. Cut Corners
We have covered ways to cheat in the kitchen elsewhere on the site, but a small summary makes sense here. If it is possible to get ahead of the game by going against the norm, then do it! If you need soft butter and it has just come out of the fridge, grate it. If you need to defrost something, put it in the microwave on the appropriate setting for a few minutes. As you decide on your core recipes and find yourself making them regularly, more tricks will become apparent.
8. Smaller Chunks Cook Faster
Do not lose focus on presentation, but if you get the opportunity to make something smaller, take it. Even complete novices know that a slice of beef takes far less time to cook than a full joint, and if you can trim things down without compromising on taste and presentation, you will save time. Just remember to account for the fact that some ingredients will not take as long to cook as the recipe stipulates when making your plans and carrying out your precook checklist.
9. Don’t Waste Time on By-Products
There are things you will do while cooking that are not directly related to the recipe. You are bound to have offcuts of vegetables and packaging that ultimately needs to go in the bin. If the bin is not within reach, use something as a temporary store to empty afterwards instead of walking back and forth. Similarly, if you like to keep your hands clean and wash them regularly while cooking, have a bowl of soapy water to hand to rinse them with rather than spending valuable seconds under the tap.
10. Shallower Pans are Faster
The wider the pan, the more direct heat will be transferred to the foods you are cooking. The sides on large saucepans are generally there to keep things in place rather than aiding in the cooking process, so if you can go for a skillet or frying pan over a saucepan, you should. Speed is the name of the game here still, and so the pan in question should be appropriate for the ingredients. As a general rule, however, wider and shallower is always better for quick cooking.