Before we start, make sure your kitchen is set up to ensure everything you need is easily accessible.
1. Keep your most used appliances on the counter, or in an easy-to-reach spot.
2. Store your most used ingredients close to the stovetop for easy access – these are usually your favorite seasonings, vinegars, sugar, salt, pepper and anything else you use often that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
3. Keep your most used tools in the drawer closest to where you work – such as knives, vegetable peeler, measuring cups and spoons, whisks, wooden spoons, spatula, or anything you use at least once a week.
4. Start with a clean kitchen to make sure there’s no mess to get in the way of your super quick and efficient cooking skills.
Now that your work space is ready to go, here are my 10 tips to cooking faster, smarter, and better:
1. Plan it Out!
The best way to be more efficient when cooking is to know the full scope of what you need to do. This may mean just mentally walking through the steps it will take to get dinner on the table, or making a prep list of things that need to be done in order of timing for bigger meals. Always read recipes fully before starting. Taking a minute to do this will help you avoid forgetting to do things that may save you time, like remembering to preheat the oven.
2. Oven? Water? Check!
If you need to preheat your oven or need to boil a pot of water always do this first. This will allow you to start other tasks while they heat.
3. Wash Everything Together
Wash produce faster by chopping off the ends of root vegetables and washing everything in a colander together. If you’re using lettuce, chop it before washing.
4. Mise En Place
French for “putting in place”, it means to get everything you need for a recipe ready and prepped. The best way to do this is to grab a large bowl or sheet pan and grab all the ingredients you need from your fridge and pantry. After that, prep anything that needs cleaning or cutting. Don’t worry about premeasuring ingredients like sauces or dry ingredients, this only creates extra dishes and they can usually be measured right before they are needed.
5. Compost/Garbage Bowl
This is a trick all of the fastest prep cooks use. Grab a large bowl and as you are prepping your ingredients throw all your compost and/or garbage into it instead of going back and forth to the garbage to save lots of time.
6. Knife Skills
A huge part of cooking is just cutting things. Hone your knife skills to become faster at cooking (and ALWAYS, ALWAYS USE A SHARP KNIFE). Check out Knife Skills 101 for more tips.
7. Become a Grate Chef
Cut your vegetables extra small to save time cooking. You can also save time chopping by grating vegetables instead.
8. Use Science
You may remember from science class that water is a great conductor of heat. Add a small amount of water or stock to vegetables to cook them faster.
If you need to cook something on a boil or simmer, cover with a lid to help them cook faster – keep in mind this traps liquid and is not a good method when trying to thicken liquids.
10. Clean As You Go
Wash dishes as they become dirty and clean up messes as you make them. This saves you lots of time after cooking is done.
With these ten tips, you’ll be the most efficient prep cook in your house!