20 Time-Saving Cooking Hacks
It seems to happen every night: You get through a long day of work, and the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. But you don't have to order gut-busting delivery just to save time. Instead, use these simple kitchen time-savers that all take about a minute to do.
With these simple kitchen hacks, you'll save calories and fat as well as time. That means you'll have a little wiggle room to squeeze in a workout, spend time with your family, or just catch up on your favorite Netflix show. And while these hacks are all about time-saving, you can get even more brilliant tricks for smart swaps and waist-friendly culinary secrets with these 32 Kitchen Hacks for Healthy Eating!
Read the full recipe before cooking.
This seems so simple, but sometimes we get in such a rush to cook that we forget to read the recipe before starting. Keep a time-consuming step from blindsiding you by reading through the whole recipe before you start. That way, you'll be prepared for any daunting step before you get to it. Want to really be prepared? Use this read-ahead time to assemble your ingredients in prep bowls so you won't be digging through your spice cabinet at the last second.
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Crush garlic with the side of a kitchen knife.
Skip the painstaking process of peeling garlic cloves. Simply place the clove under the flat side of a wide knife blade and crush it with the heel of your hand. If you're making a paste, chop the garlic after smashing it and then smash it again with your hand or the knife until it's the consistency you want.
Grate Parmesan cheese at room temperature.
Ask any chef, and they'll tell you to keep Parmesan cheese at room temperature at all times. There's a good reason: Warm Parmesan grates much, much faster than cold cheese. If you'd rather keep your block refrigerated, that's absolutely fine—just bring it to room temperature before cooking.
Now that you know how to grate the cheese, try it in this Roasted Parmesan Asparagus Recipe.
Boil water in an electric kettle.
Boiling water can take upwards of 10 minutes, but it takes only a minute or so in an electric kettle. Genius!
Wear gloves when working with meat.
Working with meats can be a total time suck because you risk cross-contamination—and serious illness—if you handle other ingredients right after prepping the meat. Washing your hands multiple times increases the cooking time considerably, so only prep meat when you're wearing gloves—and then take them off for the rest of the cooking process.
And for more tricks, don't miss these 50 Life-Changing Kitchen Hacks That'll Make You Enjoy Cooking Again.
Use the float test to check egg freshness.
Can't remember when you bought those eggs? Don't fret; eggs are typically good well past their expiration dates. But you can always do the "float test" to check their freshness before you ruin dinner—and other food—by adding spoiled eggs. It's simple: Just put an egg in a bowl of water. If they float, they're bad; if they sink and lay horizontally, they're good to go.
Build a meal strategy.
Don't decide what you're having for dinner right before you start cooking. Instead, make a master meal plan for the week ahead on Sundays and then write out the ingredients you'll need for each. It makes for easier shopping—and you only have to refer to your plan before starting the dinner-making process.
Still stuck? Here are 25 Tips to Cook Once, Eat for a Week.
Combine dinner ingredients for a grab-and-cook night.
Now that you have your meal plan for the week, take one minute each night and put all of the ingredients you'll need in two separate baskets: one for dry ingredients and one for cold ingredients. Then, you'll just have to grab the basket and start cooking!
Use your hands to de-stem hearty greens.
Hearty greens like kale need to be de-stemmed before you eat them, but cutting them out takes more time than you think. The alternative? Use your hands! Simply hold your kale or green leaf upside down, holding it by the stem. Grab the leaves with the opposite hand and pull straight down to "strip" the leaves off the stem. Love kale? Check out these 20 Fresh Tips for How to Cook Kale.
Cut jalapeños with kitchen shears.
Jalapeños add fun flavor to dishes without a lot of added calories, but preparing them is anything but fun. Quickly fly through your peppers by cutting them with kitchen shears. It keeps you from accidentally getting juice in your eyes because you aren't handling the actual peppers.
Grate butter before melting it.
Many recipes call for melted butter and the microwave is the perfect place to do that quickly. However, just throwing a stick of butter in there makes for uneven cooking——and evaporated butter if you cook until it's all melted. Whip out a cheese grater for a minute to get the butter into small pieces before cooking.
Keep scraps in a bowl.
The time it takes to go back and forth to the trash can to throw away scraps doesn't seem like much, but it adds up when you're trying to speed up the food prep process. The alternative: Take all of the scraps and peels, put them in the same bowl throughout the cooking process, and then throw them away at the end. You could even use the scraps to make compost—but that will take way longer than one minute.
Use a plastic bottle to separate egg whites.
You can technically buy egg whites in cartons at the grocery store, but some companies add sketchy ingredients. Instead, separate the yolks from your egg whites with an empty water bottle. Get two bowls; crack the eggs in one bowl, then take the empty bottle, squeeze over the yolk, and release. The yolk will get sucked into the bottle. Then, just squeeze it out into the other bowl. Voila!
Peel potatoes like a genius.
For this one-minute hack, you're only going to peel one horizontal line around the circumference of the widest part of the potato. Then boil the potatoes until tender and run them under cold water—which is when the peels will easily come right off.
Freeze herbs in ice cube trays.
Fresh herbs add serious flavor to recipes without added calories, but sometimes they spoil before you're able to use them. Stop that from happening—and take out a step in your sautéing routine—by combining olive oil with herbs in ice cube trays. Simply freeze and pop out whenever a recipe calls for herbs and spices. Bonus: You'll save money by not throwing away herbs you couldn't use! For more budget-friendly ideas, check out these 17 Simple Ways to Save $200 a Month on Groceries.
Pre-heat your pans.
Rookie cooks, we're looking at you: Putting your ingredients in pans and then turning on the stove can add precious minutes into your cooking time. Instead, heat up your pans for a minute before throwing on your ingredients.
Use frozen fruits and vegetables.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most desirable for cooking because you know they're quality. Unfortunately, fresh means plenty of preparation by way of chopping and peeling. Cut out that step by purchasing the frozen versions of the vegetables you need for cooking. Most frozen vegetables are flash-frozen when they're fresh, meaning they'll still have the same vitamins and minerals as fresh versions without all the extra preparation time. Just make sure you're getting the plain vegetables and not ones covered with sauces or extra ingredients.
Use plastic lids to cut cherry tomatoes.
Cutting small cherry or grape tomatoes can be pretty tedious if you do it one by one. There's a super simple fix that only takes a minute. First, get two similar-size plastic lids and put one on the counter. Place your tiny tomatoes on top of the lid and then put the second lid on top of them. Lightly place your hand on top of the lid to keep them in place and cut horizontally between the lids (away from your body!). You'll end up with perfectly-sliced tomatoes instead of wrestling with each little guy, one by one.
Shred chicken with a hand mixer.
Shredding chicken for enchiladas, tacos, salads, and more can be a total time-suck if you do it with a fork. Save a bunch of time with this quick hack: Put the chicken in a bowl (plastic is safest) and use a hand mixer to shred it in seconds. Just be sure to use it on the lowest setting. Otherwise, you might get chicken everywhere!
Microwave lemons and limes for faster juicing.
Zap lemons, limes, or oranges for 15 seconds in the microwave before squeezing them. The fruit will yield twice as much juice. Wondering what to do with freshly-squeezed lemon? Check out these 20 Amazing Things You Can Do With a Lemon.