Slaving over a hot stove is no one’s idea of a good time. But unless you’ve resigned yourself to a life of TV dinners and bad takeout, it’s a necessary fact of life. However, by following a few tips and tricks, you can cut the amount of time you spend working to put a hot meal on the table.
First things first, you need to take a moment and think through the dish you’re cooking. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe only to find that you’ve forgotten a key ingredient. Tackle tasks like chopping herbs and garlic at the beginning, and then arrange all your necessary ingredients before you start cooking, a practice professional chefs call mise en place. Doing so will also help you think through each stage of the recipe, creating assembly line efficiency as you whip up a great meal.
In the kitchen, your knife is your single most important tool, so proper knife care will make your life easier, and, more importantly, keep you safe. Use a honing steel every time you cook to keep your blade straight and sharp.
But remember that honing a blade, which merely pushes the knife’s edge back into shape, is no substitute for sharpening. Sharpening, which you’ll want to do once or twice a year, actually involves removing metal from the blade to give the knife a new edge. While sharpening with a traditional whetstone is the best way to get a razor’s edge, mastering the art can be a little tricky. If you’d like an easier alternative, grab a tool like the Accusharp ($10), a favorite among cooking enthusiasts, or take your knives to a professional sharpener.
Many kitchen gadgets can help save a great deal of time, but avoid unitaskers – those gadgets that are so specialized you only end up using them on rare occasions. If a recipe only calls for one or two cloves of garlic, stick with your knife and cutting board rather than hunt for a garlic press; it’ll only add another utensil to clean.
Perform a kitchen purge, ridding yourself of unused kitchen gadgets — rice cookers, juicers and other specialized tools. By clearing the clutter, you’ll give yourself more room to work, boosting your productivity in the kitchen.
Make It Last
Forced to buy whole packages of herbs for a recipe that only called for a couple of sprigs? No problem. Chop up the leftover herbs and mix with olive oil. Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray, pop it in the freezer and the next time you need a pinch of herbs, just pop out a single cube. You can even apply the same principal to leftover stocks and sauces.
Similarly, by buying whole cuts of meat and then doing a little at-home butchering, you can save yourself quite a bit of money. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to cut up a chicken or turn a beef tenderloin into a stack of steaks. And by individually wrapping and freezing each piece, you’ll be able to quickly grab a single chicken breast or steak when you need it, saving you from having to cook more than you need, as well as valuable time spent waiting for large cuts to thaw.