Quick cooking is a practiced art, one that comes through practice and not packages. Our recent link to to Casual Kitchen's tips on getting faster in the kitchen got us thinking. Here are seven more tips that help us speed things along as we cook.
We're always trying to get more efficient, so we want to know about you - do you have tips for cooking faster?
1. Do your mise en place - This French phrase expresses a fundamental principle of the well organized kitchen. Setting in place, or Everything in place. This is a counter-intuitive way of cooking faster because it means you take extra time at first to pull out everything you need for a recipe, and measure and prep. You are not trying to do everything at once. In the end, though, this always speeds us through a recipe because once we're ready to cook everything is at hand and we are less likely to make mistakes.
Also, read the recipe through before you start and look ahead. Will you need to get water boiling or the oven heated? Does butter need to soften at room temperature? Read ahead and make sure you are ready.
2. Clean as you go - Also counter-intuitive, but necessary in a small kitchen. When we let the dishes pile up as we cook in a tiny kitchen with three square feet of counter space, we quickly feel overwhelmed, shifting piles around like a jigsaw puzzle. We cook fastest when we get into a rhythm of rinsing and washing dishes and pans as they get dirty.
3. Use a stand mixer - Yes, this is a big purchase, but a stand mixer may be the single most useful appliance in our kitchen (aside from the stove, of course). A stand mixer can knead bread and whip up cakes and cookies without some of the extra steps that were necessary before electric appliances.
Some examples: We never cream the butter before adding sugar. A good mixer is able to cream them together just as well, and to cream butter first is usually an unnecessary step. We also do not sift the flour and other dry ingredients; the stand mixer can handle mixing everything thoroughly. Sometimes if we are in a huge hurry we cream the butter and sugar and dump everything else in at once as the mixer is running.
And a stand mixer is hands-off, which is perhaps the biggest time saver! You can get the dough kneaded while browning the meat.
4. Move your trash/compost can - This is a tiny and obvious tip, but somehow we forget and waste time walking back and forth to the compost bin with piles of scraps and peels. Pull your bin over to your counter and peel potatoes or carrots directly into it. Or do the Rachael Ray thing and put a big bowl on your counter to throw everything into as you peel and chop.
5. Coordinate jars and measuring cups - This also is a small tip, but never fails to help us. For a long time we used glass jars for our flour and sugar that had mouths too narrow for most of our full cup measuring cups. When we switched to wide-mouth jars our baking suddenly went much faster. This applies to all sorts of ingredients; look at the things you use often while cooking (olive oil, salt, red pepper, garlic, sugar, flour, butter) - are they easily accessible?
6. Use clear glass jars - Transferring ingredients that you use often to clear containers helps you to grab and identify them quickly.
7. Organize, clean, and prune - This is one more way to speed up cooking by investing time into your kitchen. We have gotten halfway through recipes before realizing we were out of sugar (see point #1) or into a stir-fry before realizing our sesame oil had gone rancid. Regularly clean, organize, and check out your ingredients so that you know that you'll always be reaching for something good, nourishing, and fresh.
What are your tips, tricks, and shortcuts for cooking easily and quickly in your kitchen?