10 Time-Saving Secrets of Laid-Back Cooks

updated Jul 25, 2023
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(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

There are cooks out there who see a three-hour cooking marathon as just another weeknight dinner. These are the cooks who like taking the long way; they do it for the challenge, the process, the joy of screwing up and starting over. (Oh, discovery!) These are the cooks who reorganize and declutter the kitchen for fun, and have never met a to-do list they didn’t like.

If the previous paragraph makes you want to grab your pillow and crawl into bed: welcome. While you’re not against putting out effort when the occasion calls for it, for the most part, meh. Take the long way? Please. You’re already halfway through the shortcut. Laid-back cooks — this list is for you.

For those times when you’d rather be drinking a beer than cooking. (Image credit: Danielle Tsi)

10 Time-Saving Secrets of Laid-Back Cooks

1. They don’t unload the dishwasher.

Why go to the trouble of putting away all those clean dishes when you’re just going to have to load them again? Skip the middle part and use the clean dishes right from the dishwasher, then load it with dirty dishes once it’s empty again!

2. They don’t wash something unless they really need to.

Super-greasy pan? Yeah, obviously you’ll want to wash that. But that measuring cup you used to measure rice? Or the teaspoon you stuck into the spice jar? Don’t bother with soap. Just give a quick rinse, and let it air-dry.

(For dry ingredients, you could even skip the wash altogether and just put it back in the cupboard. No one will know.)

3. They especially don’t wash the Microplane or zester.

What, you say? Don’t wash your Microplane, like, ever? Well, we’re not saying don’t clean it; only that you can get away with not washing it every time if you put it near a heat source and let it dry out, like Sarah Rae. As she explains, “After a small amount of heating or rapid air movement, the leftover zested bits fall off, leaving the tool good as new. Sometimes it requires a light brushing, but [otherwise] I haven’t washed my tool in a few weeks.”

(Image credit: Nancy Schaub)

4. They hang the pot rack over the sink.

You could bother with a pot rack and a drying rack, or you could have a pot-drying rack — as in, a pot rack hung directly over the sink so you can drip-dry and store your pans in one go. If you’re all about streamlining, this is it.

5. They melt butter in the pan they plan to use.

If you’re making a recipe that includes melted butter, here’s a tip: Melt the butter directly into the pan you’ll be baking with, and — voila! — you’ve greased the pan at the same time (and saved yourself an extra dish to wash).

→ When Making Quick Bread, Melt the Butter in the Bread Pan

(Image credit: Elizabeth Passarella)

6. They store stand mixer attachments in the bowl.

Elizabeth explains: “When we use the mixer, we just pick up the edges of the towel and lift out all of the attachments, which sit patiently on the counter until we’re finished. We can wash and toss an attachment into the bowl without hearing a loud clanging through the apartment. And we save drawer space while making use of a bowl that would otherwise sit empty.”

So while yes, there is a part of you deep down that feels envious of your friend’s clear plastic stand mixer attachment container with its confident and slightly judge-y P-Touch label, this is as easy as it gets. You win.

7. They thaw and brine meat at the same time.

Someone other than a laid-back cook would have made a note to take the chicken thighs out of the freezer last night so they could defrost in the fridge, with plenty of time to brine later. You don’t have time for such nonsense.

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

8. They whip cream in a jar.

Who knew you could make whipped cream without any beaters or bowls? You. You did. Because if there’s a one-jar, one-pot, one-bowl way to do something, you’re on it.

How To Make Whipped Cream in a Mason Jar: The Video

9. They use a heating pad when making bread.

Ah, the slow bread rise, with lots and lots of time to let flavors develop. Such a great idea. You fully support it, 100 percent. (But in secret you use a heating pad to speed things up.)

→ Use a Heating Pad for Quicker Bread Dough Rise

10. They use a bench scraper to clean the counters.

A bench scraper, if used correctly, can (almost) replace your wash cloth. Sarah Rae explains: “I’ve been bench scraping after every single kitchen endeavor. It gets dust, dirt, and crumbs, and whisks them all away. Now, instead of wiping down my surfaces every day with a light cleaner, I basically wipe them down once a week.”

→ Save Time By Bench Scraping First

What time-saving tips do you employ for your lazy, er, laid-back cooking life?