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Our pros have the tips and tricks to saving time in the kitchen and making your food taste even better.

Lauren Wicks
December 03, 2018

Cooking Light’s test kitchen pros spend hours every day crafting, testing, and troubleshooting our recipes, and they have learned a trick or two in the process. Many of our test kitchen professionals are also bloggers, classically trained chefs, and dietitians with a wealth of insight most home cooks could benefit from. Here, they share a few of their test kitchen secrets for you to try in your own kitchen.

Pre-season your steaks.

By seasoning your uncooked steaks in the refrigerator overnight, you can create a sense of “age” in the meat that will give it better texture and flavor once you cook dinner the next day.

Try out this method with our Coriander-Crusted Flank Steak With Cuban Black Beans.

Cook your fish the restaurant way.

Test kitchen members believe fish is an ingredient worthy of a splurge. Once you’ve found high-quality fish, cooking it properly will make the price tag worthwhile. One of our pros recommends searing your fish hard on just one side and finishing it in the oven for a dish that tastes like one from an upscale seafood restaurant.

Try it out with one of our most-popular fish recipes: Sea Bass With Citrus Salsa.

Don’t load everything into the dishwasher.

One kitchen pro only hand-washes her kitchen knives and baking dishes, as she says the dishwasher can be abrasive on certain surfaces. She also advises to hand-wash any non-stick items you own, as they will lose their special coating in the dishwasher over time.

Single-ingredient prep is just as beneficial as meal prep.

One pro mentioned she chops onions ahead of time and keeps them in resealable plastic bags so she can just throw a handful of diced onion into the pan when cooking throughout the week. This also works for other vegetables, fruits, and even herbs. Prepping even one important ingredient for the week saves time and keeps the kitchen from getting more messy during the week.

Meal prep isn’t just for the week or night before.

One pro says you should always boil water and preheat your oven before you think you need to because it can be easy to forget in the midst of preparing everything else. This will save time if done first and will better ensure proper cooking times for whatever is being boiled, baked, or roasted.

Utilize your freezer.

Test kitchen staff see the freezer as more than a safe place for your precious pint of ice cream or casserole stash. From cooked rice to bread crumbs to cake layers, your freezer is a great option for storing prepared and cooled items until ready for use.

When it comes to cutting boards, go big!

One test kitchen staffer said utilizing large cutting boards saves time when you can move each veggie, nut, or herb to different sides of one board as you finish chopping them before cooking, as opposed to using a separate board for every item. Meat, however, is an exception to this rule.

Casseroles should be made in twos.

You might want to consider doubling the recipe when making your next casserole. Casseroles can be easily frozen in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and laid flat on a cookie sheet (which also helps for stacking, if needed). This makes home-cooked meals worth the hassle and having meals ready for the oven creates ease on busy days later in the month.