Our Best Time-Saving Kitchen Tips
1. Make a Shopping List
First thing's first: The biggest time-saver is the weekly menu plan and grocery list: a small Sunday chore but a real time-saver later, when weekday checkout lines can be long. Energetic? Do your grocery buy on Sunday afternoon.
2. Plan Your Route
By now you probably know the layout of your favorite supermarket like the back of your hand. Use that navigation skill to your advantage: Organize the weekly grocery list by area, which will help keep you from backtracking.
3. Call Ahead
If there's anything questionable on your grocery list, or if a store might only carry that particular item occasionally, call ahead and check if it's available. Don’t waste time wandering the aisles looking for it. Play it safe—find out if your local supermarket carries the item you need before you leave the house.
4. Place An Order
If you're really in a rush, call ahead to place orders with the butcher, bakery, deli, and seafood counters so that your ingredients will be ready for pickup—like the 1 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp you'll need for our favorite fiery weeknight meal, Spicy Shrimp and Grits.
5. Lighten Your Workload
Get supermarket staff to work for you—ask the butcher to divvy a family pack of chicken breasts into smaller packages or trim fat from roasts. Have the good folks at the seafood counter peel and devein your shrimp.
6. Buy Pretoasted Seeds
Pretoasted sesame seeds can be found on the spice aisle of most grocery stores these days. Toasting brings out marvelous nutty flavor in sesame seeds, but doing it at home is tricky, as they burn very easily.
7. Add Smoky Flavor
Smoked paprika packs a huge punch of flavor, contributing smoky flavor to a dish without the hassle—and the messy grease spatters—of frying bacon.
8. Purchase Shelled and Roasted Nuts
Any nut that is sold shelled and roasted is a valuable time-saver that helps you work faster. Toasting nuts takes a few minutes in a skillet or even more minutes in the oven. "So if you pick up a package of roasted almonds, pistachios, pumpkinseeds, etc., you've saved a step and a few valuable minutes (not to mention the aggravation of burning the nuts, which happens ALL THE TIME)," says Executive Food Editor Ann Pittman.
9. Bring Bold, Briny Flavors
Capers deliver bright briny flavor in a flash. Toss a tablespoon into pasta dishes, put on pizza, and use in sauces for chicken and fish.
10. Prep with Food Processors
A food processor isn't cheap, but it's an investment you'll never regret. Consider prep a breeze—emulisfying homemade mayonnaise, puréeing fresh produce for juices, grinding meat, and kneading the dough of your favorite pie crust can all be done without breaking a sweat. With just the touch of a button, you can create homemade nut butters that add depth to many recipes and its shredding blade attachment can quickly slice cabbage and shred carrots for our a quick slaw, like our Tequila Slaw with Lime and Cilantro.
11. Cook with Toaster Ovens
What's not to love? A toaster oven heats up quickly because it has less than 1 cubic foot of space, versus 5 for the average oven. And it's ideal for small households—you can roast and toast portions for two in a fraction of the time it'd take in the larger oven.
12. Purée with Immersion Blenders
Stick an immersion blender into a pot of soup, and you'll have a smooth puree in seconds. Plus, there's no need to transfer hot soup from the pot to the conventional blender and back again, making clean up a breeze.
13. Slice with Egg Slicers
Yes, your grandmother had an egg slicer, but you should know it multitasks—use it for fresh hulled strawberries or small, firm mushrooms like button or cremini.
See More: How to Get the Most from Your Egg Slicer
14. Cut with Kitchen Shears
Keep shears handy to chop whole tomatoes right in the can, trim fat from meat and skin from poultry, and cut chives straight over dishes. (Just wash the scissors in between.)
15. Avoid Sticky Kitchen Tools
When measuring syrupy items like honey, agave nectar, molasses, or, yes, syrup, coat the measuring spoon or cup with cooking spray. The ingredient will slip out easily—no need to scrape it out with a spatula to get the last bit.
16. Prevent Sticky Hands
Coat your hands with cooking spray when you're forming meatballs or other sticky matter: You won't have to stop and wash nearly as often, if at all. (If you're a little squeamish about handling raw meat, use a cookie scoop to portion and form them instead. Lightly coat the inside of the scoop occasionally with cooking spray so the mixture doesn't stick.)
17. Keep A Clean Blade
18. Bringing Water to a Boil
19. Chop Herbs
To chop parsley or cilantro quickly, don't tediously pick leaves from the bunch; wash and dry the bunch while it's still bound together. Then make a diagonal cut (to avoid the thicker stems in the center) from the top of the bunch to chop off roughly the amount you'll need.
20. Peel Peaches In a Snap
Place the peach in boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and plunge it into an ice bath for a few seconds more. The peel will slip off easily.
You can also just use nectarines: They're close enough to peaches for most recipes, and you won't have to bother with peeling at all.
21. Slice Flat Foods
If it's flat, stack it and slice several at once—perfect for items like shiitake mushroom caps, bacon, and bread.
22. Pit Olives Easily
A great use for your chef's knife—place an olive on a cutting board, and place the knife blade flat on top of the olive. Forcefully hit the blade onto the olive. The olive will pop open, exposing the pit for easy removal.
23. Smash Your Garlic
Unless you need the garlic clove whole, just smash it with the flat side of your knife. The peel breaks apart so it's easy to remove. Now, mince away.
Also, keep the smell of garlic off your hands by chopping it in a plastic bag. Place peeled cloves in the bag, and seal; smash with the flat side of a chef's knife, as shown. Then use the dull side of the blade to "chop" the garlic into small bits, or continue to smash for larger chunks. Open the bag, turn it inside out, and voilà: chopped garlic that has never touched your skin.
24. Grate Tomatoes
Greek cooks don't peel or seed tomatoes. Instead, they cut the tomatoes in half and grate them. While it seemed a bit odd to us at first, it's really clever. It's much quicker than a water bath and peeling. If the tomato is ripe, the skin will just fall away, leaving the pulp. We use the largest holes on a box grater to do this, and it works like a charm.
25. Toss Veggies into Pasta
If you're including vegetables like broccoli rabe or peas, throw them into your pot of boiling pasta for the last minute of cooking. Drain everything together, toss, and add the remaining ingredients; one less dirty pot. If your recipe calls for wilted greens such as spinach or arugula, just drain the pasta over the leaves and they'll wilt on the spot.Our One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes dinner is a game changer: You use just enough liquid to cook the pasta—no colander needed.
26. Slice Meat With Ease
If your recipe calls for superthin slices of meat—say, for Korean barbecue—chill the meat in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. It'll be much firmer, making it easier (and faster) to slice.
Our sizzling Grilled Flank Steak with Onions, Avocados, and Tomatoes recipe, with only five ingredients, makes for an easy weeknight meal. Ready in 30 minutes!
27. Make Simple Syrup
Shake up 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup warm water in a jar until dissolved to make simple syrup—no cooking or cooling required. Store in the fridge up to a week, and use for cocktails, sauces, and desserts.
28. Mix Your Own Spice Rub
Save yourself having to store tons of spice bottles by throwing together this versatile spice rub. While you have the spices out, make an extra batch to use on meat, shrimp, or poultry on another night—it'll keep for months so there's no rush to use it.
Try this tasty rub on chicken, pork, or steak: Mix together 2 teaspoons espresso powder, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Store in an airtight container or bag and pack with your other non-chilled items.
29. Thaw Meats Faster
"Pull meat out of the fridge to take the chill off before you prep other ingredients. Meat will cook faster and more evenly when it's closer to room temperature."—Senior Food Editor Tim Cebula
30. Cook One Batch (Not Multiple)Why You Need To Start Using Your Broiler
The broiler (and its restaurant equivalent, the “salamander”) is a go-to tool for cooking multiple toasted sandwiches or quesadillas. Throw several in at once rather than using a skillet to cook batch after batch after (sigh) batch.
See More: Why You Need To Start Using Your Broiler
31. Use A Mandoline
A mandoline makes quick work of slicing—it yields perfectly uniform, thin pieces and spares you the hassle of dragging out your food processor.
32. Shred Chicken
When you want moist, plump, shredded chicken for casseroles, soups, chicken salads, try poaching your chicken. When you sauté, grill, or sear, you end up with a crust on the outside; it’s delicious, no doubt, but sometimes you just want softer pieces.
Shredding the meat is easy once you have nicely cooked chicken. The two-fork method can take forever. Just use your hands to shred cooked chicken, pork, or beef.
Try our delicious—and freezable—Chicken Enchilada Casserole for an easy dinner tonight and one in the bag for later.
33. Remove Sausage From Casing
Slice the sausage link in half crosswise, then squeeze the meat out of the casing, bottom to top, toothpaste-style. We speed up Sausage, Cannellini, and Tomato Ragout, a traditionally slow-cooked stew, by swapping out pork shoulder for spiced sausage removed from its casing. Master this technique for dinner tonight!
34. Coat Meat with A Fruit Glaze
Fruit preserves create a nice thick sauce extra quickly for roasted and grilled meats; you can use apricot, plum, or whatever bottled preserves you have on hand. The tasty results make you look like a chef. (Smucker's won't tell if you don't.) Just wait to brush it on until the final few minutes of cooking so it won't scorch.
35. Create Mise En Place
Make sure you have everything you need—prepped ingredients, equipment—ready to roll before you start cooking. Chefs call it mise en place (literally, "putting in place"). Cooks who don't heed this can waste a lot of time backtracking in the middle of a recipe to prep ingredients they forgot.
Did we mention the importance of mise en place? Seriously: It bears repeating. Preparation is one of the big time-savers.
36. Purchase Lower-Sodium Deli Meats
Use lower-sodium deli meats to quickly add protein to salads and turn them into a main course, like our Turkey and Romaine Salad. In addition to meats that are labeled "low-sodium," roast beef often has less sodium than other deli meats. Low-sodium varieties of roast beef have about 80mg per 2-ounce serving.