19 Ways to Cook Everything Faster
Cookbook author Mark Bittman shares his best tips for whipping up dinner in record time—without sacrificing taste.
Start with heat
Before doing anything else, turn on the oven, crank up the broiler, preheat a skillet and set water to boil. Appliances, pots, pans and water take time to get hot. Boiling water is always my first move. Find more tips like these in Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything Fast, or grab a copy of his latest cookbook, Dinner for Everyone.
Don’t dirty an extra dish
Use kitchen scissors to chop cooked or tender raw vegetables (especially greens) right in the bowl or pan.
Speed up your washing time
Put all the produce together in a colander and rinse under cold water. (If you have a large amount, wash in batches, putting what’s done on towels.) During downtime, wash vegetables used toward the end of a recipe. Rinse foods like carrots and cabbage after they’ve been trimmed or peeled. Don’t miss these 35 healthy dinners ready in 30 minutes.
Chop all at once
If a recipe calls for minced garlic, minced ginger and/or minced chiles at the same time, consolidate the job with my go-to technique: Peel the garlic and ginger, trim the chiles and put them all in a pile. Then chop and mince them together using a rocking motion.
Cut before cooking
Big, thick pieces of food take longer to cook through than those cut small or sliced thin. I cut chicken cutlets in half so they cook faster; chop veggies accordingly.
Make use of your grater
Making a pureed vegetable soup? Grate your veggies instead of chopping them. If you cut them into chunks, they’ll take 20 minutes or more to soften. But grated, they’re ready in a flash. Try one of these 90 vegetarian meals ready in 30 minutes or less.
Let your pots do double duty
When you sauté or simmer something moist—such as vegetables, beans or sauces—lay a different food on top (especially a protein like fish, chicken or eggs), cover with a lid, and let the steam naturally cook that upper layer. For instance, for a fast eggs Florentine, steam the eggs on top of the spinach rather than poaching them separately.
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Use less liquid when braising
Submerge your braising ingredients in about one inch of liquid, cover the pot and cook, turning occasionally, adding a little liquid as necessary. Try these 10 cooking tricks only taught in culinary school.
Cut around the core
This method is a fast way to prep apples, pears, tomatoes, cabbage, peaches and bell peppers: Slice downward around the core, removing flesh in three or four pieces; then cut flesh into slices or wedges. Find out which 35 recipes everyone should master before turning 35.
Serve up raw vegetables
Instead of roasting winter veggies, eat them raw. Squash, beets, parsnips and celery root make great salads and slaws. Since root vegetables are sturdy, grate them. If they’re still too crispy for comfort, marinate them for a half hour or longer in a vinaigrette.
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Whip up a summer soup
Some soups need to simmer for hours, but cold soups, such as gazpacho, involve simply putting ingredients in a blender and turning it on. So underrated. Whip up one of these other 65 low-calorie recipes you can make in half an hour.
Use frozen vegetables
They work well in soup or any dish. Minimally processed and chilled immediately after harvest, frozen vegetables are an anomaly in the frozen-food aisle—a true gift to hurried cooks. I always keep frozen peas and corn on hand.
Don’t wait around for a preheated oven
Unless you’re baking—or roasting something that requires an initial blast of very high heat—you don’t have to wait for the oven to reach its set temperature before putting in the food. Veggies and slow-roasted or braised meat work well this way. Here are 8 ways you could be using your microwave wrong.
Leave the butter in the fridge
If you’ve forgotten to let the butter soften, melt it in the microwave; then use a brush to apply it to bread for a more even coating.
Make meatballs into meat “drops”
When making meatballs, the most time-consuming part is rolling them. The solution? Don’t. Use two spoons to drop little mounds into the hot skillet. They’ll brown beautifully—and taste just as good. You’ll want to try these other 50 delicious dinners from Grandma’s recipe box.
Simplify lasagna night
Trade typical lasagna noodles for egg roll wrappers, which don’t have to be boiled and come in small, easy-to-handle squares. They taste like fresh egg pasta. If you liked these tips, you’ll love these 25 brilliant kitchen tips you’ll actually use.