10 Useful Tips and Tricks to be More Efficient in the Kitchen
Let’s face it, we’re all busy. It appears that being busy is the ‘plague’ of the 21st century. So, it’s no wonder that many of us are constantly looking for ways to speed up various tasks – including cooking. But alas, speeding up the cooking process in the kitchen isn’t always an easy task. That said, just because you can’t really cut down vegetable cooking times, or decrease the time it takes to bake a pie doesn’t mean that you can’t become more efficient in the kitchen!
Afterall, have you ever seen Jamie Oliver in action? That man is a well-oiled machine in the kitchen. He moves quickly and with purpose without sacrificing the end results. With these tried and tested tips, you too can be on your way to becoming a time saving force to be reckoned with!
1. Invest in a Good Knife
We know that we’ve mentioned this tip before in our 10 essential cooking tips article, which we highly recommend you read, but this is seriously one of the best tips I was ever given. Don’t skimp on a good knife; get yourself a good knife from an established brand!
A quality knife will last you a decade, if not a lifetime. If you use it enough, it will start to feel as an extension of you, which is when the ‘magic’ will start to happen. Just typing these words makes me want to head over to my kitchen and start chopping something with my beloved knife.
2. Learn Some Knife Skills
Now that you know you simply *must* have at least one good knife in the kitchen, you will also need to practice your chopping skills as often as you can. You may notice a recurrent theme here, but it was Jamie Oliver who I got this tip from. Not personally (unfortunately), but through his resourceful YouTube channel (check it out!).
I was in college when the cooking bug bit me and I remembered browsing YouTube for a tutorial on how to chop like a professional chef. I was always in disbelief (and envious) by how cooks would chop vegetables without looking, how fast their knives and hands would move. I knew I wanted to learn how to do that.
It was this clip of Jamie Oliver’s knife skills that gave me a base and guide on how to start learning how to use a knife. Like any other thing in life, it’s all about practice. As long as you follow the most basic rule of chopping (which is to keep your fingers away from the blade), you’ll learn how to chop like a pro in no time! Just be extra careful in the beginning, make sure to take your time until you get the moves right!
3. Cook Things in the Right Order
Let’s say you’re cooking vegetable curry with rice and a salad. You’re not going to start with the salad, because it’s going to wilt until everything else is ready. It’s best to start with the rice, because it takes around 20 minutes to cook and around 20 more minutes to cool. Then you can move on the vegetables – those that need to go first in the pan are the ones that have the longest cooking time – usually rooted vegetables, such as onion, carrots and celery root. Atfer, the softer vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini or pumpkin can follow. Lastly, you can add herbs and coconut milk. As I said, there is an order and you need to know the correct procedure before you start cooking. Also, make use of all your flames and cook as many things as you can at once!
4. Take a Cooking Class
While this may be an obvious choice, we’ll share it here because it’s such a great way of honing one’s cooking and kitchen skills! The right cooking class can shave a lot of time off the hours spent in the kitchen. You’ll not just learn new recipes, you’ll get to witness real chefs in action and get to emulate them with supervision! In our opinion, this is the best way to learn. Stealing the craft from cooks and chefs is how it’s done! Also, a good teacher is there to answer all the questions you might have. If you’re a fan of Italian food for example, combine a cooking class with a cooking vacation in Italy and you’ll soon find yourself whipping up the most delicious authentic Italian dishes for your loved ones on a daily basis!
5. Constantly Aim to Improve
I can’t stress this enough. It’s crucial to improve your cooking skills whenever you get the chance. Don’t get too comfortable with what you’ve learnt, because you can always do better. Don’t settle for knowing how to whip up a handful of dishes when there’s so many more out there to try!
A lot of people get self-sufficient in the kitchen and stop improving because you won’t become better nor more efficient this way. Instead, keep practicing and strive to cook better and faster. It’s this type of thinking that helps you become better in the kitchen and thus, spend less time cooking. You see, first you’ll have to spend a bit more time to learn how to spend less time. It seems counterintuitive at first, but when you really think about it, it makes perfect sense!
6. Vegetable Prepping
As opposed to food prepping, which refers to making food in large batches and freezing/refrigerating it to be eaten throughout the week, vegetable prepping refers getting the vegetables ready for cooking. I personally do this on Sunday afternoon. My nemesis in the kitchen is the carrot, I absolutely hate peeling and chopping carrots. What I do is peel and chop a whole bunch of carrots on Sunday afternoon, put them in a glass container with a lid and store them in the fridge. Whenever you need to make something, just reach for the bowl of carrots and throw a handful of already chopped carrots in the pan. You can do this with garlic (store in a jar with salt and oil) or onions (which would need to be frozen) or whatever vegetable you prefer. This tip can seriously cut down on time spent in the kitchen during weekdays so you can have more time to do everything else on your plate!
7. Kitchen Prepping
Vegetables aren’t the only things that you will need to prep, if you want to considerably reduce the time you spend in the kitchen. The kitchen itself needs to be prepped and ready for you and your ‘mad’ cooking skills. If you’re making soup, heat up the water/broth in advance to add over your sautéed vegetables. If you’re making curry, have the rice ready before your curry is ready. If you’re doing anything with your oven, have it preheated! Have your trash bin empty, your utensils and kitchen towel clean and ready, your knife sharp, your timer set and whatever you need for your recipe!
8. Stay Focused
This sounds logical enough but many people tend to multitask while they are cooking (e.g: watching TV, talking on the phone etc.). Staying focused – and not trying to cook while doing three other tasks at once, will not only reduce the time you spend cooking, but it will also make you more productive. Once you’ve decided on what you want to cook, get all your ingredients in order, your pots and pans ready, and enter the cooking zone. Maybe pour yourself a glass of wine, crack open a beer or play some of your favorite music; whatever you need to help you not get distracted. Because if you do get distracted, your food may burn, overcook or undercook and it will feel like you’re spending all your day in the kitchen, cooking.
9. Seasonality is Your Best Friend
A great tip to reduce the whole cooking and prepping process is to whip up meals with vegetables that are in season. If it’s beets are in season, then make sure you plan cooking something with beets! Browse the farmer’s market, it will save you lots of time, as in season vegetables are so much easier to find, and much, much tastier! Why search in three supermarkets for that elusive eggplant in the springtime, when you can use what mother Earth chose to bestow on us!
10. Make a Weekly Meal Schedule
Personally, this ‘trick’ has saved me countless hours! Before making a weekly meal schedule, I would always sit in front on my fully-stocked pantry, with my hands on my hips muttering to myself that I have nothing in there that I could eat.
There were times when I would spend a good 15 minutes just going back and forth on meal ideas, at times, just giving up altogether and eating a simple and ‘pathetic’ sandwich. Now, on Sundays, I would sit down and use this weekly meal plan, or something similar, to jot down what I want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, ahead of time. You wouldn’t imagine how easy it is to decide in one go what to have for the entire week! And it’s not set in stone, either. If one day, I crave something else, I can simply revise my schedule. This meal plan is not intended to restrict us, rather, it is meant to take the pressure from deciding what to eat every single day!
By Cristina, writer at BookCulinaryVacations.com. She is a vegan who loves not only to eat delicious food, but to cook it too! She is also a passionate traveler, a cat aficionado and a novice writer.