Preparing home-cooked meals might not have been a priority for us, pre-pandemic. But, these days, when almost all of us are forced to stay at home for longer periods, cooking has become an essential survival activity.
Cooking at home is not only friendly on the pocket. It’s also one way of ensuring that your meals are prepared well, according to your liking, and with ingredients that are fresh and healthy. Besides, preparing food ourselves can help us with our diet—helping us avoid the perils of bingeing on supersized fast-food staples such as sodas, fries, and whatnots.
Perhaps the only downside to preparing your own meals is the time it takes to make one. According to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans spend an average of 37 minutes each day to prepare and serve meals, as well as in cleaning up the kitchen.
This may sound too long for most home warriors who have to homeschool their children, attend zoom meetings in the office, and perform daily and never-ending household chores. But, we’ve rounded up the most useful tips in speeding up this otherwise wonderful kitchen experience:
1. Prepare everything before cooking
When cooking something that requires a lot of ingredients to be cut, measured, and deboned, among other complicated and time-hungry cooking procedures, it’s best to prepare everything before turning on the stove and placing a Dutch oven or any other kitchen equipment, to cook.
Mincing, peeling, and shaving, can take a lot of time, so doing all these ahead of time and arranging the ingredients systematically not only helps you save time. It also helps prevent you from burning your food or a potential kitchen accident while you’re rushing and failing to finish the next procedure that’s taking some time.
2. Invest in Equipment
Food processors dramatically cut the preparation time for home-cooked meals; let’s not debate about that. These kitchen aids are highly convenient, being able to do multiple tasks such as blending, chopping, dicing, slicing, and other stuff. They’re often compared to blenders. However, for cooking enthusiasts, the better option is the processor, as it can do more processes and doesn’t require water or liquid to work properly.
If you’re big on cooking meals inspired by Western and Eastern cuisines or anywhere else in the world, consider saving up a few dollars to snag mixer grinders for Indian cooking.
Buy kitchen shears, if you still don’t have one. Like a food processor, shears can save your fingers from the dangers of being sliced, chopped off, or cut by a sharp knife. It can also save you a lot of time off the chopping board.
Another useful tip when dealing with frozen butter is to use a grater to accelerate the melting process. Grating your butter into small pieces presents the best option, rather than cutting it while rock-hard or waiting for hours to let it thaw.
Moreover, you might need the help of these kitchen gadgets for 2021 so that preparations take less time and effort.
3. Plan a Weekly Menu
Instead of spending hours thinking about what to cook for the next day, how about making a menu on a weekly basis to save on time?
Taking some time off from your relaxing Sunday afternoons or evenings to prepare an epic cooking or prepping spree for your week-long consumables does chop off a lot of time in the weekdays where you have to hustle. For instance, boil meat such as beef, chicken, and pork and slice them into serving or bite sizes. Save and freeze the water you boiled the meat with. Take it out later to use as soup stock. Or save your leftover veggies, herbs, and bones to create a flavorful soup or sauce stock too.
Doing this may take a huge chunk off your otherwise idle time, but it pays off by freeing much of your time from Mondays to Fridays.
4. Work Smarter with Recipe Books
If you’re relying on your recipe book to make a sumptuous feast, read and maybe memorize the procedure before you start. This way, you’ll spend less time reading and more time preparing your food, avoiding accidents such as burning your garlic or chicken in the oven.
Found a no-bake recipe for a red velvet cheesecake you’ve been drooling over for days? Instead of struggling to read the small fonts, have the recipe printed so that you can read it better, and have access to it even if you’re offline.
5. Clean Promptly
If you’re like most, you’d think that cleaning up the veggie peels and ends is best done when you’ve chopped your last, right? While it may work for some, the better way to do it is to clean the mess as soon as possible rather than allowing it to pile up. Also, wash the knives and other kitchen tools, and wipe the kitchen surface after your quick breaks from prepping and slicing.
Another trick to make cleaning easier is to place a paper towel on your chopping board. This way, you can just roll or fold the towel and throw it in the garbage bin after you’re done chopping. Easy.
6. Try Convection Cookers
Using kitchen equipment properly is one of the keys for a hassle-free kitchen experience. Check if your oven has convection functionality, and use it to your advantage. Convection cookers can cook faster compared with standard ovens, without sacrificing food flavors.
7. Choose the right pan size
Who would’ve thought that choosing the right pan size can lead to an easier time in the kitchen? Apparently, if you want to cook crisp vegetables, you have to use a large pan that allows enough space for heat to penetrate them. Doing the opposite can leave veggies mushy because the heat from the stove and the water coming out from your consumables will counteract each other.
If you’re not sautéing veggies, opting for a smaller pan may help you spend less time in the kitchen. And rightly so, because large pans take a longer time to heat up and disperse heat to cook your food. Don’t forget to put a lid on your pot to prevent external air temp from interfering with your meal.
8. Get a Kitchen Thermometer
Still, sticking your hand to check on the temperature of your food? You don’t need anyone to tell you that it’s absolutely inaccurate and dangerous. Estimating food temperature this way is like a doctor coming up with a diagnosis simply by looking at a patient. Using a thermometer to check on the correct food temperature not only ensures your meals are done right and stay delicious. It also helps you avoid instances of food poisoning or early spoilage.
9. Salt is your best friend
Before anything else, this tip works in the premise that caution should be practiced when using salt to season our food. With that reminder out of the way, did you know that salt is not only responsible for bringing out the salty goodness of any food? Salt can neutralize bitterness and regulate the sweetness and sourness of any food, including desserts. When used conservatively, salt has the capacity to highlight all sorts of flavors.
The Bottom Line
Preparing home-cooked meals may be cumbersome for most people. However, there are few ways to work smarter in the kitchen; among them are buying specific kitchen aids and equipment and careful planning.