Time-Saving Cooking Hacks

It seems to happen every night: You get through a long day of work, and the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. But you don’t have to order gut-busting delivery just to save time. Instead, use these simple kitchen time-savers that all take about a minute to do.

Hacks

With these simple kitchen hacks, you’ll save calories and fat as well as time. That means you’ll have a little wiggle room to squeeze in a workout, spend time with your family, or just catch up on your favorite Netflix show. And while these hacks are all about time-saving, you can get even more brilliant tricks for smart swaps and waist-friendly culinary secrets with these 32 Kitchen Hacks for Healthy Eating!

Read the full recipe before cooking

This seems so simple, but sometimes we get in such a rush to cook that we forget to read the recipe before starting. Keep a time-consuming step from blindsiding you by reading through the whole recipe before you start. That way, you’ll be prepared for any daunting step before you get to it. Want to really be prepared? Use this read-ahead time to assemble your ingredients in prep bowls so you won’t be digging through your spice cabinet at the last second.

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Crush garlic with the side of a kitchen knife

Skip the painstaking process of peeling garlic cloves. Simply place the clove under the flat side of a wide knife blade and crush it with the heel of your hand. If you’re making a paste, chop the garlic after smashing it and then smash it again with your hand or the knife until it’s the consistency you want.

Grate Parmesan cheese at room temperature

Ask any chef, and they’ll tell you to keep Parmesan cheese at room temperature at all times. There’s a good reason: Warm Parmesan grates much, much faster than cold cheese. If you’d rather keep your block refrigerated, that’s absolutely fine—just bring it to room temperature before cooking.

Boil water in an electric kettle

Boiling water can take upwards of 10 minutes, but it takes only a minute or so in an electric kettle. Genius!

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Wear gloves when working with meat

Working with meats can be a total time suck because you risk cross-contamination—and serious illness—if you handle other ingredients right after prepping the meat. Washing your hands multiple times increases the cooking time considerably, so only prep meat when you’re wearing gloves—and then take them off for the rest of the cooking process.

Use the float test to check egg freshness

Can’t remember when you bought those eggs? Don’t fret; eggs are typically good well past their expiration dates. But you can always do the “float test” to check their freshness before you ruin dinner—and other food—by adding spoiled eggs. It’s simple: Just put an egg in a bowl of water. If they float, they’re bad; if they sink and lay horizontally, they’re good to go.

Build a meal strategy

Don’t decide what you’re having for dinner right before you start cooking. Instead, make a master meal plan for the week ahead on Sundays and then write out the ingredients you’ll need for each. It makes for easier shopping—and you only have to refer to your plan before starting the dinner-making process.

Learning to Cook with Kids

Kids So while I want food to matter to my kids the way it does to me, I haven’t always been able to muster the patience or thickness of skin it takes to invite them into the kitchen and cook alongside me. Until recently.

As the time when we’re all home together stretches on, I also have to tell you: I’m someone who loves cooking and is very tired of cooking. This fatigue is a big part of what’s helping me to come around to cooking and baking with my two school-aged boys.

Kids

Sharing the kitchen with the kids is as much about experimenting to find activities we can do together as it is teaching them some self-reliance. Cooking with children—teaching them basic skills, then stepping back and letting them experiment, fail, and try again—has many benefits. Not least of which is that sooner than later, they’ll be able to feed themselves—and maybe even you.

Of course, cooking for my boys is also one way I express love and care for them, so I’m sure my days of griddling grilled cheese sandwiches and cutting up carrot sticks are far from over, and that’s okay with me. But here are a few of the things I’ve noticed since they’ve been given some casual lessons and some freedom in the kitchen.

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Cooking helps develop executive function

If you’re a kitchen control freak like me, there’s no way you’re gonna let your kids dive into a recipe without reading through it first, gathering the ingredients, and getting the prep done before they start whisking and folding. Not to mention cleaning up afterward (yeah, we’re still working on that one).

Learning to read and follow the steps of a recipe is an exercise in organization, and when you’re first learning to cook, it’s essential. It is my great hope that these skills transfer to, say, completing a book report or pulling off a long-term history project.

Baking is a science lesson in disguise

I’m always tickled by how fun and easy it is to engage the kids on how yeast works or why you need an acidic ingredient to activate baking soda. For them, it’s just pancakes. But for me, it’s a way to show them how science isn’t just an experiment in a classroom, it’s all around us, all the time.

Experimentation encourages problem-solving: During one recent afternoon baking session, my son insisted on making chocolate cake without a recipe and without my help. I took a deep breath and backed off.

The resulting “cake” was barely edible, and he gave me the green light to toss it the next day. From then on, he’s focused on what went wrong, and taken my advice regarding the usefulness of recipes.

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Cooking helps kids figure out what they like to eat

I have one picky eater in the household –  paradoxically, he’s the one more interested in cooking. One of the most rewarding aspects of this time in the kitchen is watching his curiosity and initiative unfold. If he knows there are ingredients he can put together into something to eat, he has the budding confidence to go for it.

I hope he’ll soon figure out how to do this for more than sausage and bacon, waffles and cake. But in the meantime, I’m just glad I don’t have to make the waffles anymore.