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Top 10 Cooking Shortcuts

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Cooking can be a lengthy process and when you're hungry, it can seem never-ending. Cooking shortcuts can save you time and energy in the kitchen. Once you've mastered a few of these top 10 cooking shortcuts, you'll be the culinary master you were destined to become and can enjoy your meal that much quicker!

1. Mise en place

Mise en place is a French phrase that means "putting into place." Professional chefs use this to refer to their setup when cooking during their shifts. They have all their ingredients organized and prepped at their station so they are ready to cook.

Mise en place can include:

  • Par-cooked items
  • Cuts of meat
  • Spices and fresh herbs
  • Freshly chopped vegetables
  • Sauces, relishes and other components

2. Buy in bulk and portion it out

Buying meats in bulk will usually save you money. However, instead of throwing the entire 10-lb package of chicken into the deep freeze, portion out the meat into smaller bags and throw in some marinade. This will save you time when it comes to thawing because it will take less time to thaw two chicken breasts instead of 18.

By adding the marinade before freezing you're saving yourself a step on cooking day. You can pull out a portioned bag of meat in the morning, and let it thaw in the fridge while you're at work. While it's thawing it's also marinating. Then when you get home you can easily cook your pre-portioned, pre-marinated meat and enjoy it a lot sooner than if it was still a frozen block of ice.

3. Batch cooking

Cooking up large batches of foods and freezing them for later is an easy cooking shortcut. Spending a weekend afternoon cooking a big batch of rice, quinoa or another type of grain may not seem like a shortcut on cooking day, but it will save you plenty of time during the week. Cook your large batch of rice and portion it into smaller zip-top freezer bags. Squeeze out the air before sealing the bag and then just reheat the day you're ready to eat it.

TIP: Lay the bags flat when they're in the freezer to save space.

4. Freeze your herbs

Sometimes you only need three basil leaves for a recipe but you purchased an entire plant. What are you going to do with the extra herbs? Freeze them in olive oil in your ice cube tray. The herbs won't wilt and you'll be able to still use them later. These cubes are easy to add to sauces, tossing in with cooked pasta or even just letting one or two melt and use for dipping bread.

5. Make your own

Sometimes the "convenient" items in super markets may seem like the better option, but many of them are laden with preservatives or chemicals and are easy enough to make on their own. Instead of buying a jar of chopped garlic or ginger, simply grate it yourself and store it in a jar. Just be sure to use the proper precautions for jarring or canning foods to prevent germs.

6. Butter

Waiting for butter to soften when baking can take forever. Whatever the case, if your butter is rock hard and you need to add it to your dough there's no time to wait. Use a grater to "soften" your butter for a recipe. The small ribbons of butter will be easier to deal with and you won't have to wait.

7. Kitchen shears

If you're not an expert butcher, a pair of kitchen shears can easily become your favorite work horse. With a sturdy and sharp pair of kitchen shears, you can easily cut up some fresh herbs, remove the backbone of a chicken or cut up your quesadilla. It's also a good way to let your kids help you in the kitchen if you're feeling so inclined. It will be easier (and safer) for them to cut up a banana with a pair of scissors than it would be for them to use your 8-inch chef's knife.

8. Make-ahead recipes

This falls into the big batch cooking category, but make-ahead recipes that can be frozen are a life-saver for those with busy schedules. Compile an arsenal of freezer-friendly meals and spend a day making one or two of them. Imagine coming home from work and just putting a lasagna in the oven to reheat. Within an hour, you're eating dinner. No actual cooking involved. Sounds nice, right?

9. Slow cookers are your friend

The term slow cooker might seem counter-intuitive in a guide about cooking shortcuts, but it isn't. Think of your slow cooker as a secret weapon against cooking when you get home from work. Slow cookers will do all the work while you're at work. Dump your favorite ingredients into the pot before you leave for work, set a timer and BAM! You've got dinner waiting for you at home. Unfortunately there aren't any self-cleaning slow-cookers yet so you'll still have to do some clean up after dinner.

10. Meal planning

Meal planning has become widely popular for those looking to lose weight because they can prepare and "package" full healthy meals ahead of time, then just grab them and go. However, even if you aren't trying to lose weight, meal planning and prepping can become an invaluable habit that saves times and energy. You prepare and pack up days' worth of meals, store them in your fridge or freezer, reheat and eat them!

Ana M. Ferrer  Posted by Ana M. Ferrer on August 20, 2014

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