Useful Tips and Tricks to be More Efficient in the Kitchen
The go-to resource for choosing your dream culinary vacation. Find all you need to know about the top destinations and ways to elevate your cooking skills & knowledge.
Discover Culinary Vacations now
The kitchen can be magical place where all the delicious food we love is created.
But many of us are still reluctant to cook in our own kitchen for many reasons. Being constantly busy is one of them.
So, it’s no wonder that we are always looking for ways to speed up various tasks – including cooking. But alas, speeding up the cooking process isn’t always an easy task.
That said, just because you can’t really reduce the vegetables cooking times or bake a pie faster doesn’t mean that you can’t become more efficient in the kitchen!
In this article, we share some tried and tested tips that will help set you off on your cooking journey, be more efficient, and hopefully start to love it!
Take a Cooking Class
The right cooking class can shave a lot of time off the hours spent in the kitchen. You’ll not only learn new recipes, but you’ll get to witness real chefs in action and get to emulate them under 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!
And when it is not possible to travel, online cooking classes offer a great way to sharpen your skills, discover authentic recipes, and learn various culinary tips & tricks from the comfort & safety of your home. All you need is a phone/tablet/laptop/smart TV to attend the virtual classes and enhance your culinary skills with the help of chefs from around the world.
Invest in a Good (Sharp) Knife
Whether you are a professional chef or a home cook, a knife (a sharp one to be specific) is an essential tool for you to have in the kitchen.
While preparing to create a meal or a dish, you will do quite a lot of chopping up of ingredients. We encourage you to invest in a good quality and sharp knife to do the trick. A blunt knife would be much more dangerous and difficult to use even to slice an apple!
A quality knife set will last you a decade, if not a lifetime. If you use it enough, it will start to feel like an extension of you, which is when the ‘magic’ will start to happen.
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.
Since we are all still beginners in the kitchen, let’s just run through the basics, shall we?
With your dominant hand, be sure that you grip your knife right. Once comfortably gripped, place your food in a stable position (the base of the food should always be surface flat against the cutting board), curl your fingers of your subordinate hand inwards (like a claw form), and begin cutting your food in a handshake-like movement. Use your knuckles as a guide for your knife and slice your food with the tip of the knife first down. With lots of practice, you will be chopping away your food with ease or probably even like a professional chef!
Kitchen Prepping & Organizing Ingredients
If you want to considerably reduce the time you spend in the kitchen, you need to learn how to prep the kitchen for the task at hand, as well as organize the ingredients you need for the dish you are making - or as the French culinary phrase would say Mise En Place.
Know what dish you would be cooking and from there, you are able to list out the ingredients needed. Don’t forget about all the utensils, kitchen towels, knives, and timer either.
Get the vegetables peeled, measured, chopped - whatever you are required to do with them before you turn on the stove. You may also prepare some vegetables to have ready for the entire week. For example, you can peel and cut various root vegetables and store them in air-tight containers or freeze them.
If you’re making soup, heat up the water/broth in advance to add over your sautéed vegetables. If you’re making an Indian curry, have the rice ready before your curry is ready. If you’re doing anything with your oven, have it preheated! I love Jamie Oliver’s tip to use a kettle and always have hot water handy.
Also, always be sure that the ingredients are within your reach - you don’t want to burn your sauce while you are busy running around looking for dried herbs or chopping up some garlic!
Cook Things in the Right Order
Now that your kitchen is ready and you have everything set up, it’s time to get cooking.
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 root vegetables, such as onion, carrots, and celeriac (celery root). After, the softer vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, or pumpkin can follow. Lastly, you can add herbs and coconut milk.
Until you get enough experience to alter the recipes for your own taste, make sure to follow the instructions about cooking order, time, and temperatures.
Learn to Season Your Food Right
You won’t want your guests gulping down glasses of water in every bite or screaming “WATER!” because you have gone too far with salt, pepper, or spices in the dish!
Make sure you sprinkle in just the right amount of salt and pepper evenly on your meat or you might have some areas clumping up with more seasoning, while none in another. The same goes for vegetables.
While it may be easier to use already grounded pepper, freshly grounded would give a more wholesome flavor. If you are uncertain of the amount, ground it in a tiny bowl before you add it to the meal. You can do the same for coarse salt (such a pink Himalaya salt).
Also, learn the tricks to get more flavor out of the spices you use. Certain spices – such as peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, juniper berries, clove, mustard seeds, and fennel seeds - should be toasted to bring out their flavor before you add in the other ingredients. Other spices should be added last to the meal.
»Check out our glossary of herbs, spices, kitchen terms and measurements
Learn to Cut Onions Without Shedding Tears
Oh, how much we dread cutting an onion! It causes our eyes to start stinging with tears and makes us weep uncontrollably in the kitchen. As much as we hate cutting into those rascals, onions complement nearly every dish and truth to be told, we can’t avoid them (especially knowing how tasty those caramelized onions are).
That said, cutting onions shouldn’t be torture and there is a simple trick to avoid the tears: cut off the shoot of the onion. The reason why is because this part of the onion contains enzymes that when mixed with water will release sulfuric acid, which would irritate our eyes.
Master the Skill of Cracking Eggs
The humble egg is probably one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen. From eggs Benedict, deviled eggs, sunny side up, to poached eggs and so much more, you can literally whip up countless egg recipes. Before you can start cooking up these dishes, obviously you would need to crack open your eggs first.
If you have been cracking eggs on sharp edges, then you have been doing it all wrong. The proper way of cracking an egg is on a flat surface area. This would avoid the fragments of eggshells from entering the center of the egg. So, crack your eggs right or those pesky eggshells can ruin your meal!
Learn to Cook Your Pasta Well
Not only is pasta a personal favorite food in an Italian household, but there’s also no denying that everyone enjoys a good plate for a hearty meal. Who can resist the silky texture of pasta, melting in your mouth along with that sweetness of the sauce and tanginess of the grated parmesan flavors?
To get that delicious plate of goodness, the pasta is meant to be cooked ‘Al Dente’ and not too mushy! What ‘Al Dente’ means is that you should have a slight resistance when you bite into the pasta or when cut with a fork.
So, in order to have that properly cooked pasta, here are the basic steps to do so. In a pot of boiling water, add salt to taste. Once the salt has been dissolved, you can add in the pasta while stirring it frequently for the first two minutes of it. Continue stirring it occasionally until the pasta is cooked. Give it a taste before draining to see whether it is your liking.
Check the package for the cooking time but taste it before that time ends (1-2 minutes before is suffice). Different types of flours used to make pasta require different cooking times. The durum wheat ones (typical Italian pasta) takes longest, whereas chickpeas pasta cooks very fast.
As you are draining, be sure you leave a little bit of water in it but do make sure you do not rinse the pasta with water while doing so, unless you are looking to make a pasta salad. This is because rinsing it will remove the starch that helps to stick the sauce.
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 learned, because you can always do better. Don’t settle for knowing how to whip up a handful of dishes when there are so many more out there to try!
A lot of people get self-sufficient in the kitchen and stop improving. This won’t help you become better or 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 but when you really think about it, it makes perfect sense!
This sounds logical enough, but many people tend to multitask while they are cooking (e.g: watching TV, talking on the phone, etc.).
Stay focused and don’t try to cook while doing three other tasks at once. This 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.
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 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! Wait until summer for the perfect eggplant.
And next time you complain that the tomatoes taste like grass during winter, remember that they are in season during summer. And that’s the perfect time to learn some new salad recipes.
Taste Before Serving
Freshly cooked, steamy dishes smell delicious but food that’s too hot may impair our ability to enjoy it.
At high temperatures, we don’t distinguish the taste too well. Therefore, if you taste the food while you are making it, it will taste different then when you serve it. Better to add less salt, pepper, and spices during the cooking process than to risk adding too much only to realize you overdid it when the dish cools down.
So, make sure to taste the food right before you serve it.
Clean as You Go
Be sure to have your kitchen space clean as you go along cooking your meal.
Once you are done with cracking those eggs, throw the shells into the bin (or save them for compost).
After chopping those tomatoes, be sure to give your chopping board a wipe, before proceeding on with slicing the next ingredient. Not doing so might hurt your fingers as the garlic slides off the slippery board.
Put those bowls or plates back in place or into the sink after using them. You would want that extra space on the kitchen counter.
Plus, you can focus on enjoying the meal rather than having to think about cleaning up the kitchen mess!
Make a Weekly Meal Schedule
This ‘trick’ may save you countless hours!
For example, over the weekend, sit down and use a weekly meal plan to jot down what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, during the upcoming week. If you crave something you don’t already have in the house, it’s time to hit the store and the farmer’s market (with a list in hand).
At first, it may be hard to decide ahead of time what to eat for an entire week. But the more you use a meal planner, the easier, simpler, and more affordable it gets.
Plus, it’s not set in stone, either. If one day, you want to eat something that’s not in the planner, you can simply revise the 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!
Practice makes perfect so how about honing your cooking skills by attending an online cooking course? Whether you want to learn how to make Tiramisu, bake French bread, or cook spicy Indian food, there are plenty of courses to choose from.