Cook Well In Less Time

Cooking at home is an economical way to get your family to eat well, but it can take time. When you're short on that -- or just don’t feel like cooking -- a few kitchen shortcuts can help in a big way. These five tried and true tips will make your cooking experience a breeze.

Woman cooking

Cooking shortcuts are little tricks that let you make good food without the full-on effort. We're not talking semi-homemade, though -- simply a few timesavers that speed things up.

Cooking shortcut #1: Fast rice

Rice goes so well with so many main dishes from chicken and beef to veggie stir-fries. You can eat it plain or dress it up with add-ins such as veggies, cheese and seasonings. Making it from scratch, however, can take awhile, and instant rice isn't always that tasty.

The solution? Skip the boxed instant and go premade. Many stores now sell frozen, pre-cooked rice. Try the Thai Jasmine Rice from Trader Joe's, which cooks in the microwave in just minutes. Or look for brown rice in your supermarket's freezer section for a fast, healthy, fiber-friendly side.

Quick TipAnother trick: Save your leftover rice. When you get take-out, save the cartons of rice to have on another night that week. To cook, steam the rice in a steamer insert for 10 minutes or so. It will be as good as new, and totally delish.

Cooking shortcut #2: Mince garlic faster

Fresh garlic adds wonderful taste to so many dishes, but sometimes you just don't have time to mince it up. Sure, you could add garlic powder, but it doesn't give quite the same flavor to a dish.

Instead, try jarred (or frozen) garlic when the dish you are making will cook at length. "I always used jarred garlic in soups and casseroles. Garlic takes me forever to chop, and if it's not the key ingredient, you can't tell the difference," says food writer Maris Callahan, who blogs about her creations at In Good Taste. If garlic is front and center in a dish, however, do stick with fresh.

Cooking shortcut #3: Use chili sauce

Want a tangy flavor without the measuring and mixing? Try chili sauce. "I loathe ketchup, but chili sauce is great! It fleshes out BBQ sauces and adds a tangy flavor to a lot of dishes without a lot of effort on my part," says cookbook author Rachel Rappaport.

Cooking shortcut #4: A faster chop

Need to chop veggies for a soup or sauce? It can take awhile if you do it by hand -- but who says you have to? Instead, toss onions, carrots and whatever else you need into your food processor (or mini food prep) and pulse until you get your desired chop.

If you need something sliced, a full-size food processor fitted with a slicing disk does it in seconds.

Cooking shortcut #5: measuring cups in canisters

How many times have you opened a canister, needing to measure its contents out fast, but had to take time to find the right measure? Save time by keeping a measuring cup handy all the time. "I keep a quarter-cup measuring cup in my flour, white sugar, brown sugar, etc. That way, I never have to go digging for one," says Cate O'Malley, who writes Sweetnicks.

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Comments on "5 cooking shortcuts to save you time in the kitchen"

Katie March 16, 2013 | 3:22 PM

I always prep my veggies in the morning before work so they are ready to go when i get home to cook! just my two cents :)

Lauren February 02, 2013 | 2:09 PM

Food processors are great - but be warned if you put it in there too long it will turn to mush.

jezebel December 18, 2012 | 11:47 PM

Quit buying frozen rice, buy a rice cooker, buy rice in bulk bags, put rice in rice cooker, put water in rice cooker, push button on rice cooker, walk away, do something, ANYTHING else, get perfect rice every time, with less effort than buying frozen crap or saving and reheating leftovers, save money by not paying a premium for rice that should cost pennies without a bunch of useless packaging that costs 2 or 3 bucks a serving. . .

Chriselle August 22, 2012 | 10:09 AM

Buying pre-made rice has saved me so much time! Another tip is to put sea salt in water to help it boil faster.

Kaylee June 29, 2012 | 12:59 PM

Discovering frozen rice changed my life. I used to take the 45 minutes or whatever to cook rice from scratch because I thought it made a difference. I could never make it as perfectly cooked as that little frozen bag from trader joes does.

Virginia May 23, 2012 | 11:43 AM

Excellent article on time-saving cooking! I save my leftover rice and add it to microwave dinners. A tv dinner of chicken and vegetables will sit well on top of a heaping mound of rice, and all I need to do is add sauce to give it extra flavor. And although I know it sounds cheesy, I own a Slap Chop so that I can quickly and easily slice and dice ingredients.

samantha May 04, 2012 | 7:23 PM

i peel my onions & garlic and put them in a container i also wash sweetpeppers etc & store them in coveredbowls i cut up chives &celery and store it save me time in the kitchen.

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