Prep ingredients in advance
Cut veggies, marinate proteins and measure seasonings and liquids well in advance of your meal. If you're really out of time, buy precut, washed vegetables and preseasoned, prepared proteins at the grocery store. Also, keep some ingredients you use often on hand, suggests chef Bill Mierisch. "I always try to keep some precooked, crumbled bacon on hand," he explains. "It can complete a dish with such ease. I also keep pesto in the freezer, as it can save a mediocre sauce."
Choose an indispensable kitchen tool
Find what works for you, whether it's a chef's knife, mandolin, immersion blender or another handy tool or appliance. Mierisch's favorite tool is a carving fork. He says, "It is a great multitasker. I use it for stirring, whisking in a pinch, pulling/moving items in the oven, flipping, tossing and turning -- all sorts of things."
Clean as you go
While cleaning may be the least favorite part of preparing a meal, this shortcut every chef uses should become your shortcut, too. "It is de rigueur in restaurants to clean as you go," Mierisch explains. "A messy work space is too difficult to cook in. Frankly, if you are doing it right, you should be a little tired after the meal is prepared -- thus lacking the energy for a massive clean at the end. I'm not a stickler, but I do try to at least get things out of the way, wipe surfaces and presoak pans at the very least."
Parents of little ones, heed this clean-as-you-go advice from Mierisch, too: "Washing knives as I use them adds to a safer kitchen -- nothing lingering or, worse, sitting at the bottom of a sink to cut a finger on."
Take a page from restaurant chefs, who plan out menus and make sure they have all ingredients on hand. This shortcut saves time in the kitchen and brings the family together. Older kids can help write a shopping list, and younger kids can help pick a favorite meal.
Make one large shopping trip, and then follow the rest of these tips. You'll be cooking in no -- or at least, less -- time!
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Sneaky ways to reuse leftovers
4 Last-minute appetizers for tonight's dinner