Learning how to cook faster is an essential skill all parents should master.
After all, no matter if you’re a working or stay-at-home mom – there are never enough hours in the day. Dinner time is always here before you know it and you have hungry kids screaming.
So if you find yourself asking: how can I speed up cooking? Is it possible?
Trust me, there are a few extra things you can do that will get you cooking at warp speed before you know it.
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1 | Read the Recipe
Even if you’ve cooked the recipe before, take the 30 seconds to skim it again. If it’s a new recipe, carefully read it once and then quickly scan it for a second time before you cook.
For starters, if you’re familiar with the recipe it will save time when you’re cooking so you won’t have to constantly reference the directions.
But most importantly, it’s good to mentally walk through it to figure out things that should be started first or what can be done at the same time. Or even breaks when something is cooking to prepare something for another dish. This makes your cooking as efficient as possible.
It also makes sure you won’t forget something that takes awhile to get started – like getting water boiling or preheating the oven.
2 | Prep Everything Before You Start
Get out all ingredients ahead of time, before you actually begin cooking. This cuts down on trips to the fridge and pantry. It also lets items reach room temperature so it’s faster to cook them.
Be sure to prep anything (wash, drain, chop, etc) you’ll need in the beginning. In fact, try to group things together and wash everything at once.
If you’ve read the recipe ahead of time, figure out a down time you can prep items you’ll need later.
3 | Chop Food Into Smaller Pieces
The smaller the pieces of food, the quicker the cooking.
Meats don’t have to be cut into smaller pieces, but they should be thinly sliced if stir-fried.
Alternatively, you could use a meat tenderizer to achieve a similar effect. Not to mention it does wonders for the texture.
4 | Opt for Wider Pans
Look for pans with the widest surface area on the bottom.
More of the pan touching the heating elements means that more food is getting cooked at the same time. It also means that liquids will heat up and reduce faster.
Wide pans also mean that the food inside has plenty of space. Water-rich veggies will cook slower and get soggy when overcrowded in the pan.
5 | Try a Prep Session
Consider having one or two prep sessions during the week. It’s a time where you’ll chop up veggies and portion them out for upcoming meals.
If you prep everything at once it means you’ll streamline the process for maximum efficiency. You’ll also dirty less knives/cutting boards and spend less time cleaning up.
Try boiling eggs or frying up meat for quick lunch salads. Or maybe saute up onions and garlic for multiple recipes you’ve meal planned. You can even pre-cook pasta, toss it with some olive oil, and keep it in the fridge for a few days. Store everything in handy dandy prep containers.
Pssst…. Make some of my amazing Kid-Approved Spaghetti Bolognese to go with that pre-cooked pasta for the easiest ever midweek dinner.
READ The Greatest Meal Planning Tips to Save You Money
6 | Always Have a Backup Meal
We’ve all had those days. You know them, when dinner just doesn’t work out the way you want. Maybe you forgot to thaw the meat, are missing a key ingredient, burnt something beyond repair, or you just don’t feel like having what you originally planned.
Have a mental list of a few quick backup meals. For us it’s breakfast for dinner (pancakes and eggs), bulgogi (the raw, marinated meat freezes great – cooked rice does too!), and grilled veggie sandwiches with pesto spread.
7 | Sharpen Your Knives
Prepping and chopping is often one of the most time consuming parts of cooking. So naturally you’ll want to speed this up if you’re searching for how to cook faster.
Make sure your knives are sharpened. If you can’t remember the last time you sharpened your knives, it’s time to do it again.
Believe me, having sharp knives speeds up your chopping time immensely. A lot of stores and farmers markets offer knife-sharpening services, but I prefer to sharpen my knives at home myself.
8 | Repurpose Leftovers
Think of ways you can transform leftovers from one meal into a different dish entirely.
Leftover roasts can make meat for french dip sandwiches, casseroles, fun tacos, or fried rice.
This makes the second dinner quicker to prepare, reduces waste, and adds more variety to your weekly menu.
9 | Put a Lid on It
Putting a lid on your saucepan or pot holds in the heat while cooking and helps you cook faster.
10 | Rock an Apron
When you cook, think of an apron as your blinders… and also kind of your guard rail.
Okay so maybe that wasn’t the best analogy. But I have to say, when I’m wearing an apron it automatically transforms me into cooking mode. You’ll concentrate on what you’re preparing and be more focused.
Even more importantly, it means you don’t have to be cautious while working. Since the apron protects your clothes, you won’t have to worry about food splashes or messy counters. All of this is the secret for how to cook faster.
It doesn’t have to be something frilly your grandmother would wear. They have super cute ones available now that will make you actually want to cook. I must admit I have an apron addiction – but they’re just so stinking adorable. Look at these cats or even these sassy fruit.
11 | Skip the Trash Can
One trick in learning how to cook faster is making sure you have everything within arms reach. This includes the waster containers like a compost or trash can.
If you actually pay attention to it, you spend a lot of time collecting waste and running back and forth from the trash can. Veggie stems, seeds, plastic wrapping, etc.
Just put a big bowl or two at your workspace for all the things that are to be thrown away, it will make things so much easier and speed up your cooking. If you have downtime, you can separate it into trash, compost, and recycling.
12 | Freeze to the Max
Always double recipes of meals that can be easily frozen.
Personally, rather than freezing a prepared casserole I prefer to freeze prepped ingredients. Soups are also great freezing candidates, just be sure to freeze before any cream or milk products are added.
My freezer is also full of prepped ingredients. Chopped onions, stewed tomatoes, broth, cut up celery, ginger, taco meat, and sauces all freeze great.
This is one of my biggest secrets for how to cook faster. Just be sure you’re rotating in those freezer meals like I talk about in my essential meal planning hacks.