You race through the door to get dinner organised after a long day at work. The kids are tired and ratty, your partner’s getting impatient and hangry… what do you do first? Reach for the takeaway menus? Pull out the soggy, tasteless microwave meal? Don’t do it! Steer clear of over-priced, over-salted and bland options. With these quick tips, you’ll be sliding a fresh, home-cooked meal onto the dinner table in no time.
Switch to Induction
Did you know that induction cooktops are the quickest and most energy-efficient cooktop option? They generate a fluctuating electromagnetic field that heats induction compatible cookware itself rather than the burner, so no heat is lost in the transfer. This means that a saucepan full of water on an induction cooktop will boil in around half the time it’ll take on a gas stove. Talk about efficiency! You also avoid hot spots in your pan because the base heats evenly. If you’re planning a kitchen upgrade, switching to induction is one of the best ways to save time going forward.
Preheat the Oven
The very first thing you should do when you walk into the kitchen is to turn on your oven if your recipe calls for it. Do this before you get out your recipe book, open the fridge, or raid the pantry. It usually takes around 15 minutes for your oven to get to the right temperature, and the last thing you want is to add extra time to your cooking because you forgot to preheat it. Even worse, you can risk overcooking or undercooking your meal because you weren’t sure how to adjust cooking time for an oven at the wrong temperature.
Prep, Prep, Prep
Have you ever watched a cooking show where they have all of those handy little bowls filled with fresh, beautifully chopped ingredients ready to throw in the pan? Food prep is vital to a quick and effortless dish. If you know you’ll be pressed for time, try to chop up all of your vegetables that morning or the night before and store in a Tupperware container in the fridge. You can also pre-measure wet ingredients for sauces or dry ingredients for baking.
Chop Your Food into Small Pieces
It stands to reason that smaller pieces of meat and vegetable cook faster than large pieces. Take a tiny bit of extra time to slice your chicken breast thinly, dice your carrots into small pieces rather than long batons, and enjoy your dramatically reduced cooking time.
Use a Wide, Shallow Pan
So, you’re running around the kitchen, multitasking like a pro-chef, and you open the cupboard to grab out your cookware. Most of us will go for one old faithful pot, but choosing the smallest pan suitable for your recipe will mean that it takes less time to heat up. Be mindful not to overcrowd the pan though, or you may lose out on flavour. Both meat and vegetables release moisture as they cook, and if this moisture doesn’t have the space to evaporate, the food won’t develop that lovely caramelised crust. When in doubt, choose a wide shallow pan: these cook quickly while maintaining flavour.
Use Your Lid
Popping a lid on your pan will keep the heat in, rather than letting it escape into the kitchen. For dishes like stir-frys, using a cover will mean that you’re using dual cooking methods – frying from the heat in the pan, and steaming with the hot air that is trapped inside the lid.
The clock is ticking: are you prepared to cook? Get ready, get set and go!