Saturday, June 20, 2009

Practical, Yet Quick and Easy, Cooking Tips

If an hour's worth of cooking takes a lot of your energy and gets you frustrated, imagine how your female ancestors felt when they had to spend 6 hours or more each day to prepare meals. These days, though, there is no excuse for heating those store-bought pizzas and microwave meals. There are plenty of tricks you can use for quick cooking. All it takes is a little patience, preparation and creativity.

Half of the time you waste when cooking meals is actually spent on preparation including the planning, ingredient selection, washing, cutting and scraping. If you prefer fresh vegetables, cut them in the sizes you will be using and store them in the fridge. Next time you need julienned carrots, for example, you can just open a prepared batch and use for quick cooking.

The same holds true for pre-cooked ingredients, especially meat and chicken. Simply cook some extra pieces, store them and use them later for a different dish.

Another trick is to use convenience products, such as frozen vegetables, preserved fruits, canned or bottled sauces. This is a step above eating microwave meals and you can shave time off from preparing them. Need pesto sauce for your pasta? Don’t bring out your food processor and open a prepared bottle instead. That's 10 or 15 minutes of cooking time saved.

Review the recipe.

Another quick cooking trick is to learn your recipe beforehand. If you're unsure about a dish, read the recipe thoroughly to acquaint yourself with the ingredients and cooking process. It's a lot quicker to cook something if you have envisioned how the process will unfold and what you will need to use. That way, you can have your utensils and ingredients ready.

Cut up in small pieces and use quick cooking techniques.

Foods that are cut in small, bite-sized pieces are easier to cook compared to larger pieces. Even small pieces of beef or pork will work well even when stir-fried. If pieces are larger, grilling will be an excellent quick cooking method, as well as frying and deep-frying.

Cut once, use twice.

Rachael Ray had it right when she urged people to cut up the ingredients they need all at once and use them as needed. For example, if you need garlic for two dishes, chop up the number of cloves once and use accordingly. It saves you time so you can focus on doing something else.

Learn your specialty.

It's quicker to cook something that you know. When pressed for time, cook a recipe that you are familiar with to save time.

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