Efficient cooking requires having the right tools and planning. Keep your kitchen clean and well organized, with items such as potholders, tongs and stirring spoons near the oven within easy reach. With an organized area, you can save time and energy at every step in the cooking process, leaving you more time to spend with your family between meals.
One simple way to increase your efficiency is by purchasing high-quality sharp knives or sharpening your existing knives. You are more likely to injure yourself on a dulled knife because of the added pressure and motion required, which reduces your efficiency. Become more efficient at food preparation by preparing like items together. For example, if you need chopped vegetables for both lunch and dinner, chop them all while you prepare lunch. You'll have your tools out and ready and won't need to wash the cutting board between veggies unless they have incompatible or strong tastes that you don't want to mix. Store the dinner veggies in sealed containers in the fridge until you're ready to use them. Do the same for meats, which works well if you want to marinate them between lunch and dinner. If your kids are old enough to help, start them on chopping-and-preparing duty. This may make you less efficient while they learn, but once they pick up the necessary skills, you'll save time, and your kids will have valuable training.
When sketching out your menu for a meal, think about the different cooking temperatures you'll need. If you need two items to bake in the oven, such as a pot roast and potatoes, look for pans that allow you to put them in side by side and adjust your cooking times so you can have them both in the oven at the same time. For example, whole potatoes normally cook at 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, while pot roasts cook at 325 to 375 degrees. However, if you chop your potatoes into quarters and cook them in an open dish, they will cook through at 350 degrees, a temperature compatible with your pot roast. Use glass or ceramic pans for your potatoes and a metal pan for your meats, as the former types of pans conduct more heat than metal.
Stovetop cooking allows you to adjust each burner individually. But if your burners are different sizes, ensure that you can fit some items into smaller pots or pans for the smaller burners. This is more energy efficient as well as space efficient. Place items you need less access to, such as those that require only infrequent stirring, on the back burners. Place items that need more attention on the front burners. This not only makes you more efficient, it can also help you avoid steam burns. Copper-bottomed pots and pans will heat faster than other metals, so lower your stovetop temperature a notch when using these pans and you will cook just as efficiently but use less energy.
Spray all pans with a nonstick spray before you use them, including storage containers for leftover hot foods. This makes cleanup easier when you are finished. Before you start preparing food, fill the sink with hot, soapy water. As soon as you finish using an item, immediately scrape out any food scraps and put the item into the water. Once your food is ready, all preparation items will be soaked and ready for easy washing. Wash them while your food cooks so you have a clean sink when preparation is done. Fill it again with hot, sudsy water and place your cooking pots and pans in to soak as soon as you transfer the food into serving dishes. This way, they're ready for after-dinner cleanup. For heavy-duty cleaning, run self-cleaning ovens as soon as you remove the food. This saves energy because the oven is already heated.
Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.
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