If food prep was zero stress, quick and easy, we would have more people making home cooked meals. Unfortunately, most of us are usually overwhelmed by work, family commitments or just generally too busy with life to make the effort. We're always strapped for time and want things quick and fast. But what if we told you there are cooking shortcuts that could cut your cooking time in the kitchen? No, it is not fast food and it is not a miracle product.
These are just simple, practical tips with a little foresight and smart organisation.
Cooking shortcuts for quick and easy meals
1. Cook it on the stove
Contrary to what you think, you can pretty much cook any food which you would normally cook in an oven on the stove top for a fraction of the time if you approach this correctly. Fresh naan, quesadillas, fish, chicken fingers or even a quick cheezy melt sandwich, can all be done on the stove pretty fast. Even crunchy breakfast granolas and crispy oat crumbles can be made quickly on the stove top without even turning the oven on. There is no long waiting time for the oven to heat up because you'll be using direct heat to sear your food quickly.
A great example is this fusion salmon and pineapple salsa! Tangy, nutritious and quick, it can be done in 15 minutes!
2. Cut your food smaller
Cutting your food smaller also ensures a faster cooking time because you're exposing more surfaces to direct heat. This is especially true for thicker cut meats and root veggies with longer cooking time. By cutting your food thinner or smaller this will allow the heat to penetrate resulting in food getting cooked through evenly for a fraction of the time needed if it was cooked whole.
3. Pound it thinner
Using a mallet for meat serve a dual purpose. Not only do they tenderize the meat, but they also help to pound them thinner for a quick and easier sear. Which is why schnitzels or even Chinese style pork chops are so easy and quick!
4. Preboil your hot water
Whether you drink a lot of tea at home or not, it is good to have an electric kettle in the kitchen for cooking shortcuts. Being able to have hot water ready quickly is great for making pasta, soups, blanching rice noodles, rehydrating mushrooms and other dried food. The list is endless! It might seem like a very simple tip, but it does save you a lot of time when you need food to be done in a jiffy.
5. Overnight meals
Not particularly a quick meal, but something you can put together quickly to leave overnight so that it is ready in the morning. Overnight oats, pancake batter and no-knead bread all can be done ahead of time. Make them and leave it in the fridge overnight while you sleep. This in turns shortcuts your cooking time in the morning when everyone is making a mad dash for work. At least you can leave for work feeling good you fed yourself a good and healthy homemade meal.
6. One pot meals
There is no need for a fancy 5-course meal if it is too much effort. A one-pot meal can be just as hearty and satisfying, plus they are usually very easy to put together. Another great thing about one-pot meals is that will almost always be leftovers for you to freeze and reheat easily another day. Let's not forget about the easy clean up too!
7. Meal prep
If you are really good at organising or like to do your grocery shopping all at once, then this one is for you. Meal prep may seem tedious and hard work for the weekend for some. But think of it as helping you to make that effort to cook healthy meals at home. Store them frozen as it is or precook them, then freeze - you decide whatever is more convenient for you. The key is in early preparation, after that it is really quick and easy. Meal prep is also a great way to do portion control if you're looking to lose some weight or have dietary restrictions.
8. The staples
Always ensure your pantry is well stocked. Staples like angel hair pasta that cooks in 2 minutes, for instance, or sauces and condiments, sambal and curry pastes, stock cubes, spices and other dehydrated goods like anchovies. Frozen veggies and even the odd canned goods can be a lifesaver on a lazy day. You still can make a meal with minimal ingredients as well, but having a well-stocked pantry will give you more variety and cut down cooking time.
9. Mason jar meals
Mason jars are a great tool. You can use them to pack salads to go, overnight oats or pancake mix. Did you know that you can even whip up whipping cream quickly, or even make your own butter in a mason jar? Think meal prep preportioned and ready to go. Feeding yourself cannot be easier.
10. Clean as you go
Cooking shortcuts are important, but so is cleaning up as you go instead of tackling everything after. By attacking this chore little by little, this keeps you from feeling overwhelmed with the amount of washing. It will also help you make conscious decisions to keep thing simple and not use too many utensils. Cue one pot meals!
11. Give your favourite local recipes a twist
Try and give your favourite local recipes a new twist like this quick and easy ondeh-ondeh pancake instead of making the actual ondeh-ondeh kuih itself. Purists may argue that this isn't the real deal, but if a recipe is tweaked to make things easier for everybody, we say "why not?"
This article is done in partnership with Sharefood Singapore. Are you inspired after seeing so many other ways to prepare home cooked meals at a fraction of the time? There's more on Sharefood's Facebook page! Once you see how quick and satisfying home cooking can be, you will not be spending the bulk of your next pay by eating out.