Quick and Easy Meals: 5 Tips for Faster Cooking

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1. Buy Meat in Bulk

Doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for hamburger, chicken breasts, or fish, the best deals in the meat department come in the largest packages. At home, immediately divide those big packs into individual servings and put each one in a Ziploc bag. Add your favorite spices or marinade and then freeze ’em so you have instant entrées that just need to be grilled or baked. To save money, check out hangar steaks. They’re tasty, high in protein, and very inexpensive, says chef Josh Eden, of NYC’s Ten Ten restaurant. “Just cut them across the grain to keep them tender,” he says.

2. Keep Produce Fresh Longer

Don’t just chuck everything you buy into the fridge. Tomatoes, avocados, squash, and citrus are better off sitting on a cool countertop for a few days instead of being blasted with cold temperatures. Never wash veggies before storing either; just keep them in a loosely rolled plastic bag. You can also hit ’em with a dash of olive oil first. “The oil keeps them from going bad as quickly,” says Guillermo Tellez, executive chef at Square 1682 in Philadelphia.

3. Embrace Cubism

Instead of drinking the red wine leftover from that marinara sauce you made, pour some into an ice cube tray and freeze until you need it. You can do the same thing with fresh juice, pasta sauce, pesto, gravy, even broths and vegetable stock.

4. Rescue Leftovers

Got rice that came with your Chinese take-out? Nuke it with a little water and butter to bring it back to life. Leftover veggies? Add a couple tablespoons of water before reheating them. Stale bread or crackers? Scatter them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little water and reheat in the oven at 350º until warm and crispy.

5. Shop Like a Chef

Stock up on pantry staples like spices, olives, canned beans, and tomatoes, says Matthew Accarrino, the executive chef at San Francisco’s acclaimed SPQR. “They have a long shelf life and will broaden your ability to be creative, spur of the moment.” Always have on hand: whole oats (use in place of bread crumbs in meatloaf and meatballs for extra fiber and vitamins); whole- grain tortilla shells (to make quesadillas, bake them for crispy taco shells, or cut them in pieces for “homemade” pita chips); and light sour cream

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