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19 Ways to Cook Everything Faster

Updated: Jun. 14, 2022

Cookbook author Mark Bittman shares his best tips for whipping up dinner in record time—without sacrificing taste.

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Saucepan full of boiling water
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Start with heat

Before doing anything else, turn on the oven, crank up the broiler, preheat a skillet, and set water to boil. Appliances, pots, pans, and water take time to get hot. Boiling water is always my first move. Find more tips like these in Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything Fast, or grab a copy of his latest cookbook, Dinner for Everyone.

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Green Beans on a grey concrete background wooden board cutting with scissors healthy food cooking

Don’t dirty an extra dish

Use kitchen scissors to chop cooked or tender raw vegetables (especially greens) right in the bowl or pan.

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Yellow, red, and orange bell peppers washed in stainless steel metal colander
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Speed up your washing time

Put all the produce together in a colander and rinse under cold water. (If you have a large amount, wash in batches, putting what’s done on towels.) During downtime while cooking, wash vegetables used toward the end of a recipe. Rinse foods like carrots and cabbage after they’ve been trimmed or peeled. Don’t miss these 15 quick, healthy meals doctors cook every day.

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mix of garlic chili and red onion for background used
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Chop all at once

If a recipe calls for minced garlic, minced ginger, and/or minced chiles at the same time, consolidate the job with my go-to technique: Peel the garlic and ginger, trim the chiles, and put them all in a pile. Then chop and mince them together using a rocking motion.

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Chef cutting chicken fillet into strips. Making Chicken and Egg Galette Series.

Cut before cooking

Big, thick pieces of food take longer to cook through than those cut small or sliced thin. I cut chicken cutlets in half so they cook faster; chop veggies accordingly.

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Carrots grated and old metal grater closeup

Make use of your grater

Making a pureed vegetable soup? Grate your veggies instead of chopping them. If you cut them into chunks, they’ll take 20 minutes or more to soften. But grated, they’re ready in a flash.

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Delicious eggs Florentine in frying pan and napkin on wooden kitchen table
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Let your pots do double duty

When you sauté or simmer something moist—such as vegetables, beans, or sauces—lay a different food on top (especially a protein like fish, chicken, or eggs), cover with a lid, and let the steam naturally cook that upper layer. For instance, for a fast eggs Florentine, steam the eggs on top of the spinach rather than poaching them separately.

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Lamb shanks braised in casserole dish
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Use less liquid when braising

Submerge your braising ingredients in about one inch of liquid, cover the pot, and cook, turning occasionally, adding a little liquid as necessary. Learn how to fix 50 other kitchen mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

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Freshly baked multigrain bread on cooling rack over rustic wood background. Closeup from above with natural directional lighting.
Marie C Fields/Shutterstock

One sandwich is faster than four

Cut a baguette in half the long way, assemble one giant sandwich, then cut that into as many pieces as you like. (I’ve seen people do the opposite!)

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Fresh apples without core. Removed with corer tool. Ingredient for jam or pie. Harvest
Tatyana Aksenova/Shutterstock

Cut around the core

This method is a fast way to prep apples, pears, tomatoes, cabbage, peaches, and bell peppers: Slice downward around the core, removing flesh in three or four pieces; then cut flesh into slices or wedges.

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Two halves of butternut squash on a wooden surface.
Nadia Nice/Shutterstock

Serve up raw vegetables

Instead of roasting winter veggies, eat them raw. Squash, beets, parsnips, and celery root make great salads and slaws. Since root vegetables are sturdy, grate them. If they’re still too crispy for comfort, marinate them for a half hour or longer in a vinaigrette.

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Blade of Food Processor

Prep Brussels sprouts in the food processor

The machine does the job in a few pulses, and the small pieces will broil in about half the time. Plus, you get more of the delicious crispy bits that I can’t get enough of (just ask my daughters).

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Bowl with fresh homemade tomato soup on wooden background, top view
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Whip up a summer soup

Some soups need to simmer for hours, but cold soups, such as gazpacho, involve simply putting ingredients in a blender and turning it on. So underrated. Whip up one of these other 15 weight-loss recipes you can make in less than half an hour.

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Frozen vegetables

Use frozen vegetables

They work well in soup or any dish. Minimally processed and chilled immediately after harvest, frozen vegetables are an anomaly in the frozen-food aisle—a true gift to hurried cooks. I always keep frozen peas and corn on hand.

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Open empty electric oven with rack, closeup. Inside view
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Don’t wait around for a preheated oven

Unless you’re baking—or roasting something that requires an initial blast of very high heat—you don’t have to wait for the oven to reach its set temperature before putting in the food. Veggies and slow-roasted or braised meat work well this way. Speed things up even more by taking advantage of these 16 foods you never realized you could microwave.

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Abstract hand of a man is opening a refrigerator door
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Leave the butter in the fridge

If you’ve forgotten to let the butter soften, melt it in the microwave; then use a brush to apply it to bread for a more even coating.

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Raw meatballs on a cutting board, top view
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Make meatballs into meat “drops”

When making meatballs, the most time-consuming part is rolling them. The solution? Don’t. Use two spoons to drop little mounds into the hot skillet. They’ll brown beautifully—and taste just as good. You’ll want to try these other 20 recipes just like grandma used to make.

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A very close view of shredded and seasoned cooked cabbage.
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Make “unstuffed” cabbage

Blanching cabbage leaves to make them pliable is onerous. Use cooked cabbage as a base instead of a wrapper—it’ll provide the same taste with much less work.

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homemade deep fried spring rolls
Aris Setya/Shutterstock

Simplify lasagna night

Trade typical lasagna noodles for egg roll wrappers, which don’t have to be boiled and come in small, easy-to-handle squares. They taste like fresh egg pasta. If you liked these tips, you’ll love these 25 brilliant kitchen shortcuts you’ll wish you knew sooner.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest