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"No One Would Ever Know It Actually Came From A Box": People Are Sharing Their Shameless (But Brilliant) "Lazy Cooking" Hacks That Save Time And Effort In The Ktichen

"Is it the same as homemade from scratch? No. Can I quickly tweak it to make it exactly what I want without spending hours doing it the 'right way'? Absolutely."

Cooking can be both fun and rewarding, but there are times when you just want to get food on the table as quickly and easily as possible. So Redditor u/ChallengeLate1947 asked, "What’s your laziest 'cheat' when cooking?" Here are some of the responses — and I, for one, am certainly going to be trying out a few!

1. "I buy a huge bag of pre-peeled garlic from Costco, chop it in the food processor, and then freeze the whole thing. Whenever I need to cook with garlic I just break a chunk off and throw it into the dish."

Fresh peeled garlic cloves.

2. "I buy cheap rotisserie chicken at least once a week. I break it down and serve it for a couple of meals: I use the little bits stuck on the bones for salads, and then I save the bones for stock. I could roast my own chicken, sure. But the rotisserie chicken is already done and cheaper. Wins all around."

A rotisserie chicken on a plate.

3. "I make oatmeal in almost-empty peanut butter jars. The oats get all the hard-to-reach peanut butter that sticks to the sides that you can’t seem to get out with a knife. Also, oatmeal with peanut butter is amazing."

Peanut butter and jelly jars.

4. "I use packaged stock and stock concentrate. Is it the same as homemade? Not even close. Can I tweak it to make it what I want without spending hours doing it the 'right way'? Totally. I start with unsalted chicken or beef stock, add 1/2 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon per cup of stock, throw in some roughly chopped mirepoix, herbs, and garlic powder. I simmer it for 30 minutes and finish with a teaspoon or two of bloomed, unflavored gelatin. This isn't fancy, it's not the real thing, and I don't care. It gets the job done."

Chicken soup in a sauce pan.

5. "Cut up an apple, add a spoon of butter, cover in some brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and microwave until the apples are mushy. Then sprinkle crushed graham crackers on top. It's something like lazy apple pie."

Apples and oat crumble in a mug.

6. "Garlic and onion powder. These spices have their place in lieu of fresh garlic and onions. They can be bloomed in water to revitalize more of a pungent flavor."

Different spice jars.

7. "I use lemon and lime juice from a bottle. I try to use fresh citrus juice when it matters, but it’s nice to have these little bottles on hand. I like to have it in my fridge knowing it’s there if I want it."

Mixing a salad dressing.

8. "Smoked paprika. I use it when I want to add a smoky flavor to my food and don't want to spend hours on the grill."

Chicken wings on a cooling wire rack.

9. "I use frozen puff pastry even though I love to bake. As long as it's made with all butter then it's good enough for me. Making puff pastry from scratch can be such a hassle."

Homemade pizza puff pastry pinwheels.

10. "Frozen peas have a permanent place in my home. Any pasta dish that needs a little something green? Add peas. Need a quick side? Peas will do the trick."

Pasta with tomato sauce and peas.

11. "If a recipe calls for chopped onions, peppers, and tomatoes, I always use store-bought pico de gallo instead."

Pico de gallo close up.

12. "I'm generally a 'from scratch' person in the kitchen, but I'm a shameless user of instant mashed potatoes."

Mashed potatoes in a bowl with a spoon.

13. "I love to bake but I don’t like to reinvent the wheel. If something is great, why make it from scratch? I unapologetically use brownie mix."

A plate of brownies.

14. "Immersion blender hollandaise. Say goodbye to endless whisking on a double-boiler. Now I just put the ingredients into a bowl, take out my immersion blender, touch a button, and bam, it's done."

Hollandaise sauce on eggs Benedict.

15. "I'll take a fresh flour tortilla, spread a spoonful of marinara on top, add a sprinkle of mozzarella and pinch of parmesan, and finish it off with whatever toppings I have on hand. Throw it in the oven for five minutes, and I have an amazing thin crust personal pizza."

Tortilla pizza.

16. "You can turn any frozen pizza into deep dish. Thaw it for 20 minutes, drop it into an oiled cast iron skillet, add any toppings, and bake it for an extra 10 minutes."

A homemade deep dish pizza in a cast iron pan.

17. "I buy boxed cake mix — then I add double butter instead of oil, equal milk in place of water, plus one extra egg. Add a little vanilla extract and almond extract, and no one ever knows it comes from the box."

Hand with spoon mixing cake batter.

18. "Pour warm milk into an almost-empty Nutella jar and shake to make Nutella hot chocolate."

Pouring milk into a Nutella jar.

19. "I like to pride myself on making everything from scratch. I make my own bread/pastry, my own jam, and pickle my own vegetables. I’m not afraid of putting in the work to do things 'the right way.' However, I shamelessly use jars of pre-minced garlic almost exclusively. I hate mincing garlic by hand."

A bowl of minced garlic mixed with olive oil.

20. "For extra depth of flavor and natural salt when making Bolognese sauce, add two anchovies into the pan with your onions and olive oil. They dissolve almost immediately and you don't even taste them, but they really elevate the dish."

Pasta with Bolognese sauce.

21. "You can thicken soups and stews quickly with instant potatoes. I find it easier than adding flour or corn starch because there's no need to make a roux or slurry. Just pour some in and stir until you reach a consistency you like."

A pot of creamy soup.

22. "Adding a pinch of baking soda to grits or polenta cuts the cooking time in half. It's my favorite dinner time-saver."

Serving polenta from a serving plate.

23. "Using a hand or stand mixer to shred chicken. Never again will I spend 25 minutes hand-pulling apart chicken meat."

Three chicken tacos on a plate.

24. "For frozen foods that take forever to heat through (like frozen lasagnas, baked goods, and casseroles), giving them a running start in the microwave saves tons of time. The microwave gets the inside hot first in just a few minutes, then the oven or pan finishes the outside in about half the normal time. Best of all, you're left with zero mushy, microwaved texture left at the end."

Taking a lasagna out of the freezer.

25. "I always keep sun-dried tomatoes and canned artichokes on hand. They're non-perishables so they last forever. Throw them into any pasta and turn it into a satisfying meal."

Farro with sun dried tomatoes and artichokes.

26. "Make French toast in a mug in the microwave. Just tear up some bread and place it in a mug. Mix your usual french toast batter (egg, milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon) and pour over the bread. Top it with butter and nuke it all for one minute. Add maple syrup and microwave for another 15 seconds. Easiest breakfast ever."

Banana French toast in a mug.

27. "I make a roux in the oven instead of on the stovetop. It takes longer, but it's almost totally hands-off."

Stirring a homemade cheese sauce.

28. "Slice potatoes chunkily and parboil as many as will fit in your pot. Drain and store them in the fridge. Whenever you want breakfast potatoes, you'll have more than enough ready to just dump into a hot pan with too much butter. It's easy and the best damn potatoes you'll ever have."

29. "I make a quiche or any kind of baked egg dish with whatever is in my kitchen. I first learned this from Alton Brown. You can take pretty much any savory item (fresh or leftover) and turn it into a delicious quiche or a frittata."

Baked eggs.

30. "For a cheap and easy meal that will blow your mind, toss instant beef-flavored ramen with some peanut butter and sriracha. It's creamy, savory, spicy, sweet, and totally divine."

Peanut butter ramen.

31. "I use Kraft Macaroni & Cheese packets to season my popcorn. It's life-changing."

Cheesy popcorn close up.

32. "MSG is not bad for you. Use it sparingly, and it can really improve your food in seconds. Try it with soups first and experiment with it in other things. It's not for everything but can mean the difference between good and great."

A bowl of ramen noodle soup.

33. "I turn leftover mashed potatoes into tater cakes or pierogi. Or I make them into croquettes and freeze them for later."

Bacon and potato pancakes.

34. "Fish cooks surprisingly well from frozen. Try it, and you'll be amazed at how you can develop great flavors on the outside without overcooking the interior. Just don't try it on fillets of fish that are too thick."

Cooked flaky fish fillets.

35. "Cook spaghetti in a skillet rather than in a large pot. The water boils faster and the residual pasta water is super concentrated and starchy, perfect for sauces."

Spaghetti with tomato sauce.

What's your favorite shortcut that makes cooking even just a little bit quicker, easier, or more enjoyable? Tell us in the comments!