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32 Cooking Shortcuts That'll Actually Get Dinner On The Table Faster

Simple strategies for weeknight wins.

Zoë Burnett / Alice Yoo / BuzzFeed

We asked the BuzzFeed Community for their most useful cooking shortcuts and favorite time-saving kitchen tools, and here's all their best advice!

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1. Set aside an afternoon to chop a BUNCH of onions (or other veggies!) then stick them in the freezer to pull out whenever a recipe calls for 'em.

dessertnowdinnerlater.com

I make my husband cut onions for me in bulk then I freeze on a tray so they don't stick together, then once frozen I put them in a bag. My eyes are so sensitive that this saves my eyes all but that single onion-cutting day.

girlglasses

When chopping veggies, I chop extra and keep them in the freezer. Having sliced onions, peppers, julienned carrots, and prepped broccoli makes for a 10-minute veggie noodle dish!

namdjoker

Dessert Now, Dinner Later has the full how-to.

2. Or just go ahead and buy chopped, frozen onions, cauliflower, and other frozen, prepped veggies at the grocery store, so all the hard work's basically done for you.

eatyourselfskinny.com, amazon.com

I use frozen cauliflower rice for any rice dish, the amount of money you save by making your own isn't worth the effort and time to rice a head of cauliflower.a4ad198c6f

If you can't get what you specifically want in the frozen section of your grocery store, you can probably request that they carry it. Or, Amazon Fresh has some frozen selections, including riced cauliflower for $3.49 and an organic mirepoix blend for $3.79.

Get the recipe for Cauliflower Fried Rice from Eat Yourself Skinny, or check out more meat-free cauliflower recipes.

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3. If you prefer fresh produce but hate the time it takes to dice things with knives, get a little food chopper to take care of all that work in no time.

amazon.com, youtube.com

I buy a bunch of onions and use the chopper to chop almost all of them (I keep two or three to use for salad or some other stuff). Then I put them in a ziplock bag and freeze them. It's cheaper than buying them already frozen.

margaridavargasd

This 3.5-cup chopping mini-food processor features two different speeds and works on quick pulses, so you have plenty of control of whether your onions come out roughly chopped, neatly cubed, or — if you took it to an extreme — somewhat puréed. The bowl, lid, and blade are all dishwasher safe, of course! Get one on Amazon for $39.95.

4. Or upgrade to a full-sized food processor to slice, dice, shred, chop, and purée to your heart's content.

amazon.com, youtube.com

Buy a food processor, and use it for onions, garlic, etc. —Sam Delane, Facebook

This 10-cup food processor has cool little scrapers that let you scrape down the sides of the bowl without taking the lid off, and is small enough to keep out on your cabinet all the time. Plus it can fit an entire block of cheese in, like, one go. Get one on Amazon for $39.99+.

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5. Skip the forks and save your fingers: Shred cooked chicken in no time using your hand mixer or stand mixer.

twotwentyone.net

When you need shredded chicken: Boil it, then, while it’s still super hot, throw it all into the stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. BAM. Easy shredded chicken!

ashleighm3

Of course, the stand mixer makes it extra easy, but a hand mixer works too!

Get the how-to from Two Twenty One. And get a basic, classic white KitchenAid stand mixer on Amazon for $259; or choose between white and silver at Target for $259.99; or black at Walmart for $259.

6. To keep rice on hand without having to cook it each time, make a huge batch then stick it in the freezer for later. (This also works v. well with quinoa, or whatever grain you like best.)

Kelli Foster / thekitchn.com

My mom and I both have really limited energy, so our lives are all about shortcuts and if dinner takes more than 15 minutes to make it ain't worth it. We eat a lot of rice, so every two weeks or so we make a ridiculous amount of rice and then portion it out in old cream cheese containers and freeze it so whenever we need a serving of rice we have the perfect amount already made.

arwenlalaith2

Learn the best way to freeze grains for later from The Kitchn.

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7. Or just get a rice cooker, which makes it super simple to keep grains around whenever you might want some.

projectmealplan.com, amazon.com

A rice cooker is a great thing to have, freeing up burners and basically turning out great rice in the time it takes to cook a skillet meal. I retired from the professional kitchen because of chronic illness, so sometimes I need a boost in getting healthy meals together.

juliea13

Get a very small six-cup (cooked) grain and rice cooker on Amazon for $14.99, and learn how to make quinoa in a rice cooker from Project Meal Plan.

8. With an electric kettle, you're always only a few minutes away from a big boiling pot of water (or just some delicious soup or eggs).

amazon.com

I cook instant noodles in it, soup, boil eggs, corn, etc. Plus it saves time because it heats up faster AND it saves electricity: after three to five minutes of heating it up, you can unplug it and it'll just keep boiling water for the next 10 minutes. —spiralstarr

If I have to boil something I usually have very little water on the pot that is heating on the stove. The rest of the needed water I heat with kettle and pour to the pot when done. It really cuts the time needed for the water to boil.

e4002a2fd4

Get this electric kettle on Amazon for $19.99.

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9. Or, boil your water while you start your pasta sauce, turn it off/down to keep it warm, then reheat it to boiling again when it's pasta-o'clock.

giphy.com

If you’re making a multiple-pot/pan pasta dish, put water on to heat before you start prepping any ingredients, and turn the burner off just as it starts to boil. When your ingredients are ready to cook, bring the water back to the boil and you can cook the pasta alongside the ingredients in a different pan and everything can be finished cooking at around the same time (depending on the pasta and ingredients)!

madelinec4850a1487

Because you boil it first, it still stays hot enough that it comes to faster boil when it's time to cook the pasta.

10. But if you'd rather just set it to cook and forget it until it's actually time to eat, put your pasta in a microwave cooker while you heat up the sauce on the stove.

Fasta Pasta

All you do is measure your servings of spaghetti using the holes in the lid, add it to the cooker with some water, and pop it in the microwave for 12–20 minutes (depending on how much pasta you're cooking). Get it on Amazon for $14.99.

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11. An airfryer can cook all kinds of frozen foods — from chicken strips to dumplings to mixed veggies and yes, french fries — in half the time as a normal oven and with up to 75% less fat than a traditional fryer.

amazon.com, Jon Presmosch / BuzzFeed

"Cuts the cooking time in half or more." —kierstena49f3fee09

Plus you don't have to heat up your entire kitchen! The pictured dumplings cooked to a crunchy, juicy perfection in 10 minutes. Chicken strips and fries take about eight minutes. Frozen veggies (which are best spritzed with a little olive oil first) also take eight minutes. And everything comes out tasting pretty darn close to your classic oil fryer.

Get them on Amazon: a manual airfryer for $113.14+ or one with digital settings for $194.24.

Want even more details? Check out our full airfryer review (although it's for an older model). Note that in that test they discovered that it works incredibly well for frozen foods, but not necessarily like, freshly sliced raw sweet potatoes.

12. Upgrade your vegetable peeler (or just buy a nice one in the first place) because prepping carrots, potatoes and zucchini faster means dinner's done that much sooner.

amazon.com

Spend the extra couple dollars for a good quality vegetable peeler. It may sound stupid, but trust me, it'll save you time and, eventually, money by not having to replace your cheap one. (Plus it's just satisfying to peel a potato that fast...)

squeakywheel

This peeler has over 3,100 five-star reviews on Amazon — get it for $9.99.

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13. Head to Trader Joe's or Amazon to pick up a tray or two of Dorot crushed garlic frozen in small cubes — it has all the flavor of freshly minced garlic, because that's what it is, with none of the mess.

cookingwithtraderjoes.com

It’s way better than the jarred minced garlic yet still easier than chopping by hand. A few cubes in a skillet of stir fry, pasta sauce, etc. adds a crap ton of flavor.

smashleyp

Frozen crushed garlic from Trader Joe’s! Saves time and is easy to add to recipes. No more garlicky fingers from chopping!!

taylorr4457f11e8

If you don't have a TJ's nearby, you can order them on Amazon Fresh for $4.89.

14. Or make your own frozen garlic by mincing a bunch of cloves in the food processor and freezing them in an ice cube or mini-muffin tray.

kalynskitchen.com

Once they're frozen, just toss 'em in a plastic container or bag, and pull them out to use as you need them. Get the full how-to on Kayln's Kitchen, and if you happen to need a mini muffin tray, get one on Amazon for $8.95.

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15. Look for pre-prepped packs of veggies at your grocery store that can make short work of a simple stir-fry.

Taylor Farms / instagram.com

Although I have good knife skills, I sometimes buy the prepped packages of vegetables and mushrooms in the store and look for quick-to-cook packages of meats, such as chicken strips or cubed beef, to put together an almost instant stir-fry. —juliea13

While the exact stir fry kit pictured isn't available online, you can get a Taylor Farms Ginger Garlic Stir Fry Kit from Amazon Fresh for $3.99.

16. Make incredible spaghetti sauce by just adding meat and extra garlic and herbs to your favorite store-bought jar.

cookingclassy.com, Emma Christensen / thekitchn.com

Get tips on making it your own from Kitchn, or a simple recipe to follow from Cooking Classy.

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17. For a quick and simple side, steam chopped or frozen veggies right in your microwave.

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

You can even just put your veggies in a bowl, add a little water, and cover with a plate — see how on Kitchn — but this steamer works well too! Here's what my colleague had to say about it when she put it to the test:

I liked this container because it replaced the job of other items in my kitchen. As a steamer, it pretty seamlessly did the job of a plate and paper towel or cover. As a roaster, it replaced wax paper and aluminum foil (which I run out of way too quickly) — and you don't run the risk of melting it in the oven, since it's oven-friendly. Although I wouldn't recommend eating out of it (one of its suggested uses) since it's so floppy and your whole meal could easily spill over, I'd say it pretty much gets the job done in every other way, offering both convenience and easy cleanup. —Michelle No

Get it on Amazon for $15.99 (Or if that's sold out, try a similar product for $16.99.)

18. And if you microwave potatoes in a fabric bag for seven to nine minutes, they'll emerge as deliciously soft baked potatoes. Top them simply to serve as a side, or add all your favorite fixings for a quick dinner!

jolleycrafts / Etsy, amazon.com

Microwave baked potato pouches hit home for me. —meow2003meow

You can also use 'em for squash and sweet potatoes! They basically create a little pocket for your veggies to steam themselves, no water needed.

Get a cotton one that fits up to three potatoes from Jolleycrafts on Etsy for $14.95, or a polyester one that fits up to four potatoes (and has extensive instructions printed on the bag) on Amazon for $7.99.

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19. Always crack eggs on the flat of your countertop or cutting board, not the edge of the bowl. You'll get a cleaner break and you won't end up with bits of shell in your eggs that you have to painstakingly fish out.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

That tip comes straight from the famous chef Jacques Pepin himself. “When you crack on the bowl, the shell gets pushed inside the egg, not good,” Pepin previously told BuzzFeed.

20. But if you regularly enjoy hard/softboiled or poached eggs for protein at dinner (avocado toast is an any time of day–food that's always improved by poached eggs, IMO!), enlist a rapid egg cooker that can make perfect eggs in no time with basically zero effort.

amazon.com

It also makes scrambled eggs and omelettes, which I think both are solid breakfast for dinner dishes! And you won't have to stand over a pot, spinning boiling water into a whirlpool for that perfect poach. Most of its pieces are dishwasher safe, and it weighs less than a pound and hides neatly away in a small cabinet when you're not using it (but is also cute enough to keep out all the time).

Get it on Amazon for $18.59+ (five colors).

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21. Speaking of avocados, especially if you eat 'em regularly: This three-in-one tool makes cutting, pitting, and slicing them nice and quick, especially if you don't love prepping them with a regular knife.

amazon.com

The serrated plastic blade glides through the avocado peel with no risk of cutting you, then the three-toothed pitter grabs onto the pit and extracts it with a simple twist. And once you have two pristine halves, the slicer divides them up into seven even slices!

Get it on Amazon for $9.99.

22. Whether you call it a dump bowl or a garbage bowl, keep one next to your cutting board to skip multiple trips to the trash.

thekitchn.com, amazon.com

I love dump bowls. I can dump scraps in the bowl and instead of having a bunch of tiny messes to clean up I only have to dump the contents of the bowl. —Holly Williams, Facebook

I keep a mixing bowl for vegetable scraps and waste. —juliea13

If you used to watch and love Rachel Ray's old cooking show, you can get one of her garbage bowls on Amazon for $11.99 (or one of the old-style speckled ones for $12.70, which are available in eight colors).

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23. When you're planning to attempt a particularly complicated dish or an easy one you haven't mastered yet, try practicing ~mise-en-place~.

thepioneerwoman.com

Pre-measure and chop everything you need for the recipe before cooking. It makes the actual cooking go more smoothly and quickly.

kittytoes

That's exactly what you do: Measure and prepare everything first, so you can easily add ingredients in the right order. Many people use plain glass prep bowls (like this set of eight, $15.79 on Amazon) for this, but you can also use whatever small bowls or ramekins you already have.

Find out more on the Pioneer Woman.

24. If you'd like, you can simplify mise-en-place by using prep bowls that have measurement markings on the inside.

amazon.com

My small prep bowls have measurement markings in them, so I can see how much I have without getting out measuring spoons. —kngreyh

Get this set of five nesting measuring prep bowls on Amazon for $11.96.

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25. Kitchen shears chop small things (like herbs and scallions) and messy things (like chicken breasts and canned tomatoes) in way less time than it takes to use a regular knife.

Faith Durand / thekitchn.com, Leela Cyd / thekitchn.com

I use kitchen shears for some items, like scallions and fresh herbs, rather than pulling out a cutting board, mat, and knife. I have an extra pair I use just for meat. Saves times, energy, and dishes!
stephaniev23

Me too! I put the parsley or whatever in a little bowl and then just start snipping.

kngreyh

While you CAN chop raw chicken breasts into sauté-friendly pieces with a knife, kitchen shears literally cut that time in half. See even more uses for them on Kitchn. And get a pair of truly excellent shears (I have the same ones and have used them regularly for years now, with no signs of slowing down) on Amazon for $7.19+.

26. Make friends with the seasoning mix aisle in your grocery store and explore other gourmet seasoning blends for inspiration to try different recipes.

World Market

You can buy seasoning/sauce mixes for a wide variety of dishes. That way you can avoid buying and measuring tons of individual spices every time you want to try a new dish. For example, buy a packet of meatloaf spice for $.79, add some ground beef and eggs, and you're done. —Jonathan O'Hara, Facebook

Get the Truffle, Black Garlic, and Parmesan seasoning for $5.99 and the Chimichurri seasoning for $4.99, both from World Market.

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27. And don't forget to check out soup kits — they're packed with quick-cooking dehydrated seasonings, veggies, beans, and more (depending on the kit), and all *you* have to do is dump them in a pot with some chicken or vegetable broth and wait half an hour.

amazon.com

You can also totally add more fresh (or frozen!) veggies to suit your taste, and of course some chicken! Reviewers also like 'em because the kits don't have any added salt but still have a rich, deep, delicious flavor. (FWIW, I've also seen these at the grocery store.)

Get the pack of four bestselling soup kits for $32.59. (They include: chicken noodle with peas, carrots, and corn; tomato basil with yellow pepper, carrot, and a rice blend; tortilla with black beans, peppers, and sweet corn; and corn chowder with sweet corn, red peppers, and rice. You can also find a "hearty meals" three-pack for $27.99 or a gluten-free pack for $28.99).

28. Prep a bunch of chicken breasts in different marinades one weekend, freeze them, and then pull them out each morning to defrost in the fridge in time to cook for dinner.

sweetpeasandsaffron.com

The chicken will have plenty of time to absorb the marinade through all that freezing and defrosting. Get the recipes on Sweet Peas and Saffron. And when it comes time to cook 'em, I recommend baking them under parchment paper — find out how on Kitchn.

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29. Pick up a rotisserie chicken and make it the base protein in a quick and easy meal.

lovelylittlekitchen.com

Start with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. For $6, you have a ton of cooked chicken that can be added to practically anything with no prep required. —Jonathan O'Hara, Facebook

You could use this trick with the soup kits for even more flavor! Get the recipe for these BBQ Chicken Tacos from Lovely Little Kitchen, and browse other easy rotisserie chicken recipes.

30. Grate or slice dozens of veggies and fruits for a glorious but incredibly low-effort side salad with the help of a Salad Shooter.

amazon.com

I just love my Salad Shooter for grating and slicing. —Deanna A, Facebook

It does exactly what it sounds like it does: it ~shoots~ out veggies directly onto your salad. (It also works to grate cheese for pizza and chocolate or nuts for desserts!) It comes with two replaceable blades, one for grating and one for slicing.

Get it on Amazon for $29.99.

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31. Of course, your slow-cooker is your best friend — especially if you prep several dump dinners to keep in your freezer.

lifemadesweeter.com

I love throwing stuff into the Crock-Pot and having an already-cooked meal waiting for me when I get home. PLUS no pans to soak or wash. (Cue angels singing.) —livdom100

I invested in a Crock-Pot so I can come home to a delicious meal. —Holly Williams, Facebook

Just dump everything in, let it cook while you go live your damn life, then chow down when you get home. Get the recipe for this beef stew from Life Made Sweeter, or browse other dump dinner recipes.

If you don't have a Crock-Pot already, these days they're programmable and have locking lids, so you can easily tote it to your cousin's potluck — get one on Amazon for $49.99.

32. But if you really want to get great dinners on the table in no time, the Instant Pot might just change your life.

Rachel Christensen / BuzzFeed, Mommy's Home Cooking / mommyshomecooking.com

I bought an Instant Pot on Prime Day and if I'd realized how much it would revolutionize my cooking, I'd have paid full price long ago. It's great for making quick weeknight dinners, batch-cooking staples on weekends, and it doesn't heat up the whole house in the summer. It's worth full retail price, but it goes on sale frequently. —Patti Nichols, Facebook

It can make these melt-in-your-mouth ribs in literally 30 minutes — get the recipe on Mommy's Home Cooking.

Get it on Amazon for $74.76+.

And if you want to know more, read our full review and browse more easy Instant Pot recipes.

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All of us, enjoying our food SO much more because it was almost effortless to cook:

Nickelodeon / giphy.com

Want to be featured in similar BuzzFeed posts? Follow the BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter!

Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Not all tips are from Community users.

Shopping for something specific? Check out BuzzFeed Reviews to find the best things for every budget!

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