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This Simple Hack Will Help You Cook Pasta Even Faster

This Simple Hack Will Help You Cook Pasta Even Faster


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Want to shave 10 minutes off your prep time and get dinner on the table even quicker? We've got you covered.

Check the directions on any package of pasta, and the first step will always direct you to bring anywhere between 4 and 8 cups of water to a rolling boil. That takes me 9 or 10 minutes, if I leave the lid off. And unless the pasta is fresh, it typically takes another 9 to 11 minutes to cook it al dente.

20 minutes might not seem like a long time to cook a bit of pasta for dinner. And in fact, there are plenty of one-pot pasta recipes that get the job done just as quickly. But for me, pasta inevitably ends up being a last-minute starch solution for supper, and 20 minutes is too long to wait. So instead of a great big pot, I reach for a skillet and use about half the amount of water. In the time it would take to just boil the water in a regular pot, I can have my starchy side—and eat it too. Here’s why.

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Conventional cooking wisdom demands an adequate amount of water for pasta to freely move about as it boils. In theory, the pasta won’t clump together, and the water won’t become a starchy, gluey soup. In reality, a bit of stirring at the beginning of cook time—something you should do no matter how much water you use—loosens up the pasta and keeps it from sticking to itself. Further, that starchy water is actually liquid gold (at least in the kitchen). Rather than draining it away, use it to loosen up a pesto, or add body to any number of sauces (such as carbonara) right in the pan.

What all this really means is that you don’t need 4 to 8 cups of water to cook pasta—you just need just enough to cover it. 2 cups should suffice for thin shapes like spaghetti or farfalle, but you might need 2½ or 3 cups for bulkier shapes such as rotini or penne.

Select your largest skillet. Unless the stockpot you typically use is very grand, a large skillet will have a greater diameter, which increases the surface area over a standard stockpot. This means there’s more hot skillet that comes into contact with the water. Less water + greater surface area = a faster boil. That’s win-win on energy and water use!

When the water comes to a boil, at about 4 or 5 minutes, add the pasta (break longer shapes if they don’t fit) and stir. Lower the heat a bit, but maintain at least a rapid simmer. Keep an eye on it, as pasta water likes to boil over, and this is doubly true in a shallow skillet. (Pro tip: Don’t cook more than 8 ounces of pasta in the skillet!)

Test the pasta at about 5 minutes, because it will cook quicker than its allotted 9 to 11 minutes. For example, I cooked 6 ounces of elbows in 2 cups water in an 11-inch skillet and it only took 11 minutes, start to finish. Now that’s what I call a speedy side.


The Epicurious Blog

After a long week, a non-demanding dinner of pasta with tomato sauce (and maybe a little freshly grated Parmesan) sounds like a very good idea. And these strategies will make your simple tomato sauce easier, faster, and even tastier than ever.

Cook Your Tomato Sauce in the Oven. Don&apost bother to get your saucepan onto the stove. Just crush canned tomatoes, smashed garlic, anchovies, and butter on a sheet tray and roast until it transforms into a rich, concentrated sauce. Bonus points if you serve it with extra-thick, chewy bucatini pasta.

Make Sauce Without Chopping an Onion. Italian cookbook legend Marcella Hazan&aposs sauce is like a magic trick: Place tomatoes, a halved onion, butter, and salt in a pan. Turn on the heat and walk away. Lift the lid again in 45 minutes, and there&aposs sauce. Magic.

Make Butter. Out of Tomatoes. Want something a little creamier than plain tomato sauce, but just as savory? Broil cherry tomatoes (which are delicious even when tomato season&aposs long gone) until they&aposre shriveled and concentrated, then blend them into soft butter with a dash of salt. Toss a dollop with freshly drained, hot angel hair pasta (and maybe a bit of Parm and chives) for instant luxury.


Why This Recipe Works?

  • Curly quick-cook ramen noodles have been flash-fried. Since they’ve already been cooked, they rehydrate pretty quickly, and the process also imparts some oil into the noodles, which makes for a creamy sauce.
  • Turning the heat off once the noodles are separated allows them to rehydrate without losing a lot of liquid due to evaporation.
  • By boiling the noodles in a minimum amount of water, you end up with some thick starchy liquid by the time the noodles are done boiling. This creates a wonderfully rich emulsion along with the egg yolk and cheese.

15 Easy Kitchen Hacks to Make Cooking Easier

Faster, fresher, tastier: Whether you’re a kitchen novice or are able to speed-chop onions like Julia Child, it never hurts to have a couple culinary hacks on hand. Consider this your go-to list this holiday season.

1. MAKE YOUR GREENS LAST LONGER.

There’s nothing sadder than damp, wilted salad greens. To get more life out of your arugula, spinach and mesclun, line a plastic container with paper towels, put the greens in and cover with another paper towel. If you bought boxed salad, you can use that same plastic shell. The paper towels absorb excess moisture from the greens, while the container keeps leaves loose and prevents them from getting crushed.

2. MAKE PANCAKES WITHOUT THE MESS.

Pancakes are pretty straightforward to make, but they can leave your kitchen looking like a tornado just blew through. To cut down on the mess, try this simple process: Mix all the ingredients in a plastic bag, then cut off one of the bottom corners to create a makeshift pastry bag. This lets you to squeeze the batter onto the skillet and even make fun shapes, depending on the size of the opening.

3. BOIL WATER FASTER.

It’s a familiar scenario: You want dinner to come together quickly, but you’re stuck waiting for the water to boil. To speed things up, put the lid on the pot and let the steam heat do some of the work. Also: Make sure you’re using only as much water as you need. The more water, the longer it takes to boil. For a really fast boil, try using an electric kettle.

4. KEEP BROWN SUGAR SOFT.

Brown sugar is a baker’s best friend, and it needs to be properly stored to ensure it doesn’t harden. First, make sure to store it in an airtight container or plastic bag so that moisture doesn’t leak out. Then, try a tip from Real Simple and put a marshmallow or two in with your brown sugar. You could also try the old-fashioned method of using a slice of bread instead—or even an apple slice.

5. USE ALL OF YOUR FRESH HERBS.

Lots of recipes call for fresh herbs, but usually just a teaspoon or a few sprigs worth. To keep the rest of your cilantro, rosemary, and oregano from languishing in the fridge, put them in a small jar of olive oil and make an herb-infused variety.

6. MAKE YOUR OWN MAYONNAISE.

Mayo’s great to have around, not just to spread on sandwiches but to use in pasta salads, dips, and other indulgent sides. And you don’t even have to buy a jar of Hellmann's or Miracle Whip. All you need are a few minutes and a few simple ingredients: an egg, a cup of olive oil, lemon juice and some salt. Whisk the egg yolk with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, then slowly add in the olive oil while continuing to mix. Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of water, if needed, to thin out the mixture.

7. MAKE BACON WITH A WAFFLE IRON.

Culinary guru Alton Brown offers this hack as a way to achieve perfectly cooked bacon without the pool of popping grease. Set a waffle iron to medium heat, then place bacon strips (half strips will probably fit best) onto the griddle. Close the lid and heat for 2.5 minutes. Once time’s up, move the bacon around and heat for another 2.5 minutes. The result: nice, crispy bacon, with grease left over to cook those hash browns in.

8. CLEAN YOUR GRILL WITH AN ONION.

Rather than scrub your grill down with a brush or hope that a blast of heat burns away all the scraps, cut an onion in half, then slide it over the grill flat side down using a fork. And make sure the grill is nice and hot to help loosen things up. Texas grill masters swear by this all-natural remedy.

9. BRING STALE BREAD BACK TO LIFE.

This trick won’t work for slices of sandwich bread, but for baguettes and whole loaves that have gone hard, it should be just the ticket. Hold the bread under running water (you read that right), then place it in the oven and heat it for 6 to 7 minutes at 325 degrees. Steam from the water will rehydrate the bread, and the oven’s heat will ensure the exterior is nice and firm.

10. GET AVOCADOS TO RIPEN FASTER.

There’s nothing like a soft, perfectly ripe avocado. The trouble is finding one that’s in that all-too-fleeting sweet spot between hard and mushy. If all you can find at the supermarket are those hard green avocados, don’t despair: You can speed up the ripening process by sealing them up in a paper bag. This won’t work overnight, but it’s notably quicker than simply leaving them out in a bowl. To make the process go even faster, add a banana or an apple to the bag. Both fruits give off ethylene gas, which promotes ripening.

11. USE DENTAL FLOSS.

Even if you don’t floss regularly, you should still keep a small box handy around the kitchen. Unwaxed, unflavored dental floss can cut cakes, soft cheeses, and other foods cleaner than a knife can. It can also be used to tress meat, lift cookies from a cookie sheet, and unstick stubborn dough from your countertop. Who knows, you might even be inspired to use it between your teeth.

12. GRILL FISH ON TOP OF CITRUS.

Lots of home cooks are intimidated by the idea of grilling fish at home—in no small part because they imagine a burnt, stuck-on mess. To keep fish from sticking to the pan or grill, and to give it an extra burst of flavor, cook it atop a bed of sliced citrus fruit. Try salmon slices atop lemon slices, or sole over orange slices.

13. PEEL GINGER WITH A SPOON.

Fresh ginger is a flavorful, versatile ingredient. But it can be tough to peel away the coarse brown skin with a knife or even a fruit peeler. Instead, use a spoon, which can get around all those nooks and crannies. Lightly scrape the tip across the surface, and the skin will give way to the white flesh underneath.

14. CHILL WINE AND BEER FASTER.

Every hard-working cook needs a proper libation. If white wine’s your thing but your bottle’s not properly chilled, fill a glass and plop in frozen grapes or blueberries. This will cool the drink without diluting it. If you’re a beer drinker, try wrapping the bottle or can in a wet paper towel and putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes. The paper towel will pull any warmth away from the can faster than just sticking it in the ice alone can.

15. HARD BOIL EGGS IN THE OVEN.

If you need to hard boil a lot of eggs at once—or if you just haven’t mastered the boiling water method—you can try this oven trick. Line each groove of a muffin tin with paper muffin cups, then place an egg inside each cup. Heat the eggs for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then submerge them in ice water for 10 minutes.


We’ve All Been Making Pasta Wrong — Starting With the First Step

Whether you’re making spaghetti, bowtie, penne, or any other shape of pasta, you probably start the process by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Well, all the minutes you’ve spent waiting on those bubbles to form may have actually been wasted. Apparently, we should just be letting the water and pasta heat up together at the same time.

If you think that sounds crazy, you’re not alone. I was totally skeptical when I came across the tip from Alton Brown, even though there’s no denying this man knows what he’s talking about in the kitchen. So despite my initial reservations, I was pretty intrigued. I also liked the idea of saving time on waiting for the water to boil before adding the pasta. The faster I get to eat it, the better!

According to Brown, you start by putting the pasta in the pot, covering it with cold water, and topping it with a lid. Then just set it on the stove and wait for the boil. Once it starts bubbling, take the lid off and reduce the heat to simmer for a few minutes. Once the texture feels al dente, scoop it out with a slotted spider strainer ($8.99, Amazon) and serve.

I did things slightly differently — mostly because I was hungry and focused on getting my meal — and totally forgot about covering the pot with a lid since that isn’t something I’ve ever done for pasta before. Once my cavatappi came to a boil, I reduced the heat as he instructed and gave it a couple stirs to make sure it wouldn’t stick together. I used a large cooking spoon which let me feel how dense the pasta was as I stirred — it was definitely still pretty stiff when I initially turned the heat down.

(Photo Credit: FirstForWomen.com)

Brown’s instructions say you should let it cook like this for four and a half minutes, but I would be careful considering stoves and the properties of water can vary. I tested a noodle at just about two minutes of simmering (I use the tasting method) and it was already perfectly al dente. I don’t own a spider strainer, so I drained it in a regular colander, which didn’t seem to affect the pasta one way or the other.

If I followed the instructions on the box I would have had to wait at least five minutes for the water to boil, then another seven to ten minutes for the pasta to cook. But with this method, the whole process took about seven minutes in total. That also happened to be the amount of time it took me to sauté the veggies I had chopped up to top my pasta, so everything ended up being ready at once. I threw the pasta, chopped mushrooms, broccoli, and garlic in a bowl with a splash of olive oil and smidge of buttery spread, then covered it with chili pepper flakes and black pepper. Delish!

(Photo Credit: FirstForWomen.com)

Even though I didn’t stick to Brown’s method rigidly, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you this was without a doubt the best pasta I have ever made — even before adding my toppings. The texture was just right, not even close to mushy, and it was done faster than usual. In fact, I’ll probably simmer it for slightly less time in the future to make the bite a bit sharper (and in my tummy sooner). I can’t believe it, but I’ll never go back to my old pasta cooking method again.

Try it out for yourself the next time you whip up some noodles and you just might find yourself believing the hype, too!


This Is How To Make An Easy Cheesy Pasta Without Making Pasta Sauce

Macaroni and cheese is a classic pasta recipe. All you need is a cheesy pasta sauce and cooked elbow pasta (or whatever pasta you like!) to make this easy pasta meal.

Making a proper cheese sauce requires time and effort, despite how minimal it is. To make a proper sauce, it's a mix of butter, flour, milk, cheese, and seasonings to make it delicious! Did you know that you can make a super easy cheese sauce with just two ingredients?

You can! All you need are two ingredients: quick-melting cheese and pasta.

The trick here is a technique many Italians do and tell you to do: save the pasta water. The pasta water will help you melt and create your cheesy sauce as well as cook the pasta! Here's what you do:

  1. 1. Cook pasta as directed in the package directions (or as desired).
  2. 2. Once cooked, reserve at least 1 cup pasta cooking water before draining.
  3. 3. Transfer just cooked pasta to a large bowl and add grated quick-melting cheese.
  4. 4. Stir to melt the cheese, adding pasta water as needed to create a sauce.

What's so great about this recipe is that this isn't really a recipe. It's just you putting two ingredients together and seeing how much more of one ingredient you need to make it work. Plus, it's such a simple dish that you can add whatever you want to it to make it even more appetizing once the sauce is made. Crunchy breadcrumbs, bacon bits, or even stretchy cheese like mozzarella will melt in the hot pasta.


Cooking Hack

Chane Cooking Hacks: Here are some smart alternatives for cooking your favourite chickpeas without pressure cooker.

Recently, we stopped by the Facebook page of social media influencer 'Johny Nonny', who tried a trending cooking hack for making popcorn at home - in a foil wrap.

22-year-old Bethany Rosser decided to try a cooking hack by boiling eggs in the microwave. She followed a recipe she found on the internet. What happened next is a cautionary tale for all of us.

How do we intact all the essential nutrients and vitamins in the vegetables? Here's an an easy cooking tip (step-by-step instructions) to make sure that your vegetables don't lose their natural colour.

Next time you are out of boiled potatoes and also strapped of time, use these smart hacks to boil potatoes in half the time or even less!

Milk is delicious and creamy and it's this quality of this nutritious beverage that makes it so popular. However, it is also extremely perishable and you may want to use it with caution.

Chicken Recipes: A TikTok user came up with a super-quick and easy hack to remove the white tendon from the chicken breast in no time.

There are a few hacks in which you can peel boiled potatoes that are not only quick but are also hassle-free.

YouTube chef Ananya Banerjee shows us two easy tricks involving simple kitchen ingredients- wheat flour dough and potato mash!

Here are some tips and tricks that all pro-level cooks should know, to help you churn out fluffy and perfectly soft pooris every single time!


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1 Three-Layer Magic Cake

We were skeptical that this cake would deliver on its promises—one simple batter, three distinct cake layers. But we were proven wrong when we sliced into the dessert and discovered a dense bottom layer, a custard center, and a delicate sponge cake on top.

The verdict? It works!

2 Galaxy Glaze

We couldn’t resist trying out this trend, which has been applied to everything from donuts to Oreos. We made ours by combining powdered sugar and milk to form a glaze, then swirling in red, maroon, and navy blue gel food coloring. It’s not an everyday project, but it is fun on occasion.

The verdict? It works!

3 Two-Ingredient Marshmallow Fondant

If there’s a way to make our cakes look the ones made in professional bakeries, we want to know—which is why we were tempted by this seemingly simple recipe. To make the fondant, you melt marshmallows until smooth, then stir in powdered sugar until it forms a dough-like consistency. Technically it worked, but it wasn’t very stretchy, and would still look fairly messy if you attempted to lay it over a cake.

The verdict? It works—but we wouldn’t do it again.

4 Banana Milk Coffee

It’s no secret that blended bananas can act as a natural thickener and sweetener (that’s why they’re often used in smoothies). So it’s actually not too crazy to blend bananas with milk and simple syrup to create a delicious add-in for cold-brew. We LOVED this hack.

The verdict? It works!

5 Impossible Cake

Also known as chocoflan, this decadent dessert is comprised of one layer of chocolate cake and one layer of flan. Where’s the magic? Even though you pour the custard-y flan batter on top of the cake batter, it will sink to the bottom of the pan while baking, reversing the two layers. Now that's what we call an impressive party trick.

The verdict? It works!

6 Banana Sushi

This super-simple hack is great for lunchboxes or as an after-school snack. Slice off the crust of two pieces of sandwich bread, slightly overlap them, and flatten with a rolling pin so the slices become one (alternatively, you can start with a tortilla). Spread peanut butter onto the bread, place one whole banana in the center, roll it up, and slice into pieces.

The verdict? It works!

7 Avocado "Burger Bun"

This hack turned out to be as ridiculous as it looks. To create it, we sliced an avocado in half horizontally, removed the pit, and scooped it out of the skin. Then we topped one half with a burger and fixins, and topped that with the second half, which we had brushed with rice vinegar and sprinkled with sesame seeds. And while it certainly looked Pinterest-worthy, it was way too tall to take a bite of, resulting in avocado all over our faces. Not to mention that we don’t recommend eating an entire avocado in one sitting.

The verdict? It’s a mess!

8 Single-Serve Guacamole

You shouldn’t have to be at a party to enjoy guacamole, which is why we love this single-serve hack. Simply score half of an avocado, add a squeeze of lime juice, some kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and a dollop of salsa, and you’ve got yourself a mini bowl of guac.

The verdict? It works!

9 Oatmeal Latté

If you’re hoping to combine your caffeine with your morning meal, this tasty creation is just for you. We loved the combination of creamy oatmeal, frothy milk, intense espresso and crunchy granola.

The verdict? It works!

10 Full Lemon Lemonade

The recipe we found on Pinterest told us to toss an entire lemon in the blender with water, sugar, and ice. Predictably, we ended up swallowing pith and seeds. You could try removing those before blending, but I still don’t think you’d end up with a tasty product.

11 Two-Ingredient Pancakes

Let’s just get right to the point: these two-ingredient pancakes won’t fulfill a craving for a stack of silver dollars. However, a mashed banana mixed with two eggs makes for a crepe-like pancake that’s good with peanut butter. The cooked, mashed sweet potato mixed with two eggs wasn’t horrible, but it lacked in flavor. Don’t bother with chocolate cake mix mixed with a half cup of whole milk (yep, we tried that). It’s simply not worth it.

The verdict? Stick to the real deal. If you do want to try, go for the banana variety.

12 Sweet Potato Toast

Slices of sweet potatoes can never replace a slice of seedy, whole-grain bread or a crusty piece of sourdough, but it is a good option for anyone sensitive to gluten. We were surprised that when cooked in the toaster and smeared with peanut butter or avocado, the sweet potato toast was surprisingly good. Be warned: you have to toast the sweet potato slices four times before they soften enough to eat, so isn't nearly as speedy as bread.

The verdict? Better than expected, but we likely wouldn’t make it again.

13 Watermelon Cake

This was arguably the biggest fail of the entire bunch. The idea is that you cut off the rind of a watermelon, frost the melon with Cool Whip, top it with fruit, and slice it like a cake. Ours was just a slippery mess, and we would have preferred a plain, Cool Whip-free slice of juicy watermelon.

The verdict? Not worth it!

14 Blender Bread

Good news for gluten-free friends: this quick bread recipe couldn’t be, well, quicker. The batter, which is made with raw cashews, gets whipped up in the blender, then bakes into a loaf perfect for peanut butter toast. No kneading, rising, or bread maker required.

The verdict? It works, but if you're not GF, you'll likely want a more traditional slice of bread.

15 Chocolate Balloon Dessert Bowls

This hack turned out to be surprisingly successful. We blew up a few balloons, rinsed them off, sprayed them with cooking spray, dipped them in melted chocolate, then refrigerated on wax paper. Once solid, we popped the balloons, peeled them off, and were left with edible chocolate bowls for ice cream. Next time, we'll dip the chocolate in sprinkles before refrigerating.

The verdict? It works!

16 Copycat Chik-Fil-A Frosted Lemonade

This blended drink, made with lemon juice, ice, water, and vanilla ice cream, tastes just as you would suspect: like a creamy, sweet frozen lemonade from the fair. It’s very thick, but more refreshing than a plain vanilla shake.

The verdict? It works!

17 Croffle (Croissant Waffle)

How could we resist a waffle made from puff pastry, allegedly resulting in the flakiest waffle we've ever tried? But cooking puff pastry alone in the waffle iron result in a dry and flavorless product. Chocolate chips helped, and our savory version (stuffed with shredded cheese) was by far the best. Still, we likely wouldn't make it again.

The verdict? You'll need to pile on the fillings and serve the croffle with a dipping sauce to make this hack worth it.

18 Edible Cookie Cups

In short, we tried to form raw cookie dough around the underside of a muffin tin to create edible cups for ice cream. When baked, the dough expanded into one giant mess.

The verdict? Never. Again.

19 Ice Cream Icing

This trick, as you can probably guess, wasn’t worth the effort. We scooped ice cream into a resealable freezer bag, snipped off the corner, and “piped” it onto cupcakes. However, it didn’t look very pretty, and it was extremely cold to bite into.

The verdict? Stick to ice cream on cones, and frosting on cupcakes.

20 Cooking Eggs Inside Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, and Avocados

When you crack an egg into a tomato and place it in the oven, it takes a surprisingly long time for the egg white to cook (and therefore, it’s just not worth it). Warm avocados are really not our thing. That leaves us with an egg fried in a slice of bell pepper on the stovetop, which was the best of the bunch, but still a little fussy.

The verdict? Eat your eggs with a side of veggies, instead of inside your veggies.

21 Cooking Eggs in Mason Jar Lids

If you’re looking to create a perfectly round egg for a breakfast sandwich, this hack won’t do you wrong. Set a mason jar ring in a nonstick pan, pour in a scrambled egg, and let cook until set.

22 Unicorn Noodles

This trick made us feel like magicians. We boiled purple cabbage in water until it dyed the water purple, cooked rice noodles in the dyed water, then squeezed lemon juice on half, which turned the purple noodles pink. Then, took this trick and made it even better by putting the noodles in fruit-and-veggie-filled summer rolls. This is a super fun dish to try out this summer.

The verdict? It works!

23 Two-Ingredient Nutella Brownies

Put the word Nutella in the title and we’re down to try it. But unfortunately, these brownies had the consistency of a spongy, flat frittata. The idea is that you beat eggs at medium-high speed until tripled in size and pale in color, about eight minutes. Then, you add one cup of Nutella, mix until incorporated, pour into a pan, and bake. It only takes a few more minutes to make brownies from scratch, which is what we recommend.

The verdict? Don’t bother!

24 Two-Ingredient Black Bean Cookies

Technically this worked—but I'd rather just eat black beans or cookies, and not the two together. The only ingredients are a can of black beans and chocolate cake mix, so it's not like you can even call these a healthier dessert option.

The verdict? Don't do it.

25 DIY Magic Shell

This hack couldn't be more simple. Combine 12 ounces chopped chocolate and 1/4 cup coconut oil in a double boiler until melted. When poured over ice cream, it will immediately harden into a chocolate shell. Magic!

The verdict? It works!

26 Two-Ingredient Soda Cupcakes

When you take Funfetti cake mix and whisk in a can of Sprite, the result is a surprisingly delicious cupcake with a subtle lemon-lime flavor. These were very moist, and everyone unanimously agreed they would go back for seconds. Pinterest is filled with other variations.

The verdict? It works!

27 Waffle Iron Cinnamon Rolls, Hash Browns, and Omelets

Though refrigerated cinnamon rolls can be cooked in the waffle iron, it felt counterintuitive. When baked in the oven, they rise into fluffy pastries. But when smushed in the waffle iron, they flatten. Similarly, frozen tator tots become warm and crisp in the waffle iron, but they aren't a replacement for shredded hash browns. And cooking eggs in a waffle iron makes for a tough, far-from-fluffy omelet.

The verdict? Save the waffle iron for waffles. Or try using it to cook bacon.

28 Microwave Mac and Cheese in a Mug

The idea here is that you can place dried pasta in a mug, cover it with water, and microwave until al dente—presumably less time and clean-up than cooking it on the stovetop. But after many rounds of testing, we found it took about six minutes total, almost as long as it takes in a pot of boiling water.

The verdict? Only a good hack for dorm-dwelling college students.


Serve meals with a side of greens.

Shutterstock

Portion control is the key to cooking healthy meals, but we know that can be difficult if you're used to feasting on your favorite dishes. An easy way to portion control is to fill half your plate with a simple side of greens. This could be any vegetable, but for one of our favorite healthy cooking hacks is to simply toss a side of leafy greens with a small drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Fill half your plate with greens and the other half with your dish, and voila! Easy portion control that you didn't have to think too hard about.


How to cook faster & have dinner ready in less time

We hope the following tips and tricks help you get more quick and easy dinners on the table:

1. Manage your expectations

Do one thing well, not everything well, in the meal. If you make great baked honey-mustard chicken, then don't stress about your ho-hum steamed broccoli and mashed potato sides. Accept that some meals won't be the best with all the bells and whistles -- and that's OK. You cooked your dinner at home instead of eating out or doing takeout, so if it's at least edible, count it as a success. Weeknight dinner doesn't have to be perfect or wow-worthy. It's a freakin' Tuesday. Give yourself a break. (If even that seems like a struggle, try one of these 21 cheap and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)

2. Divide and conquer

You can buy meat in bulk -- it's cheaper that way too -- and then divide the meat (or poultry or seafood ) into individual portions. Add your favorite spices or a marinade and freeze. Then on a Thursday morning, you can simply pull out that meat to defrost in the fridge, then when you return home that evening, bake it, sauté it, broil it or grill it.

3. Embrace big batches

Soup can be made in big batches.

In a similar vein, make extra of whatever you're cooking -- a bunch extra -- and freeze it in single-serving portions for later. Cook in batches. This works especially well with tomato sauce, stock, soups, casseroles, breads and stews. Check out these five big-batch recipes and 13 make-ahead meals you can freeze for some specific ideas.

4. Repurpose leftovers

One meal, stacks of different options.

Many people who want homemade meals on weeknights cook and plan on the weekends. Props to them. If you'd rather relax on your days off and don't have room in your freezer to save batch-cooked meals anyway, make a big pot of chili and use it a few times in the coming week in different ways, such as with crackers or cornbread on the side one night, then over pasta or rice another night. See more ways to serve leftover chili.

Rice goes with almost everything.

Leftover rice? Make fried rice with fresh add-ins, or with other leftovers you have (like cooked veggies and protein) crack a couple eggs in the sauté pan too. If you need specific inspiration, these fried rice recipes are better than delivery.

Or did you roast a chicken on Monday? Use that leftover meat for taco filling on Tuesday -- or in these 15 recipes to make with leftover chicken (or a rotisserie chicken). Use the carcass to make easy chicken stock too.

Burgers are good for combining a lot of miscellaneous ingredients.

Slow cooker pulled pork and other heaping helpings of protein can also be distributed among several meals over the course of the week. See these large format cooking projects and what to make with the leftovers for even more ideas.

5. Keep your pantry stocked

Spices can change a whole dish.

You can whip up something on impulse if you have a well-stocked kitchen pantry of basics, plus your favorite ingredients, such as: beans, broth, pasta, rice, dried fruits, nuts, oils, vinegars, tuna, canned tomatoes, dried spices and herbs, flavorful pastes (like curry, harissa tomato, etc.) -- and always keep garlic, onions and potatoes around too. They last a long time in dark, cool, dry places like pantries. Try these easy pantry dinner recipes if you're not sure what to make with all that stuff.

Also, think of your freezer as an extension of your pantry. Store sauces, pesto, chopped herbs, broth and stock in ice cube trays in there among the peas and carrots and frozen proteins. Pop out a cube or two and heat it up for a quick hit of flavor.

6. Make all-in-one meals

Saves you the clean-up time, too.

Make recipes that have you cook the meat and sides all in one pot or roasting tray. Fewer dishes means less time spent on clean-up. Check out these sheet pan dinner recipes and more easy one-pot meals for inspiration.

In the same wheelhouse, don't underestimate the versatility of a parchment or foil pack. Fold up a protein -- quick-cooking fish or shrimp are great options -- plus vegetables and aromatics and harness the power of steam to cook your meal. This method makes for easy clean-up too. Try this easy fish baked in parchment recipe (add some asparagus spears in season).

7. Heat things up

Preheating will save you a lot of time.

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If you're using the oven, crank it up to the right temperature before you do anything else. If you're making pasta, start boiling the water first thing (you can always top it off if you start lagging behind and it begins to reduce -- if you have an electric kettle, boil some water and use that to top off the pot so it doesn't lower the temperature). It always takes longer than you think for these things to actually heat up to the proper temp, so get them on their way right out of the gate. Then you won't have to stop and wait after chopping, mixing sauces and the like.

8. Don't go whole hog (or chicken breast)

Chopping might feel time-consuming, but it'll make it easier in the long run.

Cut your meat and vegetables into thin slices or bite-size chunks (or buy them that way to make things even quicker), instead of cooking and serving them whole. They'll be done faster that way. You can quickly stir-fry them, or even broil the food in your oven, which will cook it faster than baking or roasting, providing a nice crust on top. If it's thin, the heat will cook the meat or vegetable all the way through in less time.

9. Spoil the ending

Read the recipe the whole way through before cooking. The. Whole. Way. Through! So many times, some of us (ahem, note to self) gather and prep the ingredients and start on the instructions before realizing midway through the recipe that something we created needs to chill or marinate for an hour. Ugh. If you had read through the recipe, you would know to do the first couple steps in the morning, possibly, then leave it in the fridge to finish when you get home.

10. Remember: size (of the pan) matters

In this instance, bigger really is better.

Instead of using small saucepans and roasting pans, try pans with a larger surface area, so the food is spread out and not on top of each other. Your food will be able to receive more direct heat and will cook faster (also, if you're roasting, crowding ingredients together will steam them instead of properly caramelizing them).

11. Sharpen your knife skills

That's not a knife,this is a knife.

Honing your knife skills can take time, but it's worth it. Chopping, dicing, mincing and slicing can be the part that takes the longest, and unlike cooking time, it's something you can speed up by getting better at it. First, make sure your knives are sharp. Either get a sharpener or take them to a place that sharpens knives for you. That will make cutting so much easier and safer. Then, take a knife skills class at your local cooking school or kitchen store, or just look it up on YouTube. We also have quick video lessons on how to hold a knife the right way, dicing (the most common cut), mincing, chopping, bias cut, chiffonade and troubleshooting.

12. Make meatless Monday a real thing

Veggies are satisfying, too.

Or do it on any other day -- or more than one. Omnivores, you don't have to eat animal flesh (every evening) in order for it to be a complete meal. You can be full and satisfied without meat -- and many vegetarian meals take less time to cook, plus they cost less to make. See Chowhound's primer on jackfruit, 5 rules for the best tofu you'll ever eat, 14 vegetarian Instagram accounts to follow and 12 easy ways to eat a more plant-based diet. And try these round-ups for a little inspiration:

13. Clean as you go

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Does something need to boil for 10 minutes or bake for 30? Use that time to wash the dishes you used, put ingredients away and clean the countertop. That'll save clean-up time after the meal and you can get to relaxing sooner rather than later.

14. Plan on it (and possibly prep for it)

Some of you may love being spontaneous and creative when you cook, but save yourself some stress. Plan your meals for the coming week. Write it down. It will save you the time it takes to decide each evening what you want to do. And you will know to take the stock or the meat out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to defrost the morning before you want to use it for dinner. No waiting around (or accidentally partially cooking it trying to defrost in the microwave). You can plan grocery store trips more efficiently.

And if there's any way to prep some of those ingredients the weekend beforehand, go for it. If you have a multicooker, try these 7 Instant Pot meal prep ideas to help streamline your week.

15. Repeat yourself

Did that one taco meal work out really well, and you found it to be easy? Do it again. And again. Tweak it. Gather an arsenal of a few meals that you can fire away without much thought. Eventually, it will become so mindless, you can transfer your refined skill of those processes to other dishes. You don't have to reinvent the wheel every night.

16. Take advantage of technology

Your utensils and appliances are your friends.

If you have an Instant Pot, use it more often. If you have a recipe that involves a ton of chopping, break out your food processor for the prep. Discover all the ways to use your stand mixer besides baking projects. Go ahead and microwave your eggs. Basically, you should use all the tools you have at your disposal.

17. Take shortcuts too

There's nothing wrong with making life a little easier for yourself.

There's no shame in smart shortcuts either. Store-bought pizza dough recipes range from ersatz gnocchi (shown above) to quick calzones. Gourmet pantry food staples can be combined into all sorts of easy meals, from fancy and filling cheese plates to simple pastas. Even doing something like buying pre-chopped meat or veggies (or even precooked frozen veggies -- including cauliflower rice!) can sometimes make the difference between dreading dinner and stir-frying it in literally 10 minutes flat. A lot of store-bought slow cooker sauces taste great (and can also be used in a pot on the stovetop). And, yes, there are always meal kits too.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.