These 9 Chef-Approved Hacks Will Get Dinner On The Table Faster

Making dinner, especially on weeknights, can be stressful and annoying – we get it. You’ve just had a full day of work, kids, errands, what have you, and now you need to get a meal on the table before anyone gets hangry. Chefs are pros at making delicious dishes under tight timelines, and they have some timesaving tricks up their sleeves that they’ve graciously shared with us.

Plan and prep ahead of time

Having a general idea of what you’ll be eating for dinner and going the extra mile of preparing the ingredients you’ll need will help you get dinner on the table even faster when it’s time to cook.

“On my days off, I plan a menu of healthy, soul-satisfying recipes for the whole week,” said Laurel Almerinda, pastry chef and partner of Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica, California. “I list the dishes on the kitchen cupboard with a chalk pen, so I remember my plan and what I need to buy at the market. In the few moments while the baby is having her milk or breakfast, I prep a few items into storage containers. When I come home tired and get overwhelmed with baby care, having my veggies washed and cut, or my meat washed and trimmed, or my spices pre-measured, makes dinner possible.”

Set it and forget it

For delicious roast chicken that’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside (without basting), Shaina Papach, co-owner of The Harvey House in Madison, Wisconsin, sets her oven to a high heat (260°C) and turns it off once the chicken is dark golden brown, leaving the door closed the whole time to allow the chicken to finish cooking all the way through.

“I never baste my roasted chickens,” she said. “I have three kids under four years old, and when I am cooking dinner I like to set it and forget it, if I can. It takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken, but this method both cooks and rests the chicken at the same time.”

To make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through, allow it to reach 74°C.

Break out the microplane

You’ve probably used a microplane to zest citrus, but what about grating ginger or garlic? Ann Ziata, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, recommends doing this rather than mincing these ingredients on a cutting board. “Finely grate it right into the dish,” she said. “It will release a lot more flavour in less time than mincing with a knife, and it’s much more efficient than using a garlic press. Plus, when chopping garlic and ginger, so much of the flavour gets absorbed by the cutting board. Skip the board. Use a microplane!”

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