Cooking Tips

15 Kitchen Shortcuts Our Test Cooks Use

Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about how to save time in the kitchen. Here are some of our favorite tips.

Published June 6, 2023.

At America’s Test Kitchen, we’re all about finding the best ingredients and the best techniques. It’s kind of our thing. But that doesn’t mean we’re above a shortcut every once in a while.

But even our shortcuts are vetted. Whether we’re relying on a convenience product tested by our Reviews Team or using a technique developed by one of our test cooks, rest assured we’ve done the work to determine the best of the best.

Here are some of our test cooks' favorite ways to save time and make things a little easier in the kitchen.

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1. Cut down on prep time and prevent garlic-smelling hands by using prepeeled garlic. In our testing, we found that prepeeled cloves were far superior to jars of the minced stuff.

2. Allow your microwave to take over jobs that it can do faster than traditional methods, including frying shallots, par-cooking potatoes or squash before grilling, cooking polenta, helping shuck and/or steam corn on the cob, drying herbs, and toasting nuts.

3. Pick out your stir-fry vegetables at your grocery store’s salad bar. While it costs a bit more than using vegetables from the produce section, you save prep time by purchasing presliced vegetables and you get exactly what and how much you want, resulting in less waste.

4. Use powdered dip mix as burger seasoning, like in this Ranch Burger recipe. It provides great flavor with little effort.

5. Sure, you could meticulously cut your carrots into tiny little matchsticks, but why? Skip the time-consuming knife work and use a julienne peeler instead.


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6. Cut open a lemon or lime but only need a little bit? Juice the whole fruit anyway and pour the excess juice into ice cube trays in 1 tablespoon measurements. Once frozen, store them in a zipper-lock bag and toss them in soup and sauces or add them to drinks and other things that need brightening.

7. To dice avocado in a flash, push the pitted avocado halves through a wire rack, speedily cutting the fruit into chunks. (Be sure to use a wire rack that has wires arranged in a grid.)

8. De-stem herbs quickly by pulling them through the hole of a colander.

9. Use boxed cake mix and serve it with homemade frosting. Your guests will never know the difference.

10. Make mashed potatoes in 15 minutes by slicing the potatoes thin, starting with boiling water, and using a smaller pot.

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11. Use Rao’s when you don’t have time to make sauce yourself. Substitute it for homemade sauce in everything from lasagna to mussels or shakshuka.

12. Take advantage of the store-bought pizza dough’s versatility. Make stromboli, calzones, sandwiches, breadsticks, and dinner rolls.

13. Make quick and easy fish tacos with our favorite fish sticks. We were shocked at how much we loved these frozen morsels.

14. Use self-stable broth concentrate rather than boxed broth; it lasts much longer (and will save you money!)

15. Stock your pantry with powdered buttermilk so you can have biscuits any time.

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