Cutting Class: 10 Habits to Save Time in the Kitchen
Bet you never had a teacher tell you that cutting class will help you get ahead. Learning a few ways to chop and prep for future meals will give you a jump start on the week. You’ll save hours of washing extra dishes and same-day slicing and dicing of meat and produce, and chances are, you’ll make healthier choices, too.
Grab your favorite knives (chef’s, paring and utility-style are three great basics), make sure they’re sharp (you’re more likely to nick a finger with a dull knife) and start practicing these 10 sharp shortcuts. You’ll quickly see how easy it is to gain a little extra time without cutting your losses.
1. WASH CYCLE
Before you begin chopping, get into the habit of washing all of your fresh produce as soon as you get home from the store or market (with the exception of fresh berries, which should be rinsed just before eating). This includes washing and drying lettuce and fresh greens so you have a foundation for quick-fix salads, without having to fuss with a colander or salad spinner throughout the week.
2. PREP RALLY
If you’re chopping onions, garlic and peppers for tonight’s feast, chop enough for dinners later in the week, too. Since you’ve already got your CHICAGO CUTLERY® WOODWORKS® CUTTING BOARD out, you’ll save even more time by not having to wash it again and again.
3. GO-TO WASTE
While you’re chopping produce, keep a “waste” bowl near the cutting board and use it to toss seeds, peels, stems, etc. This simple trick keeps your work surface clutter-free and prevents you from making unnecessary trips to the trash, disposal or compost.
4. EARLY BIRD
While you have the cutting board out, use your chef’s knife (the CHICAGO CUTLERY® CHEF KNIFE is a high-quality option) to cube and cook chicken for the week. (Finish chopping veggies first to avoid cross-contamination.) With prechopped vegetables and chicken ready to go, burritos, salads and stir-fries can be whipped up in a flash. Remember, you can keep cooked chicken in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
5. CHEAP TRICK
While the chicken is cooking, boil eggs for the week. Hard-boiled eggs are a simple way to add protein to salads or can be chopped and mixed with mayo and dill for quick egg salad sandwiches or wraps. When deciding how many to make, keep in mind that hard-boiled eggs (shells on) last up to 7 days in the refrigerator.
6. ATTACK THE SNACKS
Make packing lunches or throwing together an after-school snack a breeze.
- Slice bell peppers, cucumbers and celery and store them in snack-size portions in the fridge.
- Cut up bite-size pieces of fruits like melon, pineapple and apples (toss these in lemon juice to keep from browning, though!).
- Cube semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, Colby-Jack and Gouda.
7. ZEST BEHAVIOR
When you’re zesting citrus fruits, don’t stop at the amount called for in a given recipe. Zest extra and freeze in an airtight container. Reach for a pinch the next time you need to add a little zing to your recipe.
8. HERBAL REMEDIES
A set of sharp kitchen shears, like CHICAGO® CENTURION™ SCISSORS make quick work of snipping fresh herbs. Use what you need for tonight’s dinner and preserve the remaining chopped herbs.
- Fill ice cube trays with herbs, cover with water and freeze to make herb ice cubes.
- When you need to add herbs to sauces or soups, just plop in a cube or two.
9. GO WITH THE GRAIN
Make your grains for the week and save yourself the trouble of washing stockpots over and over again. Pasta and quinoa can be made in large batches and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
TIP: To keep pasta from drying out, toss it with 1 teaspoon of olive oil per pound of cooked pasta before storing.
10. BEAT THE MORNING RUSH
Feel hurried in the a.m.? Whatever you do, don’t skip the one meal that’ll power you through the day. A little breakfast prep work will take you a long way.
- Make a large fruit salad for the week and use it to top yogurt or to quickly blend smoothies. Grapes, berries, pineapple and melons are excellent choices, but bananas won’t stand up to early prep, so slice those just before using.
- Cook up a week’s worth of steel-cut oats and reheat a single portion in the morning. Top with prechopped nuts and fruit.
- For a more protein-packed start, use your chopped veggies to prepare a frittata, which will last for several days in the refrigerator. Slice into single servings and reheat in the morning.
- To review, a bit more slicing and dicing will trim time throughout the week, and help you make better choices for healthier lunches and quick meals on busy nights. Class adjourned!
YOUR TURN: What are your top kitchen tips for carving out a little extra time?