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I've never been a *Quick* Cook

I see threads here about how can I cook pork chops quick or how can I put dinner on the table in 15 minutes to feed my family because we have sports/extra activities.

I went through all that too but sometimes I'd stew chicken breasts the night before and make a chicken salad for the next night. The other few nights it was take-out.

To walk through the front door after working all day and and rush dinner is/was still
foreign to me.

I'm what's considered a slow cook for relaxation and I have no problem with that:-)

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  1. Huge pisser about the nudges.

    I, too, am a slow cook. I'm a huge fan of Cooks Illustrated, and I've come to find out that I have to do one thing or another the day (or weekend) before if I intend to have a "Weeknight Dinner" on the table in any reasonable amount of time. Once I figured it out, it ceased to bother me. "Know thyself," I guess.

    1. Me neither. I thought I was the only one. My friends expect it from me after all the years. I have to do something before I do something. I am slow as hell. Must be a type of OCD. But the food sure comes out good. I feel fortunate to be able to do this.

      2 Replies
      1. re: emglow101

        I'm a multi-tasker but not in the kitchen. I do things one at a time. Mise en place is my friend. As is prepping every darn thing I can WAY ahead of time.

        1. re: emglow101

          "I have to do something before I do something." Oh, yes! I sometimes feel like I'm living proof of infinite regression.

        2. I think this illusion of dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less is a fallacy perpetrated by the media to sell cookbooks and tv shows.
          Rachel Ray can get just about any manner of foodstuff to fruition in her 30-minute show. Pioneer Woman pulled some 16-minute meal bs out of her butt.
          Really? 16 minutes? Not 15 or 17 minutes but 16.
          OK, whatever.

          My point is that I think this expectation of really fast, full-on meals in under 30-minutes eludes most home cooks. We shouldn't feel badly because we don't have a bevy of assistants prepping our food and stocking our kitchens.

          11 Replies
          1. re: monavano

            About the only thing I could possibly pull off in under 30 minutes is pasta carbonara with a really simple salad.

            1. re: c oliver

              I know there are things we can pull off in about 30 minutes, but it seems we get pelted with the notion that somewhat intricate meals can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.
              Oh, RR also has a bevy of staff to help her clean to tornado that tears a path through her set kitchen when she's done with her "quickie" meals!

              1. re: monavano

                Oh, heavens, yes. I've always wanted 'minions' and the older I get (67) the more I want :)

              2. re: c oliver

                C Oliver,
                But knowing you, that pasta and simple salad are likely to be quite good and tasty.

                1. re: Tripeler

                  Well, you're quite kind...but not necessarily :)

                2. re: c oliver

                  Hah, did that this week. Crazy good when you factor in effort to deliciousness. Got some insane guanciale and figured I needed to do pasta carbonara.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Next time you're in Seattle try the swinery in west seattle for some guanciale. Possibly the best smell ever when you fry it up. I'm gonna do GLT's soon with some....that'd be a 15 minute meal hah.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Ain't nothin' wrong with that.


                  2. re: monavano

                    I once saw a special where RR did a Thanksgiving dinner in one hour. By the end of the show, I was on the verge of a panic attack.

                    Another slow cooker here. I stop at the store almost every day after work and by the time we eat it's 9 or so. Of course, I'm sure the wine slows me down some.

                  3. I do a lot of prepping and cooking on the week-end, it gives me a head start for the mad rush of the coming work week.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: treb

                      yeah, weekend prep is really the only way you can pull off a '30 minute' dinner, I think. But that's not what cooking is for me either. I love the 'don't try this at home' recipes. :)

                    2. I've been watching Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals and they look pretty good... he uses the food processor a LOT because he says there's no time to faff around with hand-chopping in that length of time. Personally, I can get dinner done in 30 minutes without too much trouble, if you don't count the 10 minutes the meat spends in the microwave thawing before I start. The last pork chops I bought were so thin they surprised me by grilling in 10 minutes flat - I'm used to the thick boneless ones that take a full 30!

                      But left to my own devices I'll often take much longer. I made a simple chilli last week and simmered it for two hours before I decided it was done, and I love roasts - ten minute to prep, then two hours left alone in the oven.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Kajikit

                        I'm with you. Back when I had to do it, I never had any trouble getting a meal for me and the kids on the table in 15-20 minutes of arriving home. I was a single parent with two active children. I didn't have the leisure time to shop after work (had to pick them up) and they couldn't wait until 9pm to eat either.

                        My trick was to only cook one thing per dinner. One night is pork chops with green salad and breadsticks. Next night is leftover pork chops with broccoli and fruit. Etc. When I had longer time, I'd bake chicken. I used the timer on my oven - there's nothing better than walking into the house and smelling your already cooked dinner in the oven.

                        I don't know what the point of the television shows is, but some people have to live this way. Single parents get really good at planning ahead, triage. and making do. Now that my kids are grown, I can take my time.

                        1. re: Kajikit

                          I get an email called Saving dinner that has good quick ideas and recipes...

                        2. I don't strive to be a quick cook but a piece of grilled or roasted fish and a salad or steamed veg is certainly doable in a half hour if we come home hungry and cranky. I like bulgur because it soaks in 20 minutes.

                          1. dinner is at 8:00 at our house.... ..
                            it is a slow process
                            there is afternoon tea for a snack after school to hold you over... but you are not sitting down at the dinner table at 6:00 or 6:30 or whatever weird "american " dinner time people have come to expect..

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: girloftheworld

                              Weird 'American' dinner time? If we ate at 8:00, Mr. S would be eating and then immediately going to bed. Not everyone is on the same schedule.

                              1. re: Sooeygun

                                Haha one of us gets up for work at 4am every day- there is no eating at 8pm for us either. Guess we'll be weird Americans together :)

                            2. Could someone please explain to me why there is such emphasis on being a speedy home cook? In restaurants we need speed, everyone understands this. But at home, why is it important? I am not being snarky, I honestly do not understand why something that we find pleasurable needs to be rushed. To what end?

                              NB: to those still in the clutches of weeknight kid activities, I understand your need to get the food slammed out there fast, but I am speaking to those with no deadline.
                              There are many of us without small or large children at home, so what is the hurry? I look forward to your thoughtful answers.

                              Edit: Having cooked on TV, I promise you that there is nothing à la minute (or honest) about the food that is whipped out. Dishes in several iterations of preparation are available, usually on the shelf in front of the TV cook/chef and it is simple to change plates/pans/etc, substituting the already-caramelized onions for those white ones you started five minutes ago. Using TV cooks as reference brings nothing but aggravation to the home cook. Having staff to wash that FP or do your veg prep certainly does speed things along. It's speedy but dishonest and ultimately frustrating to those who buy into the fantasy.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Sherri

                                I get home at 8 many work nights, sometimes later. I am hungry and want to eat soon and need to go to bed by 11 and wish to have begun digesting my food by then. So I need to make dinner quickly if I have not done it ahead or my wife has not done it for me .
                                Does that clear it up for you?

                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  Similar situation here. I get home around 6, but Mr. S has to be in bed no later than 9 cause he gets up at 4 or earlier. Sometimes he has dinner started, but other times he has spent his time doing other things, like laundry or has appointments. If we don't cook dinner quickly he is eating then going to bed. And then thrashes about all night.

                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                    Magiesmom, Sorry if I was unclear. I should have hit this harder in my post "... I am speaking to those with no deadline." I did state that I understand deadlines, busy schedules, etc. but could have been more emphatic. Mea culpa.

                                    1. re: Sherri

                                      No problem; I don't have a deadline as in children need to be fed, just a preference. I also abhor doing prep ahead of time. I do cook on the weekend for weekday meals and we freeze a lot of food ( this weekend I will make a dozen stuffed peppers to freeze) but usually I want to cook what I am cooking and eat it.

                                2. The 30 minutes meal thing is way overblown, I agree. I can get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, from scratch and a standing start, but that's with years of cooking experience, and fairly specific types of preparations - grilled or pan fried meat or fish, rice or a simple pasta dish, salad, microwaved vegetables.

                                  I find that a lot of the fast dinner cooking time estimates involved assume 1) you're making it with maximum efficiency - you know the recipe so well you can make it without thinking, 2) that this is the only dish you are making for dinner, and 3) you don't have to clean anything as you cook.

                                  I would draw a distinction between being a fast cook, and being an efficient meal planner, though. Often we don't have the luxury of unlimited (or even reasonable) time between getting home and needing to eat. I do complicated time consuming stuff only on the weekends, because I want to eat before 10 pm, and we both work full time.

                                  But fast cooking isn't the only solution - you can prep stuff in advance, have things in the freezer ready to add to a meal, use convenience foods that cut down on prep time, use a slow cooker, cook things the evening before or on the weekend, and so on. And the difference between 30 minutes and 60 minutes is a huge one in what foods you can do, even if you aren't cooking the whole hour.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                    Oh, nonsense. It isn't overblown. People have less and less time to cook because of the death of the 40-hour work week and the over-scheduling of themselves and their children. Getting a fast easy meal together and on the table is an important skill. Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way books are expert examples of this, as are Lynne Rosetto Kasper's "Weeknight Kitchen" e-mails.

                                    1. re: jmckee

                                      What I mean is that a lot of those cookbooks and blogs claiming "30 minute meals" are usually misrepresenting the amount of time it actually takes to produce the meal, particularly for a non-expert cook.

                                      I agree that the modern work day and two job family makes efficient cooking a necessity if you want to eat home-cooked food. But a single cook getting a from scratch dinner on the table in 30 minutes from a standing start is not an easy task - it requires a fair amount of cooking skill and experience, a high degree of efficiency, and a fairly limited selection of foods.

                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                        Again, I disagree. If you're a cook who knows technique and doesn't feel like you have to make a Big Production Number out of dinner, dinner on the table in 30 minutes is no problem at all. And no, not a fairly limited selection of foods. Again, check the Pepin books I mentioned -- INCREDIBLE variety.

                                  2. The biggest problem I have with cooking slow is my back. The constant standing by the counter or stove looking down really starts to make my back hurt. Even with soft mats under my feet.
                                    However, if need be, I suck it up. Quite often in fact. The thing with a bad back is, it can hurt at any time for any reason. So, as I tell people, if I stopped doing everytime it acted up, I'd never do anything at all.

                                    Other than that, sometimes I just want to eat without all the waiting. So I whip up something quick. Which was really how I learned to cook.


                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      "The biggest problem I have with cooking slow is my back. The constant standing by the counter or stove looking down really starts to make my back hurt. Even with soft mats under my feet."

                                      have tried a pair of chef clogs? my mom tried mine when she was having problems with her back at work (teaching) and she was amazed at how much the back pain improved with her standing all day.... I wear Dansko

                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                        No I have not. Didn't realize it would make a difference. I have a fairly mangled spine so who knows but worth a shot eh??

                                        Thanks for the tip.


                                        1. re: Davwud

                                          Davwud, How many ways can I agree that good shoes make a world of difference to those of us with lousy backs! Mild polio as a youngster plus a slew of athletic injuries, several disintegrated discs and a lot of birthdays have put me solidly in the Bad Back Club. I used to cook professionally and spent serious $$$ on my footwear. Today, in the house that we built, to pamper my lousy back, my cooktop is lowered about three inches since I am not the industry standard 6ft. tall male. Dansko shoes are a lifesaver for me, 'Athens' Crocs are my at-home choice. They are very soft and are available unisex. Good luck, hope that you notice the improvement.

                                        2. re: girloftheworld

                                          Dansko have reached far, far beyond professional kitchens! They now come in stripes, plaids, patent leather, paisleys :) And they never wear out.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            yep, the ones mom wears to work now do not look like kitchen clogs at all...