Make-Ahead Essentials

Improve your kitchen efficiency with these simple pointers.

Cook Smart

Overbooked and overwhelmed? Time is precious. So when you plan to cook in advance, make the most of your time in the kitchen. Follow these simple suggestions:

mandarin beef buns
Mandarin Beef Buns

Also, try our Mandarin Beef Buns, recently featured on the Today Show. These Oriental favorites will perform double-duty as appetizers or as an accompaniment to a full Oriental meal.


  • Put cooking first on your to-do list. You'll be surprised how quickly the recipe will come together. It's easy to burn up half an hour reading the mail or checking phone messages. Save those chores for later and focus on the task at hand.
  • Read the recipe completely. This should eliminate delays searching for missing ingredients or making last-minute trips to the grocery store.
  • Overlap steps to accomplish two things at once. Chop vegetables, measure ingredients, open cans, or prepare sauces while waiting for water to boil, meat to brown, or appliances to preheat.
  • Clean as you go. Before you start any preparation, fill the sink with hot, soapy water.
  • Let time-saving appliances and techniques work for you. Use a food processor to slice and chop vegetables or grate cheese. Microwaving is an easy, no-mess method for melting butter or chocolate and toasting nuts. Because a toaster oven takes little time to preheat, it toasts buns and rolls quickly. Use kitchen scissors to snip fresh herbs or dried fruit, a garlic press to crush garlic, and a mini ice cream scoop for drop cookies.
  • Purchase shortcut ingredients to cut minutes off your prep time. Or visit your local deli or bakery for instant appetizers such as specialty cheeses or olives, and simple side dishes or breads to embellish your meal.