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How to cook 30 minute meals

Updated on May 21, 2014

Sometimes it seems difficult to find time to cook meals at home. With all the other things going on in a day, cooking can end up dropping lower and lower on the priority list. Cooking may seem like a huge undertaking, but it doesn't have to be that way! It's possible to cook great tasting, healthy meals in 30 minutes, and I'm going to tell you how.

1. Choose your ingredients wisely

Choosing the right ingredients can help shorten your cooking times. Choose quick cooking ingredients that are easy to prepare. Here are some tricks I find useful:

  • When cooking with meat - use smaller cuts of meat off the bone - if your recipe calls for meat on the bone, try making cuts in the meat with a knife at its thickest point.
  • Use green/spring onion instead of regular onion where possible - it cooks much more quickly.
  • Chop vegetables into smaller pieces - for instance, instead of doing baked potatoes, halve your potatoes and cook them in the microwave and they'll be done in around 10 minutes.
  • Try using couscous instead of rice - it cooks in five minutes flat!
  • Eggs are one of the quickest cooking proteins you'll find, so consider adding omelettes and fritattas to your repertoire.

Stir fries are quick and delicious!
Stir fries are quick and delicious! | Source

2. Be prepared

When you're trying to make 30-minute meals, being prepared and staying organised is an absolute must.

  • Pick out your 30-minute recipes and get your ingredients beforehand - plan out a few meals at once, so you can spend less time planning your meals and shopping.
  • Before cooking, make sure to clean your kitchen, get your ingredients and equipment ready, and clear your table.
  • Multitask - having a couple of things cooking at once makes it go much more quickly.
  • Keep your kitchen tidy as you cook - this will allow you to work more effectively and save time cleaning up afterwards.

3. Get a great cookbook

Here are a few cookbooks that offer a variety of recipes and techniques for cooking meals in 30 minutes (or less) that I love:

Jamie's 30 Minute Meals - I bought this cookbook recently and I absolutely LOVE it! The cookbook contains 50 menus for 30 minute meals, many of which consist of a main dish, a side AND a dessert, which can all be made in 30 minutes (including preparation time). You can even try out some of the recipes on Jamie Oliver's website before buying it.

Rachael Ray's Classic 30 Minute Meals - Rachael Ray has many cookbooks with quick and easy meals, and this is a collection of her greatest hits from previous books. This book has great pictures, easy to follow instructions and fun little tips. The portion sizes are often a little on the large side, in my opinion, but there are some good recipes.

The Stonesoup eCookbook: 5 ingredients | 10 minutes - For those who still don't think you can manage even a 30 minute meal, this is the cookbook for you! The Stonesoup is a great blog by Jules Clancy, and her new book offers a variety of quick and easy recipes and cooking techniques, with great pictures, too. You can even try before you buy - check out the preview in the stonesoup shop.

4. Make use of technology

There are certain kitchen gadgets that can save you a ton of time and effort:

  • The microwave - almost everyone has one of these, so use it! Things like veggies and rice can be cooked easily in the microwave.
  • The electric kettle - boiling water in a pot takes a lot longer than using an electric kettle.
  • The food processor - these things can slice, grate, blend and more. A HUGE time saver!
  • The stick blender - great for blending up soups and sauces really quickly.
  • The slow cooker - spend a few minutes chucking some ingredients in it in the morning and another few minutes in the evening serving it all up.

5. Take shortcuts... sometimes

I'm not into many ready-made ingredients, but there are certain shortcuts I can highly recommend:

  • Store-bought puff pastry - store bought varieties taste good and save you tons of time. OR use filo pastry instead - it cooks much more quickly (and it's healthier).
  • Roasted red peppers in a jar - my new fave ingredient. So delicious and so easy, they come in a jar and can be mixed into sauces and put on pizzas in seconds.
  • Curry paste in a jar - buy the paste, not the sauce. Great flavour in no time flat.
  • Rotisserie chicken - sometimes buying a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket is perfect for a quick meal.

Seafood often cooks quicker than other proteins.
Seafood often cooks quicker than other proteins. | Source

6. Make it taste good!

Not only can you cook quick meals, but they can also taste really good! If you pack loads of flavour into your cooking, you'll be less tempted to get takeout or delivery. Here are some quick little tricks to incorporate into your cooking to make it taste even better:

  • Lemon/lime zest and juice - can add a great zing to your recipes
  • Use chillis in your cooking - a little heat can rev up your taste buds
  • Keep fresh herbs on hand - a little fresh cilantro (coriander), parsley or mint can add great freshness to your cooking
  • Don't overcook your veggies and pasta - they taste better "al dente", or with a tiny bit of bite to them
  • Seasoning is key - even a great recipe can taste bland if not properly seasoned, so add salt & pepper and taste everything as you go along

How to cook 30 minute meals (recap)

  1. Choose your ingredients wisely
  2. Be prepared
  3. Get a great cookbook
  4. Make use of technology
  5. Take shortcuts (sometimes)
  6. Make it taste good

Final thoughts

It really is possible to cook 30 minute meals if you know how to do it. With a little preparation, the right ingredients, some simple kitchen gadgets and a bit of trial and error, you'll be well on your way to cooking quick meals every night of the week!

Happy cooking!


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    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Riviera Rose, thanks for the tip. I love Nigel Slater but I haven't tried either of those books. Will have to add them to my birthday list! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 7 years ago from South of France

      Some terrific ideas here, thanks, and don't forget Nigel Slater, whose cookbooks include Real Fast Food and the 30 Minute Cook - my personal cookery bible!

    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Glad you liked it, Cat. I think the piri piri chicken recipe is on the Jamie Oliver website and it is sooooo delicious!

    • profile image

      CatMontreal 7 years ago

      Thanks so much for the Jamie Oliver tip. I'll definitely look into that one, Charro!