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February 9, 2014

Consumer Reports: Save time in the kitchen

Five to 10 minutes might not sound like much, but when you’re racing to get dinner on the table, that can be the difference between a relaxing family meal and one gobbled down with hardly a “How was your day?” When Consumer Reports surveyed 3,435 of its subscribers about their experiences cooking weeknight meals, almost half said they wished the task took less time.

Consumer Reports offers these keys to preparing faster, tastier meals:

• Design for efficiency. If you’re remodeling the kitchen, follow the design basics, but tailor them to your family’s needs and routines. For example, the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s guidelines call for kitchen walkways to be at least 36 inches wide. “But for a busy family, that passage needs to be 42 or even 48 inches wide for people to move freely,” says Paula Kennedy, a certified master kitchen and bath designer in Seattle.

Similarly, the work triangle — connecting the sink, fridge, and cooktop— is still the baseline for maximum efficiency. But in two-cook kitchens, it often makes sense to have a second triangle, maybe designed around an island counter with a prep sink.

Storage is another customizable design element. If you frequently buy in bulk, you’ll need a walk-in pantry or an oversized wall cabinet that’s at least 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep. Pantry needs will be less for everyday market shoppers, who will also get by with a smaller refrigerator.

• Think ahead. One of the top cooking gripes in Consumer Reports’ survey was that it takes too much planning. Making double batches of recipes means one less meal to think about. Stews work for dinner, and pancakes can be frozen and reheated for breakfast.

A slow cooker is handy for make-ahead meals. Simply stir ingredients together in the morning, and by night, you’ll have a hot, ready-to-serve meal.

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