Kitchen Short-Cuts: Frozen Meats, Hard Butter, Dirty Dishes

Brooke Newberry
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Crunch time.  These aren’t the classic solutions, but they certainly are the most time-efficient.  Be spontaneous, kitchen-confident, and get in the fast lane.


Running Water for Fast-Thawing Meat    

Does your freezer look like the meatpacking district?  Taking the time to defrost just isn’t conducive to impromptu dinners.  Yes, the slower refrigerator thawing method is preferred – however, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to wait.  We have things to DO.  Put your frozen meat in a Ziploc or leak-proof bag and place in a large bowl.  Run cool running (like, the movie) water over it until it has completely thawed.  Warm or hot water will begin to cook the surfaces and edges of the meat. Squeeze the bag gently – it is thawed when the meat gives in to pressure.  Cool, running water controls its temperature, which is safer than just leaving the meat out on the counter, exposing it to possibly dangerous temperature variation.

For thinner cuts of stashed away protein like individual chicken breasts, estimate the thawing time to take about 20 minutes.  Larger, denser cuts of meat or poultry (about a pound) can take around an hour. For larger items like Thanksgiving turkeys, you can estimate defrosting to take approx. 30 minutes per pound.  Do not leave the meat out for more than four hours.  Yes, this takes a lot of water – but for safety reasons it’s worth it if thawing in a pinch.

Note: Meats thawed this way must be cooked before re-freezing.


Soften Butter in a No-Mess Pinch

Recipes often call for room temperature butter.  Butter is habitually forgotten to set out ahead of time, but microwaved butter still isn’t a good option.  Nuking butter on power level 2 for 15 seconds doesn’t do anything to it, yet nuking butter on power level 2 for 25 seconds melts it – there just isn’t enough predictability in bringing butter down to room temps with a microwave.  Neither is setting it on top of the preheating oven, by the way, unless you want to turn your stovetop into a butter swimming pool. 

Here’s the deal: put the required amount of butter inside a Ziploc bag.  Leave it wrapped in its original measuring stick wrapper.  Place the bag in warm water for just a few minutes and voila.



Dishes in a Dash

People are coming over.  If you have a dishwasher, this is just about speed loading it. However, if you’re an old school soul, you practice the good ole soap, rinse, and dry method.

Speed preparation is the trick.  Leave the silverware and cups in the sink for now: Stack bowls and plates and put any pots and pans together in the sink.  Then start with glasses- these aren’t stackable and will therefore take up the most space on the drying rack or towel – also, your guests will probably use these first.  Bowls and plates are next.  Silverware takes the most time, which is why it’s saved for last (and if you end up running out of time, cutlery is easier to stash away).



Quick Scramble

Everyone likes his or her eggs a certain way, and we all know how tasty a perfectly cooked egg is.  However, sometimes there’s only two minutes until you have to be out the door, and you’re starving – for a hot breakfast.  You are going to use your microwave.  Cringe.  Take a nuke-safe bowl and quickly grease with butter or give it a spray.  Into the bowl, crack two eggs and a tablespoon of milk.  Whisk with a fork, and place in the microwave for 1 minute at 100% power.  Remove (use an oven mit as bowl may be hot), stir gently with a fork.  If still part liquid, place back in for 15 seconds. Toss in some cheese.



Fast Ice

Hosting a cocktail hour at your place? Survey says using hot water for the ice cube tray allows it to freeze faster.  The physics behind it is complicated and has something to do with this thing called the “Mpemba Effect.”

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