Kitchen Tools to Help You Make Dinner Quickly

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Want to get dinner on the table quickly? Then tool up with these kitchen helpers.

Kitchen Tools to Help You Make Dinner Quickly | Good Cheap Eats

Dinner is an event at our home. Well, sometimes. Sometimes it’s an event. Sometimes it’s a chore. I mean, sometimes there are more important things to do than make dinner. As much as I love a long, drawn-out meal with great conversation, sometimes I need to get it and go.

A couple years ago, I started thinking about how I could speed up my meal prep. While I love to putter in the kitchen and I LOVE to fill my freezer, some nights I just need a quick fix. Don’t you?

A quick-fix dinners doesn’t have to be boxed mac and cheese. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see what amazing meals can be prepped in less than 30 minutes.

I confess, I do have a small arsenal of tools to help me pull this off. Here are five of my favorite tools that help me make dinner quickly:

Kitchen Tools to Help You Make Dinner Quickly

Kitchen Tools to Help You Make Dinner Quickly | Good Cheap Eats

Want to get dinner on the table quickly? Then tool up with these kitchen helpers.

A panini press

My panini press makes grilled sandwiches come together in a matter of minutes. Since I don’t typically butter the bread for panini, the process is lightening fast to prepare meals like Tuna Melt Sandwiches and Turkey-Cheddar Melt with Grilled Onions and Spicy Mayo.

I was given a machine like this panini press several years ago, and it’s holding strong.

A rice cooker

There are lots of ways that I like to cook rice: stovetop, oven, or rice cooker. The rice cooker is one that is low on heating up the kitchen (or me) and takes care of it pretty seamlessly. My 17yo makes rice all the time in the cooker.

We have an older model of this basic Black and Decker rice cooker, but I’ve heard that Aroma is the brand that really knows rice. When our cooker kicks the bucket, I’ll upgrade to something like this one.

A food processor

Mary Goldman, an old friend of my aunt, was downsizing her home when we were first married. She gave me her Cuisinart, probably one of the first of its kind. My mom had never really used hers, so I was a skeptic. Turns out I came to love it. LOVE it.

I use my food processor most often to make homemade mayonnaise, but it’s equally a speed demon at making pie crust, shredding cheese, blending salsa, and any number of other yummy dishes.

I have two, a 12yo one like this model and this one with the bells and whistles. You can stick with the basic. Trust me.

An electric griddle

An electric griddle helps us make many items at one time. Even if yours is a small crowd, the bulk cooking will do wonders for your food prep. You’ll be done in no time! I’ve gone through about two or three. I typically buy whatever’s cheapest when I’m shopping.

Some of our favorite recipes include: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes, Corn Tortillas, and Chimichangas.

Cooking at home will save you money and help you eat better. Cooking it quickly will help you avoid that siren song of take-out and make it easier for you to enjoy home cooked meals, no matter your schedule.

What tools help YOU out in the kitchen?

I’d love to know what works for you to speed up your cooking time and eat sooner. I’m particularly interested in hearing your slow cooker stories since that’s a tool I’m not yet brave enough to try.

Kitchen Tools to Help You Make Dinner Quickly | Good Cheap Eats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Stephanie M. says

    Like you, I love my Panini press and my food processor. When I had to finally play taps over my last food processor, I was in the store that day getting a new one. A slow cooker is, I think, very popular among most people especially those who work long days and don’t have time to cook at the end of the day or those with children who just don’t have time to cook. As for me, I’ve owned two of them and both times gave them away. Since I don’t work, I have plenty of time to cook and a slow cooker is not something I need. My electric hand mixer is something I use several times a week to mash potatoes, mix up cake or cookie batters, even to mix up the yolks for devilled eggs. My stand up mixer is not something I use everyday but it really comes in handy when I’m making Christmas cookies and need a large mixer for the batter. My bread machine is also not something I use everyday but when I’m in the mood to make bread, I’m glad I have it. Those are my larger tools for the kitchen and the only ones I really want and need.

    • That makes a lot of sense about the slow cookers. I use mine a fair amount since we’re home most days, but I can see if you don’t have favorite things to cook in it, why it wouldn’t be useful. I love to make carnitas, shredded beef, and beans in mine. I would never cook them another way.

    • Eleanor says

      As a working mum of three young kids, my slow cooker is a saviour in the kitchen, particularly on winter days (it is winter now in Australia). I am able to stock up on ingredients on the weekends, do the spice blends if they are low (I love making dishes from scratch). During the week, I use what I have on hand to make delicious stews and casseroles. My slow cooker is on a timer and switches to “keep warm” after 4 or 8 hours of slow cooking depending on the dish. When I get home, all I have to do is to prepare the sides (rice, potatoes, steamed vegetables) within 15 minutes. While those sides are cooking, I take this opportunity to unpack the dishwasher and clear out the school bags to find any notes from school and attend to those quickly. By the time I finish those tasks, dinner is ready to be served at the table. On the weekends, the slow cooker is great for shorter time of 4 hours when I am at home at lunch time and it makes a good alternative to make something warm for lunch OR when the kids wants to go to the park or visit friends for the afternoon. A good welcome home to warm delicious food after being out all afternoon too!

  2. Jillbert says

    I’m with you on the panini press. My kids love it — turns and ordinary sandwich into something extraordinary. We use it to make quesadillas at least once/week. I’m a big slow cooker user, too. And I, too, love my food processor. I use it almost every day. The waffle iron also gets a work out.

  3. Sherrie Roderick says

    My Kitchen aid stand mixer. I have had it for 30 years and use it 2,3,4 times a week. I do cakes, pizza dough, cookies. We grind our venison into burger. (My husband always gets balogna and makes balogna salad, once he starts grinding he can’t seem to stop.) I just inherited a bread maker from my mom and I am slowly finding thing to do in it.
    You helped me fall in love with my freezer! I now am very partial to my every other Saturday freezer meal prep. My next purchase will be a waffle iron, I am looking for one that has removable trays with panini press.

    • Since my bread machine died in January, I’m slowly falling in love with the Kitchenaid. Slowly. 🙂

  4. Rachel says

    I love my slow cookers! I have three – 6 quart, 4 quart, and a little 2 cup. They are in constant use. Even on days when I’m home it is nice to throw everything in right away in the morning and not have to think about dinner again. I use it for soups of course but also cooking large batches of dried beans, making yogurt, overnight porridge or breakfast dishes, the best baked potatoes, and on and on. It’s also great for keeping things warm when serving a crowd. Cook a batch of taco meat and throw it in there ( I use half ground beef and half cooked lentils to help the budget). My hubby uses it during football games to keep his bean dip hot.
    My 4 qt has only three settings: high, low, off. My 6 qt has options for 4 or 6 hrs on high or 8 or 10 hrs on low – after that it switches to warm, which is handy when I am at work. I’d recommend getting one with that option. There are newer models where you can program specific times too.

    • Yes, I love my slow cooker, too. I just don’t make “quick” things with them. You have to plan, you know?

      • Eleanor says

        The slow cooker does certainly help with meals as I stock up on weekends as that is the only time I can do a big shop and plan the night before to thaw out meat and see what is in the fridge and pantry. All of those ingredients are either sitting in fridge or on bench all ready to be put into the slow cooker as part of my morning routine before heading off to work.

  5. I love all of these, Jessica, along with my pressure cooker and my slow cooker.

    I know exactly what you mean about dinner – sometimes it’s a joy, sometimes it’s a chore.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I have a pressure cooker but I am not really motivated to use it. What do you use it for?

  6. Karen says

    I like my toaster oven I picked up at a yard sale. It preheats much faster than the regular oven & doesn’t heat up the kitchen as much. I use it to roast or broil side veggies, cook fish, bake mini pizzas, etc.

  7. Laura says

    I totally agree with the panini press and griddle from your list! I have a Cuisinart Griddler:
    which serves as both of those and an indoor grill (like a George Foreman.) One of the best wedding gifts we got. I love being able to have pork chops or hamburgers done in minutes, and make paninis. I don’t use the griddle a lot but it’s handy for making pancakes for a crowd. I want to get waffle plates for it too and eliminate another small appliance.

    I have a rice cooker I’ve never used but I plan to change that soon!

    • Is the griddler hard to clean?

      • Laura says

        Not at all! The plates are removable and because they’re non-stick, they come clean easily in the sink. I don’t think I’ve ever even needed to use a plastic scrubber. You might even be able to put them in the dishwasher – I don’t have one so I’m not sure!

    • Sandi says

      This link only gives me your photo. Is it supposed to go to something about the griddler? I didn’t see a search option, but I may have missed it since I was so distracted by that fabulous chocolate pudding cake concoction that I’ve saved to try later. (If you try it in the slow cooker, please let me know. Ovens in Florida in summertime give a brief glimpse into what a bad afterlife choice might be like.)

      • Laura says

        I realized afterwards that my link didn’t work! This one should:

        I’m glad you checked out the chocolate pudding cake! I will post an update if I try the slowcooker. The slowcooker recipe comes from Our Best Bites, and one of the bloggers there is from Louisiana, so they understand the summer baking dilemma!

  8. April says

    One of my favorite things is my immersion blender. I use it daily, mostly for yogurt smoothies, mayo, soups, salad dressing and jam.

    I also use it to make soap, but it takes 5 to 10 minutes of blending, so I’ve burned up the motors in 2 of my blenders. Luckily they’re fairly cheap

  9. Lonormi Manuel says

    I love love LOVE my pressure cooker! Nothing like it for cooking legumes, grains and veggies quickly. (Good for meat, too, but we don’t eat meat anymore. ) I was terrified of them for years, I guess because of my mother’s stories of exploded pots and dead housewives … even my mother-in-law, who used hers everyday, only used it on a small stove on her back porch, “just in case”. New models have plenty of safety features, though, and can whip up tasty, healthy food in a jiffy!

    • My dad bought me one for Christmas and I have no idea what to do with it. It’s still in the box, unfortunately.

      • Lonormi Manuel says

        I found the book PRESSURE COOKING FOR DUMMIES at my local library. It was a great introduction, and answered a lot of my questions, including my nagging worries about safety … no more worrying about beans all over the walls and ceiling of the kitchen! 😉

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