Test Kitchen Challenge: Dinner in 20 Minutes

All home cooks face the same challenges of wanting to get a delicious dinner on the table fast -- without spending a lot. So we asked our test kitchen team to come up with recipes that are fast, cheap and inspiring. Want to make a great meal in 20 minutes? Here's how test kitchen director Tracey Seaman did it.
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FAST RECIPES

Tracey relied on quick-cooking proteins and starches to get these dinners on the table in 20 minutes or less.

fiesta pork cheesy polenta

FIESTA PORK AND CHEESY POLENTA

Here's a great shortcut: Boneless pork loin, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise, cuts down on cooking time. Also, stock up on couscous and instant polenta: They take 5 minutes or less to make, and are more nutritious than instant rice.

 
roasted salmon and zucchini couscous

ROASTED SALMON WITH ZUCCHINI AND NUTTY COUSCOUS

Fish is a healthful protein that cooks quickly at high heat. If you flip the oven dial to 450 degrees as soon as you walk in the door, you'll be able to start cooking immediately once you get settled in the kitchen.

 

FAST TOOLS

Add these items to your cabinets to help beat the clock.

spider skimmer

Spider-Skimmer

Fish out ingredients like veggies or pasta from boiling water with this tool, and you can use the pot again to instantly cook something else.

hand held food slicer

Microplane Hand-Held Adjustable Food Slicer

Ingredients take less time to cook when they're paper thin.

 
skillet

Rachael Ray 12-inch Cast-Iron Skillet

A large surface area is great for stir-fries and lets food brown quickly.

 

FAST TIPS

Follow Tracey's plan for keeping things moving.

Step 1 Bring a pot of water to boil or turn on the oven the minute you get home.
Step 2 Do what you know. You want to make something you're familiar with so you can do it without thinking.
Step 3 Get going on the ingredient that takes the longest to cook, then prep as you go.
Step 4 Think small -- the littler the piece, the faster it will cook. It takes longer to roast a pork loin than it does a pork chop.
Step 5 Wait until the end to clean -- and then make sure everybody helps! Everyone says to clean as you go, but if you're in a rush, that'll just slow you down.

MORE TEST KITCHEN CHALLENGES

Still looking to solve your dinner dilemmas? See what else the test kitchen team's been up to.

 

 

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