How to Cook with Only 6 Minutes of Prep and Cleanup

Stuart O’Keeffe, the author of the new cookbook The Quick Six Fix: 100 No-Fuss, Full-Flavor Recipes, joins us to share his philosophy for getting in and out of the kitchen in six minutes each for prep and cleanup, with only six key ingredients. 

Kara Rota
2-minute read
Episode #99

Stuart's Quick Six Fix philosophy is designed for home cooks without much time to spare, but his time-saving hints are helpful for anyone in the kitchen. Here's an excerpt from his philosophy:

1) Keep Your Pantry Stocked

Use “The Quick Six Fix Pantry” chapter as your perpetual shopping list. If you keep your pantry stocked with these go- to items, you’ll always be prepared to make a quick, easy, tasty meal. Some of those items will figure into the “six ingredient” count, but note that a few essentials, like salt and olive oil, don’t factor into the count. The bottom line is that a well-stocked pantry also allows for more efficient grocery shopping.

2) Fresh Is Best

When shopping for groceries, keep in mind that fresh is best, whether you’re buying fi sh, pasta, vegetables, or even herbs. Freshness makes all the difference in terms of flavor.

3) Don't Sweat the Prep

You know the maxim “forewarned is forearmed”? I can’t stress how important this is: Before starting a recipe, read the recipe through several times! Three times should be the charm so that you have a good understanding of what’s needed, what’s going to happen, and how you can best manage your time. It’s also a great idea to quickly read the text at the beginning of the chapter of the recipe to brush up on general tips and tools. Once you have a grasp of what’s to happen, there will be no surprises, and you’ll breeze through the prep. 

4) The Secret to Clean-Up Success

I use something called a Reverse Traffic Light Theory for efficient cleanup. This is cribbed from a trick I learned in culinary school. Throughout certain recipes, you’ll notice this traffic light icon. Usually you’ll see this once you’ve put a casserole dish in the oven or left a pan on simmer or are waiting for pasta to boil. What that means is STOP! Take just a few minutes to YIELD to any mess you’ve made. This is the time to wipe the cutting board, soak a pan, stick the bowls in the dishwasher, and use your time efficiently before you GO back to cooking. You’ll be surprised at how just being reminded to assess your mess will help in the end. When you have your feet up instead of lingering in the kitchen with the dirty dishes, you will thank me! 

The methods in my recipes are also designed for quicker cleanup. Tricks like lining a baking pan with foil, using a Ziploc bag for marinades, and cooking one- pot meals are all huge time- savers. 

From The Quick Six Fix by Stuart O’Keeffe. Copyright © 2016 by Stuart O’Keeffe. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.