Yes, you can have dinner on the table in record time—with easy recipes and a simple game plan.

By Julia Rutland
May 11, 2012
Photographer: Iain Bagwell

Summer is the time for less work and more fun. Here's how to put speed on your side.

Get organized
"Hmm, if I were a colander, where would I be?" Avoid this kind of pondering by assigning everything a place in your kitchen. Keep frequently used tools in easy-to-reach caddies or convenient drawers.

Read the whole recipe before you start
You don't want to discover you're out of lemons when your flank steak is sizzling in the skillet.

Shop for speed
Buy pre-cut veggies at the salad bar, peeled-and-deveined shrimp, boxed broths, and boneless meats. If you prefer to grate your own cheese, prepare enough for the week and store it in the fridge in an airtight container.

Go for quality
Purchase the best and freshest ingredients. Quick recipes rely on basic flavors and don't have elaborate sauces and garnished to hide stale or overripe foods.

Think thin
Thick, chunky foods take longer to cook. Pick thin cuts of meat, or trim them so they are not thicker than 1 inch. Use only the florets of broccoli or cauliflower and select skinny asparagus spears.

While food is boiling, broiling, or sautéing for a few minutes, get the next step of the recipe ready to go.

Start boiling
Put the pot of water on the heat first, and then prep your ingredients; with some dishes, it can take longer for water to reach a boil than it takes to cook the food.

Don't be afraid of high heat
It cooks food faster and also adds a nice brown crust.