4 Cooking Shortcuts That Aren’t Worth The Time They Save–and 2 That Are

Some things are worth the extra effort.

Elizabeth Cauvel

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Always make your own vodka sauce. Fusilli alla vodka, made and photographed by the author.

I have a close friend whose life motto (thanks to her awesome dad) is an acronym: DCE. Diligent consistent effort. It’s a beautifully simple mantra that reminds us to commit to putting in the work, no matter what we’re doing, because work is noble, and a job well done is a day well spent. When I’m slogging through a long week, or lamenting that I have to clean the shower *even though it is constantly being doused in soap and water and therefore should simply never need cleaning,* I’ll channel the power of DCE.

Cooking is something I enjoy, so I don’t usually have to grind my way through it. But through lots of trial and error, I’ve learned where I can cut corners without any loss in quality, and where it pays off to put in a little more DCE to reap more delicious rewards.

Here are four cooking shortcuts that I don’t recommend, and two that I do.

THE HILL I WILL DIE ON IS MADE OF CHEDDAR: PRE-SHREDDED CHEESE

Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, made and photographed by the author.

Pre-shredded cheese is garbage and you shouldn’t buy it. I said what I said.

In order for it to not clump up inside the bag, pre-shredded cheese is coated in an anti-caking agent, generally made from wood pulp. Eating wood pulp is, at the very least, kind of grody. The wood pulp coating helps reduce the moisture in the cheese and keep the shreds separate, but it results in cheese that doesn’t melt as quickly or as smoothly as freshly shredded cheese. And it has a gritty texture, on account of it being coated in literal sawdust.

If you don’t care about gooey, cheesy quesadillas, or silky-smooth mornay sauces that turn into creamy baked macaroni and cheese, or perfectly melty cheese-topped casseroles, this advice isn’t for you. Also, I cannot to relate to you *at all.*

Freshly shredded cheese melts like a dream; you’ll never achieve a perfect cheese pull without it. The key to hand-shredded cheese is a good box grater. Get one with a sturdy grip and…

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Elizabeth Cauvel

I’m a west coast-based creative director at New York-based ad agency MRY, and the season 5 Masterchef runner-up. I love mayonnaise, yoga, cats, and pizza.