Straight from my homestead kitchen. 78 Kitchen Hacks every cook needs.
Write in your cookbooks. Take some notes when you make a recipe from your favorite cookbook. Perhaps a recipe needs a little more oregano, or it could have used 10 more minutes in the oven. Add small bits of information for the next time you make the recipe, so it turns out just right.
Get a digital meat thermometer. A beautiful well-marbled and expensive steak is quickly ruined by cutting into it to check if it is done or even worse overcooking that steak. A digital thermometer will take all the guesswork out.
Freeze whole chilies. Rinse the chilies, pat dry or lay on a towel to dry then add to the freezer.
Taste and season during the entire cooking process. If you only taste at the end, it is already too late.
Want a no-mess dough roll out? Use two sheets of baking paper to avoid adding extra flour that can change the dough. It will also speed up your cleaning time.
Purchase whole chickens and have the butcher cut them up for you. Have him include the bones and kidneys. Once home, separate them into like bags for freezing. Legs in one, breast in another, thighs and so on. Keep the backs and bones for stock, and the cooked kidneys make great treats for your pets.
Oil-salt-roast. Before roasting rub your meat with cooking oil and then season them with your favorite seasoning.
Try a different ice cube tray. The thin ice cubes that come out of your fridge are watering down your drinks. Icecubes made in silicone tray tend to be denser and keep your drinks colder longer.
Let your eggs and cream cheese come to room temperature before making cheesecakes.
Place a salt bowl at your cooking station. Keeping a small bowl of within arm’s reach when you’re at the stove is the first step to becoming a better cook.
Placing pesto in ice cube trays and freezing it will make perfectly sized portions for your recipes. This trick also works for tomato paste. Many recipes call for one or two tablespoons, and the rest of the can typically go to waste.
After opening a can, add one tablespoon to each ice cube compartment and place a small amount of oil on top of each cube then cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Your tomato paste will be ready for your next recipe.
Soften your butter quickly by placing the butter between two sheets of waxed paper and roll it with a rolling pin.
Quickest pizza dough recipe. One cup Greek yogurt and 2 cups self-rising flour. That’s it. Mix to form a dough, and you’re done.
Bake your pies in glass pans. Your pies will bake more evenly in glass than tin, and when your pie is perfectly golden-brown everywhere, you’ll know it. Make sure you add a silicone pie crust protector to keep the crust from burning.
Go with tried and true recipes for a special occasion. This adds a lot of undue stress.
Make your own croutons. Cube leftover bread and put on a baking sheet with oil, salt, pepper, and your favorite spice. Bake at 350, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Now see if any make it to your salad.
Have you ever added a little bit too much hot spice to a dish? One way to fix this is to add a sweetener to it. Try adding a Tbsp. of honey, agave nectar or brown sugar and re-taste your creation. This may help tame the dish down just a little.
Air dry your chicken. Rinse fresh chicken, pat it dry, salt it generously, and let it sit in the refrigerator, uncovered, for a few hours before cooking. The dry skin will cook up to a nice golden brown.
Here is a different butter tip for perfect biscuits. Try freezing your butter then grate it. Mix quickly to incorporate into your biscuit batter and bake as usual. This makes your biscuits flaky good!
Freeze your ginger. When you need ginger, you always use just a little and are left with the rest of the root. Pop it in a freezer bag and slip it into the freezer until you need it again.
Ever thought about marinating your cheese? Mozzarella, feta, and fresh goat cheese marinated in olive oil, chili flakes, and fresh herbs make for a flavor-filled cheese.
If you’re measuring out sticky ingredients like honey, molasses, peanut butter, or maple syrup try spraying your cups/spoons with spray oil first. The sticky stuff glides right out.
Trying to send your cakes over the top. Use sugar or cocoa powder to grease your pans instead of grease and flour.
Try mixing something into it like a little shallot, some chopped herbs, honey, or maybe some lemon zest—boom. You just made compound butter.
Out of powdered sugar? Add regular sugar to a blender or food processor and blend till it is powdered.
Use an onion or egg slicer to cut up a bunch of strawberries. This makes holding easier, and the cuts are perfect.
Making a sticky mess on your hands with dough. Don’t try washing it off, just add more flour and rub your hands over the garbage can. The dough will ball up and voilà all cleaned up.
Need to grease a pan but hate getting greasy hands. Grab a sandwich bag and use it as a temporary glove. Grease your pans and toss it away.
Shipping cookies. Add a piece of white bread to the package and the cookies will be as fresh as the day you baked them.
Making fried chicken? Use a wet hand/ dry hand approach. Line up your ingredients like this. Meat – Egg dip – Crumbs. Make your right hand the “wet” hand. Pick up the meat dip it in the egg wash then place it in the breadcrumbs. Use your left or “dry” hand to coat the item and place it on a plate. No more sticky mess!
If you are into making bread. Try a silicone bread mold.
Add hot peppers in small increments. It is easy to add more but very difficult to remove. Works great for Salsa recipes.
The wonders of the liquid from canned chickpeas. I bet you’ve never thought that chickpea liquid could be an egg substitute in baked goods?
Buy brown sugar in small quantities. The stuff just doesn’t keep very long.
But if your brown sugar turns into a brown cement block do not throw it out. Bring it back to life by popping it in the microwave for a minute or so.
A microfiber dish drying mat is better than a dish rack. And who has the room for a big and bulky dish rack?
Store lettuce in a resealable plastic bag with a paper towel. The towel absorbs the moisture, which keeps your lettuce crisper, longer.
Caramelize more onions than you need. You’ll use the extras in omelets and sandwiches; on chicken, steak, and pork; in pasta and stews.
Keep lemons in the fridge all the time. They will last a lot longer, and you can add fresh juice to all of your favorite recipes. After you juice them use the rinds to deodorize and clean your cutting boards.
Make the switch to metal measuring cups and spoons. Give your kids/grandkids your old worn-out plastic ones. Metal cups are more accurate and will last a long time.
Master the quick pickle. Add a little salt and sugar to white vinegar and whisk briskly. Pour over thinly sliced raw vegetables. After 20 minutes you are ready to eat.
Get your knives professionally sharpened. You may be able to keep the edge fairly well most of the time with steel, but once a year treat yourself to set of newly sharpened knives. Your prep time will be faster, more accurate—and, best of all, safer.
Treat your herbs like flowers. There’s nothing worse than limp herbs. Next time, trim the stems and put your fresh herbs in water, add plastic to cover and place it in the refrigerator.
Four words to live by (get the pun) – Family Pack Chicken Thighs. Chicken breasts are expensive and can get boring after a while; thighs are juicier, cheaper, and more flavorful.
Buy two loaves of your favorite bread and freeze one of them. Bread+Freezer-Air = Good to Go. Bread last well in freezers as long as you keep the air out. Wrap it in foil then place in a freezer bag to keep it fresh in the freezer.
Get a mandoline and do not be afraid to use it. Want gorgeous scalloped potatoes or perfectly julienned carrots?
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). At least you will learn a multitude of ways to cook what is in season. You will be using different techniques to use up all that produce and growing your cooking techniques.
Stock up on super inexpensive random cuts of meat. A freezer full of roasted turkey necks and bony beef cuts will ensure you always have what you need to make broth.
Dry your greens using a kitchen towel. Salad spinners are bulky and just are not needed. You can place your washed lettuce on a towel grasp the four corners and swing the salad around.
We all know a watched pot doesn’t boil so put a lid on it. It seems obvious, but if you didn’t know, now you do.
Purchase a new kitchen sponge. If your sponge is old and a little smelly your dishes will be too.
Buy a Y-peeler. The old blade style peelers can be dull, awkward and cumbersome. The new y style peelers are the way to go.
Save your fat. Chicken and bacon fat is the perfect seasoning. Whether you’re frying onions in it or sautéing greens, it adds an excellent flavor. So, after your roast chicken dinner, drain the liquid fat into a plastic container and store it in your freezer. (This also holds true for bacon fat.)
Keep a garbage bowl handy. Use a large bowl and keep it close by to add your eggshells and other trash generated while cooking. After meal prep adds the organic waste to your compost pile.
Find the largest mixing bowl available. Have you ever tried to toss a salad or mix up some cookies in a small bowl? Enough said.
Keep your vegetable scraps. Add fennel and celery tops, carrot ends and other vegetable scraps into a resealable plastic bag you keep in the freezer. When your bag gets full, make vegetable stock.
Just say NO to overcrowding your pans. When you pack a pan tight, the food gets steamed instead of fried/baked. Crowed pans result in soggy food were spaced out pans gives you crispy perfectly cooked food.
A toast to toasting. A quick spin in a dry pan and medium heat will awaken dried spices. Use whole spices, keep a close eye on the pan, constantly stirring, and use your nose. As the oils come out, you will smell the spices waking up. Allow to cool and enjoy.
Don’t forget your nuts. I bet you’ve never heard anyone say “These nuts are too crunchy.” Nuts add a nice addition to brownies, cookies and even almonds and sunflower seeds are a nice crunch on a salad.
Don’t leave out your grains. It’s the first step to building a hearty flavor to any meal.
Stop using glass cutting boards. Glass cutting boards send shivers down your spine when you use them, and they dull your knives. They’re slippery. And they’re hard to use. Use wood, bamboo or plastic cutting mats instead.
Try seasoning some of your veggies with sugar. Certain veggies like carrots, squash, and tomatoes have a natural sweetness that’s enhanced by a dash (just a dash like a salt dash) of sugar.
Don’t be scared of the smoke Especially when cooking meat. Smoke equals char, and char is delicious.
Place a damp towel under your cutting board. Your board won’t slip around as you chop.
Buy avocados at a Mexican store. They sell them ripe.
Throw away your toaster. Fry your bread. Add a little butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. Drop-in bread and fry until golden on both sides.
Bait and switch. Switch-hitting on chocolate chips is easy, swap out the chips for your favorite chocolate bar. Creating your chips is easy and can be fun for the whole family.
Have you ever salted your salad? It brings out the flavors in your favorite dressing and adds a little texture. And is proof that salt goes with everything.
Get a Microplane! Sick of loosing skin while shredding cheese? Buy a Microplane, which will shred for a long time for under $15.
Cool your food before placing it in the fridge or freezer. Placing warm food in your fridge allows the inside temperature to rise and the only thing that will benefit is mold.
Put the pinch on your spices. The friction will warm them slightly and release their oils for a more flavorful addition.
The oven is the best place for bacon. It is better tasting, shrinks less and easier to clean up afterward. Cook on a foil-covered rimmed baking sheet at 400°F for 12 to 15 minutes. Flip once halfway through, and it comes out perfect!
Freeze soups, sauces, and broths flat in bags. A flat frozen bag takes up less space and is quicker to unthaw.
Read the recipe completely before you even start cooking. I once jumped straight into cooking, only to discover it was going to take me eight hours to make the recipe! You will be thinking ahead and getting ready for the next step in the process.
Stop using regular boring table salt in your recipes. Salt is a basic seasoning, try kosher salt or sea salt. Experiment with some of the fancier salts like fleur de sel, flaked salt, and Himalayan pink salt.
An immersion blender! This is such a valuable kitchen tool. Transferring hot soups to a blender or processor can be a mess and also dangerous. An immersion blender allows you to purée in your cooking vessel without making a bigger mess.
Be careful when measuring your flour. Step one, whisk it up. Step two, spoon it into a measuring cup. Step three, level off the top. Crumbly, dry cookies or dense cakes may be from inaccurate flour measuring.
To slice meat thinly, partially freeze it first. The firmer meat will allow your knife to effortlessly slide through it without twisting and turning at the first hint of pressure.
I hope you found a tip or two you can use in your own kitchen. Or maybe you know a kitchen hack of your own you wouldn’t mind sharing. Let me know in the comments below.
From my kitchen to yours…