The 25 Greatest Kitchen Hacks Every Cook Should Know
1. Make Hard-Cooked Eggs a Cinch to Peel
This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com.
Instead of boiling the traditional way, steam up to a dozen eggs in a steamer basket suspended over boiling water for 15 to 16 minutes; shells slip right off.
2. Make the Best Roasted Veggies
Place the pan in the oven as it preheats; when the vegetables hit that hot surface, they get a delicious jump-start on browning.
3. Improvise a Brush
When you can't find your pastry or basting brush—or don't have one—make a quick, disposable stand-in: Fold a piece of parchment paper over and over to make a small rectangle. Cut fringe with kitchen scissors, and marvel at your makeshift brush.
4. Make Powdered Sugar
If you find that you're out of powdered sugar when you really need it, pulverize granulated sugar in a spice grinder to make your own.
5. Warm Things Up
This pro move keeps dishes that tend to set up quickly, like risotto or creamy pasta (including mac and cheese), nice and loose: Serve on warm plates. Use your oven set to "warm" to heat plates.
6. Cool Things Down
If you are sautéing onions and they start to get too brown, toss in an ice cube to chill down the pan fast. The water will evaporate quickly, and your onions will be saved.
7. Speed Up Meat Loaf
When you've got a hankering for a hunka meat but don't want to wait an hour or more for meat loaf to cook, divide and conquer: Divvy the meat into individual portions in a muffin tin, and bake at 450° for 15 minutes.
8. Cook Up Tastier Grains
Enhance the flavor of quinoa, millet, brown rice, or bulgur by cooking in tea-infused water—Lapsang souchong (smoky black tea), Earl Grey, and chai are especially robust.
9. Make Wine Cubes
Have a bottle of wine that you just can't finish up, and don't want to waste the little bit left over? Pour the wine into ice-cube trays, and freeze. Pull out a few cubes for a pan sauce that needs oomph, or toss some into a wine spritzer or pitcher of sangria.
10. Go With Serrated
When you're overdue on sharpening your knives and just can't get to the sharpening stone, switch to your serrated knife for all your cutting tasks. The sawlike blade will do a much better job than your dull straight-bladed knives.
11. Ignore Egg Dates
We often joke that eggs never go bad (that's really just a joke; they certainly can and do go bad). But the sell-by date on the carton isn't your guide to whether the oeuf is still bien; don't automatically toss them after that date. Instead, place an egg in a glass of water: Good eggs sink; bad eggs float.
12. Forget the Spout
We know you've had frustrations with that spout on your box of kosher salt—injuring yourself under your fingernail or struggling to pour the last bit out of that tiny, poorly placed hole. Instead, slice a corner off the box with a serrated knife. Easy, efficient, sanity-saving.
13. Easily Clean Your Grill Pan
Use a grill brush to clear debris without ruining a dish sponge or kitchen towel. For caked-on messes, invert the pan over a gas burner turned to high, and blast the bits off.
14. Tame That Butternut
Pop a whole butternut squash in the microwave, and zap it for 2 to 3 minutes. It'll be much easier to peel, seed, and cube.
15. Soften and Sweeten Bananas Fast
Ready to make banana bread, but your fruit isn't ripe enough? Place the bananas, in their peels, on a parchment-lined pan or plate, and toss in the oven as it preheats or in the microwave for a few minutes to speed-ripen them. When skins are blackened, bananas are ready.
16. Save Wilty Greens
When your spinach or kale is on the verge of going bad and you have more than you'll be able to use tonight, freeze it in a zip-top freezer bag. Next time you need greens for a cooked application (sauté, soup, omelet, stir-fry), just pull them out of the freezer and toss them in.
17. Making Some? Make More
When toasting nuts (at 325°, the perfect temp to coax out natural oils), toast a lot. Freeze extras, and save a step in the future (no need to thaw before using).
18. Truss a Chicken Without Twine
Make a slit in the excess skin on either side of the cavity, and thread drumsticks through the slits—works like a charm. (Why truss in the first place, you ask? It helps the bird cook more evenly and maintains its nice, compact shape.)
19. Cook Perfect Fish Every Time
Start with 6-ounce fillets, and place as many as you need 2 inches apart on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Season or glaze as you desire. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes.
20. Try a Better Buttermilk Sub
You've probably seen the tip about adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk to make your own buttermilk—but that mixture never gets quite thick and creamy enough to really suffice. Instead, use thinned-out plain Greek yogurt: Whisk together ¾ cup yogurt and ¼ cup water or skim milk.
21. Save Yourself Some Washing
When taking raw meat to the grill, transport it on a foil-lined platter or baking sheet. After food is on the grill, discard the foil; cooked food can go on the pan without your having to wash it first.
22. Waste Not
Measure flour, sugar, and other dry ingredients in a dry measuring cup set on top of a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper. Any that gets scraped off as you level can be poured right back into the container.
23. Steady the Bag
When pouring gravy or leftover soup into a zip-top plastic bag, place the bag in a large glass measuring cup or bowl; cuff the top of the bag by folding it over, which holds the bag open and keeps things tidy.
24. Save Yourself From Yourself
Build in portion control with your next batch of cookies. Dollop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Instead of baking the tray, freeze it. When firm, transfer dough to a zip-top freezer bag—then pull out one cookie to bake "on demand" whenever you need a fix and don't want to overdo it.
25. Make Stock While You Sleep
No time to fuss over a steaming stockpot? Place stock ingredients in a Dutch oven, and bake, uncovered, at 225° for 8 hours or overnight. (For a slightly less rich-tasting stock, cook in a slow cooker on LOW overnight.) In the morning, skim, strain, bring to room temp, and refrigerate.