50 Kitchen Hacks You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner
These quick and clever kitchen hacks will change how you cook for the better.
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Cooking comes home
If you’ve always wanted to bone up on your kitchen skills, this is your year to shine. With restaurants closing down or doing takeout-only service, and Americans spending much more time at home due to lockdown, there’s been a resurgence in home cooking. According to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) annual Food and Health Survey of 1,000 American adults, more than half reported cooking at home more.
Maybe you’re not a natural-born chef—that’s perfectly OK. The IFIC survey found that people are relying on packaged foods more than ever. But there are plenty of other shortcuts you can use in the kitchen to get a tasty meal on the table with less time, effort, and cleanup. Peruse these genius tips and let us take some of the stress out of stress baking for you.
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Save time by pre-soaking grains
Soaking grains like rice tends to shorten the amount of time it takes to cook them. And you should always at least rinse rice since it grows in the ground like fruit and vegetables. Rinsing it can help remove some of the excess starch as well. Try this OXO Good Grips Rice, Quinoa, and Small Grains Washing Colander. Find out the difference between wild rice, brown rice, and quinoa.
Lighten up batters
$14.98 for 10
Pancakes, beer batter, and tempura all benefit from a little carbonated H20. Add some to packaged pancake or waffle mix for light, airy Sunday stacks—or use a flavored seltzer for a little extra pizazz.
Make your spices last longer
Buy whole spices—like nutmeg, cloves, cumin, and coriander seeds—and grind them yourself as needed using a coffee grinder like this one from SMEG. According to expert Alex Wilkens of The Spice House, grinding spices into a powder releases the volatile oils responsible for flavor and aroma so your spices will taste fresher when you do use them and last longer when you don’t. Don’t miss this other secret ingredient to add to your pancake mix.
Make perfect dough from scratch
The secret to perfect pie and other dessert dough? Evenly distributing your butter. Forget cubing it—just put a stick in the freezer for 15 minutes, then grate it into the dry ingredients using a cheese grater. You’ll have perfect flaky dough every time.
Make gravy in your roasting pan
After roasting a whole bird, just set the pan it cooked in over a burner and heat up the drippings. Add flour, cook, and whisk in stock until you have the consistency you want, then season to taste. You just made gravy and saved yourself a dish.
Peel ginger with a spoon
Use the back of a spoon to remove the papery outer layer from ginger—it’s easier than using a knife and saves more of the flesh. Or, if you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, save yourself the hassle and buy a squeeze tube of ground ginger.
Swap parchment for something more permanent
No more cutting circles out of parchment paper for your cakes. Reusable silicone baking rounds are available in eight and nine-inch sizes so they fit perfectly into a cake or springform pan, and can be used over and over. Do you know the difference between parchment and wax paper?
Keep cookies soft
To keep cookies and other baked goods soft after baking, add a slice of store-bought white bread to an airtight glass container, like the Rubbermaid Brilliance glass containers. Your cakes, cookies, and muffins will keep their day-one softness. Friends and family will think they’re fresh!
Craft DIY mason jar shakers
Your bulk spices and baking supplies just got an adorable upgrade. Save the lids from parmesan shakers and gather your small mason jars. Screw the lid on and you’ll have a handy way to sprinkle and measure. Not up for DIYing? You can buy adorable storage shakers, like these from Kilner Storage. These nearly forgotten kitchen secrets from the past can also help revolutionize your kitchen.
Slice steak fries
Craving those scratch-made potato wedges from your favorite restaurant? The answer is waiting in your kitchen drawer. Cut one end of the potato for stability then push an apple slicer, like this OXO Good Grips Apple Slicer Corer and Divider through. Add your fave seasonings or follow this recipe for Parmesan Potato Wedges. Bonus: You can try it with sweet potatoes, too.
Freeze a soup starter
Want garden-fresh flavor year-round? Freeze farmers market vegetables in resealable bags during peak season. A classic soup starter called a mirepoix is made by combining 2/3 onion with 1/3 carrot and celery. This aromatic blend will give you a sweet, hearty flavor to kickstart soups and broths. Vegetables will last eight to 12 months stored in silicone freezer bags so you can enjoy the tastes of summer when gloomy, cold weather hits.
Use sheet pans as trays
Sheet pans: They’re not just for cookies anymore! Use your trusty baking sheet or this non-stick one from William-Sonoma to stay organized while you meal prep. Keeping ingredients in one place helps you stay efficient and expedites cleanup, too. Psst! Food prep doesn’t have to be a drag—especially when break out these genius tips professional chefs learned in culinary school.
Freeze single-serving sauces
Become an upcycling master! Egg cartons or ice cube trays are ideal for freezing small portions of homemade sauce. Cover and freeze leftover Basil & Parsley Pesto and transfer cubes to a resealable freezer bag. To use, thaw cubes in your fridge for two hours. This is how you might be shortening the life of your stove.
Use a dishtowel to prevent bowls from slipping
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Need an extra hand? Professional chefs will tell you that a damp dishtowel under your mixing bowl will keep it from slipping and sliding on your counter as you mix. This tip works well with a cutting board too.
Keep ice cream cool
Bubble wrap is a powerful insulator. While on the road, keep your Chunky Monkey from melting by wrapping the pint in plastic bubble wrap. It’ll stay firm for hours. Use some from your latest package delivery or order a clean roll before a big occasion.
Make frozen rolls seem homemade
Elevate your bread basket by adding a little extra sumthin’ to frozen rolls. Thaw, then brush tops with egg wash and dip into your choice of seasoning blends, seeds, or cheeses. Our favorite is an everything bagel seasoning. Be as gentle or generous as you’d like! Bake according to recipe or package directions. When you’re really looking to impress, try our favorite two-ingredient bread recipe for homemade bread.
Label jars the thrifty way
In a pinch for labels? Just reach for the rubber bands. Wrap ’em around your mason jars and you’ll never mistake salt for sugar again. As an added benefit, they help make jars easy to open.
Stop stirring peanut butter
Getting tired of mixing the oil back into your natural peanut butter? There’s an easy solution: Store the jar upside-down. When you’re ready to make one of these favorite PB desserts, simply turn it right-side up. The oil will try to rise back to the top and the peanut butter will be much easier to stir. Nutty right?
Stop cheese from sticking
Grated cheese really makes a difference but it can be a pain to prep. For easy cleanup, use a quick spritz of cooking spray on your cheese grater to keep the cheese from sticking. With this brilliant kitchen short cut you’ll wish you knew sooner, you’ll never go back to pre-shredded again.
Make a big-batch cooling rack
The ironing board is your new kitchen BFF. It can be used as extra counter space or even a makeshift cooling rack after you remove the cover. Mind blown. Note: Pans, paper liners, parchment, or other barriers should be used between the rack and baked goods.
Use canning tongs for hot dishes
It can be tricky to remove ramekins from a hot water bath to cool. Our solution: Use canning tongs. The edges are round and non-slip which makes it easy to lift the ramekin out without risk of splashes. Check out these other great uses you never thought of for ordinary kitchen gadgets.
Keep apps cold
Want to serve shrimp, deviled eggs, or one of these other favorite cold appetizers at your next get-together? This clever trick will keep your food cool and photo-worthy: Fill a large bowl with a resealable bag of crushed ice and cover with lettuce leaves. Butterhead works nicely! Place your app on top and you’ll serve food-safe bites all night.
Store picnic essentials
Grab a plastic bin and place it inside a cooler, like this Yeti Hopper Flip Portable Cooler. Fill it with all your picnic needs (such as server ware, games, sunblock, and linens), so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Make tiny portions of whipped cream
Ever need just a dollop of whipped cream to make your strawberry shortcake shine? Reach for your immersion blender to make a single serving quick. The blender fits neatly into a tumbler or measuring cup, minimizing the mess of larger bowls. Be on the lookout for these common kitchen mistakes it’s time to stop making.
Flavor up a crumb crust
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Have a recipe that calls for a graham cracker or cookie crust? Amp up the flavor by seeking out a specialty flavor cookie at the store. For example, Golden OREOS would make a sweet addition to a chocolate cookie cheesecake recipe.
Plate like a pro
Dip the blade of your sharp knife in hot water to heat it up. Then wipe with a dry towel and cut your cake or cheesecake into nice, tidy slices. Repeat each time for pretty slices with a clean edge.
Make extra storage space
A well-organized kitchen is a joy to use. Install inexpensive hooks on the inside of your kitchen cabinets to maximize your storage space. Soon potholders, measuring spoons, and extra gadgets will find a home! Tidy up the rest of your kitchen with these sanity-saving organizational tips.
Get more juice
Next time you need fresh lemon juice, try this restaurant tip: Microwave a lemon for seven to ten seconds. Then, roll the lemon back and forth under your palm on the counter. When you squeeze, you’ll get more juice from the lemon with way less effort. Try it with limes, too!
Quickly hull a strawberry
Insert a drinking straw (preferably a stainless steel reusable one) into the tip of the berry and push it through to the other end to quickly remove the stem. You’ll find this tip handy when making fresh strawberry pie.
Give butter an upgrade
What’s the best thing since sliced bread? Flavored butter. Making it at home is as easy as adding lemon juice and herbs that you chop with a hand-powered food chopper to softened a softened stick. Want to get really nifty? Mold the flavored butter into a log shape by laying the softened butter on a square of parchment and shaping it using a ruler as a guiding tool. Twist ends to seal and freeze to use when needed.
Add a carrot
Carrots take away the acidity in tomato sauce by adding a subtle sweetness. If you find your sauce has gotten too acidic, peel a whole carrot, simmer it with the sauce and remove it before serving.
Try mess-free melting
Ever make a complete mess of your microwave when melting butter? We have. Those days will melt away after you try this simple hack. Repurpose your butter wrapper as a cover for your microwavable dish. So long, splatter! You’ll want to try these other handy microwave tricks every cook should know, too.
Cook tender, juicy meatloaf
We love a hearty meatloaf, but sometimes an all-beef mix can leave you with a coarse, gritty texture. Instead, try a beef-pork mix. Since pork is a fattier meat, the combo has a much softer texture. A meatloaf pan like this one helps to drain the grease away.
Shred chicken quick
Shredding chicken can be a fiddly task for even the most dexterous cooks. It might even deter you from cooking meals that require it. But did you know you can make fast work of shredding chicken with your stand mixer’s paddle attachment? Simply add your leftover chicken and give it a spin. Make sure you’re not guilty of these ways you’ve been cooking chicken wrong.
Wrap up no-fuss fish
Cooking fish in parchment is a healthy, mess-free technique that seals in flavor. As you bake the packet, the fish is delicately infused with whatever ingredients you add in.
Make herbs last longer
Nothing is worse than buying fresh herbs and seeing them wilt the next day. Keep herbs like parsley and cilantro bright with this simple storage tip: Trim the stems and place them in a small glass of water. Then place a plastic bag (like the one you got at the grocer) over top and secure by tying the plastic in a knot or wrapping it with butcher’s string. Store in the fridge or on the counter for up to two weeks!
Get old-fashioned flavor with less fat
Meatballs are a mainstay in the kitchen, but Nonna’s recipe isn’t always the best for your health. Drain away any excess fat while baking by placing meatballs on a baking rack. The extra fat drips away, you’ll retain that browned, caramelized exterior you know and love. Try it out with All-Clad’s Nonstick Pro-Release Half Sheet with Cooling Rack.
Skip the store-bought broth
Making vegetable broth is as easy as cook, strain, and serve. Broth can be covered and refrigerated up to three days or frozen up to six months. Use it in soups or casseroles, rice dishes, and other recipes that require broth. A strainer will help you remove the goopy stuff and keep the good and is a must when making broth.
Decorate cookies before baking
For bakery-style decorations, place cutouts on the baking sheet. Then fashion the metal cutter over each cookie as a frame and carefully top with sprinkles or colored sugar. Bake as you normally would and your cookies are presentable straight from the oven. (Note: don’t do this with plastic cookie cutters.)
Ever find yourself using every single measuring cup and spoon in your arsenal? Give your dishwasher a break by measuring ingredients directly into your mixing bowl using a digital scale, like this one from OXO.
- International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) annual Food and Health Survey