The 25 Greatest Kitchen Hacks Every Cook Should Know

The 25 Greatest Kitchen Hacks Every Cook Should Know

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Genius ideas from the Cooking Light brain trust show you how to save time, minimize effort, make do deliciously, and not let anything get in your way when it comes to cooking.

The 25 Greatest Kitchen Hacks Every Cook Should Know

1. Make Hard-Cooked Eggs a Cinch to Peel

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

Illustration: Olivier Kugler

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

Illustration: Olivier Kugler

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

Illustration: Olivier Kugler

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

Illustration: Olivier Kugler

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

Illustration: Olivier Kugler

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.

26 best cookbooks to give (and get)

Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Food plays a huge role in our lives. It brings people together, introduces new cuisines and cultures, and nourishes our bodies — and minds. So when you give someone on your list a cookbook, you’re offering them a gift that keeps on giving (and indirectly feeding). That's especially true when they have some of the best gadgets for home cooks to help them along.

And 2019 has been a great year for cookbooks. From Alison Roman's "Nothing Fancy" and Antoni Porowski's "Antoni in the Kitchen" to JL Fields's "Fast & Easy Vegan Cookbook" and Toni Tipton-Martin's "Jubilee," there are plenty of options for the discerning home cook to learn more recipes. Whether you’re shopping for a serious foodie, an avid home chef, a vegan, a health nut, or a passionate grillmaster, we have more than two dozen options in this updated annual cookbook guide to help you find a perfect fit.

1. Maximize Your Space

All of us have vertical space in our kitchen. Whether it&rsquos the &ldquodead zone&rdquo above your fridge, the extra space in the top of cabinets or the space above your cupboards. Rarely do we end up using this space (or we shove something &ldquodecorative&rdquo up there like baskets to collect dust).

If you need more storage in your kitchen, consider ways to maximize your vertical space. Install extra shelves in your cupboards. Put a sliding tray in the top cupboards, and remove the entire tray to view what&rsquos available.

Use wire baskets or shelving in the tops of cupboards to create storage in this rarely used area. Popular blog the kitchn shows a great example of this technique in an ultra small kitchen. Office-type baskets and unconventional storage containers offer great, budget friendly solutions. Install a curtain rod under the cupboards to hold baskets for a stylish supply solution.

15 Festive Birthday Desserts That Aren't Cake

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Stephanie Cartin, Social Media Expert + Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur at heart, Stephanie walked away from her corporate career in 2012 to follow her passion to launch Socialfly, a leading social-first digital and influencer marketing agency based in New York City. Socialfly has since blossomed to over 30 full-time employees and has been named to Inc. 5000's fastest growing private companies two years in a row. The agency has worked with over 200 well-known brands including Girl Scouts, WeTV, Conair, Nest Fragrances, 20th Century Fox and Univision. Stephanie is the co-host of the Entreprenista Podcast and co-author of Like, Love, Follow: The Entreprenista's Guide to Using Social Media To Grow Your Business. She is also a recent recipient of the SmartCEO Brava award, which recognizes the top female CEOs in New York and a Stevie Award for Women Run Workplace of the Year.

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David Mesfin, Creative Director + Brand Expert

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3. Tick Deterrent

If you’re planning to go camping, tick deterrent is a must. This one is all natural so there are no harmful chemicals and it’s perfectly safe for kids. You could even spritz it on your pets if you normally take them along with you. This is a great recipe not only for camping, but for keeping with you anytime you’re outdoors this summer.

If you are making a salad and need to chop a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes in half, just trap them between two plates and slice through them with a knife. You can slice a dozen or more of them in one clean movement.

Make sure to arm yourself with these great cooking hacks, as well as a little bit of patience, and you will soon become the master of your kitchen, cooking up decent meals and flaunting your new-found skill in front of others.

57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now

The quickest way to ruin a perfectly marbled $25 steak? Cutting into it to figure out if it’s medium rare. Yes, the Thermapen is $95, but four steaks later, you’ve broken even.

Soup could have used more tomato? Chicken needed ten more minutes in the oven? Make a note of it and you’ll never make that mistake again.

Whisk a little salt and sugar into some white vinegar. Pour over thinly sliced raw vegetables. Wait 20 minutes. Eat.

You may have a steel or a sharpener at home, but once a year, get a pro to revive those knives. Your chopping will get faster, more precise—and, believe it or not, safer.

Chicken breasts are expensive and can get dull after a while thighs are juicier, cheaper, and more flavorful.

Ground spices die quickly. So give them a whiff—if they don’t smell like anything, they won’t taste like anything. And if they don’t taste like anything, you’re cooking with a flavorless, brown powder.

At a minimum, you’ll learn how to cook kale fifteen ways. At a maximum, you’ll broaden your culinary horizons by finding ways to use up all that fresh produce.

Do your scrambled eggs slide off the pan if you don’t use oil or butter? They should. Might be time for an upgrade.

There’s nothing worse than limp herbs. Next time, trim the stems and put the parsley in a glass of water, fit a plastic bag over it, and stash it in the refrigerator.

Want gorgeous scalloped potatoes or perfectly julienned carrots? Buy a mandoline. Are you a scaredycat? Wear a cut-resistant safety glove until you feel comfortable bare-handed.

Having cooked grains in your fridge means that fried rice, pilafs, rice bowls and robust salads are just minutes away.

Look, the 40-watt lightbulb in your oven hood isn't going to cut it. Get a cheap clamp light from a hardware store so you can see what you’re doing.

What else are you going to roast your vegetables on? How else are you going to make quick dinners of fish en papillote?

A freezer full of roasted turkey necks and bony beef cuts will ensure you always have what you need to make broth.

Remember that thing about super-cheap cuts of meat? Think of rinds as cheese bones.

Existential question time. If your sponge is filthy and smells, how can you expect it get your dishes clean?

Seems obvious, but if you don’t know, now you know.

Salad spinners? So bulky and annoying. Instead, pile your just-washed greens into a clean dish towel, gather it by the ends, and swing that sucker around until your salad is dry (or your arm is tired).

Chicken fat is amazing stuff, whether you’re frying onions in it, sautéing greens in it or spreading it on toast. So after eating your roast chicken dinner, drain the now-cooled liquid fat into a plastic container and store it in your freezer. (Pro tip: This also holds true for bacon fat.)

Hat tip to Rachael Ray. Buy a large bowl and keep it at the ready to fill up with egg shells and other trash generated while cooking.

Like anecdotes about high school football games, peelers get dull, especially after a couple years. We recommend the Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler, which is just seven bucks.

You cannot toss a salad or mix cookies or make meatballs in a tiny cereal bowl. All you can do is make a bigger mess.

And they’re all evil. Glass cutting boards send shivers down your spine when you use them. They dull your knives. They’re slippery. And they’re hard to use. Use wood, bamboo or plastic instead.

Bread keeps really well in the freezer. And there are always plenty of uses for it. Just remember: Air is the enemy! Wrap that loaf in foil (sliced or unsliced) and put it in a freezer bag before stashing.

Food that's crowded into a cast-iron skillet or sheet tray gets steamed—and soggy—instead of crisp.

A quick stint in a dry skillet over medium heat wakes dry spices up and releases their oils, which means your paprika will taste a lot more paprika-y. Use whole spices, watch the pan like a hawk, and stir constantly until the spices are fragrant, then transfer to a plate to cool before using.

“These nuts are too crunchy,” said nobody ever.

It's the first step to building roasty, warm flavor. (Using quinoa? Toast it before you rinse it.)

Carrots, squash, tomatoes—these vegetables have a natural sweetness that’s enhanced by a dash (just a dash!) of sugar.

17 Wooden Spoon Control

If you’ve ever experienced boiling water overflowing your pot, you know how scary it can feel. The simplest of solutions can prevent this. Place a wooden spoon over the top of your pot. Seriously, that’s it. According to Life Hacker, the idea here is the spoon will end up popping the bubbles before they get too high. This will give you more time to reach the stove and turn down the heat. Over time, the heat can warp your wooden spoon, so don’t use something of sentimental value.

How Mirepoix Will Revolutionize Your Cooking

Now that you know how to make a mirepoix, how do you actually use it to turn your cooking into something spectacular? If you keep a jar of mirepoix in the fridge, you can easily use a spoonful or two as a shortcut to improving reheated leftovers, jarred pasta sauces, or canned soups. If you’re more of a DIY-er, however, here are some examples of dishes where you can begin to harness mirepoix’s delicious power.

Veggie Burgers, Loafs, and Other Plant-Based Proteins

Adding mirepoix to the base of vegan meatballs, veggie loafs, and burger patties is never a bad idea. Just start with the mirepoix, and then throw in your lentils, rice, or whatever else you’re using into the mix and proceed with the recipe. It’s a great way to add savory flavor and a little extra juiciness in a dish where a hearty, succulent, and “meaty” texture is key.

Soups and Stews

Every great soup or stew should begin with a mirepoix, as it is a time-honored trick to achieving a flavorful broth. If you’ve ever wondered why your grandma’s soups taste so homey and comforting, it’s probably because she knows how to make a good mirepoix! You can try it too, in matzo ball soup, vegetable stew, minestrone, or even this simple potato curry.

Tofu Scrambles, Quiches, and “Egg” Dishes

If your morning scramble needs some waking up, sauté some mirepoix before adding crumbled tofu, spices, and other veggies. For a fancier brunch treat, mirepoix can add more depth and intrigue to even the most humble chickpea quiche or “egg” salad.

Sauces and Gravies

Mirepoix can even spruce up basic sauces like marinara, gravy, and cashew cheese sauce (just blend it in so it’s nice and smooth. This is a wonderful base for mac and cheese!). Even adding a tiny amount will have everyone wondering what crazy kitchen tricks you have up your sleeves. It’s not magic, though – just mirepoix!

International Dishes

Mirepoix can take you on a culinary trip around the world with dishes such as Spanish paella, French “coq” au vin and bourguignon, Italian bolognese and cacciatore, and Louisiana Creole jambalaya, gumbo, and étouffée. No matter what it’s called, mirepoix is the same in every culture!

Other Variations

Mirepoix is perfect in its simplicity, but if you want to jazz things up, here are some variations you can try:

  • Throw in a clove or two of minced garlic.
  • At the end of cooking, stir in a spoonful of tomato paste.
  • Deglaze with a bit of white wine or vermouth before the mirepoix is removed from heat.
  • Sauté veggies with a pinch of red pepper flakes for a spicier version.
  • Add a dash of soy sauce or tamari for a saltier, smokier flavor.
  • Substitute the carrots for red or green bell pepper to achieve the Cajun holy trinity.
  • Mushrooms, parsnips, leeks, fennel, and turnips are other aromatic vegetables that can all be used in mirepoix with great success.

We challenge you to try mirepoix and tell us how it has changed your life in the kitchen!

Anyone Can Make Homemade Dog Treats

So there they are my friends — 25 of my favorite homemade dog treat recipes, each using five ingredients or less. Be sure to bookmark this page for future reference — your dog will be quite grateful.

Even if you’ve never baked a thing in your life you can make these simple dog treat recipes. It’s hard to go wrong with five ingredients or less, and there’s comfort to be found in knowing exactly what’s going into your dog’s food. I make homemade dog treats when we’re working on any new training behaviors – the extra focus they bring is priceless.

Give your dog a little extra gift this weekend by making him some homemade dog treats. I guarantee he’ll be impressed by your cooking skills even if your human friends aren’t. To my friends my cooking is a nightmare, but to my dog I’m the world’s best chef.