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18 Kitchen Hacks You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

Regardless of skill level—whether you’re a novice, naturally gifted in the kitchen, or simply blessed with many years of experience—these quick and clever kitchen hacks are sure to change how you cook for the better. Or at the very least make you smile and shout, “Wow! What a great idea!

kitchen magician female chef

Super slick

When you’re measuring sticky ingredients like honey or molasses, spray your measuring tool with cooking spray first. It will help the honey slide right out, giving you the most precise measurement. Or, If the recipe includes a large amount of oil, measure that first in a measuring cup. Then, add the molasses or honey right into the same measuring cup with the oil and voila! No more sticky residue left behind.

Soften butter

Forgot to take the butter out of the fridge and now it’s hard as a brick? No worries because you can do this: Cut that butter into small pieces. Let it sit on the counter while you get everything else ready and in about 2o minutes (depending on how small the pieces) it will be ready to use.

Pieces of butter in the bowl. On a rustic background.

Instant chill

Want to quickly cool a beer, soda, or bottle of wine? Wrap a soaking wet paper towel around the can or bottle and set it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Enjoy an icy cold beverage!

Waffled cake

For an almost-instant cakey treat, stir up your favorite boxed cake mix, add it to a waffle iron preheated to medium and cook until puffed and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Add some cream cheese frosting or powdered sugar and serve!

Tame the cutting board

Isn’t it annoying how a cutting board moves all over the counter when you’re trying to chop, slice stir or otherwise put it to use? You can take control of that naughty board when you do this: Place a damp paper or cloth towel under the board. Works like magic and puts you the chopper back in control.

Ice cream—it’s in the bag

Ice cream can get rock hard in the freezer and it takes ages to thaw out just enough that you can eat it. A simple trick to keep it just the right consistency is to put the container in a plastic freezer bag before throwing it in the freezer.

 

Cook and Ice cream

 

Mise en place

That’s French for “everything in its place.” In English, it means how to stay calm in the kitchen! The trick is to play TV chef and get everything measured out, chopped, and otherwise prepped before you start cooking or baking. The time it takes to do that may seem daunting, but no! You’ll save time and potential screw-ups when you have everything ready and in its place. Now you’re reading to getting cooking or baking.

 

 

Reheat miracle

Revive a cold slice of pizza by adding some freshly ground black pepper, Parmesan and torn basil, then fold it tip-to-crust and cook it on high in a preheated waffle iron for 3 minutes

Tenderness pouch

For perfectly tender asparagus, take a sheet of aluminum and place the asparagus in the middle. Add a drizzle of olive oil, lemon slice (optional), salt, and pepper. Gather the sides bringing the tops together to create a puffy pouch with some air space to allow for steaming. Seal and gently shake, so that everything is incorporated. Bake in 360 F. oven for 25-35 mins, depending on the thickness and age of the asparagus.

 

A pile of fresh fruits and vegetables

 

Bacon roll

Before opening a new package of bacon, roll it up like a jelly roll, then unroll. Slices won’t stick to one another. 

Soft cookies

Some cookies are meant to be crunchy, others soft and pillowy. To keep the soft ones as soft and yummy as they were when they came out of the oven, our friends at Taste of Home say to do this: Store them in an airtight container together with one slice of store-bought white bread. There you go! Best trick ever to keep them soft to the last crumb.

cookies stored with slice of bread

Credit: Taste of Home

Drop it by 25

Glass bakeware conducts and retains heat better than metal, so oven temperatures should be reduced by 25 degrees whenever using glass in the oven. 

Proofing chamber

To create the perfect environment for bread dough to rise (a warm spot away from any drafts), use the clothes dryer! On the high setting, tumble a clean bath towel for 2 to 30 minutes.

Turn the dryer off, and place the towel in the bottom of the dryer and the bowl of bread dough on top of the towel to steady it. Shut the dryer door to allow the dough to rise Put up a sign or a piece of tape across the door just in case someone decides it’s the perfect time to do a little laundry.

Bench scraper

Some call it a pastry or dough scraper, others a “bench scraper” but it’s not only for baking. Once you chop the veggies on the cutting board, don’t use the knife blade to scrape those ingredients off into the skillet or bowl. That is not good for the knife or the cutting board! Instead, grab your scraper. It works perfectly to move or push food, and it can handle larger amounts in one scrape than a knife.

pastry scraper to chop on bord

Credit: sunsella.com

Perfectly cool

To cool a cake just out of the oven, plate the pan on a wet towel. The cake is less likely to stick to the pan, and once cooled it will come out of the pan more easily.

Smooth scrambled eggs

Sour cream is the secret for keeping scrambled eggs creamy for a long time while you hold them warm until time to serve. Once you remove the skillet from the heat, stir in 1/4 cup sour cream for every one dozen eggs. Best tip ever!

Sheet pans for trays

Sheet pans are not only for baking cookies. They make fabulous “corrals” for your mise en place items. With a single glance, you can see that you are all ready to go. Keeping things organized makes cooking easier—cleanup, too!

sheet pan holding prepped ingredients

Credit: Taste of Home

Extra fudgy

To make extra-fudgy brownies add 1 tablespoon light corn syrup to the batter, either a box mix or from scratch. For the oil the instructions call for, use olive oil. Seriously. Bake as usual. Also, don’t assume it always pays to bake from scratch. Brownies, for example, are often cheaper to make from a mix. Know your prices. 


Cheaper, Better, Faster

A close up of a sign

 

Do you love tips, tricks, and useful life hacks? Then you’ll love my paperback book Cheaper, Better, Faster: Over 2,000 Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day!

Nearly 400 pages of all the best advice you’ve ever heard (and plenty you’ve never heard 😜) collected into one handy volume!

Get it here, at your local library, or wherever fine books are sold.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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11 replies
  1. Mindy says:

    I’ve been using the bread-in-cookie container for decades but do NOT let the bread touch the cookies. I found out, quite accidentally, that if you let the bread touch the cookie, it will actually make your cookie wet and soggy. Ick.

    Reply
  2. Marvi says:

    Another way to get chewy brownies is to add 1-3 tablespoons chocolate syrup (Hershey’s or homemade, whatever you have). This also adds a rich chocolatey fudge taste
    My mouth is watering. I’m going to have to go bake a batch now that I’m thinking about it.

    Reply
  3. Nancy says:

    These are great hacks. Another way to proof dough is to place a large cup of water in the microwave and let it come to a boil. Place dough in microwave. Let sit for 30-40 minutes. Dough will be ready

    Reply
  4. Cathy says:

    I’ve done the trick of placing a piece of any plain bread item in the container of cookies to get them softer for years. I either toss in half a slice of bread (all that’s needed), part of a burger or hot dog bun (can be past their prime) or half of a Sandwich Thin (rest can be made into breadcrumbs). They all work fine and by the next morning, cookies are nice and soft and bread item is hard. Magic!

    Reply
  5. Gina Stevens says:

    Mary, I LOVE when you write random hacks! Can’t wait to use the bacon tip! I will also try Robin’s suggestion to soften butter quickly. Happy Sunday!

    Reply
  6. Barbara Jackson says:

    I love the clothes dryer-bread dough hack, especially this time of year when my kitchen is too cool for bread dough to rise as it should and I don’t have (or want) a proofing box! I also like the extra fudgy brownie hack. What’s not to love about extra fudgy?! Yummm. Thank you, Mary.

    Reply
  7. Kim Rubin says:

    A bench scraper is a good tool to have. But, if you don’t have one, use the dull, upper edge of your knife to scrape foods off a cutting board to save the blade.
    I’m never going to use my dryer to proof bread, but there are other options. I bought a Breville Smart Oven Air Convection Toaster Oven which comes with a proof setting. But, if you don’t need a toaster oven, you can also use your regular oven.

    Reply
  8. Robin says:

    For an even faster way to soften butter – put the whole stick (or two) in a bowl of room temperature water. Not sure why but it softens up really fast!

    Reply
    • Kim Rubin says:

      Good idea, but I think I’d put the still wrapped butter in a zipper bag to avoid wet butter. A lot of new microwaves also have a ‘soften butter’ setting. The last two microwaves I’ve had have had the setting, which really works. You just have to watch it until you have a pretty good idea of how your particular microwave works on that setting.

      Reply

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