butter along side a knife that has cut it into small pieces sitting on a black cutting board

21 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 the way you cook for the better. Or, at the very least, make you smile and shout, “Wow! What a great idea!

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

Super slick

When 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.

Forget the Spout

It can be frustrating to release that little metal spout on a box of kosher salt. Who invented that, anyway? Forget the spout. Instead, saw off a corner of the box with a serrated knife. Easy, efficient to say nothing of protecting your sanity.

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.

butter along side a knife that has cut it into small pieces sitting on a black cutting board

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!

Roasted veggies

Put the pan you’ll use to roast the vegetables in the oven as it preheats. When the vegetables hit that hot surface, they get a delicious jump-start on browning.

DIY pastry 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. What a great makeshift brush!

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 by placing a damp paper or cloth towel under the board. It 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; it takes ages to thaw out just enough to 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.


Ice cream contained in a ziplock bag which will keep it from forming crystals in the freezer


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 ready to get cooking or baking.


baking ingredients portioned out in anticipation


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 asparagus on foil ready for the oven


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 when using glass. 

Proofing chamber

To create the perfect environment for bread dough to rise (a warm spot away from any drafts), use the clothes dryer! Tumble a clean bath towel on the high setting for 2 to 3 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 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. That is the best tip ever!

scrambled eggs in cast iron skillet

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. 

brownies fresh baked on cooling rack

Revised, Expanded, Republished  12-9-22

Cheaper, Better, Faster

A close up of a sign


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







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  1. Lori M McArthur says:

    Slicing the butter does help it come to room temperature faster. I also found it is much faster to slice it the long way (4 cuts) compared with small cuts as you would for a tablespoon. Really adds up when you are making a double batch of frosting.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

    • Cathy says:

      Ooh, love the microwave idea! Never made yeast items because I’ve been too impatient. Now that I’m newly retired, have extra time and going to make yeast items. Thanks for the tip!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

    • 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.

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