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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before opening a new package of bacon, roll it up like a jelly roll, then unroll. Slices won’t stick to one another.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Revised, Expanded, Republished 12-9-22
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