Cooking is not always easy work. From setting up your mise en place to cutting and cooking, from sautéing to serving, everyone could use a little help in the kitchen from time to time. These kitchen hacks and time-saving tips are intended to make your life easier by streamlining the the process.
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1. CRUSH GARLIC WITH THE SIDE OF A KNIFE
Why take the time to clean out a garlic press when all you need is the side of a chef’s knife to crush garlic? All you need to do is align the blade sideways, place over a clove of garlic, and use your second hand to apply pressure. The garlic will crush with ease. Simply remove any bits of skin and proceed with your recipe.
See also our post on how to hold a knife.
2. REVIVE STALE BREAD FAST
If your bread is a bit stale, you don’t necessarily have to relegate it to bread pudding territory quite yet. You can revive it by putting it in in your microwave on top of a moist (not sopping) paper towel and microwaving in 15-second blasts until it feels soft. Or, you can also place the bread in a 350 degree F oven, suspended over a pan of water on a lower rack, for 5-10 minutes, or until soft.
3. VINEGAR + MILK = EASY BUTTERMILK SUBSTITUTE
If you’re making fried chicken or biscuits and realize that you’re out of buttermilk, don’t panic (or run to the store!). Instead, make your own buttermilk substitute in a jiffy. Add vinegar to milk for an easy substitute that will mimic buttermilk’s acidic role in recipes.
4. POACH SALMON IN A SANDWICH BAG
You don’t need fancy tools to create restaurant-quality poached salmon. Simply place your salmon in a heavy duty, BPA-free bag, and you can place it directly in simmering water. This allows the salmon to poach cleanly and evenly with minimal cleanup. The full tutorial can be viewed here.
5. FROTH MILK IN THE MICROWAVE
Want a coffee-shop-quality latte but don’t have the time or money? It’s easy to fancy up your coffee (or hot chocolate) at home by frothing milk in the microwave. All you have to do is shake it up in a mason jar, then microwave on high to warm.
Full details of how to froth milk in the microwave can be found in our post on how to make pumpkin spice lattes.
6. USE THE LAST OF THE HONEY IN THE JAR TO SWEETEN A BEVERAGE
Don’t toss that almost-empty jar of honey! Use it to sweeten a beverage. You can pour lemon juice and water into the jar and shake for a simply sweetened lemonade; or, pour hot tea and milk for a cozy warming tea beverage.
This trick can be used with the last of the peanut butter in the jar, too: mix with hot chocolate, shake, and enjoy what tastes like a liquid peanut butter cup.
7. PEEL GINGER WITH A SPOON
If you’ve ever tried peeling ginger, you know it’s not the easiest kitchen task. But your life could be far easier with this simple tool: a spoon. Using a spoon to peel ginger gives you just the amount of leverage to get into the nooks and crannies, as demonstrated in this video from Gourmet Magazine.
8. FREEZE HERBS IN OLIVE OIL
Want the flavor of fresh herbs year round? Use this trick: freeze them in ice cube trays, suspended in olive oil. Simply thaw and use in your cooking. The fat from the olive oil will preserve the flavor of the herbs, and the herbs will infuse the olive oil in flavor, allowing you to cook with a superior herb flavor all year round.
9. USE A GRILL PAN TO MAKE WAFFLES
Don’t have a waffle iron? You don’t need one to make great waffles: simply use a grill pan! While your resulting treats may look like wavy pancakes, they have the texture — and soul — of a waffle.
Get the full tutorial in our post on how to make waffles with a grill pan.
10. DIP SANDWICH COOKIES IN MILK WITH A FORK
Here’s a fun one. Tired of losing your sandwich cookie when you dunk it in milk? Here’s a simple hack: spear the filling with the tines of a fork, so that the cookie sort of looks like a lollipop. Then use the fork to dip the cookie in milk. You get full milk submersion, you don’t get your hands wet, and you don’t lose your cookie. It’s an all-around score!
11. USE A PANINI MAKER FOR OMELETS
Remember that panini maker that has been languishing in a back cabinet, gathering dust? Well, break it out, because as it turns out, it’s good for more than making pressed sandwiches. You can make omelets to order on it. A great way to entertain while making breakfast, and to personalize omelets to each eater. Here’s an easy recipe for a panini maker omelet.
12. SHUCK CORN WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOU MICROWAVE
Shucking corn is hard. Wait, no it’s not! Not when you have a microwave. As America’s Test Kitchen reports, all you need to do is this: cut off the stalk of an ear of corn, about an inch above the last row of kernels. Then, microwave for 2-4 minutes. Remove, and holding the un-cut portion, simply squeeze the husk. The corn will slide out (if not, microwave a bit longer).
13. TELL EASILY IF EGGS ARE FRESH
How old are your eggs? Here’s an easy way to test them for freshness. Fill a bowl with cold water, and place eggs in the bowl. If they sink and lie flat, they are very fresh. If they sink but stand upright, they’re still fairly fresh. If they float, they’re no longer at ideal freshness and you may want to consider getting a new carton.
14. BLOW INTO YOUR BAG OF LETTUCE TO KEEP IT FRESH
Here’s a nifty trick which famed cookbook author Dorie Greenspan shared in her book Around My French Table: to keep lettuce greens fresh, blow a puff of air into the bag before sealing and storing in your refrigerator. Apparently, the carbon dioxide in your breath will keep the greens fresher longer.
15. MAKE YOUR OWN BUTTER USING CREAM
Impress all of your friends by making your own butter from cream. Basically, you’ll whip the cream as if you were making whipped cream, but you’ll keep on going past the point where the mixture reaches firm peaks. After a while, the cream will separate into solids and liquid. Drain and clean the solid stuff, and guess what? You just made butter.
Get the full tutorial in our post on how to make butter at home.
16. SHARPEN KNIVES ON THE BOTTOM OF A PLATE
This trick comes from Craftsy’s Complete Knife Skills class: if you don’t have time for a professional knife sharpening, you can sharpen your knife quickly by rubbing the blade against the unglazed portion on the bottom of a ceramic plate or mug.
Learn more about this trick in FREE online mini-class Complete Knife Skills!
17. USE A PIZZA CUTTER TO SLICE HOMEMADE PASTA DOUGH
If you don’t have a pasta machine, cutting evenly sized noodles might seem impossible. But if you have a pizza cutter, it’s a breeze. Simply mix up your dough, roll it out thinly, and then cut into thin strips using your pizza cutter. Your pizza cutter can also be used to slice strips of pie dough for a lattice pie crust!
See also our free tutorial for how to make easy 2-ingredient pasta.
18. SLICE A BUNCH OF CHERRY TOMATOES…FAST!
Make salads come together in a snap with this speedy mise en place trick for slicing multiple cherry tomatoes at one time. Simply place cherry tomatoes between two plastic lids, and then slice horizontally. Lift the lid to reveal several tomatoes sliced at the same time.
19. USE A PEELER OR GRATER TO SOFTEN FROZEN BUTTER
Your recipe calls for soft butter, but all you have is a rock-like brick from the freezer. Is there a way to hasten the thawing process? Yes. Grate the butter with either a cheese grater, or use a vegetable peeler to slough the butter into slivers. The tinier individual portions of butter will soften much more quickly than an entire stick.
20. PEEL KIWI WITH A SPOON
Are you frustrated with losing half of the kiwi fruit every time you try to peel one? This trick’s for you. Simply slice of the ends of the kiwi, slide a spoon in under the skin, and ease it around the perimeter of the fruit. The skin will come right off. This photo guide shows all the steps.
21. USE TONGS TO JUICE CITRUS
You already learned in our baking hacks post that you can heat citrus briefly in the microwave to release more juice. Even so, sometimes it can be tough to squeeze out that last little bit. Cue a set of tongs! By squeezing the fruit with tongs, you can apply more pressure and just might get a little more juice out of your lemons and limes.
Why not make lemon brownies with your lemon juice?
22. USE AN EGG SLICER TO SLICE SOFT FRUIT
Is an egg slicer a silly kitchen tool, good for only one thing? Nope. You can also use it to easily and prettily slice soft fruits such as strawberries or melon portions. It’s quicker than cutting, and makes fruit look like it’s part of a fancy hotel room service breakfast.
23. USE A MELON BALLER TO SCOOP OUT TOMATOES
Hollowing out tomatoes can be tricky. Well, unless you have a melon baller, that is. Dust off that melon baller that has been living in the back of your junk drawer and use it to scoop the insides out of tomatoes with ease.
24. FREEZE INDIVIDUAL PORTIONS OF STOCK
Making your own beef or chicken stock is a rewarding practice, as it acts as the foundation of many delicious recipes. It also freezes beautifully. For ease of use in your cooking, store it in commonly used quantities (1 cup portions, etc.) that are clearly marked. This way, when you have a recipe, you can use and thaw only what you need.
25. CRUSH SPICES WITH A MEAT TENDERIZING MALLET
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member James Bowe
Nothing is like the taste of freshly ground spices. But if you don’t have a spice grinder, does that mean you have to settle for the pre-ground stuff? Nope. Most whole spices can be ground using a meat tenderizing mallet. Simply place the spices in a heavy-duty plastic bag, place a kitchen towel on top (especially if your mallet is textured) and pound away. You can lift the kitchen towel to monitor how finely ground the spices have become.
By Jessie Oleson Moore on