In honor of MCW’s 100th post – I’m posting 50 of the top tips and tricks for cooking. I know this is not an exhaustive list – there are many more ways to save time, cut costs and cook better…but it’s a start! My favorites are #21 and #23!
50 Foodie Tips and Tricks
1 Rice freezes well – next time you make rice, make a double batch and freeze.
2 You can pre-cook pasta too – freeze in individual portions for easy meals.
3 The easy way to core head lettuce? Slam it on counter (core side down) – it will break off the core.
4 Spices last longer away from heat – keep them away from the stove and store in a cool dark place.
5 Acids and salt are your friends – they bring out foods flavors.
6 Cook one or two large pieces of meat (like a chicken, turkey, roast or ham) on the weekend and place in meal size portions for easy weeknight cooking.
7 Never use oil when boiling water for pasta – it keeps the sauce from sticking.
8 To get a nice brown crust on meat, blot dry with kitchen towels first – then salt and pepper before searing.
9 A rind of cheese added to soups gives it an incredible savory flavor.
10 Keep your knives sharp – more people get cut on dull knives than sharp ones.
11 Make sure your meat rests after cooking – this allows the juices to redistribute so meat stays juicy.
12 Buy fruit and vegetables seasonally when prices are lower – freeze extras for use throughout the year.
13 Keep fresh herbs fresh - place in small cup of water, cover with a plastic storage bag and place in the refrigerator.
14 Don’t forget to salt pasta and potato cooking water - it really affects the flavor of the finished dish.
15 When grilling steak – make sure to pull the meat out of the refrigerator ahead of time – you’ll have a much better tasting steak if you start cooking it when it’s at room temperature.
16 When baking – always measure exactly (weigh ingredients if possible) – it’s more science than cooking.
17 To keep fresh greens longer – wrap in damp paper towels and place in plastic food storage bag in the refrigerator.
18 Start with a hot pan – you should hear the food “sizzle” when you add it to the pan!
19 Use fresh spices – try to buy whole if possible and grind them yourself in an inexpensive coffee grinder – oregano is the only “green leafy” herb I buy dry – the rest are better fresh.
20 Learn to brine – it’s amazing what it does for the flavor of poultry!
21 Don’t throw out used butter wrappers – save them to grease baking pans – I keep mine in a plastic bag in the freezer until ready to use.
22 When bananas start to go bad – throw them in the freezer for smoothies, banana bread etc.
23 Super quick chocolate frosting: (for a 9 x 13-inch cake) – As soon as you remove your baked cake from the oven, cover the top with chocolate chips. Let sit for a few minutes and spread with a spatula – works on brownies too.
24 When adding fruit to a cake batter or quick bread batter – coat lightly with flour so the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of the pan.
25 Prep as much as you can in advance – cooking is so much faster with pre chopped vegetables and made ahead rice and pasta.
26 Instead of using regular or mild cheddar cheese, use sharp or extra sharp – you won’t need as much – saving you money and calories!
27 Taste as you go – this completely eliminates over or under seasoning (if it’s raw ground meat, cook a quarter size amount first to check for seasonings.
28 Know your oven (invest in an internal thermometer) not all ovens that say 350 degrees are actually at 350 degrees. A lot of ovens have hot spots – learn where yours are to avoid baking disasters!
29 Don’t overcrowd the pan when browning/sautéing foods – otherwise the food wont brown, it’ll steam. Work in batches if needed.
30 Keep egg whites at room temperature for maximum volume when whipping them.
31 Avoid turning food over and over when cooking – it interferes with the searing process. When food is ready to be turned, it will release from the pan. If you’re having trouble – it’s not ready yet. Same for grilling – try only flipping burgers and steaks once.
32 Avoid pressing down on grilled meats to get them to cook faster – it squeezes out all the juice. This results in dry rubbery meat
33 Slice meats against the grain – this produces very tender slices of meat in an otherwise tough cut.
34 Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of roasted meats. Oven temperatures are often incorrect and have hot spots - this avoids the dried out roast, turkey or chicken.
35 To save money – go meatless as many times as you can a week (meats and cheeses are often the most expensive parts of a meal).
36 Remember that each time you purchase something already prepped (like shredded cheese) – it’s going to cost more than the non-prepped version.
37 Chicken, pork and beef slice easier when slightly frozen.
38 When using wooden skewers for grilled meats and vegetables, soak them in water for 20 – 30 minutes before use – this keeps them from burning on the grill.
39 When grilling – use a long spatula to turn meats and vegetables, using a fork pierces the meat and lets the juices escape resulting in dried-out food
40 For easy marinating, place meat in plastic freezer bag with marinade and freeze – when ready to use, thaw and cook as desired.
41 If your lettuce or greens get a little wilted during storage, submerge in cold water for 30 – 60 minutes and they will perk right up!
42 Keep nuts in the freezer, they won’t go rancid as quickly – same goes for flax-seed and wheat germ.
43 Store yeast in the refrigerator – it will keep much longer.
44 Cheese is freezable!
45 When making guacamole, place plastic wrap directly over the dip – this will help slow the oxidation process.
46 Bake your bacon in the oven – less mess, and flat bacon!
47 Celery lasts much longer when stored in the fridge covered in water.
48 When using a slow cooker, resist the urge to lift the lid and peak – it takes 20 minutes to regain the heat lost.
49 Saving stalks, trimmings and leaves from celery, onions and carrots makes a great start to homemade stock!
50 Just have fun! Enjoy cooking; it should be relaxing and enjoyable!
What are your favorite kitchen time-savers, tips or tricks! Let’s share the knowledge! I’d love to hear from you!