f you, like everyone else, have been inspired by quarantine and Covid-19 shutdowns to stay home and learn the ins and outs of the kitchen, you’ve probably cycled through dozens of recipes already and are well aware that cooking is not as easy as chefs make it look.
Under-cooked cakes, burned meats, endless chopping--all this can deter the novice cook from exploring and creating. Luckily, there are plenty of tried and true methods for saving time, reducing mess, and producing restaurant quality dishes that can make cooking a breeze.
Learn how to quickly ripen fruit, save a salty soup, and make Gordon Ramsey-worthy seared salmon.
The 5 Hacks to Save Time In the Kitchen
Tips to Help You Stop Racing Against the Clock
The oven isn’t hot enough, the fruit isn’t ripe enough, breakfast can’t cook fast enough--cooking can seem like one big waiting game that you’re constantly losing. But there are plenty of tips to help you cut down on prep time and make your life easier.
- Ripen fruit faster by throwing it in a brown paper bag. This captures all the ethylene gas released by the fruit to induce ripening and causes your apples, bananas, and avocados to quickly move from too-hard-to-eat to just right.
- If you’re dreaming of homemade banana bread but your brown paper bag trick still doesn’t have your bananas perfectly brown, simply throw them on a foil lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven at 300 degrees until the skin is dark and the fruit is soft and perfect for baking.
- Alternatively, to stop your bananas from browning so quickly, separate them from each other and wrap the tip of each stem in plastic wrap or foil to reduce the ethylene gas produced. Now your produce will stay fresh for much longer!
- You’ve picked fresh herbs from your garden, but for your recipe you need them to dry out ASAP. What do you do? If you have a microwave, you just spread them on a paper towel and microwave them at 20 second intervals until they’re completely dry--this is also helpful when assembling herb bundles.
- Make hassle-free roast garlic by cutting off the top of the bulb and putting it in a bowl with oil and water. Wrap the bowl in plastic and microwave until tender.
- Oysters are a delicacy for many, but they aren’t very delicate. Stop struggling with oyster shells--microwave your bivalves for 10-20 seconds and they’ll be much easier to crack open.
- This last hack is for mushroom lovers. Cut your cook time in half by microwaving your mushrooms before tossing them in the skillet--you’ll have perfectly cooked mushrooms much faster.
- Get more juice from your lemons and limes by microwaving for 7-10 seconds and then rolling them on the counter. Not only will it be much easier to squeeze them, but you’ll be able to get the full amount of juice out.
Make Your Life Easier By Following These Tips
Get Creative With Your Kitchen Tools
Watching ten minutes of any cooking show will have you convinced that you need hundreds of expensive kitchen implements just to make an omelette, but in truth there are plenty of ways to get creative and save some money.
Make Slicing and Dicing Much Easier
- Start keeping the dental floss in the kitchen. Precise cuts are a breeze when using floss--it works great for cutting soft foods like cheese, swiss rolls, and burritos. It’s as easy as wrapping the floss around the food and pulling it tight.
- Your pizza cutter has way more uses than its name suggests. One of the best uses for it--besides cutting deliciously cheesy slices of pizza--is as a slicer for herbs and lettuce.
- Cherry tomatoes are delicious on salads and sandwiches, but cutting them more often than not leaves you with mushy tomatoes or uneven chunks. To make cutting them a breeze, sandwich them between two plates, applying just enough pressure to prevent them from moving, and slice between the plates.
- Apples are a healthy, delicious treat, but do you know what else is healthy and delicious? French fries. Make homemade french fries in no time by using your apple slicer to speed up prep time and churn out perfectly cut fries.
- Speaking of french fries, if you like a nice thin cut to your fry you can put your zucchini spiralizer to good use by using it to create spiral slices of potato perfect for frying up quickly.
Say No to Stickiness
- Make clean up a breeze by spraying measuring cups and spoons with cooking spray to prevent sticky ingredients like honey and maple syrups from making a mess.
- A spritz of cooking spray on your cheese grater will also make it easier to clean--and will ensure that you get all the grated cheese to fall perfectly on your plate.
- Grilled fish is tasty and flaky, but that flakiness comes with a price. All too often you’ll find your expensive salmon getting stuck to the grill. While you may not like the idea, brushing your fish with a bit of mayonnaise before cooking will help prevent sticking and there’s no mayo flavor to worry about.
- Put your freezer to good use by freezing herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays to make cooking easier and to save wilting herbs. Simply pop an oil and herb cube in your pan when ready to use it and get the benefit of fresh herb flavoring long past the time they’d normally be dry and brown.
- Freezing single serve sauce cubes in an egg carton is also a great way to make use of your freezer. Thaw the cubes in the fridge for a couple hours before using and there you go.
- There are also plenty of tips for keeping your food cold when it’s out of the freezer. Take your ice cream on a road trip without worrying about melting by wrapping the container in bubble wrap. Bubble wrap is a great insulator and will keep your food cold for hours.
Making Restaurant Worthy Meat Dishes Has Never Been Easier
The 6 Tips You Need When Cooking Meat
Before you spend tons of money on prime cuts of meat, you want to make sure you know how to cook it. These tips will save you from turning your prime rib into charcoal and help you get that restaurant worthy presentation.
The Perfect Sear
- Grill fish on top of lemon slices to prevent it from sticking to the pan and to infuse with a delicious zest--no mayo needed!
- One of the keys to restaurant worthy meat presentation is to have the perfect sear. Instead of trying to mess with the temperature and risk overcooking your steak, dry your meat off with a paper towel before cooking and get the perfect sear while leaving the inside nice and juicy.
- Another method for getting your meat to sear is to use a preheated pan. Pop your pan in the oven for a few minutes before putting the meat on and it’s much less likely to overcook before searing.
Freezer Hacks for Meat
- Keep your burgers from drying out by placing a small ice cube in the middle of the patty and forming the beef around it before grilling. As the water melts it cooks into the meat, bringing out delicious juiciness, and no one will ever know.
- Frozen cheese slices make for the best burger and grilled cheese toppings--the cheese spreads evenly over the bread without dripping onto the pan.
- Slicing perfect strips of meat is difficult and can have you sawing your nice steak into jagged pieces. Freezing your meat 15 minutes before slicing makes it much easier to slice the perfect strips.
Baking Hacks to Test During Quarantine
Give Your Baking a Boost
If you’ve been spending a lot of time baking, you’re not alone. No matter how many concave cakes, salty cookies, and mushy pies you make, keep going! Some of these tips might even help you finally get that perfect dessert.
- Nobody likes opening their brown sugar to find a solid, hardened lump that Michelangelo would have a hard time chiseling. Prevent hardening and revive your brown sugar by storing a large marshmallow in the bag or jar.
- Using eggs fresh out of the refrigerator is technically a baking no-no, one which many are guilty of simply because it takes a lot of time to get eggs down to room temperature. Thankfully, you can do this quickly by putting your eggs in a bowl of warm water.
- If you’re looking to instantly elevate the flavor profile (whatever that is) of any baked good, replace your white sugar with roasted white sugar. Roasted white sugar develops a caramel-esque toasty flavor but doesn’t actually turn into caramel.
- If you’ve been skipping the flour sifting part of your baking and dumping packed measuring cups of flour directly into your batter, you’re missing out on an opportunity to give your baked goods a fluffy, airy texture to die for. Sifting your flour may seem pointless, but it makes a huge difference, especially with baked goods that tend to get a little dense like cakes and muffins. You can sift using a flour sifter or a mesh sieve.
- Adding one teaspoon of fresh coffee grounds to your chocolate chip cookie dough will make the chocolate stand out--it’s not enough to replace your morning cup of joe, though.
- Stop serving soggy apple pies. Add three tablespoons of lemon juice to your apple slices before you add them to the pie and they’ll stay crisp and fresh. The lemon juice also adds a complimentary tang that pairs well with the sweet filling.
If you spend any time in the kitchen, these are some hacks that you absolutely must know. Incorporate these into your cooking and your friends and family will soon be insisting you make an appearance on Master Chef.