Why Use Hacks to Up Your Cooking Game
A ton of time goes into just trying to get dinner on the table every night. From menu planning to grocery shopping, cooking, and even cleaning up after a meal, it can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s no wonder that many people find themselves hitting the drive-thru on the way home from work or calling for restaurant delivery.
However, here are a few clever kitchen hacks that can help you save time and reduce a little stress. You're also welcome to download and print a list of our favorite hacks. Hang it on your fridge to keep it handy!
Ingredient Prep Tips
- Skip peeling potatoes. Boil for a few minutes then plunge into an ice bath. Skins easily slide off.
- Get more juice from fresh citrus. Microwave for 20 seconds, then press and roll on your counter.
- Soften butter faster by cutting it into cubes and letting it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.
- Insert a drinking straw into the tip of a strawberry and push it fully through to remove the stem.
- Place a damp paper or dish towel under a cutting board or mixing bowl to keep it from sliding.
- Coat a measuring cup or spoon with non-stick spray for ingredients like honey or molasses.
- To quickly peel garlic, break apart the bulb then vigorously shake the cloves in a large container.
- Place peeled or chopped potatoes in a bowl with cold water to prevent them from browning.
- For light and airy pancakes or waffles, use seltzer or sparkling water when mixing the batter.
Cooking & Baking Hacks
- For tomato sauces that have become too acidic, peel and add a whole carrot while simmering.
- Easily shred chicken or other meats with a stand mixer’s paddle attachment or a hand mixer.
- Use a small ice cream scoop to portion doughs and batters for even baking and uniform sizing.
- Strip whole corn kernels by pushing the cooked cob through the center hole of a bundt pan.
- Press peeled hard-boiled eggs through a wire cooling rack (over a large bowl) for fast dicing.
- Bake bacon at 400° for 12-20 minutes to prep large batches without the messy oil splatters.
- Pour coffee into an ice tray, freeze, and use in place of regular cubes for non-watery iced coffee.
- To chill wine fast, submerge the bottle in a pitcher/bucket filled with ice, water and a handful of salt.
Food Storage Hacks
- Keep leafy herbs fresh. Trim stems, place in a glass of water and store covered with a plastic bag.
- To keep cookies and baked goods soft, store in an airtight container with a slice of white bread.
- Use an ice cube tray or muffin tin to freeze fresh chopped herbs in water or stock for later use.
The Ultimate Cooking Hack: Mise en Place
While this isn't necessarily a hack, the process of mise en place (MEEZ-on-plahs) can save you a ton of time and energy in the kitchen. This French phrase translates to “putting in place” or “everything in its place.”
Common in restaurant kitchens, you’re likely more familiar with this concept in the context of cooking shows where pre-measured spices and prepped ingredients are added to a bowl or pot from ramekins and measuring cups. The host has a smile on their face, and everything comes together in a neat 30-minute package.
The basic premise of mise en place is to gather your ingredients, utensils and equipment before you ever turn on the stove. Your goal is to have everything ready to go so that you can focus on cooking, not running around in a panic trying to chop veggies and gather seasonings before something burns or boils over on the stove.
Mise en place can streamline the process and reduce stress while also enabling you to see if you’re missing an ingredient before you’re halfway through cooking dinner and can’t finish the dish. The basic steps:
- Read the entire recipe from start to finish so you can visualize the steps and create a game plan.
- Haul out any equipment you’ll need–knives, cutting board, Instapot, mixing bowls, even that citrus squeezer tool that’s likely hiding somewhere in the back of your utensil drawer.
- Gather all your ingredients from the fridge or pantry. Open cans and jars. Chill items that need to be cold, and set aside anything that needs to come to room temperature.
- Next, wash, cut, chop, dice and slice. Weigh and measure. Use bowls to group like ingredients in the order you’ll use them and bring everything over to the stove.
- Finally, clean up and reset your kitchen. Now you can focus on cooking like a TV chef, even enjoy a well-deserved glass of wine while stirring that delicious pot of chili.
There you have it. Unique hacks and prep tips used by the pros. You can find many more with a quick Google search, so be sure to explore your options. While some ideas are pretty out there, getting clever in the kitchen can make cooking a not-so monumental task.