Everyone has their own comfort level in the kitchen. Some people feel completely comfortable with a knife in hand while others use the kitchen for snacks and as a place to sit while ordering take-out.
Regardless of the frequency that you use your kitchen, you can hit the progressive jackpot in saving time, money and aggravation by keeping a ready list of some of the most useful kitchen hacks.
Whether you’re struggling with a stuck jar lid, find your eyes watering while chopping onions or trying to fish pieces of egg shells out of your dish, our list of the kitchen experts’ top kitchen hacks will be useful.
- If you’re getting ready to grate hard cheese, put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to keep the cheese from sticking to the grater while grating. Soft cheeses (goat cheese, brie) can be sliced smoothly using dental floss.
- Sick of watery eyes from cutting onions? Freeze the onion before chopping. If you don’t have time to freeze the onion before it needs to be cut, put a piece or bread or a spoon in your mouth while you are cutting it. Some people say that the bread will absorb the onion’s odor to keep it from reaching your nose but no one seems to know why the spoon works….but it does!
- To open a stuck jar lid, you can give it more traction by wrapping the lid with a rubber band. If that’s not enough, grasp the wrapped lid with a towel. You can also bang the side of the lid on a countertop or on the floor to break the suction that is keeping the lid from turning.
- If you’re baking with butter or making herb butter, you need to soften the butter before you work with it. You can leave it on the counter for awhile first but that requires planning. Alternately, you can put it in a plastic bag and roll it with a rolling pin. You can also grate it with a grater. An even simpler idea involves cutting the block of butter into smaller cubes for faster softening.
- How many times do you skip a recipe because it calls for buttermilk and you don’t have any? Truthfully, buttermilk isn’t a staple that people generally keep stocked. You can easily make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. You won’t get a thick, creaming genuine buttermilk but the ersatz buttermilk will work well in your recipe.
- Honey is expensive. There’s no reason to go out and buy more honey just because the honey that you have in your cupboard has crystalized. Take the honey jar and remove the lid. Then put it in a pan or pot of boiling water. The honey will de-crystalize and you can pour it out.
- Cracking raw eggs almost always means that some shell gets mixed in with the raw egg. To remove the shell, scoop it up with the half piece of the already-cracked egg shell. That half acts as a magnet to scoop out errant shell pieces.
- Speaking of honey, if you need to measure out sticky stuff like honey, peanut butter, tehina, etc, you can save yourself some clean-up time by rubbing some oil on the measuring cup before you pour in the sticky ingredient.
- In addition to being a delicious addition to soups, salads and sauces, garlic is good for you. Too often, cooks skimp on the garlic because it’s such a pain in the you-know-what to peel. For a quick peel hack, remove all the cloves from the garlic bulb and then whack each clove with a rolling pin. The skin will disengage from the garlic clove.
- Store tomatoes at room temperature to keep them fresh longer
- Keep peeled potatoes white by covering them with cold water. When potatoes are peeled, they release a starch that makes them oxidize. If you put them in cold water, they won’t turn brown as the starch is released into the water (throw out the water when you’re ready to cook).
- Wrap the end of a bunch of bananas with plastic to keep them fresher, longer. Conversely, if you want to ripen a banana faster, put it in a paper bag.
- Check your eggs for freshness by putting them in a bowl of water. Eggs that sink to the bottom of the bowl are fresh but those that float are not.
Cooking and Baking
- Parchment paper is your friend. Use it to put in the pan when baking. Clean-up is 100% easier and more efficient. To remove from parchment paper more easily, grease the parchment paper before you pour in the dough or food.
- Don’t have a coffee maker to brew a good cup of coffee? Use a strainer. Put 1 Tbsp coffee grounds per cup in the strainer (a small strainer is best). Pour boiling water over the coffee grounds to brew the coffee. You can even add your coffee grounds to your plants to perk up your garden.
- Repurpose your leftovers into new and different meal options. Match cooked chicken or fish with a different starch – noodles, potatoes, rice, etc or add some vegetables and eggs and mix it into a casserole. The family doesn’t have to FEEL like their eating leftovers, even when they are.
- If you reheat food in a microwave, put a cup of water next to the dish to keep it moist.
- When reheating a block of pasta in the microwave, carve a hole in the middle of the pasta to help it heat evenly.
- Fresh herbs are worth their weight in gold for creating the best dishes. Freeze them in ice cube containers and then you can use them later, as a seasoning agent that still has all of its freshness.
- Freeze shelled nuts, especially in warm weather, to help them preserve their natural oils and keep bugs from infesting them.
- Rub your hands with lemon juice to remove strong odors (onions, garlic, etc). Baking soda also works well.
- You can get pesticides off your fruits and vegetables by soaking them in a mixture of vinegar and baking soda for 15 minutes before eating.
- Clean a coffee grinder, blender or food processor by running it for a few minutes with a soap and water mixture. You’ll get all the crumbs out of the hard-to-get-to places and save yourself a good bit of time.
- Keep a supply of baking soda stocked, within easy reach, in the kitchen. Baking soda is useful in putting out grease fires.
- Keep a fire extinguisher near your cooking area.
- Make sure that you have a working smoke detector near your kitchen. Check it every month to make sure that the battery is working.