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Cooking tips and tricks

Updated on July 6, 2012

Some good tips for use in the kitchen.

What do you do when you make a chilli sauce too hot? How long should you boil vegetables? How do you cook pumpkin seeds?...all these along with some other good tips and tricks for cooking that you may or may not know will be answered here in this lens. From how to reduce the spicy heat of a chilli-con-carne when you have made it too hot to how best to ensure perfect pasta every time, this lens has something for everyone who cooks, as well as a few easy to apply quick fix-its for those culinary disasters which we all have from time to time.

How to best boil or steam vegetables

How do you boil or steam your vegetables?...I bet like me that most of you have never heard this tip before which came from my Mum. When she told me this tip she said "you probably already know this one because everybody knows this"...not me!

When either boiling or steaming vegatables, be they fresh or frozen it doesn't matter, this apparently (according to my Mum)...is the correct way to cook them.

For all root vegetables such as potatoes, swede, parsnips, turnips, carrots, onions etc, when either boiling or steaming them, you should always cook them with the lid of your pan on.This enables them to cook much quicker and holds in the nutrients so they are still full of goodness when eaten, apparently if you leave the lid off they take twice as long to cook and most of the nutrients and vitamins escape.

All other vegetables which DO NOT grow underground such as cabbage, tomatoes, marrow, cauliflower, broccoli and string beans should always be cooked with the lid of your pan left off because they don't need as long a cooking time as root vegetables and having the lid on cooks them too quickly, they go mushy and lose their nutrients and vitamins.

Thanks Mum

How to best cook pumpkin seeds.

Roasted pumpkin seeds.

Most people throw away the seeds after they scoop them out of their pumpkin, especially at halloween when for a lot of people it is the only time that they buy a pumpkin...and they don't buy it to eat any of it but to use it for scary lanterns. I used to throw the seeds away and didn't even know that it is ok to eat them until an American friend of mine gave me this great simple recipe for using the seeds,if like me you throw your seeds away then please try this recipe next time that you buy a pumpkin....you will be so glad that you did.

First scoop out the seeds from a pumpkin and separate the seeds from the membrane, put them in a sieve and run water on them to help get the stringy membrane off.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F

Put the clean seeds onto some paper kitchen towel, pat them and leave to drain and dry for 15 minutes.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, any oil will do fine but if you have any sesame oil i think that this tastes better.

Spread the pumpkin seeds evenly over the baking tray.

Spray lightly with your chosen oil.

Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Cook in your hot oven for between 10-20 minutes until golden brown or a bit darker and are slightly crisp.

Leave them to cool and store in an airtight container or...EAT THEM ! mmmmm

You may be surprised at how delicious they are and never will you throw your pumpkin seeds away again.

Ever made your Chilli-con-carne or chilli sauce too hot?

Here are some fantastic tips and tricks for when you have added a bit too much chilli powder or chillis to your dish to cool it down, Believe it or not they all work although i find that the 1st 2nd and 3rd tip work the best.

If your chilli dish is too fiery so that it burns your mouth and throat and makes your eyes water and causes you to run to the kitchen for a cold glass of water..lol..yes we've all done it haven't we, here are some tried, tested and proven to work tricks to reduce the spiciness .

1st} Grate a cube of milk chocolate and stir into the chilli dish at the end of cooking ... if the dish still seems too hot then add a teaspoon of sugar.

2nd} Cook the chilli in two separate pots only adding chilli to one of the dishes, when they're cooked and ready to serve add the dish that has no chilli into the dish that has.

3rd} Stir in a couple of teaspoonfulls of honey

4th} Add a level teaspoon of baking soda 15 minutes before it is finished cooking

5th} Add another tin of chopped tomatoes or/and a tin of mushed kidney beans towards the end of cooking.

6th} Add the peel of a lemon 15 minutes before it has finished cooking...remembering to remove it before serving your chilli..lol

7th} Always eat or drink a dairy product such as milk or a milkshake and why not try adding a spoonful of cold plain yoghurt, soured cream or fromage frais, just serve up the chilli with a large dollop of one of these and don't stir it in..mmm.And of course if all that still hasn't cooled your tastebuds it's a MUST to have ICECREAMmmmmm....most definitely an absolute MUST...lol.

Dish too Salty?

We can all remember tasting something with far too much salt can't we!

This is a tried, tested and proven tip...I know this works because I have used it a number of times ...lol...no I'm not the best cook in the world as you probably can tell after reading all of my tips for ruined dishes, all of which I can vouch for.

When your casserole, soup, stew...well any dish really, is over salty add a medium sized potato cut in two, add a little water and simmer for a further 25-30 minutes, you will find that the potato has absorbed quite a lot of the salt and it will taste much better...remembering to take the potato out before serving.

There are lots of uses for salt in the home other than cooking for which I have written another lens.

How to prevent pasta from sticking whilst cooking.

Does your pasta often get stuck together whilst boiling?...Yes another one of my cooking disasters lol..here's my tip to prevent it from ever happening again.

To prevent pasta from becoming stuck or clumped together whilst cooking I wholeheartedly recommend that you should add a splash of cooking oil (preferably olive oil) to the pan of water when it is boiled before adding the raw spaghetti. When you add the spaghetti to the pan try aiming the spaghetti straight through the oil patch/slick/film which is on top of the water {although its not a problem if you miss...it's allowed...we're only human}.

Give the spaghetti a good stir, lifting it as you do, up through the oil once or twice and then cook as normal. Run the cooked pasta under the hot tap through a colander briefly, tossing it as you go to remove the starchy bit that makes the pasta feel "slippery"...tip it quickly back into into its pan to which you add a knob of butter and toss with the fork a few times, sprinkle a little bit of garlic salt in too...mmm...perfect pasta every time.

Spaghetti and pasta shouldn't be over-boiled until it is too soft, it should always have a "bite" to it which the Italians call "al dente"

Perfect portions

if you are like me & always cook enough spaghetti to feed an army then why not invest in one of these spaghetti measuring utensils.

Do you know why we should cook pork with an apple?

I haven't tried cooking pork with an apple yet...when I do I shall update the page and let you know if this actually works as it was recommended by a friend...and like me, she is also not the best cook in the world ...lol

Apparently the reason why it is recommended that we should always roast a joint of pork along with an apple is to absorb the strong smell of the fat roasting as it is supposed to offend a lot of peoples nostrils?...lol...well that is what I was told ! As I said, I shall let you know if this tip actually works once I have tried it myself, so WATCH THIS SPACE !

To ensure that your pork joint turns out with perfect crackling every time here is what I do. Before cooking I pat the rind dry with a muslin square or kitchen towel, then I make a few criss-cross slits across the rind before rubbing in a little table salt. I then put it into a hot oven on full heat for half an hour and then reduce heat and finish cooking as usual...perfect crackling each and every time mmmm

Garlic

When preparing fresh garlic, to remove the skin from each clove first place the cloves in a microwave oven for about 15 seconds on full-power...when you take them out you will find that the skins simply "rub off" between finger and thumb.

When chopping a clove of garlic always chop it on a small bed of cooking salt as this absorbs all the juices & leaves your hands almost free from the strong smell which remains afterwards...keep the salt in a jar and use in recipes.

Do you always cry whilst peeling and chopping raw onions?

Here is a great tip for slicing onions that guarantees you wont cry . It also reduces the onion smell on your hands that usually takes ages to leave you.

When preparing onions, especially when slicing them, I always slice them under running cold water...this guarantees that your eyes do not get sore, nor do you cry, this tip also reduces the onion odour which is left on your hands after slicing onions.

Another tip for removing the onion odour from your hands after slicing onions is to rub your hands against a stainless steel sink if you have one or rub a stainless steel spoon over your hands.

Coffee grounds are another sure way to get rid of onion odour from your hands, simply rub them between your hands and rinse off with warm soapy water.

Lemon juice is also great for this job, simply rub and squeeze a wedge of lemon over your hands.

A teaspoon of table salt and a teaspoon of baking soda is a good way also.

Granulated sugar is a very good way of removing onion odour from your hands and also exfoliates leaving your hands smelling fresh and feeling soft and smooth.

Rid your hands of unwanted fishy, oniony or garlicky niffs.

These bars rid your hands of the nasty odours left behind after the preparation of fish, onions and garlic...and yes they really do the job .

Hard Cookies

Have you ever made a whole batch of cookies, smelt the delicious aroma whilst they cook, mouth watering waiting for them to cool, only to bite into one and it's rock hard? Below is a good tip for fixing the cookies if this ever happens to yours.

When your cookies turn out too hard here is a good tip to soften them up so that they're as perfect as you hoped they would be. Place the cookies in an airtight container, a bag or tin or storage box will all work just as well, in the container alongside the cookies add half a slice of fresh bread and seal the container, leave overnight and in the morning remove the slice of bread, you will find that the cookies have absorbed the moisture from the bread and have a perfect crunch and no longer hard.

Carrots & apples

If you store carrots and apples both in the salad drawer of your refrigerator then don't do it any longer, here's why.

When carrots are stored alongside or near apples the apples emit a gas which turns the carrots sour and bitter

This module is for voting for the best books giving cooking tips. - Here I have added what to me are very good books for all types of cooking tips cast your vot

If you have a good book which you think belongs on this list please tell me and i shall add it.

Mouldy Cheese

Have you ever taken your wrapped cheese out of the refrigerator only to find that the outside is covered in a white or green mould?. Here is a good tip for preventing this from happening ever again.

To prevent mould forming on cheese you should wrap it in a thin piece of cloth such as muslin or linen which has first been dampened with salt water, before storing it in the refrigerator as the salt prevents the mould from growing.

Lettuce

If you find that your cut lettuce has turned brown around the edges after cutting then here is the reason why and a tip to prevent it from happening again

When preparing a lettuce you should never cut it with a knife, instead tear it with your hands, the reason why is to prevent the edges from turning brown which comes from a reaction between the metal of the knife and the make-up of the lettuce. If you can get a lettuce knife which are plastic then its ok to use otherwise if you must use a knife then make sure that it is made of stainless steel which reduces the browning .

Did you know that the outside lettuce leaves contain far more vitamins and nutrients than the paler inside ones.

Lettuce knives can be bought here...no more brown edges to spoil the salad.

Bananas

Have you ever bought fruit that looks as though it will last quite some time before going too soft only to find that a few days later it is too soft and maybe mouldy yet you don't know why?..well if so here is the most likely reason for this.

When buying fruit make sure that you don't lay your bunch of bananas alongside the rest of the fruit in the fruitbowl as the bananas cause the other fruits to ripen too quickly.Instead, store your bananas on a banana hook well away from the rest of the fruit.

Banana hooks prolong the life of your other fruit.

Deep frying!!!

Here are a couple of tips to help you deep-fry safely.

NEVER more than half fill the pan or fryer with oil, this will prevent the oil from bubbling-over and catching alight.

NEVER EVER throw water onto a pan of oil that has happened to catch alight...it will flare up in your face big time. Instead, wet a tea-towel and wring it out slightly so that it doesn't drip and throw it over the pan of burning oil before turning the oven off. DO NOT try removing the pan or moving it to another hob...IT WILL BE EXTREMELY HOT.

The best way to extinguish the flames when a pan of oil/fat happens to catch light is to throw a large cup of salt onto it..so I am told...I haven't tried this one but I have been assured that it works and is perfectly safe to do so.

Before frying food first pat it dry with a paper towel, this will prevent splattering as you lower it into the hot oil.

...and finally...avoid over-crowding the food you are frying, ensure that each piece of the food is surrounded by oil which makes for a crispier result, if frying frozen food this is especially important as the temperature of the oil plummets when frozen food is lowered into hot oil so if over-crowded it takes much longer to get the temperature up again to bubbling heat which causes greasy and soggy results...eeugh!

NEVER EVER EVER....

Never ever throw water or other liquid onto a pan of oil that has caught light as it will flare up in your face & could burn you terribly. Instead you should either wring-out a tea-towel that has been soaked in water & throw the towel over the flames..BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO TURN OFF THE HEAT.

Or else fill a large cup with cooking salt and throw this onto the flames...the salt will douse the flames

ONLY ONCE THE FIRE HAS BEEN EXTINGUISHED SHOULD YOU TURN OFF THE HEAT.

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Damp Salt ?

If you regularly have to give your salt-cellar a bang to get the salt to flow freely this is due to the salt becoming damp. To prevent your salt from becoming damp and clogging-up the cellar simply add some dry rice (around 20 grains) to the salt-cellar. The rice will absorb the damp rather than the salt, ensuring free-flowing salt every time. Any type of dry rice will work just as well for this.

Instructions for freezing your excess milk.

Have you ever had to pour away milk because it has stocked up or because you haven't enough room in the fridge?

If this sounds all too familiar and the answer is yes then this tip may be the answer you need. Many people do not know that it is perfectly ok to freeze milk..but it is as long as you don't freeze it in glass bottles or containers and follow these simple instructions. First you have to remember that freezing liquid expands so first remove a two or three small cupfulls of the milk per every 4 pint container and replace the lid before placing preferably upright in the freezer, making sure not to place it near any strong smelling foods such as fish and garlic etc as the fats contained in milk will absorb the odours and spoil the milk but if you are stuck for room to do this then place a small cup of baking-soda next to the milk to absorb the other odours.

Are your eggs not what they're cracked-up to be?

If your egg-shells crack whilst boiling or your yolks turn out too hard or your whites too soft follow these simple tips to sort it out.

To prevent your egg shells from cracking during boiling simply add a few spoons of vinegar to the water before adding your eggs as this will prevent any cracking. ..don't worry about your eggs tasting like the vinegar ...they wont I promise.

For a perfect soft boiled egg to dip your bread fingers or "soldiers" into it is best to add the eggs straight to the water after it has boiled and not before, first remembering to add some vinegar to the pan to prevent the shells from cracking, then cook the eggs in the still boiling water for exactly three minutes...serve and eat them immediately as eggs continue to cook after removing them from the heat and will become harder by the minute.

Eggs is Eggs is Eggs!

How to "fix" an egg that has a hard yolk when you wanted soft and one that has a runny white when you wanted firm.

When your egg yolk turns out harder than you had hoped for just add a small knob of butter and mash it in gently..this isn't a trick for making the yolk runny again as that is impossible but it sure does soften the yolk and make it more pleasant to eat.

When your soft-boiled eggs turn out too runny right through the whites then simply leave in the egg-cup for a couple of minutes covered in a piece of alluminium-foil and they will firm up whilst keeping their heat as eggs continue to cook in their shells.

Medium-rare, medium or well-done?..How do you like your steak?

Here are a few tips for cooking steak and serving it to get the fullest best flavour possible.

The first thing that i have been told to do when i intend to cook steak is to take it out of the fridge and allow half an hour to an hour for it to reach room temperature before cooking which allows it to cook through properly according to the next rules.

Whether grilling or frying steak to have it cooked medium-rare it should bounce back slightly and feel slightly firm when you press the middle. For a medium steak it should bounce back quicker and feel more firm than for the medium-rare and so forth up to having the steak well-done when it springs back instantly...this gets easier with practice so that soon you will just "know" without the need to press the middle .

Always leave a steak to stand for at least five minutes before cutting it as if it is cut whilst still piping-hot a lot of the moisture and flavours get lost in the escaping juices and steam.

When cutting a steak always remember to cut across the grain of the meat as cutting it with the grain makes it tougher and harder to chew...a strange one maybe but it is true, try it and see.

The meaning of T'ien often seen on a chinese menu . Imperial Power

The Brittanica Online Encylclopedia: T'ien

(Chinese "Heaven"),in indiginous Chinese religion, the supreme power reigning over lesser gods and men.The term T'ien may refer to a deity,to impersonal nature or to both.

I did this piece because a friend of mine told it to me when I asked them for any tips or tricks for cooking and this is what he gave me...and I thought it would be a little more interesting to finish this lens with something nice.

What tips and tricks for cooking do you have? would you like me to add them to this lens? . - If you have any more tips for repairing culinary disasters then pl

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      @nifwlseirff: I need some HELP fast. I hope you can help me. Lately I've been having a terrible time with my meats (both beef and pork) coming out almost too tough to eat. I am cooking for elderly people so this is a special problem. (I don't buy the cuts of meat.) Today I need to cook some boneless beef ribs for lunch. A couple of days ago I cooked a couple as a test and even I couldn't eat them. I've tried recipes from my basic Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbook as well as trying some I got from internet websites but nearly everything still turns out too tough. Is there anything you can tell me to help me out?

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      Such a fantastic collection of tips! I once made a dish that was far far too salty, and had no idea how to fix it! As for hot chilli, the heat doesn't bother me, but the other mouths I feed don't appreciate it - chocolate and dairy work well to cut the heat, or a banana, surprisingly enough!

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image
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      Alfiesgirl LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you for your kind words on this...and a few other lenses of mine recently. I have not got round to leaving thank you's to my most recent comments just yet due to technical hitches but now that the hitch seems to be fixed I am happy to say a whole load of thank yous, thank you thank yous...to you. Love Today Everyday x

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image
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      Alfiesgirl LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Wow thank you so very much indeed for visiting this lens of mine and especially for informing me that Gordon didn't give you the " fix-it"....to his own hot chilli. He does enjoy telling it how it is when confronted with a dish not to his taste so I would love to show him your comment...lol. Love Today Everyday xx

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just made a huge pan of gordon ramsays chilli con carne recipe. Lovely recipe but so hot! Didn't want to waste it so googled some help...your tips were amazing! I did all the top three - changed his dark chocolate to milk, added some sugar and the extra kidney beans. It worked a treat! Delicious meal salvaged so thank you so so much!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I find this lens very useful. I learned a lot and will definitely use them the next time I cook.

    • profile image

      deshinali 5 years ago

      Not bad, some pretty great help there. Just the other day I stumbled upon such detail. It was pretty helpful for me, here's the article. Great writings, I have definitely learned a thing or two.

      http://www.streetarticles.com/cooking-tips/fine-co...

    • profile image

      deshinali 5 years ago

      Not bad, some pretty great help there. Just the other day I stumbled upon such detail. It was pretty helpful for me, here's the article. Great writings, I have definitely learned a thing or two.

      http://www.streetarticles.com/cooking-tips/fine-co...

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Looks like the first comment didn't go through. You did teach me a trick or two I didn't know yet. Thank you for sharing these.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Some of these tips are new to me. Thanks for sharing them.

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image
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      Alfiesgirl LM 6 years ago

      Just popping by this old lens of mine to thank everyone that has already visited as well as those who are yet to discover it. Love today & smile lots 8-)

    • momto4 lm profile image

      momto4 lm 7 years ago

      Wow! That's a lot of great tips! I've never heard of placing a slice of bread in with some cookies. I'll have to try it. Thanks for sharing!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Great tips!

      Thanks for sharing

      Lizzy

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I meant to say SUCH interesting tips! Oops. Just wanted to fix that.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Just interesting tips. I definitely learned some things here.