41 Tips And Common Sense Techniques To Make Cooking Easier In This Hectic World!!
Tips for saving time and becoming a better cook !!
Most of us, it seems, are constantly struggling to find some "me" time in our crazy hectic lives.
These tips are designed to either help you cook more efficiently and have more time for yourself, or to give you better techniques that will allow you to cook more delicious food with less effort.
P.S. As I remember more ideas that might be helpful, I will add them to this list, so check back occasionally if you have the time!!
Contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or input that you might have!!
1 - Try The Flexible Cutting Boards; . . . They Can Be Real Time Savers!!
If you haven't tried the thin flexible cutting boards, you should!! They can make your life easier, and save you some time too!!
My wife Elly and I have 3 - 4 of them that we use consistently!! They are much easier in their overall usage than the thicker, rigid wood or plastic boards, they're very inexpensive and they take up less space too!!
If you've been dicing veggies, instead of having to scoop them off the cutting board to move to the pot, you simply bend the cutting board to form a funnel, carry the veggies to the pot, and let them slide in!! . . . Simple!!
If you're cutting something that produces juices, like a rare beef or a watermelon, you simply form the cutting board into a funnel, and pour the juices wherever you want them to go!!
2) - Don't Forget The Non - Stick Vegetable Spray
When you need food not to stick, without adding fat, go to the non - stick vegetable oil.
Whether you're sauteeing with butter or bacon drippings, or using no fat at all,. spray your pot or pan with vegetable oil, to give an added level of certainty that your food won't stick. Eggs fried in butter tend to flip much easier when sprayed first, dutch apple pancakes release from the pan much easier when sprayed first, sausages brown perfectly with no butter or fat when sprayed first. Make vegetable oil spray a part of your daily cooking regimen, and even your after meal clean up will be much easier.
3) - Rotate Baked Goods In Your Oven
For more uniform baking, always rotate the items you are baking at the halfway point.
If you're baking only one item, turn it 180' on the shelf at the mid point of its baking, and if you're doing two items, on different shelves, swap shelves halfway through the baking time, and rotate each item 180' as well. Even though the difference between items that were rotated and those that weren't won't be profound, it will help insure even baking, which, for the amount of effort involved, is a good reward.
4) - Quick Ripen Bananas For Making Banana Bread, Etc.
If you're craving your favorite banana bread, but only have green bananas, try this method to ripen them in 24 - 36 hrs.
Put an uncut apple in a brown paper bag, them lay the bananas over the apple.
Then place the bag in a dark, warm place.
The gas emitted by the apple will cause the bananas to ripen far more quickly than if left to ripen on their own.
Enjoy that delicious banana bread!!
5) - Make Clarified Butter To Use When Searing!!
Clarified butter is simply butter that has had the undesolved solids removed, allowing it to be heated to a much higher temperature without smoking!!
To make clarified butter, put 1 lb. of unsalted butter into a small saucepan, and melt slowly over low heat.
After the butter is completely melted, let it sit undisturbed for 15 min.
Take a spoon, and gently remove the foam that has accumulated atop the butter.
Next, pour the butter slowly into another container, taking care not to allow any of the undissloved solids on the bottom to get into the new container, then discard the left over solids..
Refrigerate until needed.
Clarified butter is also called "drawn" butter when used in lobster restaurants, but it's all the same thing.
Use clarified butter over high heat whenever you need to put a nice sear on proteins!!
*To make the clarified butter even more smokeless over high heat, add a small amount of vegetable oil to the pan with the clarified butter.*
6) - Use Silicone Muffin Cups To Freeze Sauces, Etc.
Silicone cup cake and muffin cups are fantastic for freezing sauces and stocks that you make in bulk!!
My wife Elly and I find that our time is much better spent making sauces and stocks, etc. in bulk when we do make them rather than doing small, single serving quantities that we have to make from scratch each time we want that particular food.
Because of this we usually make our Bolognese sauce, marinara sauce, and beef and chicken stocks in large quantities so that we don't have to repeat the process as frequently.
We then wait until they cool completely, and then put them into large silicone muffin cups that we then freeze, allowing us to have them in the freezer for a couple of months after we make them.
After they are frozen, (approx. 8 hrs.) we remove then from the muffin cups, put them into labeled freezer proof storeage bags, throw them in the freezer and go on to other things.
(When cooking, determine how many frozen units you need per serving for your recipe, then remove as many of them as you need, and throw the rest back in the freezer.)
7) - Make Delicious, Flavored Aioli When You Need Mayo!!
Aioli is a delicious alternative to store bought mayo, can be flavored a multitude of ways, and takes about 3 min. to make!!
To make aoili, add 1 egg and 1 tbls. lemon juice into the bowl of your food processor.
Add whatever flavoring you choose. (A couple of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, a tablespoon of roasted garlic paste, etc.)
Add 1 tsp. of salt.
Replace the cover on the processor, and pour 1 cup of olive oil or your oil of choice into the cover feeder opening, letting the oil drizzle very slowly into the processor.
Run the processor until the oil stops drizzling through the feeder opening, and the aioli is nicely thickened.
Add salt to taste.
This aoili will last, covered and refrigerated, for a week or so.
Homemade aioli makes delicious Thousand Island dressing, etc., is customizable, is delicious in chicken or ham salads, and tastes much better than store bought mayo!!
8) - Use An Abrasive Pot Scrubber To Clean Carrots, Etc.
Instead of using a vegetable parer to clean carrots and other vegetables, try using a green household dish scrubber.
We find that holding vegetagles such as carrots under cold water, and twisting them through one of those Scotch Brite dish scrubbers is the quickest and most efficient way to clean them.
Simply hold the carrot under water, wrap the Scotch Btore scrubber around it firmly, and twist the carrot through from one end to the other.
It will come out clean, and will take a third less time than it would to use a veggie parer.
After every couple of carrots, run the scrubber under cold water to clean it. Discard when needed.
9) - Cover Your Bowl Of Charred Peppers With Saran Wrap Until They Cool!!
Covering your roasted peppers after charring them, until they cool, is the best way to make skin removal easier!!
When you cover them in a bowl, the steam that is produced as they cool is the perfect tool to assist in the removal of the skins when the time comes!! Cover them with a good seal around the edge of the bowl so that the steam doesn't escape, and let the steam do the work for you!!
This technique also works for removing roasted garlic after it comes out of the oven!! Just cover, creat a good seal, and let the garlic cloves cool!! They will be much easier to deal with!!
10) - Make Roasted Garlic Paste To Use Many Different Ways
Roasted Garlic Paste is easy to make, and is incredibly versatile!!
Take 8 - 10 garlic bulbs and cut of the tops just where the bulb starts to curve.
Drizzle the bulbs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Put the bulbs on a sheet of aluminum foil so that they are upright on their bases, and wrap completely in the aluminum foil to seal.
Place on the middle rack of a preheated 425' oven.
Bake for approx. 45 - 60 min.
Remove from the aluminum foil, place the bulbs in a bowl and cover tightly in plastic wrap.
Let cool completely.
Remove the individual garlic cloves from their husks, and put into another bowl.
When all the cloves are removed from the husks and in the bowl, add 4 tbls. olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Blend with an imersion blender until the cloves become a smooth paste.
Add more olive oil as needed for a paste consistency, and salt to taste.
Use this garlic paste as a spread on toasted bread for making Bruschetta, use instead of garlic cloves for sauces, use to flavor anything that would require garlic, when you want a sweeter, milder flavor. This paste is also very good to use as a dip, and to use as a bread spread instead of butter in some situations.
We would never be without roasted garlic paste in the refrigerator.
Roasted gralic paste will last at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
11) - Roast Peppers For Use A Multitude Of Different Ways
Roasted peppers have a much nicer flavor than fresh peppers, and they're incredibly versatile in their uses.
Set your oven to broil.
Put your washed peppers in a heavy skillet, and place on the second oven rack from the top of the oven.
Leave the peppers under the broiler for from 5 - 7 minutes, or until charred and starting to bubble.
Rotate so that an uncooked side is under the broiler, and broil for another 5 - 7 minutes, or until this side is charred and starting to bubble.
Repeat this process until all sides of the peppers are charred.
Remove from the skillet, and put in a large bowl.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and seal well so that the steam coming off the peppers helps to loosen the skin.
Let cool completely.
Peel off the charred, bubbled skin, and remove all seeds and stems, etc (never rinse under water, as the peppers lose a lot of their flavor.).
These roasted peppers shouldl last in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Use these peppers in salads and as a flavorful garnish for pasta dishes, and as a flavor enhancement in casseroles.
Roasted red peppers, when pureed with a little olive oil, heavy cream and salt, make a wonderful sauce for pasta, wings etc.
Roasted peppers are another item that we would not be without in our refrigerator!!
12) - Delicious, Crispy French Fries Are Easier Than You Might Think!!
Follow these steps, and your family will be amazed with how delicious your home made french fries are!!
Cut your potatoes (Idaho or Yukons are great for fries) into the size that you prefer. (A mandoline is very helpful, but certainly not necessary.)
Soak the cut potatoes in cold water for 1 hr. to remove the starch, then drain and rinse under cold water.
Dry completely using a salad spinner and then patting with paper towels, or simply by patting dry with paper towels.
Heat your oil to 320'.
Fry the potatoes until they are just starting to color, then remove and reserve on paper towels.
Raise the oil temperature to 365', and add the potatoes.
Remove to a paper towel when golden brown.
Sprinkly liberally with salt.
13) - For Unbroken Egg Yolks, Use Cold Eggs
To help keep egg yolks unbroken, take them directly from the refrigerator!!
If you're doing fried or sunnyside eggs, or just using a recipe that requires unbroken egg yolks, be sure that they are cold, as this will cause the yolks to hold together much better. Eggs that are allowed to sit on a counter and warm to room temperature will have yolks that break very easily, making cooking simple breakfast eggs a bit more difficult.
14) - Add A Little Steam At The End To Melt Cheese On Burgers
Instead of trying to get that complete cheese melt on your burgers, and drying the burgers out, add a little steam!!
Most of us don't really want well done burgers, but we don't want unmelted cheese on our burgers either.
Adding a little steam when you put the cheese on the burger, and covering it, is a great way to melt the cheese and not overcook and dry out the burger.
Add a little water, vegetagle broth, chicken stock, beer or wine, then cover, and you'll be amazed at how quickly the cheese melts, and how moist the burger remains.
About 2 tbls. of liquid is really all you need, unless you want a broth to serve over the burger, in which case, you might add 1/4 cup or more!!
15) - Brine Your Turkey, Chicken Or Pork For Much Better Flavor And Moistness!!
This old restaurant trick is one of the best ways to make a huge difference in the flavor and moisture of wharever protein you are brining!!
When brining turkeys, particularly large ones, a good method is to brine the bird in a picnic cooler. The ratio is 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar per gallon of water, which translates to 3 cups of salt and 3 cups of brown sugar to 6 gals. of water to do a 23lb. bird.
Chickens and pork can be done in resealable plastic bags. (Just measure the volume of water that will go into the bag, and adjust your salt and sugar measurements accordingly.)
We brine turkeys for 24 hrs., adding ice every few hours to keep the water temp. cool.
Chickens we brine for about 1 hour, and we keep them cool in the refrigerator as they're brining.
Pork and chops we brine for no more than an hour, and also keep in the frig. as they're brining.
You can add orange, lemon or lime slices to the brine, as well as many herbs, depending on what you are brining, and what flavor you're trying to achieve.
Give brining a try!! It's a great way to really impact the flavor of your poultry or pork!!
16) - Brining Times and Ratios
Turkeys are brined for much longer periods than chicken and pork, so the salt to water ratio is completely different!!
Turkeys are generally brined for around 24 hrs., so the salt to water ratio is much less than that for chicken and pork, which is generally brined for no more than 1 hr. We use a brine ratio of 1/2 cup salt to 1 gal. water for turkeys, and since pork and chicken is usually brined for significantly shorter periods, we use a ratio of 1 cup salt to 1 gal. water. We always match the salt portion with brown sugar for any poultry that we are brining.
17) - Pat Your Ingredients Dry Before You Sear Or Fry Them
Chicken, beef, pork and fish and vegetables that are put wet into hot oil or butter will spatter every time!!
While you're heating your sauté pan or oil for frying, take the time to pat the protein or vegetables that you are about to cook dry with paper towels.
Not doing so will not only make it difficult to get a good sear on the protein because the moisture in the meat is steaming it rather than searing it, but it coukd also cause severe splattering, or worse, a hot oil overflow, which could flare up and possibly ignite when it hits your burner!!
At best, you save yourself time by not having to wipe down of your entire cooking surface and backsplash, at worst, you could save yourself from a potential kitchen fire!!
18) - Soak Your Raw Onions In Ice Water!!
If you find the flavor of raw onions in salads, etc. a bit too aggressive, soak them in ice water for 20 min. !!
This is another old restaurant trick!!
Soaking the raw onions in ice water for twenty minutes before putting them in a the salad or other raw dish will take away a lot of the harshness of flavor, leaving you with a much more palatable onion flavor!!
19) - Run your potatoes through a potato ricer for smooth silky mashed potatoes!!
If you're looking for a smoother, silkier texture for your mashed potatoes than you can get with a potato masher, run them through a potato ricer!!
Lumpy potatoes are great for smashed potatoes, but if you want classic, smooth mashed potatoes without having to break out and afterwards clean a food mill, try using an inexpensive potato ricer.
Simply load the potatoes, then squeeze the handles together, and the potatoes will come through like grains of rice, which are very easily turned into silky smooth mashed potatoes!!
20) - Use Plastic Wrap When Oven Braising
For a tight, moistureproof seal, try plastic wrap!!
Most plastic wraps don't melt at oven temperatures below 400', so sealing braising pans with plastic wrap, then covering with aluminum foil before putting in the oven is a great way to keep moisture from escaping, subsequently keeping braised meats from becoming drier than they should be!!
21) - Don't Bother Cooking Your Lasagna Noodles In Salted Water!!
Simply steep them in your hottest tap water for twenty minutes!!
Instead of having to bring 6 or 8 qts. of water or more to boil, simply to pre - cook lasagna noodles, put them in a bowl, and cover them with very hot tap water, and leave them alone.
After 20 min. they will be the perfect doneness for placing in a lasagna dish, but not over cooked!!
Also, they will not tend to cling together as lasagna noodles cooked in boiling water tend to do, and you will not need to shock them in ice water after cooking to stop the cooking process.
22) - Immerse Green Veggies In Ice Water To Set Color!!
If you're looking for a more vibrant green color in you cooked vegetables, give this idea a try!!
Place cleaned and trimmed green vegetables in a bowl of ice water, immersing them completely, for 10 - 15 min. before cooking.
When you cook them, you will love the way that they have retained much more of their vibrant green color!!
This is another technique that restaurants use to separate themselves from the home cook.
23) - Add Steam When Finishing Sauteing
For a quick simple boost to sauteed items, add a shot of water or broth!!
If you're sauteing , and want to add the items to a pasta or other starch, add a quick shot of a small amount of liquid (water, beer, broth) to your hot sauté pan to help deglaze and create a quick sauce element!!
24) - Add Bacon To Your Home Ground Lean Hamburger!!
If you grind your own hamburger, and need to add fat, try adding bacon into the grinder!!
Very lean cuts of beef tend to be inexpensive, thus making them a logical choice for turning into hamburger. Unfortunately, very lean ground beef needs some fat for flavor and texture.
Add bacon in whatever ratio you want, to bring fat and that delicious bacon flavor to ground beef.
Your family will love it!!
25) - To Slice Raw Beef, Pork, Boneless Chicken Breasts, Etc., Freeze Them Slightly!!
When they are unfrozen, simply put them in the freezer for 15 - 30 min., or until they have just started to set up!!
Putting your room temperature beef, pork or boneless chicken breasts in the freezer for 15 - 30 min., will allow the meat to set up slightly, at which time doing thin, precision slicing will be much easier.
When doing a beef stir fry, or chicken piccata, where relatively thin, consistent slices are critical to even cooking and doneness, this technique is invaluable.
After the slicing is done, the recripocal 15 - 30 min. of defrosting will bring them back to room temperature, ready to be seasoned and cooked.
26) - When Seasoning, Drop The Seasoning From Above
When salting and peppering meats and vegetables, hold your hand a couple of feet above the items that you are seasoning!!
Dropping the seasoning from a height of about 20" or better will allow it to disperse into a wider area as it falls, resulting in a more even coverage of seasoning, and require less of the seasoning than you would need when sprinkling from just above the meat or vegetables.
Even when sprinkling from a seasoning dispenser, this technique will cause the seasonings to disperse as they fall. giving more even coverage.
27) - Salt Water Well When Blanching Green Vegetables
Add plenty of salt to your boiling water before blanching green vegetables!!
Vegetables such as broccoli and green beans will have a much deeper, more vibrant green color when they are blanched in generously salted water.
After blanching them for approx. 60 sec., simply immerse them in well iced water, to cool them rapidly, to stop them from cooking.
Proceed to use them in a stir fry or other vegetable dish, knowing that the color is the most vibrant that it can possibly be.
28) - Peeling Hard Boiled Eggs
Peel your hard boiled eggs under water!!
To save a few valuable moments while working in the kitchen, try this very effective idea that I discovered after many years of peeling eggs the difficult way.
Put a sieve over your drain basket in the sink to catch egg shells, then turn on your cold water at a medium flow.
As you peel the eggs, constantly holding them under the stream of the faucet, allow the water to get under the edges of the shell, which will cause the shell to come off much more easily, and in bigger pieces.
Then, simply empty the sieve of its eggshells into the trash.
29) - Freeze Unused Milk & Buttermilk
We are one of those households that will buy milk, use a little bit, and then not touch it again for a couple of weeks. (Unfortunately, this is not good for having usable milk!!)
Try measuring your milk in 1 cup quantities into resealable sandwich bags, and freezing. We've been doing this for some time now, and it works perfectly. (We double bag the cup portions, and then, when it's time to defrost them, we put them in a bowl of lukewarm water until they're liquid again, and use as normal.) (We find that buttermilk works just as well using this freezing method.)
30) - Turn Milk Into Buttermilk In 5 Minutes
Our household is one of those that uses buttermilk for baking or for fried chicken or onion rings once in a while, but almost never uses an entire bottle. As an answer to this, we've started making our own buttermilk from whole milk or cream, and it only takes about 5 - 10 min., and turns out perfectly!!
Use a ratio of 1 cup of whole milk or cream to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar, whisk them together well, and let stand for 5 - 10 min. You will notice that the milk or cream has thickened slightly, and curdled just a tiny bit, and that the homemade buttermilk or cream works just as well as store bought buttermilk. (You might want to strain the finished milk to remove the small amount of curds, although we never do, as there is really no need.)
31) - Cut On The Bias, And Rotate Carrots, Celery & Sausages For More Surface Area
When chopping carrots, celery and other cylindrical vegetables, as well as sausages, rotate them 180' after each cut!!
Start cutting with a cut at the end on the bias, then rotate 180', and repeat this process until the entire carrot, celery stalk etc., is cut. This will give you wedge shaped pieces, which expose more surface area for more flavor. (We love this cut for searing sausages, and in soups, for carrots, celery and sausages.)
32) - Never Add Nutmeg, Cinnamon Or Most Spices Directly To Liquid
(Another restaurant trick) Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and most spices are so finely ground that when you add them directly to liquid they will coagulate, and become nothing but a messy ball of spices that doesn't flavor the entire recipe.
Instead, whisk them well into sugar or flour that is then being mixed into the liquid. This will prevent them from coagulating, and ensure that the spice premeates the entire recipe.
33) - Dry And Save Your Orange Zest
When you're about to eat an orange, remove the zest, in as big pieces as you can, taking care to leave the white pith behind.
When cut into 3/8" dice, and dried in a toaster oven at 150' for a couple of hours, this zest will last for a couple of months in a sealed container, and will be wonderful as a flavoring agent in braises, tagines, etc.
34) - Toss Fruit And Veggies With A Small Amount Of Lemon Juice To Prevent Oxidation
Lemon juice will prevent fruit and vegetables from oxidizing, (turning brown) when they're cut and left to sit for a while.
Not only will it prevent oxidizong, but it will impart a nice, bright flavor to whatever dish its added to. (We always add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice to cut apples when we're doing apple crisp, and we always add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice to the bananas when we're making banana bread, as the non-oxidized bananas make a lighter colored, more appealing looking bread.
35) - Perfectly Cooked Asparagus
Bring asparagus to a boil in a sauté pan, then take the pan off the flame.
Cover your trimmed asparagus with water just to the top, then bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat. The asparagus will be perfectly al dente. Drizzle with lemon juice or finish as you choose before plating.
36) - Corn On The Cob Quickly And Easily
To cook corn on the cob in a micro - wave, and remove the husks in one step, use your microwave.
Break off the stalk of the corn, and remove any husks that come with it. Cut off the end where the stalk was, just past the rounded part where it becomes a cylinder, and microwave for the appropriate time. (We allow approx. 5 min. for the 1st. ear, and 1 1/2 min. for subsequent ears.) When cooked, simply squeeze the husk end, until the corn pops out cleanly and very easily .!!
(I usually leave the corn in the microwave for a few minutes after cooking, as I find that this causes the corn to pop out of the husks even more instantly and easily.)
37) - Use Steam To Make Your Yeast Breads Crustier
When baking breads that you want to be very crusty and toothsome, add steam!!
One way is to put a pan on the rack below the bread rack in your oven, and let it pre-heat, dry, as you pre-heat your oven, then add a cup of water after you place your bread in the oven.
Another way is to use a spray bottle, and mist the bread top several times as it bakes.
Either way, you'll find you have a much crustier bread for your effort.
38) - Use Boiling Water And Baking Soda To Peel Hazelnuts (Filberts)
When cooking with hazelnuts, don't bother roasting them to remove the skins; it doesn't work very well.
Instead bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then add 3 tablespoons. of baking soda, and stir. Drop in 1 cup of hazelnuts, let them cook for three minutes, (the water will turn black), then pour them into cold water to cool them. The skins will now be a snap to remove, and you can proceed with your recipe.
39) - Use Non - Stick Spray To Hold Parchment Paper In Place
If you're tired of having your parchment paper slide all over the sheet pans that you're baking with, try this very simple trick.
Spray the sheer pans lightly with non - stick spray, before laying in the paper. The paper will stay in place, and even follow the contours of the sheet pan perfectly.
Then, when you're done baking, simply lift the paper our of the pan, and throw away.
40) - Quick, Perfect White Rice Every Time
To get that perfectly cooked white or jasmine rice that you love, try our favorite method.
1) Put 2 cups of rice into a heavy, medium sauce pan.
2) Toast the rice over high for approx. 5 min., tossing occasionally
3) Add 3 1/2 cups room temp. water, by pouring around the edges of the interior of the pan. (The water should be spattering as it comes into contact w/ the pan.
4) Keep the pan over the high heat that you used to toast the rice, and allow the water to come to a boil.
5) Let the rice boil for 3 1/2 min.
6) Reduce the heat to the lowest simmer possible, cover, and let slow simmer for 10 min.
7) Remove from the heat, remove the cover, fluff the rice, and enjoy!!
41) - Peel Garlic The Super Fast & Easy Way
This is far and away the easiest technique for peeling garlic that I've ever come across!!
Simply put a head garlic in a sm. or medium mixing bowl, and cover with another bowl of the same size, inverted on top. Shake vigorously for a couple of minutes, and the individual cloves of garlic will become completely separated from the the skin.
Please Give Us Your Comments And Suggestions
Without your comments and suggestions, it is difficult for us to be sure that we are heading in the right direction.
If your ideas are somewhat outside the box, they are probably even more valuable to us, as they are probably ideas that we have missed.