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Kitchen Tips: 6 Handy Tricks To Know

Updated on April 1, 2018
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Vegetarian recipes, healthy foods, kitchen tips and shortcuts interest Liz, but she also likes desserts!

Save Time; Rescue Mistakes; Save Your Sanity

This is a collection of the best kitchen hints I have found useful over the years. They can save your sanity (and your budget) when things go wrong.

1. Ewww--Too Salty!

Accidentally get too much salt into your soup? Stew? Spaghetti sauce?

Peel a fair-sized potato and cut it into quarters. Toss it in to boil or simmer in the pan for a bit. The salt will attract to the potato, which can then be fished out and discarded. That's why you don't want it cut smaller than in fourths; you need to be able to find all the pieces.

Too much salt can ruin any dish
Too much salt can ruin any dish | Source

2. Gravy Way Too Thin

If you don't have any cornstarch on hand to thicken the gravy, you can add a little bit of instant mashed potato flakes. (Not more than a tablespoon for a pint of gravy, though--you want it to still be pourable.)

My mother used to thicken gravy with a flour-water mixture, but this is tricky business if you don't want lumpy gravy.

3. Cream of Something Condensed Soup--No Milk

If you have already opened the can, and discover you have no milk to mix it with, or not enough, it won't hurt to use water, or half and half water and milk. True, it will be much less "creamy," but on the up side, it will also then have a reduced calorie count.

If you have powdered skim milk on hand, you can mix that at a ratio of 1/3 cup of the powder to 1 cup water. Again, it won't be quite as creamy, but no one will ever know it was skim milk, hidden as it is under the soup flavors.

What? No Milk?

4. Oh, NO!! You Burned the Rice (or Beans, or...)

First of all--do not panic. Don't toss the entire contents of the saucepan into the trash. Here are the steps you must take to salvage the food, but remember, you must act fast:

  1. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, the moment you discover the problem.
  2. Run cold water into the sink, dishpan or another pot large enough to hold the first one--whichever of these you can do quickly.
  3. Add ice cubes to the cold water.
  4. Immerse the pan with the burned food only up to the rim. Do not allow any water to run inside. Allow it to soak for a couple of minutes, until the food stops steaming. (You will probably need to stand there and hold the scorched pan in the proper position.)
  5. Get a bowl large enough to hold the contents of the pan, and dump the food into the bowl. Very important: dump the contents only! Do not attempt to stir, scrape, or salvage any part that does not just dump out on its own! (You might need to very gently loosen the top layer, but do not dig down!)
  6. Serve the salvaged food in the bowl, with whatever sauce or condiments you would usually use. It is very unlikely that there will be any burnt flavor in this food--if there is, it will most likely be a mind-over-matter issue noticed only by those present when it happened.

Here's why this works: by acting fast, you stop the cooking process instantly, you cool down the pan to stop it further, and that cooling works through to the food. By not stirring or scraping, the part that is burnt, and will taste burnt, is left in the pan. You serve only the salvaged portion.

Yes, you wasted some food, but you did not lose all of it. As for cleaning the burned-on food? Read on.

Act Quickly!

All is not lost!
All is not lost!
Quickly plunge the pan into ice water.
Quickly plunge the pan into ice water.
Dump into a bowl only that which easily falls out.  Avoid the temptation to scrape anything else.
Dump into a bowl only that which easily falls out. Avoid the temptation to scrape anything else.
You will have a reduced amount to serve, but it will be edible.
You will have a reduced amount to serve, but it will be edible.

5. Ack! Is My Pot Ruined?

If you have burned food onto a saucepan or skillet, fear not. You may be able to salvage it, if the metal is not actually damaged. (Actually, if it burned long enough and got hot enough to damage the metal, you are likely have a far worse problem: namely, a kitchen fire!)

This strange-sounding remedy is totally counter-intuitive, but it does work!

  1. Fill the pan with water, and put it back on the stove, and bring the water to a full rolling boil. Allow it to boil for a minute or so, making sure the water does not boil away, or you will have made matters worse.
  2. Turn off the heat, and use a cooking spoon to scrape and stir the food residue from the bottom and sides of the pan. Most of it will scrape off easily. Dump the contents of the pan through a strainer in the sink. (You don't want to foul your plumbing by dumping as much food waste as there will be. Even with a garbage disposal, it's a lot to ask of your pipes.)
  3. Then, put the pan to soak in hot soapy water. After a short while, or overnight if you prefer, you should be able to scrub the rest of the burned-on residue fairly easily, or at least with a lot less elbow grease than you would have used otherwise. And hurrah! You pan is saved!

After salvaging what you can of the food, fill the pot with water and place it back on the stove.
After salvaging what you can of the food, fill the pot with water and place it back on the stove.
Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for a minute or so.  Now is when you want to stir and scrape.
Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for a minute or so. Now is when you want to stir and scrape.
Pour the scrapings and water off through a strainer, and you see the pot will be pretty easy to finish cleaning.
Pour the scrapings and water off through a strainer, and you see the pot will be pretty easy to finish cleaning. | Source

6. No-Stick; No Boil-over Pasta

Now here's a tip to save you extra cleanup, instead of fixing something that already went wrong!

When cooking any kind of pasta, add about a tablespoon of oil (I prefer to use olive oil) to the pot before adding the water. Then, rub some of the oil all around the inside of the top edge of the pot, in about a 1" wide band.

This combination of tricks does two things. The oil in the water will help keep the pasta from sticking together, and the band of oil around the top of the pot will keep it from boiling over. I don't know the physics of why this should work, but it does.

A second trick I recently learned to prevent boil-overs, is to place a long wooden spoon across the top of the pot. I have no idea why this works, either!

Any Other Tips?

I hope you've found any or all of these tips and tricks to be useful. If you have a pet kitchen/cooking trick you'd like to share, feel free to leave it in the comments below.

© 2013 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, mythbuster,

    That potato trick is a weird one, and people are skeptical, but it does work. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • mythbuster profile image


    7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

    Great kitchen tips here. I heard about the tip #1 with the potato before but thought I heard wrong at the time... I'll try it if I need to the next time a pot/dish is too salty. Thanks for sharing this information.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ ChitrangadaSharan--Thanks so very much. I'm glad you found the tips useful, and thanks for the votes! (My apologies for taking so long to reply, but for some reason, your comment did not show up right away.)

    @ Silva Hayes--I'm pleased you found a tidbit you could use among these sundry bits. Thanks much for the votes!

  • Silva Hayes profile image

    Silva Hayes 

    8 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

    Lovely hub. I did not know about No. 6, and I will begin using it right away. Voted Up and Useful.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    8 years ago from New Delhi, India

    These kitchen tips are great and sometime or the other, we do make mistakes in the kitchen. Very useful and voted up!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, SuzieHQ,

    Thanks very much for your comment--I'm glad you found useful information, and a validation for tricks you already knew. I appreciate your stopping by, and thank you for the votes and share!

  • Suzie HQ profile image

    Suzanne Ridgeway 

    8 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

    Hi DzMsLizzy,

    This article was great and I was pleasantly surprised to find I do a few of your suggestions. The half and half tip for condensed soup I do and find it works a treat and olive oil in the water for pasta i use but the tip about using it around the top of the pot is cool so will definitely start using this and the other ones I did not know! Thanks so much for posting this, voted up, useful, interesting and shared!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ Just Ask Susan--Thanks for sharing that extra bit about the baking soda. That is a new one to me. I’m glad you found the article useful.

    @ Real Housewife--Oh, dear---20/20 hindsight is the scourge of mankind, is it not? Well, I hope you don’t have any more burned food incidents, but, if you do, now you know. But, you’ve taught me something as well; I did not know that just plain baking soda and water, minus the boiling would work. Thanks very much for adding to the tips.

    @ duffsmom--I’m pleased you found a useful tidbit here. The oil trick does work, even if you leave the lid on the pot…(unless you’ve filled the pot too full--then all bets are off…)

    @ xstatic--I’m delighted you liked the article, and I thank you for stopping by and adding yet more information to share. I’ve never used arrowroot; but I usually use cornstarch for gravy. I’ve also never tried “Wondra” flour, or had occasion to have masa on hand. Thanks for the added information!

  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 

    8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    Great info here. I need all the help I can get, since I am "retired" and my wife works at home. I fix lunch daily, and at least two or three dinners a week. I even baked some real cookies the other day. Arrowroot and cornstarch work for thickening gravy too, and Wondra is less likely to get lumpy than regular flour. Masa works to thicken chili really well, if needed.

  • duffsmom profile image

    P. Thorpe Christiansen 

    8 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Very helpful. I am really anxious to try the olive oil around the rim of the pot when I do pasta. Thanks.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Aw man! I wish I read this last week! I burned rice and had to throw it out!

    Great tips and thank you!

    Hey ill add one for you - if your burn food and it sticks to the pan real bad you can add water and baking soda - let it sit for a bit and come back and it comes out clean super quick!

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Great tips. When I have a pan with burnt on food I do the same as you except I heard somewhere to add baking soda along with water, bring everything to a boil Next time this happens I'll just use water.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello there, agaglia,

    Thanks so very much for sharing another great kitchen tip. That is a good one to know, for sure. Boiled-over pies are a mess to clean up...even if the boilover is on the cookie sheet/jelly roll pan--so sticky!

    I'm very pleased you liked this article; your comment is much appreciated.

  • agaglia profile image

    Annette Gagliardi 

    8 years ago from Minneapolis

    Love the hub. I also have a tip. Place pies on a jelly roll pan and add 1-2 cups water to the jelly roll pan. this prevents the pies from boiling over.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, lindacee,

    I'm delighted I was able to provide useful information. If I have helped even one person save time and frustration in the kitchen, my job is done! Thanks so much for your lovely comment.

  • lindacee profile image

    Linda Chechar 

    8 years ago from Arizona

    I love these tips! Especially the one with the potato and over-salted sauce, soup or stew. Now I can fix the problem instead of having to suffer through a salty meal. Brilliant! :)

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 

    8 years ago from UK

    Love it! I've got a few burned food stories - some of which date back to childhood, but none of them top that one!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    LOL Melovy--you're funny. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your like-minded tendency to forget to mind the cooking. ;-) I have burned many things in the past, and I learned that particular trick over 20 years ago.

    There's one kitchen disaster from which there's no recovery, though--and it wasn't me, it was my ex-husband! He decided to take over making the garlic bread on the grounds that I always burned would get blackened a bit, but that can be scraped off.

    However, he went me one better: failed to realize just HOW closely it must be watched under the broiler, and it caught fire! We caught it before it could spread and set the house on fire, but still, on a cold, foggy day, we had to have all the windows open to clear the smoke...and the garlic-charcoal briquettes were escorted out to the back patio to cool.....

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 

    8 years ago from UK

    Ooh, your tips are great. I'm a regular burner of pans, because I leave things to cook while I write hubs or best selling novels (I wish) and then I get so engrossed I forget the food. So next time I cook I can come and read this hub again so I'm fully prepared for when I smell the burning. Oh wait, if I wasn't to come and read it, but stay in the kitchen instead would that mean I wouldn't need to read it…

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Fossillady,

    Thanks very much. It does work, strange as it sounds. I'm glad you found something of use among these tidbits.

  • Fossillady profile image

    Kathi Mirto 

    8 years ago from Fennville

    I've put too much salt in recipes before so I found that hint one most helpful in case it happens again! Thanks for sharing Ms. Lizzy! :O)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, drbj,

    Thanks much--so glad you found the hints useful. I had this hub "almost" ready to publish for a while...but was lacking photos to go with, and then, last night, I accidentally burned the Spanish rice! Presto! Photo op! (nope--not on purpose for the article--at the time, I'd sort of forgotten the article was in the works...) LOL

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    8 years ago from south Florida

    Very useful 'kitchen' suggestions, Lizzie. Thank you for sharing them, m'dear.


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