The kitchen should be a stress-free zone — a laid back place where delicious things happen. But it’s often a place where we curse over how much time it takes to pit cherries, chop greens, peel shrimp and remove the skin from fruits and veggies. Don’t forget about the tears from chopping onions and the agony of cleanups that last longer than your meal’s cook time.
Well, curse and cry no more! After seeing how much you all loved our “25 mind-blowing food prep techniques to save you time & frustration” back in January, we’ve decided to provide you with 30 more ingenious cooking tricks to make your meal prep — and your life — just a little bit easier.
It can be frustrating to measure out the perfect amount of honey or some other sticky ingredient for a recipe, only to realize you might not be able to extract all of it from the measuring cup. Turns out all you have to do is make sure you spray the cup with Pam or some other type of cooking oil before measuring — the ingredients slide right out!
Grab that extra set of chopsticks you saved from your last takeout order and use them to easily fish out the broken shell.
For those times when you want to add fresh corn to a recipe rather than eat it straight off the cob, it’s best to have a safe strategy that doesn’t involve wobbly corn or severed fingers. And it’s even better if you don’t have to scour the counter and surrounding area afterward for runaway kernels.
Well, Saveur’s adorable Ben Mims — who makes this video worth it from the beginning simply because of his giggling intro — figured out a brilliant trick: Use a Bundt pan! Just stand the cob in the center of the pan so it’s secured, and use the back of a knife to scrape the cob, letting the kernels fall right into the pan, ready for you to use.
While we love how much time is saved by using a garlic press, we’re not as thrilled with the way the little pieces of garlic constantly get stuck to our fingertips. Easy fix: Lightly coat your hands in olive oil before mincing!
Thanks to an anonymous comment on our last roundup of cooking hacks, we now know an even easier way to remove the tasty seeds in pomegranates. Simply cut the pomegranate in half, gently stretch the edges of the skin outward, place it seed-side-down in the palm of your hand over a bowl and give it a few nice whacks with a wooden spoon. Quick and easy with no bowl of water needed!
(Note: Skip to the 2:30 mark if you want to skip the chatty intro.)
Eating creamy butternut squash soup is fun — prepping the squash to make the soup is not. America’s Test Kitchen realized the perfect tool was already in the kitchen: an ice cream scoop. The edge of the scoop is sharper than the edge of a spoon, allowing it to more easily cut through the squash. And since the scoop is larger, it can remove more seeds in one swipe.
As Tom Scocca furiously wrote in Slate last year: Despite what many recipes say, “onions do not caramelize in five or 10 minutes. They never have, they never will.”
He’s right. The truth is they take 35 to 40 minutes — unless you use this recipe from Serious Eats, which cuts cook time down to 15 minutes. The article warns, though, that you shouldn’t expect to get an exact replica of traditionally caramelized onions. Use this technique for sweet, soft onions for adding to burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and more.
Despite using aluminum foil on cookie sheets to bake meals with minimal cleanup, most George-Foreman-grill owners are unaware that this nifty trick can also apply to their “Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.” This is also great for paninis, which are particularly easy since you can simply wrap the sandwich in the foil or parchment paper before placing them on the grill.
When it’s time to place a new stick of butter on the butter dish, take a minute to quickly cut it into tablespoon-size pieces. The next time a recipe asks for 2 tablespoons of butter, you won’t have to measure or cut — just take two pieces out of the fridge!
The typical avocado addict is on an endless hunt to find a truly effective way to prevent guacamole from browning. While a million different techniques exist, none works as well as this one from The Kitchn: Tightly pack the leftover guac into a container with a tight-fitting lid, dribble some lukewarm water down the sides and cover the surface of the guac with about ½ inch of water. After refrigerating for three days, it’s still bright green and you can easily pour out the water to get to your fresh and yummy guac!
Photo source: TheKitchn.com
Speaking of avocados, here’s an awesome way to prevent halves from browning: Add onion chunks to the bottom of a container before placing the avocado half — the one with the pit — on top. Cover and refrigerate. (via Chow)
The recipe calls for 1/2-inch slices or requires you to place rounds of dough 1 inch apart on your baking sheet. No need to break out a ruler! Cooks Illustrated magazine kindly pointed out that for most people, the length between the thumb’s knuckle and its tip is almost exactly 1 inch.
In case your fingers insist on being different from everyone else’s, try measuring the distance between the second joint of your pointer finger and its tip — for some people, that’s closer to the 1-inch mark. Measure to be sure and then remember for future kitchen endeavors!
Unless you’ve managed to get your hands on sushi-grade seafood, there’s a good chance your fish or shellfish brought a bit of that fishy smell into your kitchen. As America’s Test Kitchen explains, this is due to a stinky compound known as trimethylamine. The solution: Soak the fish in milk for 20 minutes; then remove the meat and pat it dry. The trimethylamine binds to the milk, so when you remove the milk, you remove the compound and the odor that comes with it — all while ensuring the fish has a nice, clean taste.
Cherry pitting is a tedious task that few enjoy — but if you have an empty beer bottle and a chopstick, it doesn’t have to be so terrible (especially if you drank the beer beforehand). Accompanied by oddly dramatic background music, this video shows you how to place a cherry upright on top of an empty beer bottle and use a chopstick to push out the pit. No need to collect the pits afterward — they’re all collected at the bottom of the bottle already.
How many times have you gotten psyched about making some unbelievable dessert and started preparing your ingredients, only to find that the brown sugar looked and felt more like a brick? Don’t panic. Next time, just take that rock-hard block and grate it! Now it’s back to its powdery form and ready to help you satisfy your sweet tooth.
You know what else that grater is good for? Tomatoes! When you want to make a marinara from fresh tomatoes instead of canned, just cut the tomatoes in half and grate them against the side of the box grater that has the larger holes. All of the pulp goes into the bowl, and you’re left with the tomato skin, which actually protects the palm of your hand.
Instead of removing the whole tomatoes from the can — dripping all over the counter in the process and dirtying a cutting board — use these clever techniques from Food 52: To chop, stick a pair of scissors into the can of tomatoes and do what you’d imagine Edward Scissorhands would do. To crush, dump the tomatoes in a large bowl and smoosh those suckers one by one.
Photo source: Food52.com
Peeling the skin off each tomato with a vegetable peeler is entirely too time-consuming. To do it the easy way, follow these instructions from culinary student Alison Stravitz: Use a knife to remove the top of each tomato’s core and cut a small “X" into the bottom. Drop them into a pot of boiling water; when you see the skin begin to break, remove the tomato and place it in a bowl full of ice water for about 30 seconds. The skin should peel right off!
We received a fair amount of complaints about our last strategy for this one — supposedly the ole’ wooden-spoon-atop-the-pot trick isn’t always effective. Commenter Kim recommended spraying a thin coating of Pam — or applying another type of cooking oil — around the top, inside the rim of the pot. It works!
Cut your mango into bite-sized pieces without even using a cutting board! (Be very careful with this one.) Cut the mango in half, scoop out the pit and slice a grid — about four to five slices across the length and five to six slices across the width — into each half, almost to the skin. When it’s all sliced, hold the half with your thumbs on the fruit side and your fingers on the skin side and push the bottom up to invert the fruit, leaving you with bite-sized cubes for snacking or adding to salads!
Sometimes bacon slices can be tricky to pull out of the package — they all tend to stick together! The fix: Roll the package of bacon lengthwise, secure the roll in place with a rubber band and store in the fridge. Next time you want just one slice of bacon, you’ll be able to easily pull out a single slice without a mess.
Cooking small slices of veggies over the grill can prove difficult since they can easily fall through the grill grates. To ensure no food goes to waste, put the slices on a cooling rack placed directly over the grill. (via Delish)
Photo source: Delish.com
Making a kale salad? Ribbon slices of this leafy green are perfect for that purpose. Chef Karen of Vibrant for Life demonstrates how to remove the stem and cut the leaves into salad-worthy ribbons. Start by stacking a few of the leaves and tightly rolling them lengthwise. Make 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices all the way across the roll, leaving you with pretty green strips to put in your salad bowl.
Peeling and de-veining each individual shrimp for your shrimp scampi adds quite a bit of prep time to your meal — unless you use Chef Bourque’s “Cajun style!” technique. Run a fork prong through the back of the shrimp, just underneath the shell until you can pull the tail — with the entire shell — away from the shrimp meat. If the vein wasn’t removed with the shell, you should be able to effortlessly pull it off the meat.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, you’ve probably tried various ways of washing your greens and found few, if any, of them to be efficient. Food 52 demonstrates the best way: Place the greens in a big bowl of water, swish them around to remove dirt particles and then let them sit for a few seconds. If you scoop up the leaves and the water looks especially dirty, you should probably repeat the rinsing step to avoid a gritty salad. Transfer the leaves into a clean bowl, spread them out across a tea towel, roll the towel up, pat it gently and unroll. Time to make a meal!
Draining frozen spinach is usually a messy process. You’re left with little green bits all over your hands, as well as your kitchen sink. For a neater way, use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the bag and place it in a bowl to defrost. Once it’s thawed, squeeze! The water will drain through the holes and into the bowl, leaving you with ready-to-cook spinach.
Can’t handle the stinging and crying that come with peeling and chopping an onion? Simple tip: Chill them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes beforehand for fewer tears!
There are a few techniques out there that some swear can simplify the tedious process of removing the skin from hazelnuts. The most effective? Boiling them with some baking soda! Add your hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons of baking soda to a pot of boiling water. After boiling for three minutes, rinse the nuts under cold water and peel. They practically fall off the nut!
You wake up desperately craving eggs benedict, but you lack the funds to treat yourself to brunch and the patience to make a hollandaise at home. No worries! This chef hack from Serious Eats doesn’t even require a double boiler — just slowly mix hot melted butter into a cup containing your egg yolk, water, lemon juice and salt as you use an immersion blender to combine all the ingredients. You’ll have a delicious hollandaise sauce in only one minute!
Confession: This trick probably won’t save you much time, but we had to include it simply because this “caterpillar” cut of mandarin orange slices is so much cooler than what we’ve been doing all these years.