We all strive to improve our efficiency and frugality in the kitchen for obvious reasons; time and money are valuable! Both attributes can be learned over time, yet often a helpful tip at just the right moment can be more useful than months -or even years- of experience.
Here are twenty of my favorite kitchen hacks, shortcuts and secrets. They will save you money, time, and wits.
Gleaned from many years in the professional cooking industry and passed along from fellow chefs and home cooks alike, they are 100% applicable for everyday cooks–and I use all of them as I cook daily for my family.
I hope you can put a few of them to good use and help simplify your cooking and baking.
1. Makeshift Funnel
Turn an envelope into a makeshift funnel for dried goods by snipping off one corner with scissors and open it into a cone.
2. Accelerate Ripening, Naturally
Speed up the ripening of peaches or avocados by placing them in a paper bag, securing it with a clothespin, and leaving them for a few days. Concentrated ethylene gas will help the fruit to ripen faster.
3. Freeze Tomato Paste
Recipes frequently call for just a few tablespoons of tomato paste but how do you keep the remainder from going to waste? Try this method:
- Turn the can on its side and open the bottom, but leave it in place.
- Wrap the whole tube up in plastic wrap and freeze until solid.
- Unwrap the paste, push the cylinder of frozen paste through the can using the metal end and discard the can. Wrap the paste back up and freeze.
- Whenever you need tomato paste, just slice a bit off of the frozen log and re-wrap for future use.
4. Easily Open Jars
Wrestling with a particularly tight jar lid? Run the lid under hot water for a few seconds, then wrap a damp towel around the top and use it to get a tighter grip.
5. Keep A Cutting Board Stable
Wet a kitchen rag or dish towel and spread it out over your work station. Place your cutting board on top and enjoy a safe, slip-free cutting surface for kitchen prep. For more tips on kitchen safety read my article on How to Prevent Kitchen Injuries.
6. Dry a Sieve Thoroughly and Quickly
Baking up a storm? Need to sift flour, but your sieve is in the sink, dripping wet? No problem. Wash and quickly dry it with a towel, then place it in your hot oven for a minute. This will take care of excess moisture that would cause clumping when flour is added.
Note: this only works if your oven is already preheated, but if you are baking up a storm, chances are your oven is on.
7. Quick, Natural Sauce Thickener
Toss a dried lasagna noodle into a sauce that is too runny. The pasta will absorb the extra liquid without changing the taste or consistency of the sauce. Discard the wet noodle before serving, of course!
8. Accurate Water Measurements, all the time
If your kitchen sink has a pull-out faucet, you can use it to get a more accurate reading on your liquid measuring cup when you measure water. Set your cup on the counter, where it will stay level, and fill it with the pull-out faucet to the desired level.
9. Keep Tea Warmer for Longer
Heat a teapot by pouring boiling water into it before making your tea. Then discard water and make tea as usual. This will help prevent tea from cooling too quickly.
10. No More Cold Potatoes
Keep mashed potatoes warm for up to two hours by placing them in a heatproof bowl and setting the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Cover with a lid or foil. The steam from the water will keep them warm, with no risk of burning.
11. Quick Canned Tomato Chop
Some use their hands, some use kitchen shears, but to cut whole tomatoes while they are still in the can, I simply remove the lid, drain of some liquid, bend the lid like a taco and use it to chop the tomatoes while still in the can.
12. Fresh Chopped Garlic all the time
Keep extra minced or chopped garlic fresh by covering it with olive oil and storing it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will keep for up to one week.
13. Pests Be Gone
Discourage bugs from camping out in your dried beans and grains by warding them off with a dried chile pepper or bay leaf placed inside the jar or storage container. The bay leaf and the chile contain natural repellents.
14. Fresh Ice Cream
Press a piece of wax paper onto the top of your ice cream before you put the lid back on the pint. This will help prevent condensation from forming an unpleasant icy crust on your Ben & Jerry’s.
15. Get More Citrus Juice
Place your lemons or other citrus fruit in hot water or in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm them, then roll them back and forth under your hand on the counter a few times before cutting in half and juicing.
16. No Lemon Juicer? No Problem.
Hold half a lemon in your palm and poke a fork into the heart of it. Wring the lemon with your hand, while you manipulate the fork up and down to extract as much juice as possible.
17. Use a Bean ‘Sachet’ as a Pie Weight
All you need is a large square of cheese cloth, some dried beans and a few inches of kitchen twine, and you can help your unfilled pie crust maintain its shape in the oven.
- Wrap approximately one pound of beans loosely in the cheese cloth and tie securely with twine.
- Drop sachet into the unbaked pie crust and spread beans all over the bottom. Bake as usual.
- Let the pouch cool after each use, then store in an airtight container. Toss after about ten uses.
18. Crisp Cukes (and celery and radishes)
Rejuvenate tired and softened sliced cucumbers, radishes, celery and carrots by tossing them with ice chips and a pinch of salt and placing them in a colander fitted inside a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so, then pat dry and enjoy your extra crunchy vegetables.
19. Get the WHOLE Cake Out of the Pan
Yes you can help prevent your freshly baked cake from sticking to the bottom by properly greasing the pan before hand, but another trick that ensures success is to let the pan cool on a damp towel for a few minutes just after it comes out of the oven. Then loosen the sides and invert onto a platter; your cake should slide out easily.
20. A ‘Greener’ Way to Cover Food
Instead of plastic wrap, use shower caps to cover bowls, loaves of bread, plates, etc. Rinse (if necessary), dry, and reuse! If the elastic wears out, use a rubber band to hold it in place.
I hope you learned something new today! You can find more tried and true kitchen hacks over at 26 Kitchen Organizing Tips from Real Cooks.
It’s your turn to add to the list. I know everyone has at least one little cooking hack up their sleeve – feel free to share it in the comments!