20 Simple & Practical Kitchen Hacks for Everyday Cooks

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:

  1. Turn the can on its side and open the bottom, but leave it in place.
  2. Wrap the whole tube up in plastic wrap and freeze until solid.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. Wrap approximately one pound of beans loosely in the cheese cloth and tie securely with twine.
  2. Drop sachet into the unbaked pie crust and spread beans all over the bottom. Bake as usual.
  3. 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!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. Karen Robert says:

    The same trick you use for avocados also works for peaches, and probably apricots. Put them in a paper bag for a while to ripen them faster.
    Thanks for all of your great cooking tips,
    Karen

  2. thanks for the great tips!

  3. I love the shower cap and canned tomato chop tips. Great new ideas!

    I wish I could think of a good one to add to the list but I have “Friday brain” :/.
    .-= Shannon’s last blog: GIVEAWAY: Two Stainless Steel Jelly Roll Pans from Paula’s Bread =-.

  4. I love the crispy veggies and garlic suggestions, thanks cuz!
    .-= Cafe Novo’s last blog: Cafe Novo Fun Facts! =-.

  5. Great list.

    Fresh herbs goes bad quickly. Money down the drain right? I usually pick fresh herbs with long stems so that I can place it in a glass with some cold water and refrigerate it. Use it whenever you want by snipping it directly in your pan with scissors. That way, you won’t be able to bruise herbs and it last longer.
    .-= Kiran’s last blog: On a serious note =-.

  6. I love fresh ginger in my stirfry but it seems to go bad faster than I can use it. I keep my ginger in the freezer. I carefully slice off the peel with a knife and then cut just enough for my needs. It slices super thin and is so easy to chop up. I toss it right into my wok and I am good to go. Put the ginger back in the freezer.

  7. I like the tomato paste tip. What a great way to freeze that and use it too. For chopping tomatoes in the can, I just use my knife in the can. And we never have ice cream long enough around here to worry about ice crystals forming. Such is life with a family of 6 sweet tooths!
    .-= Tiffany’s last blog: Peanut Butter Cookie Pudding =-.

  8. Question for me: is it true that I shouldn’t measure dry and wet good with the same measuring cups (as in there are special measuring cups for dry or wet goods)? I did read that recently.

    • If you are baking a lot (well, not a lot, even with one recipe you can have this) you shouldn’t measure dry and wet ingredients in the same measuring cup because of a very simple reason: when you measure an wet ingredient and then a dry ingredient, the dry ingredient gets stuck on the walls and you have a non-accurate measurement. To avoid this you can do a few things:
      - Have different measuring sets for dry and wet ingredients
      - Measure ALL your dry ingredients and then your wet ingredients (I did this when I only had one measurement set)
      - Wash and dry between measurements (DO NOT DO THIS. Not only it takes time, but if you’re using a hot air dryer it will wreck your measurements).

      Oh, and other thing – if you’re using the measuring cup as a scale (as in using conversion tables for how many grams in a cup or w/e) you should really have different sets.

  9. Fanny Luk says:

    For #4, I fasten an elastic band over the lid and then the lid opens really easily. Just make sure the elastic band is tied tightly over the lid. Works beautifully!

  10. Cool tips! I need some shower caps! I also discovered that my small plates fit perfectly over some of my bowls and I have been using those to cover (rather like impromptu corning ware). I also use my silicone pot holders on stubborn jar lids, but I’ll try your idea next time too.

  11. Love the tip for keeping pests out of your dried beans. I do implement the majority of these tips and didn’t realize it until now! With that being said-I am really reaching for a new tip!

    Making mashed potatoes? You can prep, peel and cut them the night before. Place them in the pot you are going to use to boil them in and cover them with water. They won’t discolor and you’ll have peeled and diced potatoes ready to hit the flame!
    .-= Melissa’s last blog: Strawberry Gelato =-.

  12. I use a similar trick to the tomato paste. Things like that (where you often use just a small amount in one recipe) I freeze in ice cube trays and then pop into a freezer bag. I even have two sizes of ice trays, and I know one is 1 ounce per cube and the other is half that so it makes it easy to get as much as I need! Also works great for baby food – I make a bunch at once, freeze it, then grab a few cubes of various things for his meal.
    Also, for Kika, yes there are different measuring cups for wet and dry ingredients. Dry measures are the type you can level off the top (like in measuring flour), and liquid measures are the ones that you fill to a line marked on the side (like shown above in the measuring water tip). This is important in recipes where accurate measuring is important, as you obviously can’t level off one cup of flour in a two-cup glass measuring cup, and actually the dry measures are slightly innacurate for liquids also. In many recipes, though, it’s okay to be “close enough”.

  13. Re: avocado ripening – placing the avocados in a basket or bowl with a banana will accelerate the ripening as well (by the same principle (I think) – ethylene gas production).
    .-= Laura’s last blog: Rhubarb-almond delight =-.

  14. Another idea for tomato paste is to plop by the Tblsp. onto a plastic wrap lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen peel off and place in a freezer bag. Now you have tomato paste by the Tblsp all ready. I got that from Americas Test Kitchen.

  15. To keep chopped or torn lettuce fresh in the fridge, cover the bowl with a wet paper towel and re-dampen every day. It will keep the lettuce from wilting! This really only works with lettuce that has not already been dressed. :)

    I love the crispy veggie tip, too! I know tomato paste also comes in tubes, but it’s so much more expensive. Good tips all around.

    One last one – I work at a historic house museum and the curator uses all fake food except for spices. She has whole spices in the kitchens of each house because they keep mice and insects away! So it’s not just bay leaves and chili peppers, although those may be better for beans than say, a cinnamon stick. :)
    .-= Sarah’s last blog: When life gives you insane heat… =-.

  16. GREAT post!

    12. I’ve also heard that white wine vinegar works well for this, though I have yet to try it for myself.
    18. Can’t wait to try this one!
    Keilah – I do the same thing, but I add a little water to it before freezing.
    Kiran – I only learned that a few months ago but my first try at it had my herbs lasting just over TWO WEEKS!
    Mary S – ice cube trays are my best friends:)
    Laura – such a useful tip…I love avos and nothing is more depressing than having useless, unripened avos!

    My addition: throw veggie scraps (including rinds, stems whatever) into a zip lock bag and freeze for handy stock ingredients.

    Again, GREAT post! I’ll be pushing it out not only to my PLM channels but my http://www.vikingtogo.com channels, as well!

  17. Thanks for the great tips. I can always use simple tips to help me in the kitchen.

  18. There are many things we can do to make the experience of cooking more pleasant. These tips are only the tip of the iceberg, probably. I do love cooking, so useful information to apply in the kitchen is always welcome. It could be anything from recipes to kitchen appliances reviews.

  19. dual basket deep fryer says:

    Great tips. I printed it out and have it posted on my fridge. lol

  20. What to do with scrapes that might stink in the garbage, if you don’t have a garbage disposal. Take a plastic bag and make it into your freeze garbage, take out when your garbage pail is full.

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