Whether you’re a beginner cook or have professional-level knife skills, kitchen hacks are always good to have nearby. Tips to make you a better cook can be as simple as determining whether your ingredients are still safe to use or whipping up a DIY buttermilk substitute in a pinch. Don’t worry, we already have recipe substitutions that you can print out.
As kitchen hacks go, their job is to move the process along without delay, making your life easier. Be it food prep help, food storage tips, or fun tricks to get your kids to eat, let’s celebrate being in the kitchen.
If you cook a lot (as I presume you do since you’re reading this), browse our recipes page for inspiration for your next meal. Or read up on some ways to save money on large appliances if you’re in serious need of an upgrade.
Next time you’re in the kitchen, try these 26 trusted techniques to make cooking faster, more efficient, and easier.
1. Check the freshness of an egg by placing it in a glass of water.
Beware of floating eggs — they’re no longer fresh. Fill a bowl or glass with cold water and submerge the egg. If it sinks to the bottom, it’s fresh; floaters should be tossed.
This is a popular method, but there’s a reason the “use by” date is stamped at the end of the carton. The US Department of Agriculture notes that manufacturers can sell eggs for up to 30 days after packaging, so you’ll want to pay attention to it. Generally, eggs last three to five weeks in the refrigerator. Always buy eggs before the expiration date on the carton.
Note: Eggs will stop sinking to the bottom of a glass after about 12 days.
2. Shred chicken and pork with your KitchenAid stand mixer.
Using forks to shred meat is so yesterday. Make it easier on yourself and use a stand mixer to do the job. Using a flat beater attachment (aka paddle) on low, add the cooked chicken or pork in the mixer bowl. Increase the speed as the meat begins to pull apart. No stand mixer? A hand mixer with beaters works, too.chicken coupons.
3. Soften a stick of butter quickly with a heated glass.
Pour boiling water into a heatproof glass to warm it up. Then dump out the water and place it over the stick of butter. The butter will soften within minutes without completely melting.
4. Insert a plastic spoon into yogurt cups and freeze for easy yogurt pops.
As a parent, I can always use some tips on simple and easy treats for the summer or really anytime. For this special treat, insert a plastic spoon into a small container of flavored yogurt. Freeze for six to eight hours before removing and enjoy.
5. Juice citrus easily with tongs or a fork.
Lemons aren’t as cheap as they used to be, so I need every drop of juice. There are a couple of methods to try here. Slice the lemon in half and use tongs to squeeze each half. Another technique is to insert and twist a fork (or a reamer) in a halved piece of lemon to release the juice.
6. Add one teaspoon of white vinegar to one cup of whole milk when you don’t have buttermilk.
When you need buttermilk but don’t have any on hand, use vinegar and whole milk instead. Add one tablespoon of white vinegar to enough milk to equal one cup of whole milk. Let the vinegar-milk solution stand two to three minutes before using.
7. Keep brown sugar from clumping with marshmallows.
Just like bread helps brown sugar stay soft, marshmallows serve the same purpose. Add two to three marshmallows on top of brown sugar stored in a zip-top bag or in an airtight container. The marshmallows will maintain the moisture levels so the sugar won’t harden.
8. Scoop up a bit of broken eggshell from a bowl with another piece of eggshell.
Egg shells happen, but they shouldn’t stay when it’s time to cook. Use another shell to retrieve the floater. Trust me — this method works best. I’ve tried utensils, paper towels, and my finger.
9. Wash strawberries in a vinegar solution to make them last longer.
Soak strawberries in a three-parts water, one-part vinegar solution. Or for easy math, use six cups of water and two cups of vinegar for a total of eight cups of liquid. Soak berries for up to 10 minutes, and try not to wash them with water. Make sure they’re dry before repacking them into the breathable container they came in.
10. Dry leftover fresh herbs by microwaving them for one minute.
If you pull herbs from the garden, be sure to wash off any dirt and debris. Place the herbs on a paper towel-lined, microwave-safe plate. Start with 20 second intervals to dry them. For thinner, more delicate herbs (i.e. cilantro), add them to a bowl of cold water to “wake” them up.
11. Create a disposable funnel by cutting the corner off an envelope.
Transferring loose herbs to a cylindrical container can be messy. Make a funnel by cutting the corner of a standard card envelope. Position the tip in the bottle, and pour the herbs directly into it. Easy peasy.
12. Store potatoes with apples to keep them from sprouting.
If you’re like me, I can never seem to remember which foods to store next to each other. Well, here’s one tip to remember — store apples and potatoes together. It turns out that they both produce ethylene gas when side by side. This release protects each other from ripening too soon.
13. Make your own vegetable broth with leftover scraps.
Since you’re chopping herbs and vegetables anyway, throw the scraps (peels, ends, and cores) in a container for homemade broth. It’s economical, mighty delicious, and you’ll feel so accomplished.
I like to save up a sizable amount of scraps, so store them in a Tupperware or zip-top bag until you can fill a large pot. You can also add chopped vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, and onions to make broth.
What to do:
- Add the tops, peels, stems, and leafy ends to a large Dutch oven, adding enough cold water to cover them.
- Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, then simmer for at least one hour. For added flavor, drop in two to three bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and sliced garlic cloves.
- Strain and cool before storing. Homemade broth keeps in a sealed container for five days in the refrigerator and freezes for up to three months.
Tips: One pound of scraps can make one quart of broth. Broth is typically made from meat and vegetable scraps, while stock is from bones, meats, and vegetables. Avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes, as well as stronger flavors like beets, broccoli, and zucchini.
14. Prevent a mixing spoon from falling into a bowl full of food by attaching a rubber band.
Keep spoons standing tall in a big pot by wrapping the end with a rubber band. Lay it against the rim of the pot, and it won’t go anywhere. You could also lay the spoon along the top rim of the pot, just be careful when picking it up because it will be hot.
15. Peel boiled eggs easily by putting a lemon wedge in the boiling water.
Peeling eggs always seems to be a disaster, but here’s a new trick to try. Fill a small pot with cold water and one lemon wedge, then bring it to a boil. Add the egg and continue to cook for eight minutes. Strain and submerge the egg in cold water for five minutes. The egg should be super easy to peel. No lemons? Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the water instead.
16. Cut the soaking time for dried beans by microwaving them for 15 minutes.
Not only can beans be gassy, but the cook time makes me pretty impatient. With fresh beans, use the microwave to save time on soaking the beans.
Add one cup of dried beans to a large, microwave-safe bowl filled with two cups of hot water. Cook on high for 15 – 20 minutes. They should be soft enough to transfer to a pot on the stove to finish cooking.
17. Marinate and tenderize steak with coffee grounds.
Since coffee grounds are acidic and acidity helps tenderize meat, your steak should be melt-in-your-mouth good. Try this recipe from Food Network that combines coffee grounds, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and shallots.
Related: 10 Ways to Get Free Coffee
18. Get thinly sliced meat easily by freezing the protein 10 – 15 minutes before slicing.
Freezing the meat will help stiffen it, making it easier to slice. Just be careful and use a sharp knife. This same method applies to steak — great for stir-fry prep.
19. Peel ginger more effectively with a spoon.
I love this kitchen hack because you don’t need a special peeler. The hard edge of a metal spoon is hard enough to lift the ginger’s skin. Fresh, unpeeled ginger lasts for weeks, but if you peel it, store it wrapped and in the fridge to avoid oxidation.
20. Get more juice out of citrus by microwaving the fruit for 10 – 15 seconds before squeezing.
Roll an unsliced lemon in the palm of your hand two to three times on a hard surface. Then place on a microwavable plate for 10 – 15 seconds. I’ve used this same kitchen hack for other citrus fruits.
21. Transfer bagged lettuce to a lidded container and place a paper towel over the top to keep leaves crisp longer.
Those plastic grocery store lettuce bags aren’t meant to last forever. Help your greens last longer by transferring them to a lidded container with a paper towel resting on top. Take it a step further and store it upside down in your refrigerator. All of the pooling moisture will fall on your paper towel, not your greens.
22. Coat measuring cups and spoons with cooking spray to use every last drop of an ingredient.
Give your measuring cups and spoons a good coat of cooking spray so that sticky items slide right out. This works especially well when working with sticky ingredients like syrup, molasses, and honey. It’s can be useful for oils, thick sauces, and reductions as well.
23. Cooking spray can stop cheese from sticking to a grater.
This kitchen hack not only helps you grate cheese quickly but it makes for easier cleanup. Cheese shreds love to hide out in the crevices of graters. Spraying the grater with cooking spray gets the job done.
Know other baking hacks: 23 Genius Baking Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier
24. Aerate wine with a blender.
When you aerate wine, you help to oxidize it, which results in a smoother, more enhanced flavor. Forget those fancy, overpriced decanters (aka aerators). Pour your wine in a blender, and let it run for about 30 seconds. Use wine coupons and stock up for yourself and others.
25. Freeze coffee in ice cube trays for iced coffee that doesn’t get watered down.
I use this tip quite often, and it really does make a difference in the taste of your iced coffee. Add some milk and a little creamer to amp up the flavor. If you’re feeling fun, top it with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
26. Get fluffier whipped cream when you chill the beater and bowl beforehand.
It takes a moment, but it makes a big difference in volume. Add your mixing bowl and beater to the freezer for about 15 minutes to get really cold. Transfer them to your stand mixer, then add the heavy whipping cream. Cream whips best when it’s cold, so by chilling what makes it fluff, you’ll get a stable product.