Whether you’re a novice cook or a seasoned chef, having a few handy kitchen tricks up your sleeve can make cooking easier and more enjoyable. From ways to organize your space more efficiently to techniques for saving time on prep work, these 10 essential kitchen tricks and tips will help streamline your cooking routine.
Keep Your Knives Sharp
A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. Invest in a good knife sharpener and hone your blades regularly for better chopping, slicing, and dicing. Sharp knives make prep work quicker and safer.
How to Hone and Sharpen Knives
- Use a honing steel to realign the blade edge before each use. Run the knife along the steel at a 20-degree angle on both sides.
- Periodically sharpen knives with a whetstone or electric sharpener. This removes metal to create a new, fresh edge.
Prevent Browning with Acid
Slow down oxidation and browning of sliced or crushed produce like apples, pears, and avocados by rubbing them with lemon, lime, or pineapple juice. The acid interacts with the enzymes responsible for browning.
Good Anti-Browning Acids
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Pineapple juice
Separate Sticky Foods with Oil
Prevent foods like honey and peanut butter from sticking to measuring utensils and cups by spraying or wiping them first with a thin layer of cooking oil. The food will slide right off without leaving residue behind.
Oils That Work Well
- Vegetable oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Non-stick spray
Freeze Herbs in Oil
Preserve fresh herbs from the garden by blending them with olive oil and freezing in ice cube trays. Pop out a frozen cube whenever you want quick access to chopped herbs for cooking. Mint, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and more all work well.
Herb Ice Cube Tray Steps
- Place herbs in a blender or food processor.
- Pulse to finely chop.
- Add enough olive oil to make a paste.
- Spoon into ice cube tray compartments.
- Freeze until firm.
Make a Pan Lid from Foil
Don’t have the right size lid for a pan? Quickly fashion one from heavy duty aluminum foil. Tear off a sheet larger than your pan and fold up the edges to create a makeshift lid that traps in heat, moisture, and aroma.
Foil Lid Benefits
- Retains heat for faster cooking
- Prevents splattering
- Keeps food moist
Clean up Spills with Salt
For quick mopping of minor spills and messes while cooking, sprinkle salt liberally over the area. Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping away. The salt soaks up and absorbs liquids through osmosis.
Good for Cleaning Up
- Oil spills
- Grease splatters
- Water spills
- Wine stains
Ripen Fruit Faster in a Paper Bag
Speed up the ripening process for avocados, tomatoes, peaches, and more by placing them in a sealed brown paper bag on the counter. The trapped ethylene gas emitted by the fruit triggers faster ripening.
- Use unripe, firm produce.
- Fold top of bag over.
- Keep at room temperature.
- Check daily until ripe.
Make Produce Last Longer
Stop produce from spoiling too quickly by storing it properly. For example, keep potatoes and onions in a cool, dark place. Ripen fruit on the counter, then refrigerate. Store herbs like mini bouquets in water.
- Onions & potatoes – cool, dark pantry
- Tomatoes – never refrigerate
- Herbs in water – counter
- Berries in acidic water – fridge
Bake Greasy Foods on a Rack
Prevent greasy baked goods like bacon, chicken wings, and doughnuts from sitting in their own fat and oil by placing them on a wire cooling rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. The rack allows air circulation all around.
Good for Baking on a Rack
- Chicken wings
- Frozen french fries
Multitask with a Slow Cooker
Take advantage of a slow cooker’s set-it-and-forget-it convenience to make your life easier. Toss in ingredients in the morning, and come home to a hot, home-cooked meal. Use it to simmer broths, cook beans, make dips, and more hands-off meals.
Slow Cooker Benefits
- Cooks unattended for hours
- Minimizes prep and cleanup
- Frees up oven and stovetop
Clean Cloudy Glassware with Baking Soda
Make dirty drinking glasses sparkle again with baking soda. Fill each glass with warm water and add 1-2 tablespoons baking soda. Let soak for an hour before scrubbing clean. The baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive on cloudy residue.
Baking Soda Glass-Cleaning Steps
- Fill glass with warm water.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons baking soda.
- Let soak for 1 hour.
- Scrub insides with sponge or brush.
- Rinse thoroughly.
From keeping knives razor sharp to speeding up produce ripening, these 10 essential kitchen tricks and tips will streamline meal prep and maximize your time in the kitchen. With the right techniques, equipment, and know-how, cooking can be more enjoyable, efficient, and hassle-free. Try out a few new tricks to add some simplicity to your cooking routine.