It's easier to bust hacks than it is to come up with new ones.
Already, during this Easiest, Fastest, Best Week, we've told you that you can't defrost steak in five minutes (sad), that the internet's best brownie doesn't live up to its name (tears), and that you can't really poach a dozen eggs at once in the oven (does love exist???). Heck, we've wondered what "hack" even means, if anything.
But all this hacking away at hacks isn't so fun, really. Some exist for a reason, right? Some must be great!
So, for the sake of faith in internet tips, we put 21 of the "hacks" we've seen circulating the web to the test—and lo and behold, some of them really do work (...and then there are those that don't). We've separated out the winners from the (no offense) losers.
Go forth, adopt these hacks, and watch them change your life—or become your favorite party tricks. (Good news: You can use a plastic water bottle to easily separate eggs. Bad news: You can't use an apple corer to slice potatoes. Or you can, but it won't be easy.)
We've all seen this video—or at least 2 million of us have—and seen it included in lists like Buzzfeed's 21 Kitchen Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier.
The verdict? It works!
Our Office Manager Adam Becker, who tested the trick, says it "works most of the time," resulting "in many perfectly-separate eggs." While "every once in a while, a yolk wouldn't cooperate and it would break apart into the white," Adam didn't mind: "Luckily, I really love scrambled eggs, so nothing went to waste."
So what to do now that you are an egg-separating machine?
2. Put a wooden spoon over a boiling pot to prevent it from bubbling over.
Here's a tip we've seen bubbling all over the internet (and specifically on Buzzfeed's 35 Clever Food Hacks That Will Change Your Life).
While the wooden spoon balancing act may not change our VP of Sales Lauren Locke's life, it was effective—and "actually quite beautiful, the boil/froth all collected by the spoon. I kept thinking it was about to boil over, and it didn't."
How does this work? The hydrophobic wooden spoon punctures the surface of the bubbles, which causes the water to retreat; and, since the temperature of the wooden spoon is below boiling point, the steam in the bubbles condenses upon contact.
3. Spray tools with nonstick spray before measuring honey or other sticky ingredients.
According to our Creative Director (and judge of all things genius) Kristen Miglore, this "totally works. I will definitely do it again when I remember, especially when the measured amount matters a lot (i.e. baking). (Also, if you don't have non-stick spray, a swipe of oil works too.)"
4. Tap on a butcher's knife with a mallet to cut into a squash.
Our Senior User Experience Designer Andrew Sempere says this "totally works—use this a lot on hard spaghetti squash. The trick is to use a sharp knife and really tap (not hammer). You're not trying to cut the squash here but instead using the knife as a wedge to split it in half (like the way you split firewood)."
Treating squash like firewood? Seems about right for this time of year.
5. Toast two slices of bread in the same slot for the perfect sandwich.
We've written about only toasting one side of bread before—"turn the toasted side inward, so you still get a crunchy bite but you don't cut your gums on the bread," Amanda Hesser recommends—but we usually accomplish this in the oven.
A traditional toaster, however, will do the trick: Editor Lindsay-Jean Hard did it with focaccia and thought it worked really well. But Ali Slagle warns that "the measurements of your toast and toaster [must be] in harmony." She had to pry her jammed toast out with a fork and would "sooner just put the toast in the oven and not flip the toast than risk another crumbled up piece of toast."
6. Squeeze out cooked spinach with a potato ricer.
On ChowHound's list of 47 Kitchen and Food Hacks That Will Change Your Life, they told us that potato ricers (and food mills and sushi mats) can effectively extract water from cooked spinach. And they weren't lying! (Though change my life, I'm not so sure.)
The biggest advantage is that you won't dirty a dish towel (or waste a hundred paper towels) in the completely hands-off process. My one hesitation is that if your potato ricer is too powerful (rather than the vintage prop we have at the Food52 office), it might obliterate the spinach, leaving you with a uniform purée.
7. Quick and easy cheese sticks, made with bread and cheese singles.
I'm not sure this constitutes a hack (more on that here) or will "change the way I cook," but I wanted to try it regardless. The easiest, fastest, bestest mozzarella stick ever?
And it was quick, it was easy, and it produced delicious grilled cheese roll-ups with butter-browned outsides and melty cheese
insides somewhere inside. Because that last photo in that vertical collage is deceiving: Since you have to roll up the bread, cigar-style, to wrap up the cheese, the inside of the "stick" is a bread-cheese swirl rather than a tunnel of pure melty-ness.
We ate them all anyway!
8. Use a spoon to pry the lid off a stubborn jar.
Our co-founder Merrill tested this one, and with great success: "My trial wasn't totally legit because I couldn't find any jars in my pantry that were really on tightly, so I finally had to just use a jam jar that I hadn't attempted to unscrew yet. The spoon broke the seal easily after I tested a couple of different spots around the lid. To be candid, my mother taught me this trick years ago, and I use it all the time on stubborn jars with nearly 100% success."
A good trick? Yes. A new "hack"? Probably not.
9. Perfectly dice an avocado for guacamole with a potato masher.
Our Customer Care Associate Natalia Panzer approves of this trick, but not necessarily because it "dices perfectly"; rather, it dices and mashes simultaneously.
"The bits of the avocado that were pushed through the holes of the masher were a nice consistency, somewhere between diced and mashed," she said. And the avocado that "was squashed underneath the masher added a nice pasty layer. Seems like this method is trying to avoid you having to dice and then mash by doing it all at once" but "you still get a good amount of chunkiness."
She recommends using the masher on a cutting board rather than directly into a bowl. "I got the best results by cutting the avos into quarters and then mashing them one by one on a flat surface (I used a cutting board) for better consistency. When I tried to mash multiple quarters in a bowl, they just got squashed. I'd do it again if I was making guac for a crowd, but probably not if I was making it just for myself because I don't like cleaning mashers."
10. Use dental floss to cut through soft foods.
Merrill has used this trick to slice soft goat cheese for crostini before and in this situation, "it work[s] better than a knife"—it doesn't compress the cheese as a blade would, which makes for a better final shape.
But Merrill, a thorough tester, also tried the trick with pound cake: The floss did an inferior job of slicing, "tearing off portions of the top and making for a jagged texture in the center of the cake."
11. For perfectly boiled eggs, punch a hole in the base of the egg with a thumbtack before you boil it.
Our co-founder Amanda Hesser tested this tip, which is included on Buzzfeed's list of 21 Kitchen Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier.
Pressing a thumbtack into the rounded end of an egg wasn't nearly as tricky as I thought it would be—the shell gives easily and you're left with a tiny hole. I cooked the egg for 8 minutes. The egg did come out properly cooked with the egg yolk fairly well centered within the white. I suppose, if you're fussy about how your eggs look and about having your eggs cooked evenly, then this technique is made for you. If you're more of a forgiving egg chef, then the extra thumbtack step will seem as pointless as ironing a t-shirt.
Life easier? No. Eggs prettier? Yes.
But also! Amanda reported that the egg was, indeed, extremely easy to peel: "I think a little water gets in between the egg and the shell while it cooks," causing the shell to slip right off.
12. If you blow into a bag of lettuce and seal it tightly, the carbon dioxide will keep the leaves from becoming soggy.
Forget the questionable sanitation here: This actually works! (We think.)
It was easier than tester Kenzi Wilbur thought to blow air into a bag and seal it—"I went into the test thinking that'd be an unscaleable moutain, but I made it"—and, her report, almost a week later:
Bag still full of air! And Jesus Christ, I think this worked. Lettuce is one day shy of a week old (from box to bag a few days in), and it's still crispy and billowy. Because I'm a skeptic, I need to point out: I did not do a control.
13. Dab your fingers with water to easily remove egg shell.
This trick—which comes from lifehack.org's collection of 40 Delightful and Mind-Blowing Baking Hacks You Can't Miss—works, but might not be the best option.
Amanda Hesser—who usually uses "the egg shell method of retrieval by which you use a larger half egg shell to scoop up the stray fleck of shell"—was curious to try the trick. "I tried it and it works. But it also means having a bowl of water or sink nearby. Why not just use a larger section of shell, which is on hand?"
2. "Grill" a panini with your clothes iron.
Managing Editor Kenzi Wilbur was intrepid enough to try this at home. Yet she was not rewarded with something that looked "delightful," as they say in the video. While it worked and lightly toasted one side of the sandwich, "after seven minutes of pretending my grilled cheese was an ironing board," she stuck it in a skillet anyway.
This video (unless I missed it), didn't provide heat setting information (I thought my sandwich would appreciate "linen, medium steam" the most) or timing info. Overall, this a) takes a long time, b) wastes aluminum foil a normal hot sandwich wouldn't, c) is kind of weird. Unless you're in a dorm room—and even then, please just get a hot plate or something instead—I don't see any reason to ever do this.
3. Make golden eggs by shaking raw eggs intensely for 2 to 3 minutes before boiling.
It seems like it takes a lot more than just a short shake to scramble eggs internally—but not according to Huffington Post's 50 Time-Saving Kitchen Hacks The World Needs To Know. We need to know this stuff!
Lindsay-Jean Hard "shook for the full 3 minutes. One egg (violently) cracked in the pan before the water even came to a boil, and neither was golden. Both ended up with weird bubbles in spots."
Lindsay-Jean was bummed it didn't work, even though she has no idea "why I would ever need (or want) a golden egg beyond the novelty of it." If you do want a golden egg, seems like you'll need to be more fancy than just shaking it by hand...
Or, if you refuse to eat anything but golden eggs, you may want to invest in a fancy contraption:
4. Quickly peel a boiled egg in a glass of water.
Design & Home Editor Amanda Sims tried this "hack" with a pint glass (rather than the low-ball shown in the GIF) and "two light shakes flung the egg aggressively about, causing it to tear open rather than just shed its shell." She doubts a smaller glass, like the low-ball shown in the GIF, would have worked better: "My impression was that the force required to break through the shell would also be so great as to break your egg.) Plus, it got eggshell everywhere."
The bright side? She discovered a trick that really does work: "I used Bon Appétit's trick of slipping a spoon around the egg to ease it from the shell in a piece or two—and that was so effective I'll be using it in the future, too."
5. Microplane off the burnt parts of cookies.
While the Microplane not remove the entire burnt layer, it did, admittedly, remove a tiny amount of burnt crumbs. I was nervous, however, about taking it too far and entirely destroying the cookie's integrity—I had already squished my delicate sugar cookies in the process. Maybe this would work for thick, rock-hard cookies? (I have my doubts.)
Instead, I'd take those burnt cookies and use them as an ice cream base, or in a milkshake, or in an icebox cake...
6. Use an apple corer to make potato wedges.
This was an extremely frustrating exercise. I desperately wanted the apple slicer to be a good tool for wedging potatoes—it makes so much sense!—but potatoes are hard: They don't yield like apples or pears! It required extreme force—à la watermelon slicer—to push the corer all the way through the potato (and it also seemed dangerous and left me with comically uneven slices—see below—that would never roast or fry at the same rate).
When I cut the potato in half first, to create a flat surface and eliminate some of the danger of cutting myself... the "hack" still didn't work.
7. Make hard taco shells by microwaving soft tacos nestled into mugs.
"This was a FAIL," says Olivia Bloom, our Operations Manager and Copywriter. "The tortilla did get remotely crunchy, but not in a good, fried crunchy kind of way—in a tough, chewy kind of way. Also, when I microwaved it, the shell collapsed in on itself, so I think you'd need something else in the middle to hold the shape. Seriously, just buy hard taco shells. Or better yet, put all the fixing on top of tortilla chips and call it nachos."
8. Remove the stem of an avocado to assess ripeness.
"I tested this on an avocado that was perfectly ripe (first photo), and on one that was rock-hard," said Merrill. "The colors once I removed the stem were two slightly different shades of green (no brown), so I wouldn't give this one a rave review."
It seems like there are probably better ways to assess an avocado's ripeness—by squeezing it gently, perhaps? Besides, by the time the gap under the stem is brown, what's there to do? (And if you're at the store picking the fruit out, you'll probably be able to feel which ones are already at the state of mushiness.)
So there you have it! More of these worked than failed! And now it's your turn: Have you found any viral "hacks" that have changed your life? Tell us in the comments!