What kitchen tricks save you in the kitchen?

I love little, simple heirloom tricks, like using a citrus zester upside down (https://food52.com/blog...). Do you have any to share?

Ali Slagle


Pegeen March 7, 2015
Not that the incomparable Food52 staff isn't already considering it, but this topic seems to have legs as its own web site section... so many good tips... surely could attract a large category of advertisers
Pegeen March 7, 2015
p.s. And I won't wheel my cart down the Oil, Dressings, Pickles aisle anytime soon without cackling like an idiot
Pegeen March 7, 2015
Cav - I needed those laughs
Lucia F. March 4, 2015
Spray Pam.
Cav March 6, 2015
Leave Pam alone!
nutcakes March 3, 2015
This fairly new one to me really saved me tonight when I was in a rush. I've made Kelly's Asian Chicken a million times and wish I knew of it earlier because peeling an entire head of garlic is a pain otherwise.

To peel an entire head of garlic, break up the head into cloves, put the cloves into a medium-large metal bowl. Cover with another metal bowl and shake up and down like crazy for about a minute. All or most of the peels will crack and fall off. Worked like a charm. If you search you can find a video of it.
Kim March 3, 2015
You can also put multiple cloves in a pint mason jar and cover it. Shake like crazy for a bit, and *boom* the cloves are separated from their papers.
ktr March 4, 2015
I'm going to have to try this with a mason jar. I can never seem to find 2 metal bowls that fit together well so I make a huge mess.
Pegeen March 5, 2015
Do you mean you should cover the bowl of garlic with the "bottom" side of a bowl that fits into the bigger one? Or to match the top rim of the garlic bowl with the top rim of a same-sized bowl?
AntoniaJames March 5, 2015
Pegeen, here is a very short video that was actually linked through here on Food52 some time ago, showing the technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3oc24fD-c ;o)
nutcakes March 5, 2015
Pegeen, I actually have nesting bowls and I put the garlic in the bigger bowl and use the slightly smaller one on top. But this one minute video shows using lipped bowls of the same size and grasping the lips when they are places on each other to shake.
scruz March 2, 2015
we are two adults at home. i buy a huge amount lettuce per week and half at costco. i remove the outer leaves on all when i get home, wash them and then stack neatly on wet paper towels and then into several plastic bags and into fridge...instant cleaned lettuce. the inner remainders also get a splash of water then wrapped in wet paper towels and put in plastic bags in fridge. it is amazing how long they last, they are clean and a salad is a snap. i buy the baby romaine 8 pack and 2 packs of bib lettuce with 3 per pack. i think they are hydroponically grown. also buy the large container of mushrooms, strip off the plastic wrap and keep damp paper towels over it in the fridge. keeps for more than a week...rotate them and use from bottom first.
Pegeen February 28, 2015
ktr, you've got the bases covered! :-) Plus what's that saying, "You haven't lived until you've eaten a peck of dirt" ?
Pegeen February 27, 2015
KTR: Oh dear. There is nothing more loving than licks from a dog or a cat but remember their intentions are self-serving. They have a gazillion more tastebuds, nasal receptors, pherome receptors, etc., than humans do. They can never get enough. The tongue that licked your three year old's hands could have been licking the sidewalk or toilet seat when you didn't happen to be around. Older humans have better-developed immune systems but not children. Some googling will reveal some hair-raising numbers about what kind of germs dogs and cats carry around with them (esp. if they're allowed out of the house). Don't mean to sound stuffy but never let animals lick children, esp their hands, which children will then put in their mouths. Sure, kids will come in contact with all kinds of stuff at the playground. But cats and dogs like to eat dead animals and poop.
Pegeen February 27, 2015
correction: pheromone
ktr February 27, 2015
Don't worry, I do lots of wound care and treatment of infections as part of my job and am well aware of the germs in a dog's mouth. My son's hands were washed after the dogs licked them. I believe letting them interact is very important for both my son and my dogs. I'm also very conscious that dogs, even the most well trained ones, are still animals so my son is always watched closely when interacting with our dogs - something I think all pet owners need to remember.
Bevi February 27, 2015
Whether I cook for 2 or for 4 or 6, I always deliberately make extra of the entree so I can take a breather the next day, or stash in the freezer for a easily defrosted dinner down the road. Also, I save parsley stalks, ends of celery stalks, carrot ends, and other vegetable paraphernalia in a plastic bag that I stash in the freezer. It comes in handy when putting together a quick stock.
Pegeen February 27, 2015
If making mashed potatoes, use red or small white (Yukon Gold), cut about all the same size, but not peeled. Boil the potatoes, drain them, then spread out on a dishtowel to let steam clear off. When they're cool, peel skins off with a paring knife. Works easily and quickly.
AntoniaJames February 27, 2015
Pegeen, I thoroughly wash and cut medium sized russets crosswise and simmer them in salted water. A bit of starch releases into the water, which I like because I then use it in making bread, but the skins hold tight quite well. They come off in no time, just by pulling gently with your hands or with the help of a paring knife, if your hands can't take the heat. ;o)
Pegeen February 27, 2015
Make twice as much of anything that can be frozen (or the components for it). Clearly label the freezer bags. Usually means 1 set of dishes instead of 2, 1 grocery shop, 1 wash up, etc.
Melanie K. February 27, 2015
When tasting something from the pot, I almost always use a ceramic spoon (Chinese soup spoon, because that's what I have on hand). The ceramic doesn't interact with the food/give a funny metallic taste, and it doesn't conduct heat as well so the spoon doesn't burn my tongue.
creamtea February 26, 2015
Before baking, I measure out the dry ingredients the day or night before and put them in a ziploc bag: the flour, baking soda, powder and salt in one ziplock or covered bowl, the sugar in another. If chopping chocolate is involved, I do that too. Sometimes I even grease and flour cake pans in advance then line them with parchment. Everything is ready to go the next day (I usually re-sift the dry ingredients to aerate them). I can whip up a cake in short order. This started when the kids were very small and I wanted to avoid interruptions, and as they got older, to bake their surprise birthday cakes while they were in school.
nutcakes February 28, 2015
I used to do something similar when I made a lot of the same recipe. I use the bag to whip up some muffins, then while they are baking I measure out a new batch of dry ingredients. Now I do it with some rolls I make that have a lot of ingredients (flour, yeast, potato flakes, powdered milk.) So I can always whip them up just that bit faster.
AntoniaJames March 2, 2015
For years, I did that for all my bread baking.

I love using wheat germ, potato flakes, different types of flours, etc., as you can easily see from the bread recipes I've posted. I'd measure all the dry ingredients - for all the loaves I'd be making throughout the week! -- into quart yogurt containers. I labeled the lid with the name of the bread and the wet ingredients, quantities included, necessary to complete that loaf. I had a set of quart yogurt containers I'd re-use, with the name + dry ingredient amounts taped onto the base of the container. I'd fill the containers based on the ingredient list on the container, find the corresponding lid and then I'd be ready to go - no recipes needed. (If the loaf was baked at a temperature other than 350 degrees, I'd note that.)
I usually did this very early on a weekend morning, when the house was quiet.

I use the same technique for the spice blends I regularly make - ingredients typically stated in ratios. ;o)
ktr February 26, 2015
We have 2 refrigerators and I use the one in the kitchen for foods that can be eaten and the other for foods that are going to be used to make supper in the next week or so. This way no one has to ask me if they are about to eat a key ingredient in our supper that I have planned.
Sam1148 February 26, 2015
When I have a lot of collards or mustard greens that need cleaning. I clean up the washing machine with some vinegar to remove any soap...Then fill it up with fresh water and use that as a big salad spinner.
People think this is weird.
Panfusine February 26, 2015
Not weird at all! small roadside joints in North Indian have been known to buy washing machines for the sole purpose of making Lassi!
Sam1148 February 26, 2015
Yeah. My Grandmother did it too.
But people were Eeeewwh. That's unsanitary you wash underwear in a clothes washer. Well, you wash raw chicken in a sink...you wash turkey in a sink..you wash babies in a sink. You just clean it out each time.
aargersi February 26, 2015
Get a dog = no dropped food stays on the floor for long! :-)
I wash all of the fruits and veggies that go into bowls on the island as soon as they come home, that way you can grab-n-go when you need to use or just eat one.
Once a dish towel is a bit too dirty to use on hands / counters, throw it on the floor and let it work down there for a while before throwing it in the washer.

Those aren't really heirloom though are they. Hmm.
Aliwaks February 26, 2015
I knew we were cooking sisters from other misters! I'm always telling my husband that if we had a dog the kitchen floor would be cleaner!!!
aargersi February 26, 2015
PLUS if you got a rescue you would be building up the deposits in your karma bank! Do it!!!
cookinginvictoria February 26, 2015
I often do the towel trick too, but put them on the kitchen counter under the dish drainer to mop up excess water.
Nancy February 26, 2015
Abbie your towel trick reminds me of a caution. Dish towels, Hand towels & sponges carry more bacteria than we want to know. We should be changing them frequently, washing the towels in hot water separately from other laundry, disinfecting the sponges after washing (1-3 minute in mw, in dishwasher cycle, or in dilute bleach solution). Also keep different towels for hand/counter wiping & dish drying.
AntoniaJames February 26, 2015
Abbie, you make me laugh! When my sister and I both had toddlers and babies, and she learned that we don't have a dog (we live on opposite coasts), she gave me this really puzzled look and said, "Who cleans your kids' faces? Who cleans your floor?" ;o)
ktr February 26, 2015
We have 2 dogs and just this morning my 3 year old finished eating breakfast, climbed down from the chair and went from one dog to the other to let them lick his hands.
Stephanie February 26, 2015
Keep a freezer bag for (usable) veggie scraps and bones for broth...the ol' "Waste not, want not" school of thought.

Use a pastry bag/icing tip as a cherry pitter. I have tried using straws but don't like how flimsy they are. And I certainly don't need a cherry pitter sitting in a drawer just to be pulled out during one (short) season!
arcane54 February 26, 2015
I use the same method for saving trimmings from vegetables as well as chicken bones, necks and wings. I keep it in the top tray of my freezer and when it gets so full that I can't close the freezer door, it's time to make stock! It's also a blue bag, clearly marked so the other cook in the house doesn't mistake it for something ready-to-eat.
WnnaBTrvlWrtr March 3, 2015
When I unwrap sticks of butter, I fold them in half and stick them in a zipper bag in the freezer -- and then pull out one or two when I need to grease a pan. A perfect solution for "plus more for the pan" recipes.
AntoniaJames February 26, 2015
Here's a real slacker-mom tip: when prepping vegetables, etc. for a meal for dinner involving soup or stew or pasta dishes to serve in pasta plates, I put the prepped ingredients in the bowls from which we'll be eating, whenever possible. Each one is one less dish to wash. Also, whenever I grate hard cheese for a dish or to garnish, I grate it directly into a deli container, grating much more than I need for the dish that night, to have more on hand, already grated, for another meal. ;o)
Stephanie February 26, 2015
I wouldn't classify that as "slacker-mom"...more like "smart-mom". Course, I do the same thing and I don't have kids. ;-)
And I'm stealing that deli container tip. Brilliant.
luvcookbooks February 28, 2015
Love you, aj!
cookinginvictoria February 26, 2015
Label all leftovers with a Sharpie and masking tape that are destined for the refrigerator or freezer. This is not just for my purposes, but for other members of the family who may be pulling something out of the fridge or freezer and may not be able to determine which container contains the bolognese sauce.

I also take this a step further and keep one shelf in the fridge exclusively for leftovers, so that items for lunches and quick weekday dinners are easy for everyone to find.
ktr February 26, 2015
I love this tip! My husband never used to label the packages when he butchered a deer, wild bird or fish and I was never sure what I was pulling out. He swore he could tell what they were but after he got a few wrong and got sick of me asking him to find a certain cut of meat for me he has made sure to label everything he puts in the freezer.
WnnaBTrvlWrtr March 3, 2015
Tying the cap of the Sharpie to the roll of masking tape with a length of kitchen twine makes it easier to find both items.
Panfusine February 26, 2015
In a Pinch, I substitute Pomegranate molasses when Balsamic vinegar is required.
Panfusine February 26, 2015
In a Pinch, I substitute Pomegranate molasses when Balsamic vinegar is required.
Aliwaks February 26, 2015
Save your onion skins for stock, makes it golden, and as noted before grate frozen butter/lard for pie instead of cutting into cubes and put cheese in the freezer before grated especially soft cheeses like Monterey Jack.
AntoniaJames February 26, 2015
On a related note: Putting meat in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes, no more, makes it much easier to slice razor thin for stir fries and similar dishes. ;o)
AntoniaJames February 25, 2015
Also, I keep an inventory of all my spices and dried herbs, as well as an inventory of what's in my freezer, in files in my phone. Not necessarily time saved in the kitchen, per se, but it saves time in planning, list-making and shopping, giving me time for the fun activities I enjoy in the kitchen! ;o)
Nancy February 26, 2015
I do this too. Also great for seeing which foods are nearing their "use by" dates, so best to plan menus and dishes around them.
Panfusine February 26, 2015
I do that with my spices, but doing it for the freezer is sound advice, I'm constantly digging thru stuff that looks like it belongs in the Siberian Permafrost!
AntoniaJames February 26, 2015
Not using what's in the freezer because it's forgotten and then has to be tossed because it's too old sort of defeats the purpose of putting it in there in the first place. I rely on my freezer for key components of dinners at least 2 or 3 times per week, often more. The minimal amount of time needed to keep track of what goes in and what comes out is more than paid back by the convenience of having those freezer helpers to put dinner on the table more easily! ;o)
AntoniaJames February 25, 2015
When putting a pot of water on to boil for pasta, or blanching vegetables, etc. where you need a large amount boiled, fill up your tea kettle and put that on a second burner (reducing what's you'd otherwise put the large pot by what's in the kettle). Water ready in half the time! And of course, put the lid on the pot. It makes a difference in how quickly the water heats. ;o)
AntoniaJames February 25, 2015
Did you know that the "heirloom" trick for using the zester "upside down" is actually the way that the manual instructs that it should be used? Kitchen trick lesson here? Always read your manuals, even ones for simple tools. Keep manuals for your appliances in or near your kitchen in a well-labeled file, so they'll be handy when you need them for troubleshooting, using accessories, etc. Read them again after you've had the tool or appliance for awhile. Who knows what you might learn? ;o)
bamcnamara February 25, 2015
Any cookie tray or roasting pan that has burnt on food....line with paper towels, add a few squeezes of dishwashing detergent, add enough water to cover, leave overnight. The next day it all wipes off.
JulieS February 25, 2015
I'm going to have to remember that! Thanks.
JulieS February 25, 2015
Whenever I open a can of chipoltle peppers in adobo or a can of red Thai curry paste, I freeze the remaining amount in tablespoon portions in a ziplock bag. Most recipes only call for a small amount of those ingredients, and I hate to waste. You can also put it in an ice cube tray and then pop out and store in a Baggie once frozen.
Freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays to have for iced coffee!
Nancy February 25, 2015
Julie - for a whole slew of no-waste ideas to use ice cube trays, see the hotline thread on that trick from middle of 2014.
EmilyC February 25, 2015
Using a potato ricer to squeeze out moisture from frozen spinach. Works like a charm. Got the tip from Sam1148 an old hotline thread.
Ashley February 27, 2015
Genius. Of course! Love cooking with frozen spinach, hate wringing out towels that are quickly stained green with stray bits clinging to them. Thank you.
SMSF March 3, 2015
Thank you for the reminder about this one! I'll need to try this out.
AntoniaJames March 3, 2015
I use my hands! Just defrost for about 1-2 minutes, half power in the microwave; get a big handful; hold over sink, squeeze hard. Repeat until done. Hands are easier to wash than a ricer, and they're conveniently found on the end of one's arms, not in a drawer or cabinet. ;o)
Melanie K. February 25, 2015
Rubbing your fingers on the side of a stainless steel sink will remove strong food odors like onions and garlic from your hands. I have no idea how or why this works, but it does!

Also, if I'm making a yeast dough but the house isn't very warm, I'll turn the oven on for 1-2 minutes, turn it off, and place the bowl of dough inside. Perfect proofing--as long as it's not too hot.
boulangere February 25, 2015
My freezer is my best friend. When cooking rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, I always make more than I need at the time, often twice as much. I bag the leftovers in individual serving in labeled and dated ziplock bags, and stack them up in the freezer like cordwood. I can't tell you how often any and all of them have saved me when getting home late and needing to pull a, so to speak, rabbit out of my hat for dinner. Beans and rice along with some frozen corn make a most welcome burrito. Leftover soup can always benefit from some added rice or cooked pasta. And there's always the divinely simple and simply divine Spaghetti Aglio, Olio, e Peperoncino.
caninechef February 27, 2015
When I went away to college I realized if I dropped food I actually had to pick it up, no automatic cleaning system on 4 feet was around.
boulangere February 27, 2015
I was in the same boat in college until I got a cat. She wasn't nearly as handy as a dog, given her typically picky palate, but she was better than picking up everything myself. Life got so much simpler once I added dogs to the family. By the way, @caninechef, I'm trying out a recipe for dog biscuits this weekend, and I'll send you a link if they work out. No reward is too small for the 4-leggeds.
Nancy February 25, 2015
Any dried pasta - not just special & sometime more expensive "no bake lasagna" - can be added directly to a pasta baked dish. Add a bit more liquid than usual (tomatoes, wine, broth) to account for the extra absorbency of the pasta. Saves time & pot washing, tastes fine.
ktr February 26, 2015
I learned this trick about a year ago and I now make lasagna much more often because I'm often time strapped and this saves me time making it and also cleaning up - and I just find working with dry pasta easier than the cooked pasta which always seems to stick together for me so I end up ripping sheets of lasagna.
Nancy February 26, 2015
Um, that should be "no boil lasagna"
amysarah February 25, 2015
Ditto on measuring oil before anything sticky - honey, molasses, etc. Also, I almost never sift - I just whisk dry baking ingredients together. Combines and aerates too. And use a bigger bowl than seems necessary for vigorous whisking, tossing or mixing, to reduce overflow mess.
SMSF February 25, 2015
So that I don't forget to save some of the water when the pasta is done, I set a measuring cup or coffee cup right in the colander while the pasta's cooking. Then when it's time to drain, the cup is right there to remind me to scoop out some of the water first.
LeBec F. February 28, 2015
you SMAHT girl, you!
Leith D. February 25, 2015
Clean as go you along. Roll citrus fruits on the counter before juicing to get even more juice. Using a potato masher to break up ground beef/turkey when browning. Save 1 cup of the water from cooking pasta to thicken your sauce. I'm sure there's more!

Voted the Best Reply!

Posie (. February 25, 2015
Measure oil before honey! Works for any sticky ingredients -- nothing sticks to the measuring cup so you get a more accurate amount.
Panfusine February 25, 2015
I find it much easier to crack coconuts along the 'equator' with the claw part of a hammer than to pierce the eye, pop it into an oven and then crack the nut open. THe trick to ensure that the shell does not splinter is to drench the coconut thoroughly in water before you pick up the hammer.
Wendiamm February 25, 2015
since I see a lot of butter tips, I thought I would add the quickest. Grate the butter. It's the most surface area you can get and comes to room temp right away. Also good for cheeses and any other grate-able food, that includes things that are frozen.
Aliwaks February 26, 2015
I grate the butter for my pie crusts instead of cutting into small peices
drbabs February 25, 2015
I freeze ginger before grating it. Frozen ginger microplanes like a dream.
ChefJune February 25, 2015
Do you peel it with a teaspoon? I've found that works well. Thanks for the freezing tip!
drbabs February 25, 2015
Sometimes! Or I use a serrated peeler--it works well when the ginger is frozen.
Nancy February 25, 2015
Frozen, it also lasts longer than at fridge/room temp storage
AntoniaJames February 25, 2015
I really don't get the peeling with a teaspoon idea. A good small paring knife has a handle that I find so much easier to control, thus making it better suited to the task. But then, I live in a place where we have great ginger grown nearby year round, and it's reasonable and readily available, so I don't mind cutting off entirely the little bumps . . . . . ;o)
Tony S. February 26, 2015
When I freeze and microplane ginger, I don't even bother peeling it until I get to the very end. Once you are in the middle of the knob, the peel usually stays on top of the microplane or it is grated so finely that it doesn't even matter.
ChefJune February 25, 2015
not necessarily a trick, BUT you will save much time and energy in the kitchen if you have great knife skills. Anyone who started out holding their knife the wrong way and then learned the "trick," will agree. Just about any avocational cooking school has a course in knife skills, or a beginning cooking series that teaches the basics. I really recommend one for all amateur cooks who haven't done that yet.
Meaghan F. February 25, 2015
Getting butter to room temp: Courtesy of MStee. Put the butter between two sheets of wax paper and use a rolling pin to flatten it. Great for bigger quantities, for a TBSP or two just dice it as mentioned above.

Cooking with wine: Reduce your wine separately while other ingredients are cooking before adding to a sauce or using to deglaze a pan.

Browning or caramel ozone onions: Start them dry with some salt, and don't add butter/oil/other fat until they cook down a little.

Scraps bowl: Keep a bowl or other empty container on your counter for holding scraps and/or trash so you're not running back and forth to the trash can.
Meaghan F. February 25, 2015
* First tip is courtesy of Martha Stewart (aka MStew when my keyboard cooperates).
Ali S. February 25, 2015
What's the result of starting the onions dry with some salt? Better caramelization?
Meaghan F. February 25, 2015
It just saves some time , especially with big batches. I haven't noticed a difference in the end result or the caramelization once the fat is added.
EmilyC February 25, 2015
Quick tips for bringing eggs and butter to room temperature -- for those times when you want to bake but haven't planned ahead. For eggs, submerge them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. For butter, cut into small cubes; the increased surface area will help the butter warm more quickly.
Ali S. February 25, 2015
Your butter trick is better than what I did today, which was to put my sticks of butter on the sunlit floor.
EmilyC February 25, 2015
I think you're on to something there! Cubed butter in a bowl on the sunlit floor = genius technique! : )
hardlikearmour February 26, 2015
Grating the butter on the large holes of a cheese grater also warms it up quickly.
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