General Cooking Tips – the top 22
- Add a little zest. When a recipe calls for a “zest” of a citrus fruit, it’s referring to the colorful outer part of the skin, not the inner white part, which is known as the pith. The zest contains all of the aromatic citrus oils and provides a hint of citrus tang to the recipe. A simple method of obtaining a fine zest is by rubbing the fruit against the smallest holes of a cheese grater.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Good cooks are never afraid to deviate from a recipe and add their own flair. Whenever you make a substitution or addition be sure to make a note on the recipe so you remember next time whether you liked the change or not.
- Salted butter vs. unsalted butter. Butter is available both with and without salt. The salt is added for extra flavor and to help preserve it so it has a longer shelf life. The problem is that sometimes the salt in butter can be more than a recipe needs. Choosing unsalted butter gives you more control over how much salt your dish contains. If you only have salted butter, the best thing to do is omit approximately ¼ teaspoon of salt per ½ cup (one stick) of butter used in the recipe.
- Use your kitchen scissors. Right now you probably only use your kitchen scissors for opening packaging and bags of milk. But next time you’re trimming fat from a roast, opening pitas or cutting chicken into strips, consider using your scissors! Chefs use them all the time for cutting meats and other food items. It’s probably best to have a pair that are designated as food scissors only. And be sure you clean them very well after each use because they do have crevices where bacteria can hide.
- Keep your recipes organized. Nothing is more frustrating when you’re ready to start cooking then not being able to find your recipe. Keep things organized by finding a system for filing your recipes that you can keep close at hand in the kitchen. A great option is to buy one of those photo albums where you peel back a plastic sheet and underneath is a sticky surface. This makes recipes easy to find and at any time you can remove or replace them!
- Stop foods from sticking to the pan. To keep food from sticking to the bottom of your pans, try to avoid ever putting cold foods into a hot pan. Also, don’t put food into a pan that is not perfectly clean, otherwise the resulting build up could lead to burned food.
- Stop water from boiling over. To keep pans from boiling over when cooking, add a thin layer of butter around the rim of the pan. This works well for rice, pasta and potatoes.
- Avoid oozing egg whites. Do your eggs ooze out some of their whites when you boil them? This is because every egg contains an air pocket at the larger, rounded end. When placed in simmering water the air pocket expands and creates a higher atmospheric pressure within the egg than in the water. The fragile shell cracks from the built-up pressure. Avoid this problem in the future by removing eggs from the refrigerator and piercing the larger end with a pin. This will give the air a hole to escape through!
- Cut breads and cakes perfectly every time. It may sound strange but dental floss can be used to slice bread and cakes for a perfect slice every time. This is also the easiest way to cut a layer cake in half so you can add a filling. For perfect results freeze the cake before cutting it.
- Get more juice from citrus fruits. When a recipe calls for the juice of lemons, limes or oranges, make sure you get every last drop by first rolling the fruit under your palm on a hard surface. Press down as hard as you can as you roll. Then simply slice it in half and squeeze. You’ll find you get significantly more juice to add lots of flavor to your dish.
- Peel garlic easily. Peeling garlic can be frustrating unless you know this little tip that the pros use. Lay a clove flat on a hard surface and then pressing down hard on it with the flat side of a large knife. Once you’ve pressed hard enough you’ll hear a “pop” that tells you the peel has separated. Even with this trick your fingers will undoubtedly smell like garlic. Get rid of that odor by washing them well with salt.
- Repair cracked eggs. If you have an egg that cracks while boiling, just add a capful of vinegar to the water and watch as the eggshell seals itself. Unfortunately though, if the whites have begun to ooze out this trick won’t work.
- Make sure the oil is hot before frying foods. Although they’re not the healthiest option, fried foods sure do taste good. The key to perfect frying is to get the oil hot before you put the food in. (Not so hot that it is smoking though – be careful!) If you don’t get the oil hot, your food will absorb too much oil and taste greasy. To test whether the oil is hot enough for frying, throw in a drop of water or even a small piece of what you’re cooking. If it bubbles rapidly then you know it’s ready.
- Get the right temperature for deep frying. Does your oil always seem to be the wrong temperature? A simple way to find out if your oil is hot enough is to use a bread cube. If the bread browns in a minute, the oil is between 350 and 365 degrees, 40 seconds – 365 and 382 degrees, 20 seconds – 382 and 390 degrees. Or, if you have one, you can use a thermometer. Just be sure that it is a metal thermometer designed for deep fryers.
- A substitution for eggs. Need an egg for a recipe but you’re all out? You can substitute two tablespoons of real mayonnaise for a large egg in any recipe. Be sure not to use whipped salad dressing though unless you want the extra salt that it contains.
- Interesting uses for apples. You may have heard before that it’s best to keep apples stored separately from other fruits and vegetables because they give off gases that speed up ripening. Well those same gases are actually useful for some things. An apple wedge in the bag will soften clumped brown sugar over night. It will also keep your potatoes from sprouting.
- Remove the fat from soups. Remove the fat from homemade soups by tossing in four ice cubes. The fat will congeal around the ice, which can then be removed. This will cool the soup, so you may need to reheat after completing the process.
- Serve a perfect punch. When serving punch it is usually left on a buffet table for everyone to help themselves to. So it’s important to keep it cold. However, instead of ice, which will dilute the punch, freeze some of the punch itself beforehand and use that.
- Stop pre-made sandwiches from going soggy. To prevent lunchtime sandwiches from becoming soggy, spread both pieces of bread to the edges with butter, mustard or mayonnaise. Then wrap the sandwich in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Or is possible, assemble the sandwich just before eating. Just pack the bread and filling separately.
- Always marinate foods in a glass or ceramic dish. Most marinades contain an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, vinegar or wine that can react with metal and cause off-flavors in your food. To save on cleanup, try marinating your fish or meat in a large plastic bag with a zip closure. Set the bag on a plate or in a shallow bowl and refrigerate, turning the bowl occasionally to distribute the marinade.
- Reduce grease splatters. Few things are messier than splattering grease. And if it gets on your skin it can be painful. Reduce grease splatters by sprinkling hot grease with salt prior to adding the food to be fried. If this is not completely effective, you can buy grease splatter shields at kitchen stores.
- Easily grate cheese. Make grating cheese a snap by tossing your cheese into the freezer for an hour before shredding. This will make the cheese hard enough to grate without compromising the taste or texture.