Kitchen Tricks - Cook Smarter!

ExceptionallyExceptional

GET OFF MY LAWN!
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I figured it'd be nice to have a thread where we share little tips and tricks we've picked up in the kitchen that make life easier. I'll get us started with an example of my own.

If I ever have to peel potatoes I absolutely do not throw away the skins. Instead I store them in the fridge overnight in a tupperware and chop them up with onions and peppers for some pretty decent breakfast potatoes that pretty much cost you nothing since you would have otherwise tossed those skins anyway.
Heck, sometimes I'll just shave down a whole potato with a vegetable peeler instead of chopping or slicing them. The thin little bits cook really fast, and if you use enough oil they get crispy as fuck. It's a good way to prep potatoes for homemade potato chips/crisps as well.
 

MetalDeathFish

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Need garlic but your press decided to punch out? take the flat of the knife,toss on a little salt onto your clove,push down on the clove while sweeping away from you. Crushed garlic with seasoning built in.
Hate crying while chopping onions? put em in the freezer for about 20 minutes. All that nasty gas will be contained in the onion. Don't want to wait 20 minutes? wear a full face mask for underwater. Keep the gas out and you chopping onions. No face mask? No problem! wet a towel and wrap around nose and mouth like a mask. water will trap that nasty gas.

Need zest of a citrus fruit but don't have a zester? the fine end of a cheese grater works just as well. No cheese grater? serrated knife blade or butter knife - gently scrape away from you with small strokes.

Juicing a lemon? take the half of your lemon,fold hands to where the lemon is between the heels of your hand and squeeze. easier to juice that way over trying to use 1 hand.

Fruit or tomatoes not ripe yet? place a couple in a brown paper bag. Give it a day or two and they should be ripe enough to use. Be careful not to forget you have fruit in a paper bag - it will go overripe and begin to rot faster; the chemical compound that makes them ripen faster is gaseous. Plastic lets in light and kills off that gas.
 

Prince Lotor

. . .and the blackest eyes. The Devil's eyes.
kiwifarms.net
Need garlic but your press decided to punch out? take the flat of the knife,toss on a little salt onto your clove,push down on the clove while sweeping away from you. Crushed garlic with seasoning built in.
Hate crying while chopping onions? put em in the freezer for about 20 minutes. All that nasty gas will be contained in the onion. Don't want to wait 20 minutes? wear a full face mask for underwater. Keep the gas out and you chopping onions. No face mask? No problem! wet a towel and wrap around nose and mouth like a mask. water will trap that nasty gas.

Need zest of a citrus fruit but don't have a zester? the fine end of a cheese grater works just as well. No cheese grater? serrated knife blade or butter knife - gently scrape away from you with small strokes.

Juicing a lemon? take the half of your lemon,fold hands to where the lemon is between the heels of your hand and squeeze. easier to juice that way over trying to use 1 hand.

Fruit or tomatoes not ripe yet? place a couple in a brown paper bag. Give it a day or two and they should be ripe enough to use. Be careful not to forget you have fruit in a paper bag - it will go overripe and begin to rot faster; the chemical compound that makes them ripen faster is gaseous. Plastic lets in light and kills off that gas.
I started using a fork recently to crush my garlic and really like that way. I just mince the garlic cloves up like I would an onion, sprinkle some salt on, and then use a fork to mash them into a paste. I find it easier than pressing down with my palm on the side of a kitchen knife. Just keep rocking your fork on it mashing and forcing the garlic between the tines until it's pasted as much as you want.
I read that if you're going to cook with it the enzyme that forms when garlic is cut or crushed called Allicin takes about 10 minutes to form and is decently heat stable after that. If you are going to cook with garlic just prep the garlic first so that the enzyme has time to form, so you get the extra health benefits from it. If you start heating it up before that it won't form.

If you zest a lemon, but aren't going to use the juice for a day or more wrap it in plastic-wrap and put it in the fridge so it doesn't dry out. The zest acts as a protective layer keeping the moisture in and without it the fruit will quickly lose moisture.

It's good advice to save your potato skins to cook up as the skins have a decent amount of nutrients, almost as many calories as the flesh, and fiber.
 
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Gus

Interlocutor
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My mother taught me when I was little that when you catch small mammals like gophers with your beak, get them by the neck. It's much harder for them to struggle if there's nothing for their limbs to push against, and you can eventually break the neck so that you don't have to worry so much when you swallow them.
 

Man vs persistent rat

A good egg is a nice person
True & Honest Fan
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If using tomato puree in a stew-type dish, try cooking it gently with the vegetables after they have finished, but before adding any liquids, as it seems to deepen its flavour a little.

Always add garlic (or ginger) towards the end of the onions being cooked. I keep seeing people add them at the same time, but it will only cause a loss in flavour or increased bitterness if you cook them at the onion's temp for that long. They just need a light minute or two to remove the raw flavour.

If you use a lot of olive oil, keep two extra virgin olive oils, a cheap one for cooking and an expensive one for dressing. Try not to keep an opened olive oil for more than a couple of months, as it loses flavour quite quickly. You can buy ceramic bottles to decant it in, to prevent light damage, and to prevent as much air exposure by using a narrow pouring spout than opening a large screw cap each time. If you have some good oil that you want to use up, it works very well as an alternative to margerine or butter on slices of fresh or toasted bread. Pour it into a small flat tray (or a wide plate without much curve to its surface) and drag the bread across., This will absorb fully across the surface (if it's flat), but prevent any oil from waterlogging/dripping through the bread than if you drizzled it across the surface.

When cutting onions into strips, cutting across (against the grain) causes more damage to it, making for a stronger flavour, cutting length-ways (with the grain/top to bottom) produces a milder flavour. Additionally, cutting with the grain causes them to hold their shape for longer (best for caramelising), cut against the grain if you want them to dissolve into a slow-cooked sauce more effectively, or if you want a fresher flavour if using them raw or undercooked.

Canned tomatoes cooked for a long time don't require any sugar to sweeten them. You can add natural sweetness to tomato sauces by simmering with big pieces of carrot, then discarding them once finished.

If using dried pasta, check whether yours claims to be pressed using a bronze die or not. If it doesn't, look out for ones that claim that they have been, as it's generally a sign of better quality and there are appreciable flavour and texture differences between cheap and good dried pastas.

You can emulate the texture of minced meat in a vegetarian chilli by taking chickpeas or ideally kala chana beans (black chickpeas), and semi-mashing them.

Whole spices preserve much more flavour than powdered ones and are often the same price per weight or cheaper. Buy a cheap compact coffee grinder (this style for example although the price is a bit high on that listing) or use a pestle and mortar, toast your spices gently in a frying pan, then use the grinder to powder them. Break up bigger things like dried peppers and cinnamon sticks with your hands to make it easier on the device. Even if you don't want to go the grinding route, toasted cumin seeds are going to give you lots more flavour than cumin powder. You can also toast pepper corns which adds a lot of value for limited-ingredient dishes where it is a primary flavour. This is one of the easiest ways to boost the flavour of your cooking without needing any additional experience.

You can make bomb rice for curries and other things by adding dried curry leaves/Asian bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, etc in the water while cooking, then discarding at the end. This is also a very good way to use up whole spices before they lose flavour, and help you with your turnover. You can also use hing powder instead of turmeric for a more subtle yellow colour and substantially different flavour.

Cook meat in batches to avoid crowding the pan. If you are browning meat for a stew, use med-high (not maximum) to ensure you brown rather than blacken the surfaces, and avoid touching it until it needs turning over. If you're slow-cooking, don't worry about browning every side, the top and bottom should produce enough flavour, and the tenderness of the rest will be preserved. Browning all sides can be counter-productive as it cooks the meat too much. If cooking minced meat, still consider doing it in batches if it's piled too high, removing vegetables previously in the pan if necessary, and re-adding them later. The goal with cooking minced meat is to add it to a very hot pan, which will prevent it from cooling too much when the meat is added, then to leave it still to release any water and simmer it away as quickly as possible. Stirring or fussing around will just reincorporate the water back into the meat and further cool the pan, causing the meat to steam instead of brown, which is what gives you the dreaded grey mince look.

Use eggs and not cream in carbonara. Use a little lemon juice on your pasta if it doesn't already have a rich sauce (eg. meat/tomato). A garnish of capers is a great way to add freshness to light pasta dishes. If they're too strong per bite, you can cut them in halves or quarters.

If you have an iron casserole pot/dutch oven/ceramic-coated stoneware, consider oven-cooking meals that you would otherwise slow-cook in a sauce pan. The temperature distribution will be more even, and can produce very good results.

Buy a bottle of Asian fish sauce and add it to every stew you make (beef burgundy, chillies, ragus, etc). It stinks to high heaven but that smell will disappear after a few minutes and it adds an umami flavour that nobody will ever mistake for fish. It is a further more potent version of why people add Worcester sauce to meals.

Raise your dough in the fridge. There are still people who avoid making dough because they feel it can only make one big portion of something, but you can portion it off and rise it slowly for several days in the fridge to make multiple different things. If you want bread rolls for four days, for example, portion the dough into four, place three in cling film-covered bowls in the fridge (with a tiny amount of olive oil brushed over the top and bottom to prevent it sticking on both sides) for 1-3 days later, and rise the last in a warm room for using the same day. When using refrigerated dough, leave it out to warm to room temperature before cooking. Be careful about warming it too quickly near an oven/radiator/sunny window, as it can dry out. I personally put two in the fridge, and half-rise a third before adding it to the fridge for the next day to give it a head start, but this sounds like it could be a food hygiene risk that I am not aware of so don't listen to this part at all and if somebody can confirm or deny this I would appreciate it. Per Serious Eats it's fine to leave pizza dough for up to five days, and I have noticed a big difference in how easy a base is to stretch between 3 or 4 days of rising.

Buy a wooden spatula. They're much better than wooden spoons for scraping the bottom of pans while deglazing, flipping things over, etc.

Save your parmesan rinds in the freezer, and add one to a stew or soup to impart a little additional flavour and discard when finished.

Generally always favour chicken stock over beef, even when using in a meal with only beef meat, as for whatever reason chicken stock retains more flavour than beef, so offers more value and benefit. If you make small meals and find containers of stock too large for your needs, you can put them in an ice cube tray and freeze, defrosting a cube when needed.

If you have space in the freezer, save every carcass and bone you use in cooking, and you can make large batches of stock all at once to save some effort/maximise the amount produced. Speaking of freezers, they are most energy-efficient when full (a good excuse to cook big batches of food and freeze portions - Pyrex have great oven/freezer-proof containers with durable plastic lids), fridges are the other way around and are at their best when lowly-filled.

If you're cooking pre-packaged frozen oven chips and are having problems with the ends going too brown by the time the middles have cooked (a particular issue for me with thin fries), leave them on the tray/screen to defrost before cooking. they cook more evenly and quickly than when doing so from frozen. Also cook at the highest heat you can get away with as it'll give them less time to dry out and go crunchy.

The way to make your stir fries taste a little more like the nice takeaway flavours you might be trying to emulate is sesame oil. If you want something that you can use like soy sauce but tastes different (slightly sweeter/herbal), try ketjap manis.
 
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???

International man (?) of mystery
kiwifarms.net
If you want to get diabetes 20% faster, put ranch dressing on everything you eat
Insulin Ranch: The Mike Enoch Story

On topic, the least hassle way to dice an onion is to chop it one way almost all the way through, turn it sideways and repeat, and then turn it on its side and finish the dice. A lot easier than trying to hold bits of onion.

To clarify, first cut it like this, top-down view:
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Then cut it like this, top down view:
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It should at this point look sort of like a bloomin onion, pre-fried.

Then flip it on its side and finish the job. Don't cut all the way through on the first two cuts because that's what holds it together and makes it easier and faster to finish.

I learned it from some dude that ran a chicken sandwich shop in Louisiana.
 

melty

True & Honest Fan
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If you like smoothies with bananas, chop the bananas up and freeze them and use that instead of ice for a creamier smoothie.

Don't throw away cauliflower leaves or the leafy tops of beets. They're very tasty sauteed with just some good olive oil or butter and some salt. I sometimes get free beet tops from the farmers market because other people don't want them.

Don't buy Sriracha mayo or wasabi mayo, it's really just mayo mixed with the other thing and it's beyond easy to make yourself. Kewpie mayo works best for those two, but regular works also.
 
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Letthepowerofgoutcompelyo

There are four lights!
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If you've lost the tray for your Gary Coleman grill, easily make a new one out of tin foil. You also just put your mushrooms in tinfoil with your meat, set it and forget it as you finish another Smite session in which some dickless 12 year old reported you for "feeding"

Wrap up all the drippings, and stuff them on the tailpipe of your shitty landlord's bmv.
When he pounds on your door tell him you're busy fucking his wife.
 

CivilianOfTheFandomWars

Ran by AI
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If you’re baking a cake and the recipe calls for oil, a 1:1 substitution of butter can make it that much more rich than with just oil.

If you’re making a broth or a stock that will be strained later, don’t peel the garlic. Just chop the head in half sideways and throw it in. The paper and the bottom have loads of flavor and aroma, but you don’t want them in your mouth. Same goes for if you’re butter-basting a pan-seared steak, just lightly crush some cloves of garlic with the skin still on. Trust me, it saves time at the very least.

A cast iron skillet is a worthy investment if you like to cook. You can fry stuff, bake stuff, set it on hot coals, use it as a means of self defense, it’s very versatile. Also, they’re basically indestructible. This may be obvious to some, but I really think it’s one of the most useful pans I have.

If you’re big into cooking, especially if it’s baking, doing basic fitness stuff is a very good idea. Nothing special, no need to be a triathlete or body builder or anything, just basic things like pushups and squats and walking around can do wonders. The reasons for this are pretty simple. One, the best tasting and most fun to make foods tend to be high in calories, especially if you like to make desserts. If you don’t want to become one of those really fat chefs, you should burn some of them away. Two, food you make yourself, even if it’s desserts, are typically much higher quality than stuff from the supermarket. More nutritious, better for you, and you are in control of what’s in it. Even if you do a smaller amount of exercise, your body will be able to use all that goodness for more than just putting on fat.

There is nothing wrong about watching videos or reading stuff about foods you will probably never make. Even if you don’t think you are, you are picking up techniques and ideas for your own cooking. I probably won’t make a ten-layer cake, but that frosting looks interesting, for example.
 

XYZpdq

fbi most wanted sskealeaton
True & Honest Fan
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A wasp once came through the open back door and wouldnt leave the kitchen.
Eventually I was able to hit it with a tennis racket. It was perfect for the job.
Keep a tennis racket handy, because bug spray smells bad.
I've had success against wasps with a spray bottle with water and dish soap.
The soap screws up their ability to fly then you can dispatch them with a shoe.
I had bad wasp infestations in the stairwell at my old apartment, and there were a bunch of nice bugs and lizards and stuff around too, so I wanted to limit my genocide.
 

Bunny Tracks

You and I'll be safe and sound
True & Honest Fan
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Cook your eggs in bacon grease, or butter to keep them from sticking. Always make sure to turn off the heat if your cooking them in the same pan that you just cooked your bacon in so they don't overcook. Just cook them gently in the residual heat.

Never use nonstick spray. It doesn't do anything, and you'll be trying to scrap egg bits off for what seems like forever.
 

XYZpdq

fbi most wanted sskealeaton
True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
sorry for 2xposting
neopryne can coolers, the ones that are like swimsuit material sorta, they go fine with the rest of the laundry
didn't run them through the dryer
 

Slimy Time

Read 'em and weep
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Two simple things after reading a useless buzzfeed article:
Do mise en place. There is a reason why restaurants do it. Cut all your veg, do all your garlic, meat etc and separate it, either in individual bowls or one/two large plates. Have all your liquids measured and cans/bottles opened. Don't have to go rummaging around to find things or end up under pressure. You can or try to enjoy the cooking process, plus combine it with the below tip.

Wash as you cook/prep. Done all the veg? Rinse that up and put it away. Done meat? Wash it up and put it away. Used one pan and don't need it anymore, wash and put away. Doing a dish that you don't need to take an active part in or are waiting for something to heat up (pasta sauce, stew, waiting for water to boil/oil to heat)?, wash and dry as much as possible. This seems really obvious, but it is astounding how many people I have seen don't do this, leave it all to the end, then complain about the amount of washing they need to do. I've cooked for 4-5 people, and after dinner the only thing left to wash is cutlery, plates/serving plates and maybe one pan and spatula, which is done in 5 mins.
 
Two simple things after reading a useless buzzfeed article:
Do mise en place. There is a reason why restaurants do it. Cut all your veg, do all your garlic, meat etc and separate it, either in individual bowls or one/two large plates. Have all your liquids measured and cans/bottles opened. Don't have to go rummaging around to find things or end up under pressure. You can or try to enjoy the cooking process, plus combine it with the below tip.

Wash as you cook/prep. Done all the veg? Rinse that up and put it away. Done meat? Wash it up and put it away. Used one pan and don't need it anymore, wash and put away. Doing a dish that you don't need to take an active part in or are waiting for something to heat up (pasta sauce, stew, waiting for water to boil/oil to heat)?, wash and dry as much as possible. This seems really obvious, but it is astounding how many people I have seen don't do this, leave it all to the end, then complain about the amount of washing they need to do. I've cooked for 4-5 people, and after dinner the only thing left to wash is cutlery, plates/serving plates and maybe one pan and spatula, which is done in 5 mins.
This is the only reason why I'm the designated cook. Took me way too long to learn, but damn if it doesn't make the whole process much more enjoyable.
 
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the clap

kiwifarms.net
Cooking chocolate is low quality and usually you'd be better using normal chocolate, but can be improved by melting it with a few tablespoons of peanut butter.
 
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