Many of these kitchen tricks have become habit. If for some reason I can’t use the trick, I will try to go without and inevitably (again) realize how AWESOME these little tricks are.
9 Kitchen tricks I can’t live without
1. Use a non-skid liner or wet paper towel under cutting board to keep it from sliding around
I keep a rectangle of non-skid liner (used for cabinets and drawers) in my main tool drawer because I use it any time I use a cutting board. It keeps the cutting board from sliding around. It also makes you feel more secure when you’re using a knife, thus making chopping/slicing feel more natural. Don’t have a non-skid liner? Wet a paper towel or thin kitchen towel, gently squeeze it out, and lay that it out instead. (If your cutting board is uneven or still seems to wobble or move, try two pieces of paper towel.)
I use one large rectangle of liner. Unfold it for large cutting boards or fold it in half for smaller ones.
2. Prep your ingredients (mise en place)
Prepping your ingredients, also known as mise en place (“put into place”), before you start cooking, is one of the best ways to ensure your recipe goes smoothly. It turns cooking into a well oiled machine and not a panicked rush.
3. Always have a hand towel
I always have a towel on hand. Ideally, loop the hand towel on the front of your apron or even slightly tucked in your pants pocket. I usese it to pick up hot objects or to dry/wipe your hands.I can’t tell you how many extra trips I need to take to the sink to wash my fingertips when I could have just wiped it on the hand towel. It also saves you from having to dig around for pot holders if you need to quickly grab or move a pot or pan.
I recommend using shop towels as kitchen towels so you don’t mind getting them dirty or stained.
4. Always have a bench scraper
Always have a bench scraper on hand. My main tool drawer has about 10 of them in there. (That’s after I threw out the crappy ones.) The plastic ones work just as well, they’re cheap, and they’re handy to push things around or off the cutting board. After chopping up some tomatoes, the bench scraper helps me quickly move them into a mixing bowl. A quick scrape on the cutting board will get rid of the juices and seeds, saving you from having to wash the cutting board for the next thing you chop.
5. Use a rolled-up towel to keep a mixing bowl in place
Use a rolled-up towel to keep a mixing bowl from moving around when you’re whisking or using a spatula. This frees up your other hand!
6. Don’t waste time cutting veggies
Or, for that matter, anything shaped remotely like an onion. This dicing trick will save you a couple minutes at least for anything onion-shaped (including tomatoes and cloves of garlic!) and this trick will make slicing bell peppers quick and painless.
7. Crank the heat
Don’t be afraid to heat the frying pan to the smoking point. Temporarily disable your fire detector if you have to. They’re just there to judge you anyways. If you’re sauteing or pan searing, you want a hot hot pan. And to that note, dry off your meat/veggies/etc before throwing them in the pan. The moisture brings the pan temperature down and creates steam, preventing you from getting that crispy carmelization you want.
8. Use a mixer for anything that needs to be mashed, broken up, or shredded
I think I used a potato masher once in my life. Once. I never bothered making mashed potatoes until I learned this trick. Throw your cooked potatoes, seasoning, milk, butter, etc into your mixer with the paddle attachment (not the whisk) and paddle your way to creamy mashed potato happiness. (It’s also great for paddling cooked meat into shredded meat, i.e. pulled pork, shredded chicken, etc.)
9. Make clean brownie/cake slices
If you cut brownie right out of the oven, the top will crack, the middle will ooze out, and your knife will be ridiculously gooey. The first cake cut is easy, then it just makes a mess of frosting. Sound familiar?
Let your brownie/cake/tart/etc cool completely then refrigerate or freeze, if possible, before cutting. Fill a tall narrow container with piping hot water (as hot as you can get), heat the whole knife blade up, quickly wipe excess water or brownie/cake bits off on a towel, and make your cut. Repeat for every cut. (Yes it sounds monotonous, but each cut is clean and because the brownie/cake/tart/etc is cold, it doesn’t crumble or get mushy.) You’ll get a perfect slice every time.
Do you have any tips or kitchen tricks you can’t live without?