15 smart cooking hacks to make cooking fun and easy

From saving salty soup to grating butter

It’s a tale as old as thyme (excuse the pun, hihihi). Even though you love cooking, there are always things that inevitably happen, go wrong or make you wonder and leave you to try and figure out a way to resolve them. These 15 cooking hacks will hopefully help you make the process of preparing food even more fun and pleasant.

Image by Bruno /Germany on Pixabay

Cooking hack 1: Kosher salt vs. “normal” salt

Have you ever wondered about the term “kosher salt” in a recipe? The key difference between kosher and regular salt lays in the structure of the salt flakes. Kosher salt has coarser grains. This allows you to salt your food in a gentler way than using finer, regular salt. It also further enhances the flavors and makes them pop.

Moreover, kosher salt will most likely contain fewer additives, such as iodine. (If you are from a region with a low natural iodine content in the drinking water, choosing a salt with this chemical element added is actually good for your health, especially your thyroid).

Cooking hack 2: How to rescue a salty soup

Speaking of salt… It happens to the best of us. You cook a tasty soup and suddenly realize that you were a little too generous with the salt. Don’t worry, you don’t need to toss the soup out just yet. Simply take an apple and cut it into quarters or peel a potato and do the same. Let it cook with the soup for 10 minutes and it will soak up all of the excess salt.

If you happen not to have a potato or apple to hand, add a splash of vinegar.

Cooking hack 3: The best way to cook bacon

A golden rule of preparing bacon: ALWAYS start with a cold pan or cold oven. Never place the bacon strips in an already heated pan. By starting cold, you end up with a crispier result and none of those yucky parts of rubbery fat that you get when the meat is immediately exposed to a high temperature. Slow, low and gradual are the key words to success here.

By gradually increasing the heat, you allow any excess fat to render out of the meat. By instantly exposing the bacon to a high temperature, the pores of the meat close and thus capture the fat inside.

Place the bacon in a cold pan or on a baking tray in the cold oven. Then, bring the pan to a medium heat or the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and cook the bacon for 10 minutes.

Afterwards, place the bacon strips, which should now be nice and crispy, on a paper towel to soak up any leftover excess fat.

Cooking hack 4: How to keep potatoes white after peeling

Speaking of potatoes, they have the unfortunate habit of turning grayish or brown after you peel them, which is because the starch oxidizes, and this gives them this rather unpleasant patina. Especially if you want to pre-peel the potatoes to use them later for a nice side dish, such as potato salad, don’t worry: to avoid this happening, store the peeled potatoes in a bowl with cold water until you’re ready to cook, bake or do whatever else you have planned for them.

Cooking hack 5: How to make super crispy potatoes

On the subject of potatoes: it never ceases to amaze me how versatile they are, all while being a bit like an unassuming undercover agent of the vegetable world – you don’t really notice them. No one ever walks through the grocery store and suddenly exclaims, ‘wow, those potatoes look really fresh/tasty/inviting today!’

Yet, while being the ugly duckling of the fresh produce aisle, they turn into the beautiful swan of the side-dish world, one of their most crowd-pleasing states being fried or roasted. This is tricky to achieve at home. Nothing is more disappointing than seemingly roasting the taters or your homemade fries, only to receive a rather mushy result.

Now, how does one achieve crispy and crunchy wonders? The trick is to soak them in ice water first. A generous couple of minutes mostly do the trick, but if you can, give them about an hour. This lets the excess starch wash out (which, as per kitchen hack 4, also allows them to keep their color). When you’re ready to put them in the oven or the fryer, pat them dry with a kitchen towel.

Cooking hack 6: How to prevent plastic wrap from sticking together

The most annoying thing about plastic wrap a.k.a cling film is undeniably that it is so sticky and thus instantly glues itself together in the most impossible ways. There is, however, a super easy hack to solve this issue – simply store the roll in your fridge. The cool temperature reduces the stickiness and so makes it easier for you when you want to cover leftover dinner or cake.

Cooking hack 7: How to quickly shred chicken or pork

You plan to have a pulled pork or pulled chicken sandwich, but find the task of shredding the meat tedious and needlessly time-consuming? Try this nifty hack: place the meat in the bowl of your stand mixer and give it a spin. The mixer paddle will do the shredding for you and you save time and energy.

Cooking hack 8: Stop cheese from sticking to the grater

Who doesn’t love grated cheese? It provides a nice chewy cover for a casserole dish, makes pizza amazing and is just all around versatile. However, grating it is usually not much fun and a mess to clean up afterwards. It’s still a million times better to grate a block of cheese yourself than buying readymade grated cheese in a package, as the manufacturers have to add coating ingredients to prevent the cheese from lumping together.

Sadly, this later affects how well the pre-grated cheese melts in the oven. Therefore, it’s better to perform that labor at home. In order to prevent the cheese from sticking to your grater like glue, spray a bit of cooking spray on the device and you won’t have the problem again.

Cooking hack 9: How to fasten or slow the ripening of avocados

Avocado are tricky fellas. They may look all sturdy, but are unbelievably hard to assess. Are they ripe or not? And if they are, how ripe are they really? Their state is also subject to change within a few hours. You feel like you just bought the perfect avocado, you come home and… poof… it’s all mushy and black inside. Or you buy one that’s still rock hard, only to discover that you suddenly spend more time wondering and worrying about the state of the fruit than anything else: is it ripe yet? No. Is it ripe yet? No. Is it ripe yet? Still no, or maybe yes?

If you want to slow down the ripening process, simply store the fruit in the fridge to buy yourself more time until you have to consume it.

Cooking hack 10: How to cut broccoli or cauliflower without making a mess

When cutting broccoli or cauliflower, turn it upside down first and place it head-down on a plate or in a bowl. While chopping away, the florets are already where they belong and won’t fly around your kitchen like you’re having a food fight with veggies.

Cooking hack 11: Collect veggie scarps to make your own stock

Speaking of cutting veggies: whenever you do so and have any scraps left over, like the stems of the aforementioned broccoli or cauliflower carrots, even herbs, collect them and store them in a bag in the fridge or freezer (depending on how soon you fill that bag and are able to use it). Cook it together with an onion and garlic and – voilà – you’ve got super delicious, homemade veggie stock. You can freeze the stock, so don’t worry if you can’t figure out how to use a gallon of it at once.

Cooking hack 12: How to grate butter or soft cheeses

Sometimes you need butter flakes or shredded mozzarella for a recipe. This is obviously next to impossible to achieve in a normal state. The best hack I ever came across for this is to place the butter or soft mozzarella in the freezer for half an hour to 60 minutes and then grate it without much fuss.

Cooking hack 13: Make your flavors pop

Add a pinch of sugar to savory sauces, like tomato-based ones, to make the flavors pop more. It’s the hearty equivalent to adding a pinch of salt to sweet baked goods.

Cooking hack 14: Renew your sponge

Throw your sponge in the dishwasher once a week to clean it and it will be as good as new.

Cooking hack 15: How to make your own butter milk

No buttermilk, no problem. Simply take a measurement cup and add one tablespoon of white vinegar. Top it up with whole milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes. The milk will thicken thanks to the acid of the vinegar and you’ll have your own buttermilk in no time.

Bonus hack: Keep ice cream cool without a cooler

You don’t have a cooler at hand, but need to keep your ice cream cool? Bubble wrap is your friend, as it possesses magical insulation power. So to prevent your ice cream from melting on the way home from the grocery store or to a picnic, wrap the packaging in bubble wrap and it will maintain its temperature for a good few hours.

Now that you are super savy in terms of useful cooking hacks, don’t forget to check out my post on 11 helpful baking hacks.

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