I am someone who consistently overcooks meat, and until very recently, put my wooden spoons and cutting boards in the dishwasher.
And I'm aware "cooking tips and hacks" exist, but I feel like I've heard all of them and always promptly forget them when I step foot in the kitchen.
But recently, I stumbled on this Quora thread asking, "What are some cooking tips or hacks?" I can't believe how many of these I've never heard of, and the best part? I really feel like I learned something! Here are some of the best ones.
1."Put a wet paper towel under a cutting board. Not only are cutting boards that slide on the counter annoying, they're extremely dangerous when you're holding a knife and trying to chop something. Wet a paper towel, lay it under the board, and it won't budge!"
3."Removing the garlic odor from hands: After you are done working with garlic, always rub your hands on a stainless steel sink for about 30 seconds with all your energy before washing them. This will help get rid of the odor."
7."If you are roasting a pork tenderloin, your meat will be on the fire for no more than an hour or two. If you’re grilling a steak, the steak will cook for 15 minutes or less using standard methods. That is not enough time for the salt in your rub to penetrate through the meat. Seasoning the meat half an hour in advance is not enough time, either. Dry-brining overnight with kosher salt, Himalayan salt, or sea salt flakes is easy to do. Give the salt more time to penetrate through the meat, and your reward will be a fantastic flavor. You can taste the difference."
8."Remove seeds from vegetables such as squash and pumpkin with an ice cream scoop. Because the edge of the scoop is sharp, it cuts through the fibery, gooey stuff inside the squash easier than your hand or a regular spoon can."
9."Save bacon fat. It should be a sin to waste bacon fat, a crime, in fact. It works great for eggs, cornbread, roux, baked beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and many other foods as a flavor enhancer."
12."Guacamole is delicious, but it can be a bit tricky to preserve. It goes brown and also changes flavor when it is exposed to oxygen. If you want to prevent this, you can put your leftover guacamole in a container, and then add a thin layer of water to the top. The water acts as a protective barrier, and prevents the guacamole from reacting with the oxygen in the air. Pour the water out of the container when you are ready to eat it. The guacamole will stay green and delicious."
13."Ice cream can get rock hard in the freezer and it takes ages to thaw out just enough that you can eat it. A simple trick to keep it just the right consistency is to put the container in a plastic Ziplock bag before throwing it in the freezer."
14."While you are shopping for avocados, how do you know whether an avocado is too ripe or just right? If you sneakily pop off the stem, you can look at the color underneath. An avocado that is too ripe will be brown under the stem, and will be useless to just about everyone. An avocado that is just right will be green underneath the stem. Be sure you are looking at relatively dark avocados to begin with (the lighter green ones are under-ripe)."
15."Brown sugar likes to compact, and when it does, it can become as hard as a brick. When you are baking, you don’t want to waste time making your brown sugar soft again. You can prevent your brown sugar from going hard by simply storing it with a piece of bread...Alternatively, you can also use a marshmallow."
16."I feel the most important general rule is that when a recipe designates a heat setting it is almost assuredly based on a gas flame and not an electric heating element. Contrary to popular belief they are definitely not the same. You need to adjust the heat according to what you see and are attempting to accomplish."
17."Roll lemons and oranges on the countertop with the palm of your hand. Making them softer and warmer will give you more juice when juicing them. If they were just out of the refrigerator, put them in hot water for a minute or two first."
19."When making a fruit salad, put the banana and the apples down and the rest of the fruit above them [so they don't] get brown. Sprinkle a spoon or two of sugar or honey on the top and leave it in the fridge till it’s time to serve. Now, mix everything and add some fresh juice to enrich the taste of it if its natural juice wasn’t enough."
22."Things can get messy if you are cutting a particularly large cake and only have a small knife, but even things like cheese and Swiss rolls can be difficult to cut precisely. You can use dental floss to make quick and precise cuts and avoid the trouble."
23."If a curry or sauce is too spicy, add some potatoes, cream, tomato sauce, or coconut milk to balance it. You can also add water and simmer it down, but it will take time. Adding potatoes or water work for too much salt as well."
28."Do not store tomatoes in the refrigerator; this makes them mealy, and completely changes their flavor profile. Plus, they will last much longer on a kitchen window sill than they ever will when stored in the refrigerator. There are actually numerous produce items that fall in this same category."
29."That amazing taste you sometimes get at Italian restaurants? Much of it is they roast the tomatoes at 425 degrees. At that heat, the sugar inside caramelizes and creates a massive depth of flavor. Seriously: roast cherry or plum tomatoes (easiest size to use), and the taste change will blow your mind."
31."Season and taste your food as you cook, not just at the end. I’m amazed by how many people (and recipes) season at the end of cooking only. Spices release oils when warmed up, allowing all of those flavors to mix while you're cooking, bringing a better depth of flavor. You need a little salt when sautéing vegetables to help release the juices in the veggies. And taste as you go. You can correct a lot of blunders early on, but not if you don’t catch them."
36."When cooking a casserole, start with it covered to cook through. It won’t dry out this way. About 15–20 minutes before the cooking is to be completed, pull it out, sprinkle on a bit of shredded cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter (or both), and put it back in the oven uncovered for the rest of the cooking time."
37."I want this to come across far stronger than a tip or hack, but every time you are cooking to be sure that the handles are not pointing out over the edge of the stove or counter. This applies to every case, especially if you are heating oil or water."
39."The next time you have the courage to face your pans after having dried overnight with a mess on them, put two tablespoons of vinegar and four tablespoons of water in, and bring it to simmer. The vinegar will eat through the mess in a matter of minutes."
41."When making pasta, wait to add the salt until the water starts to boil. Saltwater has a higher boiling point and a higher specific heat, so it will take longer and uses more energy to heat than if we add it when it starts to boil."
42."When I'm cooking a recipe that calls for a lot of different spices (chopped ginger, peppers, onions, etc.), I use empty yogurt cups. I just measure everything into yogurt cups and stack them in the order I'll be using them. Things that get added at the same time, go into the same cup. Then as I'm cooking, I just have to grab the top cup, add, and I'm ready for the next ingredient. And of course, I stack the empties on top of each other as they're used. I never get halfway through a recipe and discover I'm missing a crucial ingredient or have things burn as I'm frantically trying to get the top off and measure the next spice. My counter stays clean and uncluttered, and it's easy to just rinse out the yogurt cups for the next round."
45."When a recipe calls for you to coat a baking dish with a cooking spray, open your dishwasher and place the dish on the door. Then you can spray away, and any over-shots will get washed away with your next load."
46."Tomato paste: I hate leaving the rest of the can in the fridge to eventually turn bad. So I put the rest in a small freezer bag, flatten the bag, and put in the freezer. Saves space and the tomato paste for use later."
47."While you are deep frying, use a tong to hold each bit of food as you toss it into the oil. Make sure you hold it under the surface of the oil prior to releasing it. By doing so, the exterior will be sealed which means that it will not stick to the pot or to the food as well."
48."Sous vide cheaper steak cuts into expensive ones. Sous vide is the process of enclosing food (typically steak) in [food-safe] vacuum-packed polyethylene and slow cooking at a low temperature. Cheaper-cut steak is typically sold already vacuum-packed. Stick the unopened pack into your Crock Pot, cover with water, and set to low for an hour before you fry it. It removes toughness and makes rump (almost) taste like sirloin."
49."My husband's grandmother used to say this: 'If you don't know what to cook for dinner, chop an onion. By the time you've finished, you'll know what you want to make and you'll probably need the chopped onion.'"
50."Contrary to popular belief, meats (including steaks and burgers) cook faster and more evenly if they're flipped often. Rather than attempting to cook it by heating one side intensely while the other side is cold, resulting in a large temperature differential, repeatedly flipping the meat results in both sides heating slowly and evenly, with the heat spreading through the meat from both sides to the center."
51."Unless you’re making bread, any time a recipe calls for you to add water, add a different liquid with more flavor. For example, if a bean recipe calls for you to add water, add some broth instead or some other tasty liquid with a flavor affinity to the dish you are preparing."
52."I would think the most important tip would be measuring flour correctly. Flour is very compactable. Depending how you put your flour in your cup measure, you may end up getting significantly different amounts by weight each time. Spooning flour into a cup measure is the correct culinary way. If you dip the cup, you will compress the flour way too much, resulting in tougher drier baked goods."
54.Finally, "Find a semi-complicated stew recipe and make it 'til you rock it out. Then, make it until you understand every step and why you have to go through it. You don’t have to do it every night, try once a week. Why a stew? Because it will teach you a lot of the basics of great cooking."