Cooking is an art — and there's only so much you can learn from reading recipes. Sometimes, you just need to experiment and try out new techniques and ingredients for yourself. So Redditor u/katieasaur asked, "What is your secret technique that you've never seen in cookbook or online?" Some of the responses were fascinating, and I can't wait to try them in my own kitchen.
1."When you're in a pinch and need to thicken a sauce quickly, make roux in a mug in the microwave. It usually doesn't take longer than a minute to become golden and ready to use."
2."Substitute some of the liquid in your waffle batter with seltzer or another carbonated beverage like Ginger Ale and sparkling wine. The result: the fluffiest, airiest waffles ever."
3."Soak onions in lime juice for a few minutes before mixing them into salsa or putting them on tacos. It gets rid of that raw funky taste. Plus, the lime adds a nice acidity to your food anyway."
4."I always start cooking mushrooms in a dry pan for a few minutes to get some of the moisture out before I add oil or butter. They brown so much better this way."
5."Use frozen flour when making pie crust. The first step in making pie crust is cutting butter into the flour. Most recipes recommend using very cold butter chopped into small pieces. Freezing the flour you're using means the butter stays colder for longer."
6."When baking, freeze butter and grate it with a microplane. It's the easiest way to get very fine pieces of cold butter that distribute evenly into your dough."
7."When making biscuits, cookies, or anything that requires a flaky dough, freeze the mixing bowl and the pastry cutter too. It keeps the dough colder and makes for better baking results."
8."Quickly pickle red onions in about 30 minutes using your microwave. Warm the vinegar and a bit of water, sugar and salt in the microwave. Then toss the onions in there. Add a few spices if you want to get fancy. If you do this at the start of your meal prep, they're ready to use by the time your dish is on the table."
9."I learned this trick from my grandmother. She would take leftover pie dough scraps, brush them with butter a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, and roll them into mini cinnamon rolls. Bake them in the oven for a delicious little extra treat. It's like two desserts in one."
10."I freeze excess lemons whole. You can microplane the zest, peel off any white pith, and microplane the lemon flesh. Or let the flesh thaw and use the juice."
11."Adding a touch of baking soda to grits or polenta cuts the cooking time in half. It's my favorite dinner time-saver."
12."I use a garlic press for way more than just garlic. It works for a lot of chopping and grinding needs. Try it for anchovies, herbs, rough chopped peppercorns, cumin seeds, etc..."
13."When I make banana bread, I gently mash the banana while it's still inside its peel. I try this softly so the banana doesn't split open. With this method, the banana comes out pre-mashed without any of the gross strings attached. It's usually so soft that you don't even need a fork to mash it further. Plus, it's one less bowl you must clean."
14."I blend mushrooms together into a paste, then I use the paste to add umami flavor to whatever I'm cooking."
15."Put a tiny teaspoon of sodium citrate into your mac 'and' cheese. You won't have to use Velveeta or American slices or an overload of butter. With a bit of sodium citrate you can use any cheese you want (young or aged, soft or hard, any mixture of multiple cheese) and you'll still get a perfect, creamy texture. Warm up the sodium citrate just enough to melt the cheese, and voilà. The texture is the same as that of boxed mac, but it tastes much better and reheats better, too."
16."Add soy sauce or fish sauce to spaghetti, chili and soups for deeper, more savory flavor."
17."Very gently fold whipped egg whites into pancake batter with a whisk. It makes the pancakes so much better, fluffier, and more decadent."
18."Freeze chopped or minced garlic in olive oil in an ice cube tray. It comes in so handy. When you need garlic in a pinch, you don't have to stop what you're doing to peel and chop garlic. Just toss a cube into whatever you're cooking."
19."Clean your pans while they are still hot after cooking. It makes all the food scraps come off much easier. I've heard people raise concerns about 'thermal shock' potentially damaging the pans, but I've been doing this for years and all my pans are in great shape. It doesn't take much heat to make most scraps come off noticeably easier. And for seasoned pans like cast iron or carbon steel, it's a great way to avoid scrubbing with an abrasive, which can definitely damage the seasoning."
20."Brown some butter in a skillet, then add breadcrumbs and cook for a minute or so, being careful not to burn it. It makes the most delicious vegetable topping, poured over roasted cauliflower, green beans, etc..."
21."If a baking recipe calls for fruit juice (like lemon, lime, apple cider, etc...), I use double the amount but reduce it by boiling it down. The boiled juice really amps up the flavor."
22."Add shredded cheese inside hard taco shells about a minute before they're done baking. Not only does it keep the taco shells together, but it also tastes really good."
23."I make huge batches of roux and then portion it into small silicone molds. I store the individually-portioned roux in the freezer and then use it as required by recipes for things like gravy, mac 'n' cheese, béchamel sauce, etc..."
24."Use Jello vanilla pudding powder in place of half of the sugar when baking cookies. It keeps them super soft for days and gives them a cake-like interior."
25."When baking any chocolate-y recipe like brownies or chocolate cake/cupcakes, swap out some of the water for the same amount of freshly brewed, cooled coffee. The taste is incredible, and the coffee actually enhances the chocolate flavor."
26."Instead of making French toast with milk, substitute Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur. The result is so delicious."
27."If you're making homemade chicken tenders or fried pork chops, grind up pork rinds and use them instead of breadcrumbs."
28."Add a bit of mayonnaise to beaten eggs before scrambling them or making an omelette or quiche. It adds volume and makes them light and fluffy."
29."Better than Bouillon paste adds a lot of complex flavor to whatever you're cooking like rice, sautéed greens, or even meatballs."
30."Taco seasoning (like the El Paso brand in the yellow box) is my secret spice that I put in nearly every rub and marinade... even if I'm not cooking Mexican food."
31."I use Pepperidge Farm Chess Cookies in my banana pudding in place of the standard Nilla Wafers. Visually, you can’t tell the difference, but the taste is so much better."
32.What's your favorite underrated cooking tip, trick, or hack? Share in the comments!