If you cook often, you know that it's a journey, which constantly yields new discoveries, tricks, and techniques. And every once in a while, you learn something that just clicks. Redditor u/Degofreak asked, "What [cooking] trick did you learn that changed everything?" Here's some of what people said.
1. "Season in layers throughout the cooking process, with the most important 'layer' being immediately prior to serving. A final pinch of salt or spritz of lemon or vinegar in your dish goes a long way."
2. "If you have lots of garlic, peel it and put it in the food processor or blender. Then flatten out the garlic in plastic storage bags and store it in the freezer. Whenever you need garlic, just break off however much you want from the sheet. It keeps forever and tastes much better than the stuff you get in the jar from the supermarket."
3. "Getting and using an immersion blender. I thought they were gimmicks until I got one, and that was nearly 20 years ago now. I reach for this handy thing instead of taking out the full-size blender nearly every time."
4. "A good friend told me that she freezes whole gingerroot and shaves it with a grater when she needs to use some for a recipe. I tried it, and it makes the most pillowy ginger shreds that melt into the food. Total game changer. I don't even peel the ginger before freezing. I just grate the whole thing."
5. "Food processors are underrated. I've just started using mine (after using a blender for years), and behold! I can make a nice tomatillo salsa or chimichurri, no problem. But even more exciting, I saw that you can use a food processor for piecrusts and biscuits. Oh my gosh, what a game changer for cutting butter into baked goods. You just pre-chunk the butter, throw it in, and a few pulses later, you're in business."
6. "We don't eat bacon that often, but I like having it for the occasional time I want it. So what I do is take parchment paper, put a slice on it, fold it over, add another slice, and keep going — until you have a roll of individual slices of bacon. Put the roll into a large ziplock bag and store it in the freezer. Bacon freezes just fine, and you can remove as many pieces as you want when you need it."
7. "Boiling mushrooms in a bit of water before pan-frying them improves both the texture and flavor. You can use just a small amount of water to save time, and the mushrooms will turn out great."
8. "Sliced peppers and onions can go straight out of the freezer fresh and right into a hot pan. No need for thawing, which is a big time-saver."
9. "Storing delicate green vegetables — like spinach and green beans — in a salad spinner in the fridge after washing and draining really helps to keep them crisp."
10. "I've learned that the starch in the pasta water thickens the sauce, so now I cook pasta in less water (just enough to get the job done) and use more of that delicious pasta water. Sometimes I even cook the pasta directly in the sauce with just enough water to dilute it."
11. "I now freeze my leftover tomato paste. I can cut off the amount I need for a recipe and throw it back in the freezer. No more wasting the whole can."
12. "Pouring boiling water on chicken skin before cooking it helps ensure that the skin gets crispy and causes the fat to render out more thoroughly."
13. "When making hard-boiled eggs, I now steam them in a steamer basket over water instead of boiling them. I haven't fought with a stubborn shell once since I made the switch."
14. "Don't just add salt when cooking. Add an ingredient that is salty and umami at the same time. I hardly ever use plain salt, but I go through lots of powdered chicken bouillon, soy sauce, miso paste, Maggi seasoning, and anchovies."
15. "Putting eggs in a sieve to strain away any especially loose egg whites makes for perfect and effortless poached eggs. You don't need to create a whirlpool, use vinegar, or say prayers to the poached egg gods. Just crack your eggs into a sieve and let them drain for a minute, and lightly slide them into gently simmering water for a couple of minutes."
16. "I keep a jar in the fridge containing the drained oil from tinned anchovies. I add mixed herbs and some smashed garlic cloves to this oil. Then I add a teaspoon to my sauces when I'm cooking, which gives it a major umami kick."
17. "If you place a dry paper towel in your bag of spinach or kale, it will last months instead of a week. The bag will always be dry instead of building condensation, which wilts the greens."
18. "I've learned that the best approach for tasty soups and stews is to double the vegetable ingredients (like onions, leeks, shallots, and carrots). Once they're cooked, I put half of the vegetables in a blender, puree them, and add them back to the broth. I get twice the flavor with only half the bulk."
19. "Keeping multiple vinegars on hand is a godsend. They're all so useful in different ways. Apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar for adding acid to a dish when you're not sure what it needs...and white vinegar for cleaning."
20. "For the best, creamiest hummus, easily peel the skins of garbanzo beans with this simple trick: Add a pinch of baking soda to your boiling beans. It'll react and froth like wild, but the garbanzos will start to render into mush while the more fibrous skins separate. I can then usually take a whisk, whip it across the surface of the water, and pull out the skins."
21. "When it comes to making homemade salad dressings, go for big flavor. If it tastes strong off the spoon, it’s perfect for the greens."
22. "The flavor of garlic in a dish is dependent on when during the cooking process you added that garlic. Add it early on for light flavor; add later on for bold flavor."
23. "If you’re not sure what your food needs more of (salt, vinegar, hot sauce, sugar, what have you), place just a little bit into a bowl and season it with what you think is missing. Does it taste better? If yes, season the whole batch. If not, try again. There's no danger of ruining the whole pot, skillet, or batch if you just do a little side experiment first."
24. "Salt your meat the day before you cook it. It gives salt time to penetrate the meat, which adds flavor throughout. In addition, it helps with crisping/browning by removing excess moisture."
25. "Try a dash of soy sauce in scrambled eggs or toward the end of your caramelized onions. It adds a savory salt flavor that complements many dishes."
26. "Be sure to brown stew meat and ground meat for chili before putting the rest of your ingredients into the pot. This will take you from chewy, tough meat to meat that is so tender, it falls apart."
27. "Add honey to your poultry brine — it's water soluble and results in an extremely moist bird every time."
What's a seriously helpful tip or trick you've learned that suddenly made cooking click? Tell us in the comments!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.