I love to cook, and I'm constantly hearing about new kitchen tips and tricks. And while some can be forgettable, others really stand out in my mind and make me think, Whoa, I should really try that. So I browsed the subreddit r/cooking and comments from the BuzzFeed Community, and I compiled a list of the small but surprising cooking tips that seriously impressed me.
1. "I add pureed or shredded carrots to my tomato sauce. It really cuts the acidity without the extra added sugar. Everyone always raves about my pasta sauce."
2. "I use Kraft Macaroni & Cheese packets to season my popcorn. It's life-changing."
3. "If you're making cookies from bagged or boxed mix (like Tollhouse), substitute whatever butter you usually use for Kerrygold butter. Something about salted Irish butter will take your cookies to the next level."
4. "I add a pinch of salt to hot chocolate, and people go crazy for it. But it's only hot cocoa mix, milk, and salt. The extra sodium doesn't make it salty at all. In fact, it somehow brings out more of the chocolate flavor."
5. "The secret to incredible tomato sauce is butter. Try putting a decent amount of butter into your red sauce and let it simmer. It will taste so much better, but no one will be able to guess the secret."
6. "Try adding a touch of horseradish to your mashed potatoes...especially garlic mashed potatoes. It's a game changer. It adds a ton of flavor without being too noticeable or overpowering."
7. "If you want a cheap and easy meal that will blow your mind, toss instant beef-flavored ramen with some peanut butter and sriracha. It's creamy, savory, spicy, sweet, and totally divine."
8. "If you're used to making grilled cheese with butter, try swapping that butter for a light layer of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of garlic salt on the outside of your bread. It makes for an incredible grilled cheese sandwich."
9. "Anytime a recipe calls for water, I always use chicken broth instead. It makes just about anything taste richer, more complex, and better."
10. "Add a little bit of soy sauce to your tuna or chicken salad. It gives it that extra salty tanginess. I worked at Jimmy John's for a while, and that was their secret. I've been making mine this way for 10 years now, and I could never go back."
11. "I substitute half the sugar I put into boxed cookie, cake, and cupcake mix for a packet of Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding powder. It keeps baked goods super soft and moist for days."
12. "Most people use overripe bananas for banana bread, but I have another great trick. I freeze the overripe bananas first, then I thaw them when it's time to bake. Freezing them first somehow makes them taste even sweeter."
13. "Crack an egg into your mashed potatoes when they're almost ready. Forget about cream and butter — the secret to super-creamy mashed potatoes is adding an egg into the mix. (It works for pasta carbonara, so why not for mashed potatoes?) The heat of the mashed potatoes cooks the egg so it's safe to eat, but it imparts a delicious richness."
14. "For mac 'n' cheese that stays creamy even after it's been refrigerated, add some cream cheese when you're making the sauce. You can't even taste the cream cheese, but the sauce stays moist and thick instead of being totally absorbed into the pasta."
15. "Use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to cook any grains that don't need to be strained, like quinoa, rice, couscous, etc. It makes them taste so much more flavorful than simply cooking them in water."
16. "Add a bit of mayonnaise to your beaten eggs before scrambling them or making an omelet or quiche. It adds volume and makes them light and fluffy."
17. "Adding a pinch of baking soda to grits or polenta cuts the cooking time in half. It's my favorite dinner time-saver."
18. "Replace some of the liquid in your waffle batter with seltzer or another carbonated beverage, like ginger ale. It's the key to the fluffiest, airiest waffles ever."
19. "Place an ice cube on any leftover food you're microwaving to add moisture while reheating. The ice won’t melt, but it adds steam to your food. It's especially useful for rice."
20. "If you run out of bread crumbs and are in a pinch, just toast a slice of bread and grate it into fine pieces."
21. "Making your own flavored butter is so easy, and it's the easiest way to upgrade a meal. Just soften a pat of butter and add anything from herbs or garlic to chili pepper. Shape the butter into a cylinder on waxed paper, roll it up, and freeze it. Whenever you want to use it, just use a warm knife to slice off a portion. I always have about five different-flavored butters in my freezer on any given day."
22. "Add a layer of Greek yogurt or mayonnaise on top of fish fillets like salmon before baking them. It prevents the fish from drying out on the oven, keeping it moist and flaky."
23. "Save leftover bacon grease and sauté onions with it, or just use bacon grease instead of olive oil or butter when you're making anything that could use a little extra flavor boost."
24. "Instead of frying eggs in olive oil, give them a serious flavor boost by frying them in tablespoon of pesto."
25. "The trick to life-changing mashed potato gravy: the spice packet from your instant ramen. I make my gravy with butter, flour, water, and a packet of beef or chicken ramen seasoning."
26. "I put extra yolks in my scrambled eggs. It makes them so much more decadent. So, for example, if I'm making eggs for two people, I'll use four whole eggs and two additional egg yolks."
27. "Whenever I'm making something with ground taco meat, I mix in a chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. It gives the meat a smoky heat that really elevates the flavor."
28. "A friend of mine learned this trick in culinary school, and now I swear by it. If you’re making something savory and it just seems like it needs something but you’re not sure what, add a bit of mustard. Yellow mustard or Dijon always does the trick. I don’t know what kind of magic it is, but it totally works."
29. "Add a bit of brown sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup to pretty much any savory stews, soups, sauces, salad dressings, chilis, and marinades. It helps cut those sour, acidy, bitter flavors and adds another level of deliciousness."
30. "I always add a dollop of sour cream to my boxed mac 'n' cheese when it's time to add the milk and cheese packet. It makes it creamier and so rich."
31. "I worked in a high-end restaurant that was very well known for its cheesecake. The secret to the cheesecake: just cream cheese and marshmallow fluff blended together and set in graham cracker crust."
32. "Use a cheese grater or microplane to grate a small amount of butter over leftovers when reheating them in the microwave. Grated butter gives whatever you're reheating the perfect amount of moisture and flavor without drowning it in liquid."
33. "If your homemade sauces or soups seem too thin or watery, try adding instant mashed potatoes as a thickener. Since I learned this trick, I've started keeping a box around for lazy days or emergencies. They're a lifesaver when you've added too much liquid to soup."
What's a useful cooking tip that has delightfully surprised you? Drop it into the comments below!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.