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17 Small Cooking Habits That Can Make A Big Difference

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We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their best kitchen solutions — like tips, tricks, and ways to avoid common mistakes. Here is some of their best advice.

1. Slice chicken before cooking it.

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"Chicken will cook faster if you butterfly the breast, pound it to equal thickness, and cut it into fillets. Otherwise, the small end of the breast will be overcooked and dry by the time the larger side is cooked. It’s an easy extra step, makes a huge difference taste-wise, and looks so much better when plated." —stephaniev23

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2. Preheat your pan before adding food to it.

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Wait until your pan and oil is adequately heated before adding food to it, unless you want food that sticks to the pan or cooks unevenly. —zoeh43e265480

3. ...But drop the heat to medium once the pan is heated up.

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"Heat your pan first, then drop the heat to a nice medium setting. You can't just flash cook everything — you will ruin your foods' flavor and texture that way." —Zach Rathier, Facebook

4. Don't be afraid of salt.

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"Such a basic thing, but under-seasoning is a rookie mistake. Almost every time I eat something made by an amateur cook, it's super bland and I have to add salt." —Kadamony

5. Sharpen. Those. Knives.

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"When I hear, 'Ugh, I hate cutting onions,' I think, Honey, you aren't cutting onions, you are crushing onions. Sharpen that knife. If you think it's sharp enough, do it one more time." —Malou Kleist

"Chopping things with dull knives is the worst. Even a cheap knife can be sharpened. It will save you time and will prove less dangerous than cutting with a dull knife." —katee27

6. Allow your steak to come up to room temperature before cooking it.

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"I learned this while working with a butcher. Cooking a steak directly from the fridge means that once it hits the hot pan, the fibers in the meat go into shock, tense up, and result in a tough steak." —Debby Murphy, Facebook

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7. For potato dishes that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, dunk them in ice-cold water before cooking them.

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"When making fries, hash browns, or other potato dishes from scratch, cut or grate your potatoes and immediately put the pieces into ice-cold water. This does two things: It prevents potatoes from turning pink or brown and removes some of the starch, which makes potato products fluffier." —Rachel Beth, Facebook

"I used to work at Five Guys and that's how they get their fries to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They soak them in ice cold water until they're not starchy anymore." —Arlene Haskins, Facebook

And don't forget to pat dry the excess moisture.

8. Don't cut into your chicken to check if it's done — use a thermometer.

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"Do not poke a steak with a meat thermometer or fork. Any hole you poke into steak is a pathway for the juices to escape." —PDXMatthew

And FYI, here's an infographic on how to check for steak doneness using the hand test.

9. Don't add olive oil to your pasta water.

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"A lot of people I see cooking pasta add olive oil to the water, which actually can prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta." —EmmaMichelle2

10. Don't rinse pasta after you've drained it.

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"It removes the natural starch from the surface of the noodles and the sauce won’t stick as well." —MrsSwan

11. Season vegetables at the beginning of the cooking process.

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"Always season your vegetables when you add them to the pan. This prevents over seasoning at the end and makes the flavor profile even better than if you only seasoned at the end." —lyonsamd

"You really should be seasoning throughout your cooking process. Your food will taste way better and you might find you don't need to use as much of it." —FreeFalling

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13. Cook your meatloaf on a baking sheet — not in a loaf pan.

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"Stop putting meatloaf into loaf pans. It traps all the grease and fat and makes it soggy. Form a free loaf on a baking sheet so everything drains away and the meat can actually get nice and browned." —blackzephyr

14. Work your ground beef as little as possible.

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"Whether making hamburger patties, meatballs, or meatloaf, try to handle it as little as possible. Handling it too much can cause the meat to be tough and ruins the texture." —blackzephyr

15. If you're trying an intricate cake design, use fondant — not frosting.

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"If you are expecting to make a cake with intricate designs, do not use frosting. Fondant is what gives it that smooth texture, and is much easier to work with than frosting." —Catie O'Connor, Facebook

16. Roast sweet potatoes whole — don't microwave them.

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"One of my pet peeves is when people microwave sweet potatoes or yams to eat them plain. Roasting them whole — with the skin on — caramelizes the natural sugars. Cooked this way, you don't need to add salt, pepper, sugar, butter, cream or anything else. The skin gets crispy and the flesh is creamy and sweet." —Kylie Glatt, Facebook

17. Keep guacamole green by covering it in a layer of lukewarm water.

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"I made some guacamole the night before, put it in a bowl, smoothed the top, then covered it with about 1/2 inch of water and put the lid on. I took it to work the next day and poured the water off. It was perfect." —Connie Tanksley Stover, Facebook

Submissions have been lightly edited and condensed.

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