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    24 Kitchen Tips And Tricks For People Who Are Disasters In The Kitchen

    To loosely quote Ratatouille, anyone can cook, but some of us might need a little more help.

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    1. Skip the online recipes for now and consult a well-loved cookbook that covers the basics and will get you a lot further than an isolated recipe with a long intro and several hundred contradictory comments.

    Amazon

    Literally everyone in my family has a well-loved, lightly-spattered copy of The Joy of Cooking that falls open to the most used recipes (mac and cheese and pumpkin bread if you're me). This classic cookbook will give you the standard, no-frills way to make just about anything — you can innovate and substitute to your heart's content once you've gotten a little more comfortable in the kitchen.

    There are also more modern classics like Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that'll teach you why things taste good and how to get there on your own, eventually without a recipe — although there are plenty of recipes in the book, too. Also, if you somehow haven't already, watch the Netflix show. You'll learn a ton, and also 100% absolutely fall in love with Samin Nosrat, she's just the best.

    Get them from Amazon: The Joy of Cooking for $22.59 and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for $22.50.

    2. Rinse your rice before you cook it for the perfect fluffy texture. It'll give you a perfect base for a million recipes from a ton of different cuisines.

    Zoë Burnett / BuzzFeed

    Check out all the tips for cooking perfect rice, because the exact method depends on the kind of rice you're using.

    And if you're making rice a lot, consider a traditional rice cooker ($45 for an OG Japanese one on Amazon) or a microwave rice cooker that people absolutely swear by ($15 on Amazon).

    3. Stop filling your house with smoke every time you turn on the oven, so you can actually use the darn thing. Spray on some fume-free oven cleaner, wait a couple hours, and then just wipe off all that gross cooked-on residue.

    amazon.com

    All those drips from various frozen pizzas over the years have definitely built up on the bottom of your oven, and it's time to get rid of them. This oven cleaner makes the dreaded chore downright easy, and having a clean oven is the first step to cooking success. Everyone within hearing range of your smoke alarm will thank you.

    Get a bottle of oven cleaner from Amazon for $4.72.

    Promising review: “This stuff is awesome! My oven was setting off our (apartment) smoke detector every time I would preheat it, so I knew it was time to clean it. I have never cleaned an oven before, so I searched Pinterest for tips and I found this product. It works VERY well! Just be sure you only spray it on areas you can rinse/wipe off very well. Make sure it's all off before you turn on the oven again. If you leave some of it in the oven it will smoke and smell strongly of chemicals in your entire house.” —Sadie

    4. Fully stock your kitchen with some dishwasher-safe basic cookware — that one weird pan you've had for forever isn't gonna cut it anymore.

    Walmart

    These two sets from the Tasty collection from Walmart will cover all the basics you need — they include a frying pan, a grill pan, two saucepans, a deep cooker, a Dutch oven, a cookie sheet, a muffin tin, two cake pans, a loaf pan, and an adorable emoji timer. The cookware set can be used on any kind of cooktop, the bakeware set has included silicone handles, and both are dishwasher safe, BPA and PFOA free, and non-stick.

    Get the BuzzFeed Tasty 11-piece cookware set from Walmart for $79 (originally $99, available in four colors), and the BuzzFeed Tasty bakeware set, also from Walmart, for $35.69.

    5. Pay special attention to your knives — a good knife set can make all the difference when it comes to how long it takes to chop, and how easily a meal comes together.

    amazon.com

    If you've ever spent an eternity trying to cut a butternut squash with a paring knife, you know what I'm talking about. Different knives all have dedicated jobs, and using one for the wrong purpose can slow you down and even get you hurt! Investing in a good knife set will totally change the way you cook, trust me.

    Get this set of 15 knives and a storage block from Amazon for $59.98.

    Promising review: “I use these knives every day. They are super sharp and I don't feel like I'm wasting my time when I have to chop a ton of vegetables. These knives stay sharp and are very durable. They have just the right amount of weight to slice through just about anything without too much pressure needing to be applied. The only down side, if you can call it that, is they have to be hand washed but I just do so right away after use.” —Amazon Customer

    6. Avoid!!! Putting knives!!!! In the dishwasher!!!!!!

    Amazon

    Look, I know it's a pain, but you really can't just toss your lovely, sharp knives into the dishwasher. Not only are they waaaaaaaaaaaaay more likely to rust, but it's actually a safety issue: The agitation in the dishwasher dulls the blades of your knives and a dull knife is hands down one of the most dangerous things in your kitchen. It seems counterintuitive, but you're way more likely to seriously cut yourself on a dull knife than a properly sharpened one.

    Keep those fingers safe with a cutlery brush, like the one in the picture above, that'll let you easily clean your knives in just a few swipes. Get it from Amazon for $6.99+ (available in two colors).

    7. Speaking of keeping your knives sharp, it's really worth your time to pick up a dedicated knife sharpener.

    Amazon

    Listen, I know I'm probably beating a dead horse here, but I really want you to keep your precious fingers safe! Periodically sharpening your knives is another way you can avoid injury, and really, it's worth it to drop a little cash on this and avoid the bill for an ER visit and stitches.

    Get this highly-rated sharpener from Amazon for $15.95.

    Promising review: “I spend a LOT of time cooking. As a result, my knives take it in the shorts. The best quality chef's knife in the world is still useless if the blade is dull, not to mention dangerous. As anyone that cooks knows, you don't cut yourself with sharp knives — you cut yourself because of dull ones. As of now, I no longer have any dangerous knives in my kitchen because of this little beauty! Don't let the low price throw you — this is an excellent sharpener. It is super easy to use and so small you can leave it on the counter (so you remember to use it!). I just sharpened every knife I own in lickety split time and they are razor sharp.” —Skyblues

    8. In the meantime, protect your cute lil' fingertips with a pair of cut resistant gloves while you sharpen up your knife skills.

    Amazon

    Please note that these gloves are cut resistant, not cut proof — they'll help keep you safe if your knife slips while you're chopping, but don't go stabbing yourself in the hand, please.

    Get a pair of highly-rated cut resistant gloves from Amazon for $10.99 (available in four sizes).

    Promising review: “Ordered these after losing a battle with my mandolin slicer and partially cutting off the end of my ring finger. I won't use the mandolin again without these gloves! Santa put these in my stocking for Christmas and I used them later that day to thinly slice potatoes with the mandolin for a gratin. I experimented to see if I could cut the glove first before actually using the mandolin again. I couldn't cut it!! ” —Wilhelmina

    9. Slice an onion most of the way through horizontally once or twice before you start to chop it — it's not hard, I promise, and you'll end up with an even dice that you can use to flavor a ton of recipes.

    BuzzFeed

    Basically, you're gonna cut through the onion horizontally and then cut across the onion, all before you make the big chop all the way through from top to bottom. This'll give you neat, small pieces that you can use in a multitude of different recipes.

    More of a ~visual learner~? Check out the full video and gifs of a bunch of different onion cutting techniques in our super-thorough guide to chopping onions.

    10. Differentiate your meat cutting boards from your veggie ones with color-coded cutting boards, so you won't have to worry about cross contamination and bacteria.

    amazon.com

    Identical cutting boards sure look pretty, but they can also be pretty easy to mix up. While you're still getting your feet under you in the kitchen, these color-coded ones can help you prevent accidentally cutting a tomato on a cutting board you just used for raw chicken *shudder.* Plus, these are foldable so you can easily transfer chopped food directly to a pan.

    Get a set of four from Amazon for $6.59.

    Promising review: “If you worry about cross contamination or just like to be organized for organized sake, then pick up these cutting mats. First off, they're a great size. If you've used a small cutting board before you know how difficult and annoying that experience can be. Second off, they're more versatile than a standard wood board. You can fold up to pour and put them anywhere (well, almost anywhere) to cut whatever it is you're cutting up.” —Mike H

    11. Be super, super safe and grab a countertop fire extinguisher. Let's hope you never need it, but in the event of an emergency you'll want to have it on hand.

    Amazon, amazon.com

    Many kitchen fires are grease fires and it's very!!!!! dangerous!!!!! to try to extinguish one with water — it'll make the fire spread far faster. Always try to smother it, or use a chemical extinguisher.

    Get one from Amazon for $12.58.

    Promising review: “Today I had to use this stuff. I accidentally set a paper plate on the stove and had to put it out with this stuff. It saved our kitchen. Really works. I took advice from one reviewer and drew an arrow on top so I would see which way to spray. I'm sure glad I did. Put a couple of these where you can get them easily in an emergency — NOT right by the stove where the flames will be. I'm so glad I had this.” —Evie S.

    12. Avoid the stove entirely with a microwave pasta cooker that'll let you make your favorite foods without the mess and inconvenience of boiling a big pot of water.

    Amazon

    This might seem like a silly product, but people swear by it — it has over 2,000 five-star reviews on Amazon! — and it'll ensure that you have an easy and yummy dinner together in a snap.

    Get it from Amazon for $14.99.

    Promising review: “I don't want to get all gushy over a pasta maker, but man...I really love this gizmo! I try to limit my monthly food expenditures and this helps me work in at least one inexpensive pasta meal every week. I get the exact amount of correctly-measured spaghetti; it's faster than boiling water in a big pot then having to watch and stir the pasta; the pasta comes out perfectly cooked every time; and the cleanup is a snap. No big pot; no colander; no spaghetti fork to lift out the pasta. Just the easy to clean Fasta Pasta.” —Smilin Sam

    13. Take a page out of the book of a professional chef and use a bench scraper for all of your scooping, dividing, and transferring needs.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    It'll take a lot less time (and be a lot less messy) than using just your hands, and it's safer than trying to use the flat side of a knife. Plus, once you get a little more comfortable, it's a great tool to have for baking. And while you're at it, go ahead and check out some more tips from professional chefs.

    Get a set of three nested bench scrapers from Amazon for $9.99.

    14. Put those nonstick pans to use making the perfect egg in them. Be sure to use low heat, and go slowwwwwwww — whether you're scrambling or frying, your patience will be rewarded.

    Getty Images / BuzzFeed

    Learn the reasoning behind that tip and get a bunch of others in our guide to making the perfect egg.

    15. Fish out those annoying fragments of eggshell with the rest of the egg! Game. Changer.

    youtube.com

    This tip is legit, I can confirm. That little eggshell piece can be basically impossible to grab with your fingers, but it'll slide into the eggshell like it's magnetically attracted. Say goodbye to unintentionally crunchy scrambled eggs and cakes, folks.

    16. Stop spreading around bacteria with that one gross, old kitchen sponge. Get a long-lasting plastic one you can disinfect regularly — and that won't fall apart after a week of scrubbing.

    amazon.com

    The Jetz Scrubz sponge is the BuzzFeed Reviews pick for top-tier kitchen sponge for a reason: it lasts forever (the one in the photos above has been in use for five months!), resists odors, and you just toss it in the dishwasher or the microwave once a week to keep it clean. It's super scrubby, resists stains, and it's definitely better for the earth (and your wallet, in the long run) than throwing out a cheap-o sponge every two weeks.

    Get a pack of three from Amazon for $14.21.

    Promising review: “I've been pleased with these sponges and I was going to buy a few more but noticed the price went up. Then I went back and checked when I last bought them, over nine months ago! Plus I gave one in the three pack to my mother-in-law. So that means two sponges have lasted nine months. Wow! I guess I will buy them again despite the price increase. The photos are of the second sponge, I'm guessing I've been using it for five months or so.” —P.Cusack

    17. Stock up on the utensils you need for any scenario, so you don't get halfway through a recipe only to discover that you really need to whisk something when all you have is a slotted spoon.

    amazon.com

    Flexible silicone tools are a great choice for the beginner chef because they won't damage the surface you're cooking on — metal utensils can scratch pots and pans, especially nonstick ones, and that's not something you want getting into your food.

    Get this 11-piece utensil set from Amazon for $29.59.

    Promising review: “I love them so much! They fit perfectly in my kitchen, but even better they are durable. They don't break, they are soft on your pans, they are easy to clean, and I use them for everything” —kayla

    18. Skip the drama of making hard boiled eggs in a pot (it's so hard! why is it so hard???) with an egg cooker that'll automatically make perfect eggs every time.

    Amazon, amazon.com

    Just set the timer for the kind of eggs you want (this puppy'll do everything from scrambled to poached to hard boiled) and let it do its thing! It has an auto shut-off function, so they won't overcook or be a hazard if you accidentally forget about it. Also, commenters note that this thing is loud, so just be forewarned about that.

    Get it from Amazon for $16.99+ (available in five colors).

    Promising review: “I don't like watching my pot to find out when the water starts boiling, so I bought this. When an alarm sounds, it turns off automatically. Your eggs are done. No need to watch water boil. No need for daily cleaning. It's quite small. Love this thing. ” —SunscreenAl

    This machine is even Tasty chef–approved!

    19. Poke your meat (and your hands) to determine whether it's done, don't just go by how brown it looks on the outside.

    Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed

    This'll help you avoid that moment when you cut into what looks like a beautifully cooked piece of meat and discover that it's raw AF inside, or totally dried out. Just test it periodically, and you should be good!

    If you're a little cautious about using this method, pair it with a meat thermometer ($16 for a highly rated one on Amazon) until you get more comfortable.

    20. Let dinner cook itself in a slow cooker while you do more important things, like working or taking a nap.

    Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

    I know that dump dinner isn't the most appetizing name, but it is accurate — all you gotta do is dump some stuff in your slow cooker, wait a while, and bam! Food! It's pretty great.

    Check out a ton of easy and delicious dump dinners here, and get a highly rated four-quart slow cooker from Amazon for $26.

    21. Season your food (I'm begging you, please don't become another unseasoned chicken meme) but be sure you know how long to do it for.

    Chris Ritter / Buzzfeed

    If you don't marinate for long enough, the flavor won't really penetrate the meat, and if you wait too long, it can change the texture of the meat. This is especially true of seafood, which can basically cook if left in an acidic marinade for too long — that's what ceviche is!

    Also, make sure you have some good containers on hand to do your marinating in. Plastic bags ($5 on Amazon) are a good option, as are glass containers ($30 for a set of five on Amazon). The glass is a little more expensive, but is also reusable and a solid option if you're worried about producing extra waste. Both are non-reactive, so they won't react to any acids in your marinade and taste gross, and the glass won't hold on to flavors from previous marinades, unlike a reusable plastic container.

    22. Store your spices in a cute countertop rack so you'll actually remember to use them, and they won't just get dusty in a cabinet somewhere.

    Amazon

    This 16-piece set has all the basics you'll need to get started, and it comes with free spice refills for five years so really if you play your cards right you could end up making money on this thing.

    Get it from Amazon for $26.99.

    Promising review: “I really like this product. I use it every day. The spices included were not all of the spices I would want, so I added some with the free refills. You can write on the tops easy with chalk to modify the label. I saw an identical spice rack at Macy's for $70. I was pleased to get mine for half of that, and I get free spice refills for five years. I just pay shipping.” —Jamie Stevens

    23. Prepare and chop everything in advance and keep it in little bowls, so when the time comes to do the actual cooking, you won't be running around like crazy.

    Amazon

    This is called mise en place but don't let the French scare you — it just means that everything is in its place, so when you start cooking all your prep is already done. Don't try to chop your garlic while your onion is already cooking, that's just a recipe for burnt onions and sadness.

    Get a set of eight glass bowls with lids from Amazon for $17.60.

    Promising review: “I'm not an organized cook. I'm usually rushing to cut or chop up something or look for and measuring spices, etc. in the middle of cooking. So, these, for me at least, have been perfect. They hold about 4 oz. and they seal very well. I've pre-chopped onions, garlic, ginger and stored them in my refrigerator for recipes I want to make in the next day or two. The lids are tight and they never leave an odor in the refrigerator. I've used plastic storage containers but they are generally larger than what I need and the chopped veggies don't seem to last as long as they do in these little glass cups. Plus, I don't have a lot of counter space and these take up very little. Since they are all the same size and stack well I don't have to work around them. Makes pre-assembly and organizing ingredients easy and makes cooking a lot less stressful.” —W. Oliver

    24. Grate absolutely everything with a microplane. It's traditionally used for hard cheeses and citrus zest, but it's a sleeper MVP for when you want to avoid chopping garlic.

    Amazon

    Just run the clove of garlic along the grater, and be amazed at the super fine mince that you get! It's way easier than trying to use a knife, and I find that your hands get less of the garlic smell on them. Full disclosure, this will make the garlic taste stronger (it seems wrong, but the the smaller the garlic piece, the stronger the flavor) but that's honestly a pro in my book.

    Get a microplane from Amazon for $12.50 (available in 13 colors).

    Promising review: “EXCELLENT upgrade from my first Microplane purchased 15 years ago! I'd been storing my old one in my gadget drawer with the original paper sleeve to protect my fingers from cuts. The old one was still sharp and straight after many years of frequent use. I've used this guy for grating parmesan, chocolate, ginger, garlic, onions, nutmeg, cinnamon, and of course for zesting lemons and limes. It's easy to use, durable and easy to clean — I wash it by hand and allow it to dry fully before storing. Never a spot of rust.” —T-Dub

    And if you're looking for some more step by step guidance, cook with training wheels for a bit and try out a meal kit delivery service. You'll learn some skills and get to try new recipes without all the effort of planning and shopping.

    Home Chef

    There are a ton of options out there, but Home Chef offers a lot of customization compared to other meal kits, which can be helpful if you're still figuring out what you like. Plus, their recipes are super easy to follow, and they even organize the ingredients by recipe, so you don't have to go sorting through a ton of little bags and bottles before you can get started.

    Get a subscription from Home Chef, starting at $7.99 a meal.

    Good luck on your cooking journey, from me and Julia!

    PBS

    Reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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    Allison Krausman / BuzzFeed