Whether you're just starting out on your cooking journey or you already consider yourself to be a top-notch home cook, you'll know that the littlest tips, tricks, and secrets can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes, they'll even become a tried-and-true kitchen "secret" in your home.
Recently, u/DoughnutFit asked Redditors to share their "best kept cooking secrets," and I gotta say...I found each and every one of them wildly useful. These are some of the most helpful ones I found — and I truly can't wait to try some of these out myself.
1. "I reduce five pounds of sweet onions down to two cups of deeply caramelized onion. Just a quarter cup supercharges any savory soup or stew, or really any dish you're trying to give some oomph."
2. "If you're trying to impress people by cooking for them, never use a brand new recipe. Cook the same recipe many times until you're confident you can deliver good results — THEN use it to entertain."
3. "Put a little bit of water (or an ice cube) in your leftovers before you put them in the microwave, and cover it. Especially when you're microwaving leftover meat! It doesn't dry out, and it actually makes turkey of all things more juicy."
4. "When a recipe calls for a teaspoon of vanilla extract, I add something closer to a tablespoon. The people making the recipes generally use higher-quality vanilla with more potent flavor — the cheap stuff I get at the store is extremely bland compared to the pricier stuff, which means adjusting the volume is very necessary!"
5. "Bacon always comes out better if you cook it in an oven, and it’s important to put the bacon in before turning the oven on; preheating the oven ahead of time will make the bacon stick to the baking sheet, so putting it in as the oven preheats will mean that the fat renders out more easily (and doesn't stick)."
6. "If you're tasting your dish and think: 'Hmmm, this needs...something,' it's probably acid — especially if you've already salted it well. Citrus and vinegar are definitely the best ways to add acid at the end of cooking. I like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, depending on the recipe, because they also have their own flavor contribution in addition to the acidity. Starting with some tomatoes up front is also a great way to tweak a recipe that might ultimately need more acidity!"
7. "When I make burgers, I add a packet of Lipton onion soup mix and a couple dashes of nutmeg to the ground beef mixture, and I let it soak in for at least an hour or two before grilling. It gives the meat a nice little bit of something extra compared to the usual salt and pepper."
8. "If you cook a lot, invest in a bench scraper. You can get them cheap, and they're good for picking up pretty much anything, from chopped veggies to really sticky dough. They're also good for scraping any waste into the trash, like excess flour or garlic skins, and you won't run the risk of making your knife dull by using it as a scraper."
9. "My secret: The recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip bag — and I follow it down to the last letter. Everyone thinks I have the best chocolate chip cookies in the world!"
10. "Butter. It’s not a new secret by any means, but I feel like people often forget just how amazing even the tiniest bit of butter added to a dish can be. Some of your favorite restaurants probably use WAY more butter than you’d be comfortable knowing, which means it's the best way to make restaurant-quality food at home."
11. "MSG. Screw anybody who says it's bad for you (or gives you headaches and whatnot). Those claims have all been disproven for years, and since it has one-third the sodium of salt, it's honestly even better for you."
12. "Microwave tip: Most things reheat better at a lower power setting for a longer time; this allows more time for the heat to distribute through. The time difference between 90 seconds at full power or 3 minutes at 50% power is negligible, so long as you're not the kind of person who just stares at it rotating the entire time."
13. "Chicken wings cooked in the air fryer are the only way I cook them now. They come out perfectly crispy on the outside and super juicy on the inside, without dealing with a grill or deep frying."
14. "Some people think they don't like anchovies or sardines but have no idea how much of it they eat in SO many products. A can of good anchovies can be the beginning of a truly 'gourmet' meal, and you probably wouldn't even be able to identify the specific taste."
15. "Add a pinch of nutmeg to anything with dairy in it. You can't taste the nutmeg, but it just makes the dairy taste richer and much, much better."
16. "Air is the secret ingredient in deli-style sandwiches. When you arrange meat loosely instead of stacked tightly, it not only seems more generous, it actually tastes (or at least smells) better since more flavonoids are able to reach your nose."
17. "Drain the pasta before it's al dente, reserve a small amount of the pasta water, then finish cooking the pasta directly in the sauce (adding the water, if needed). Pasta in sauce should always be wetter than you want it, because its properties change and dry out slightly once it's plated."
18. "If you're measuring anything sticky for a recipe (like molasses or honey), use a pastry brush to coat the inside of the measuring cup with a small amount of cooking oil first. It seriously reduces the amount of sticking on the inside of the measuring cup."
19. "If you're making a bread bowl for soup, DON'T hollow it out — shove the inner bread down to create a thicker bottom. This will prevent leaks and any sort of sogginess."
20. "This secret might be pretty well known, but add soy sauce to EVERYTHING. You can literally add it to anything — from meats to vegetables to pasta — and it'll all become so much richer with almost no added calories. I'm a girl who has always liked to cook, but when I'm lazy or don't have much energy, soy sauce is the best way to transform anything 'basic' into something super delicious."
21. "Resting meat or other foods isn't about cooling it, it's about cooking it. Some of the heat in the outer layers will actually move inward, so your internal temps will continue climbing for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat. If you cut it right away, you'll lose a ton of juices...but if you let it rest a bit, the moisture will get reabsorbed instead of spilling out. It also allows sauces to thicken up really nicely."
22. "For some reason, this seems to not be done all that frequently: Put some garlic powder and Italian seasoning on your grilled cheese before cooking it, and boom, garlic bread grilled cheese."
23. "Salt your steak and let it sit for at least 45 minutes before you cook it — that way the seasoning has time to work its way through the meat, not just stick on the outside."
24. "When making boxed brownies, replace the called-for liquid (usually water) with brewed coffee. The coffee completely enhances the flavor of the chocolate — and it's great when added to from-scratch brownies, too."
25. "If it's your first time making a recipe, read ALL the instructions before you even start touching food or utensils, so you have a good idea of what's going on and what you should be doing. This goes double when it comes to baking."
26. "When I make boxed macaroni and cheese, I use half-and-half instead of milk. It's truly a game changer. The people I'm around fear 'dietary fats,' so I keep it a secret."
27. "My wife was stunned that after 25 years together, she only just found out that I put lemon juice in my pancake batter. (It's the Bisquick Ultimate Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pancakes recipe.)"
28. "If you're cooking with garlic, specifically frying, add some to the oil while it's heating it up and remove it completely before it burns. That way, you get the garlic flavor into the oil. Then cook what you want and add the garlic back near the end of cooking, depending on how strong you want the garlic flavor. The less time you cook it, the more pungent the garlicky bite will be."
29. "My 'world famous' BBQ sauce is Heinz ketchup and brown sugar. Warm it in a saucepan, and once it gets darker, it's good to go. Works on everything, from baked beans to pulled pork sandwiches. My family and friends call me a genius…"
30. "Use a bit of MSG on things that normally get covered with salt, like fries or popcorn. You'll still get that salty bite, but it'll be packed with much more flavor."
31. "People think microwaves are only good for warming up cold food, but you can use the microwave for so many things. It's legitimately a magic machine. I happen to be friends with some legitimate chefs who own and operate restaurants in NYC, and across the board, they all say they use the microwave for their daily cooking. You can use it for boiling water, steaming eggs, defrosting and cooking protein, even parboiling or blanching potatoes and vegetables. The trick is to then go back to your stove and finish off the rest of the cooking, so your microwave should be treated like a useful accessory, not a one-stop-shop."
What's your best-kept cooking secret? Drop it in the comments below.
Note: Comments have been edited for length and/or clarity.