Kitchen Tips and Tricks
Here are a few helpful kitchen tips and tricks that I find useful. I use many of these ideas on a regulate basis and they can help cooking at home a little bit easier.
1.Tablespoon vs. Teaspoon
Often confused, but it is essential to know the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. The teaspoon is the smaller one that we usually eat with. A tablespoon is a bit larger and is sometime called a soup spoon. When baking or cooking a teaspoon will be abbreviated as t. or tsp. A tablespoon is usually abbreviated as T. or Tb. 3 teaspoons is equal to 1 tablespoon. When in doubt use measuring spoons that are clearly labeled to be sure.
This is one of my favorite kitchen tips and tricks. Grab a paper towel and wipe down the sides of a serving bowl that has unsightly food slopped all over. No need to waste another clean bowl to serve from. There, that looks so much better.
3.Keep knives sharp
Sharpen your kitchen knives on a regular basis. It is much easier to cut yourself with a dull knife because you push harder against the food. Sharp knives are much easier and faster to use.
4. Use a veggie peeler
This kitchen tip and trick is so easy. A veggie peeler can be a fun way to dress things up. Thinly slice carrots or other vegetables to add to your salad or make fancy curls of hard cheese, like parmesan, to top off your favorite dish.
5. Plan meals in advance
As you think of them, jot down meal ideas that you want to eat for the next week. Then make a rough plan of what you will eat on what days. Don’t forget to factor in eating leftovers to clean out the fridge as well. When it’s time to buy groceries you can more easily plan what food you will need to stock up on.
6. Cutting Broccoli and Cauliflower
For broccoli trim about ½ an inch off the bottom of the stem. For cauliflower, carefully cut in a circle around the outer leaves to remove. Then section into small chunks. For both broccoli and cauliflower turn the chunks, aka florets, upside down. Slice through the stem part only, where the individual florets, pieces are attached. Then pull outward with your knife to separate. No messy cole crumbs everywhere.
7. Smash your garlic
The easiest way to peel and chop garlic is to lay it on a cutting board and careful smash the clove with the flat blade of a knife. The skin peels right off and the clove is ready for a quick chop and then it is already minced.
8. Use Silpat or parchment paper
Baking and many general cooking recipes are so much easier with Silpat or parchment paper. If you bake, even a little bit, it will be worth investing in a Silpat silicone baking tray liner. Baked goods come right off of it with little or no mess. You can buy parchment paper, usually next to the tin foil in the grocery, to bake on if you don’t bake that often. Parchment paper is also great to cook messy foods on. When you are done, just toss the mess.
9. Cookie Scoops
When you make cookies or muffins use a cookie scoop to portion the dough or batter. This is so easy and fun! It also helps your cookies turn out evenly sized and shaped every time.
10. Refrigerate cookie dough
Place cookie dough in the refrigerator for about an hour before baking. This helps the dough firm up and keeps cookies the right size, shape and texture while baking.
11. Safe way to defrost
To avoid food borne illness defrost your meat in the refrigerator overnight. If you need it sooner place it in cool water, changing water every 30 minutes. It will still take several hours but is healthier than leaving it on the counter.
12. Let meats rest
When grilling or roasting meat let it rest at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. The rest period allows it to cool just enough for the juice in the meat to start firming up. When you cut into your roast all the moist juices will stay in put.
13. Is it done?
Make sure to cook your meat until the internal temperature is done.
Cook ground meats (beef, pork veal, lamb) - 160º
Roast Steaks, Chops and Ham - 145º
Poultry (including ground chicken and turkey) - 165º
14. Save your bones
Leftover bones can be used again. Save those bones, just stick them in the fridge or freezer until you are read to use. Pop them into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Add your favorite veggies for a rich, delicious homemade soup. The bones add extra flavor as well as important minerals.
15. What to do with leftovers
Clean out your fridge to make leftover soup at the same time. If you don’t eat all your leftovers and end up with tons of little dishes cluttering up the fridge just pull everything out and place in a pot. Add water as needed. If it is not enough for a whole meal add a few more veggies and maybe a can of beans. Season and enjoy.
16. Use real butter
Believe it or not, butter is a health food. It is actually high in many vitamins, especially A, E, D, and K2. Although it is high in fat don’t forget that our bodies need some fat to run and digest certain vitamins. Opt for grass fed butter when you can, because it is even more dense in nutrients.
17. Buy sweet onions
Sweet onions are less pungent than yellow or white onions. They are also less prone to make you get all teary eyed when cutting but still have great flavor.
Toss all your food scraps into a compost bin. Luckily, many cities are now setting up composting services. Or if you have space, set up a compost pile in your yard. Just don’t throw in meat or bones because those items need special conditions to decompose. Even if you don’t turn the pile, in about three years you will have lovely brown compost to spread on garden bed or grass.
19. Opening Jars
To open a tight jar use a bottle opener. Lift up the bottom edge of the lid until it breaks the suction and the center of the lid pops up. It should open right up. Don’t worry about having a right grip on it now.
20. You will get better
If you are new to cooking at home don’t get discouraged. There will be times that you fail. There are still times that I fail in the kitchen as well. Just remember that the more you cook the better you will get. You will get faster and it will seem easier. Just keep trying!
Also, take a look at my rustic cooking guide!