If there’s one thing that’s sure to impress in the kitchen, it’s knowing those little tips and tricks that most people don’t. A lot of people juice lemons the wrong way or don’t know how to tell if an egg is old. After reading this article, you’ll know all this and more!
We’ve put together a list of 31 genius cooking ideas to help you cook smarter – saving you time and giving you less waste in the kitchen.
Eggs absorb air through their shells as they age. That means you can tell how fresh they are by putting them in a glass of water. New eggs sink to the bottom, but old ones float.
This is perfect if you need a really fresh egg for poaching.
Core iceberg lettuce by slamming it root-side-down on a table or chopping board. This loosens the core so you can just pull it out.
There’s no need to use a knife to de-stalk or hull strawberries. Poke a drinking straw all the way through the strawberry from the opposite end, pushing the stalk out from underneath. You might need to twist the straw back and forth a little, but this is super simple and safe.
Chop your onions without the waterworks by putting a slice of bread in your mouth. By leaving the bread sticking out of your mouth slightly, it will absorb the irritable gas before it reaches your eyes.
Too much moisture is bad for your salad leaves. Put a piece of paper towel on top of a sealed container of greens, or at the bottom of your salad drawer, and things will stay fresh for longer. Just remember to keep everything clean and change the paper regularly.
Drying salad leaves thoroughly before storing is also a good idea.
Reheating pasta in the microwave? Form it into a doughnut shape – this means it will heat more evenly.
Talking of pasta, you can cook it in minutes if you soak it first. Leave it in a sealed container, fully covered in water for a couple of hours or overnight. Then drop it into boiling water as normal to finish the cooking process.
Love working with garlic, but fed up of your hands smelling? If you have a stainless steel sink, try running your hands over it. It might seem crazy, but the molecules in the garlic juice bond with the steel, removing them from your hands. Clever stuff.
If you don’t have a stainless steel sink, you can buy stainless steel garlic “soap” that does the same thing. It also works with onion and fish odours.
Grate frozen butter into your pastry dough, biscuit or scone mix to integrate it easier into the mixture. You’ll need to work fast though! This is also good if you want to spread butter evenly over potatoes or vegetables.
Peel potatoes after they’re cooked, for better flavour and easy peeling. Wash them thoroughly, then boil as normal with the skin on. When they’re cooked, plunge the potato into icy water for a few seconds. The skin will come off very easily – just use your hands.
There’s an easier way to peel oranges, too. First, cut both ends off (just the skin, don’t cut through the flesh). Then slice through the remaining skin vertically on one side and ‘unroll’ the segments.
Chill wine with frozen grapes instead of ice – this means your glass of white stays chilled, without getting watered down.
Have a jar you can’t get into? Wrap an elastic band around the lid, or use rubber gloves for extra grip.
If you’ve got a fragment of shell in your eggs, use one of the half shells to retrieve it (instead of a spoon or utensil). The two pieces of shell are attracted to each other, making it easier to scoop up.
If your mushrooms are in a plastic bag or container, wrap them in a paper towel to stop them getting slimy. Or just store them in a paper bag instead.
Get more juice out of oranges, lemons and limes by placing your palm firmly on top and rolling them around on your worktop before juicing. The pressure helps release the juice.
You should also cut them lengthways.
If you’re slicing a fruit with a tough outer skin, quarter it, then cut it into pieces with the skin still on. You can then remove the pieces by cutting around the edge. This works for all sorts of things, such as melons and avocados, but be careful not to cut yourself.
Similarly, you can skin kiwi fruits by cutting the ends off and scooping out the inside with a spoon, rather than peeling it with a knife.
If you’re cutting slices out of a round cake like a Victoria sponge, take them from the middle. This might sound mad, but it means you can push the remaining pieces of cake back together afterwards, stopping it drying out so much.
If your chopping board slides around on the worktop, try putting a silicone mat, damp tea towel or a damp piece of kitchen towel underneath.
Barbequing or grilling fish? You can stop it sticking to the grill rack and add a lovely citrus flavour by sitting it on slices of lemon.
Lemon is also useful for keeping red cabbage, well… red. Add a little to the water when boiling.
If you need to leave the room but you’re worried about a pan of pasta or potatoes boiling over – sit a wooden spoon on top of the pot. This breaks the bubbles as they come up and avoids any mess.
Alternatively, put a little oil in. This sits on top of the water and helps prevent frothing.
Having trouble getting the stones out of your cherries? Dig them out with a clean paperclip – you don’t even need to unbend it! Alternatively, place the cherry on the opening of a small bottle and push the pit out with a drinking straw. If the bottle’s the right size, the cherry will stay where it is, but the stone will fall through.
Hard boiled eggs are easier to peel than you think. Put one in a glass of water, cover the end with your hand and give it a good, hard shake.
Stop brown sugar hardening by keeping it in the freezer. Or if it’s already hard, seal it in a container with a slice of fresh bread. Don’t leave the bread in there too long though.
Having trouble getting your cling film to wrap around your food rather than itself? Keeping it in the fridge makes it much easier to unwrap and use.
Also, by placing a few drops of water around the bowl or container you are covering, it will cling to the sides with no trouble at all.
Drop a raisin or two into champagne that’s gone a little flat to restore its bubbliness. It really does work! This is because the ridges on the raisin allow bubbles to form, so it should work with soft drinks too.
The rinds of hard cheeses like parmesan can be used to add flavour to soups and stews. Just pop them into the pot for 20 minutes or so while cooking.
If you don’t want your bananas to ripen all at once, remove a few from the bunch and separate them at the top. The separate ones will ripen more slowly.
What if I was to tell you that you’ve been peeling bananas wrong your whole life? Simply give the ‘bottom’, or what’s now the top, of your banana a pinch and it will split, allowing for easy peeling. This tip comes from the animal kingdom as it is often the preferred opening method for monkeys.