You might think that the only way to improve the way you cook is to get a bigger kitchen, expensive appliances, or new cookware. You might be surprised to learn that that’s not always the case.
No matter what level your cooking skills are, there are always small things you can do that will improve your workflow, save you a bit of time, or just make day-to-day tasks easier.
The following is a list of 10 easy ways to do that. They might not all work for you, but if you cook at all, you’ll probably be able to see the value in the majority of them. When you do, you’ll wonder how you ever got along with them!
1. Try This Trick to Make Juice Pour Out of Lemons
There are plenty of ways to get more juice out of lemons, but once you try this trick, you’ll throw all other methods to the wayside. It’s easy, involves two simple steps, and doesn’t require any special equipment.
First, beat your lemon with a rolling pin. Yes, really. You want it to be super soft and squishy, almost to where you can feel the liquid inside. This is easier if the lemon is at room temperature rather than chilled; you’ll have to beat it more if it’s cold to get it as soft as you want it. You really can’t beat it too much here.
Now it’s time to slice your lemon. You probably slice lemons the way everyone does, in half crosswise right? Well, stop. Instead, slice it lengthwise, through the stem end. Make sure you do this on a cutting board, and don’t grip it too hard, because the juice will literally pour out of your lemon. Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup or your pot.
(Extra tip: Wrap the lemon halves in cheesecloth to prevent seeds from getting into your juice.)
2. Use Two Simple Ingredients to Make Your Blender or Food Processor Sparkly Clean
If you use your high-powered blender or food processor on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that the heavy-duty plastic vessel isn’t nearly as clear or shiny as it was when you first bought it. You’ve probably tried putting dish soap and hot water and blending it through, and while that will get the gunk off, it doesn’t make it sparkle like new.
Luckily there are two simple ingredients that you already have in your kitchen that will do the trick. When combined with a good dish soap (like Dawn) and hot water, they will work magic on your expensive appliances.
What are they? Lemons and baking soda. You can use this trick in either a blender or food processor. Simply fill the vessel a quarter full of hot water (don’t be tempted to put too much water in, or you’ll have a foamy mess everywhere!) and put a sliced lemon, rind and all, in with a few drops of dish soap and a sprinkling of baking soda. Run the appliance on high until you have a foamy, yellow liquid; it might take a minute or so. Rinse with cool water, and you’ll be amazed at how shiny and new it looks.
Note: If you have a low quality blender that has a difficult time breaking down ice, soak the lemon pieces in the hot water for a half hour or so to avoid wearing down the blades or motor.
3. Coffee Filters Are For More Than Just Coffee
Even if you don’t drink coffee everyday, you may want to have some coffee filters on hand, as you’ll be amazed at what they can do. Lint free, and fairly strong, you’ll find yourself relying on them often for simple kitchen tasks.
They make a great strainer for liquids, and being lint free, they are great for cleaning windows and stovetops without leaving specks of paper towels behind. If you’ve got kids who eat popsicles in the summer, try pushing the stick through a coffee filter for no cleanup. They’re also the perfect size for layering between pots and pans to prevent rust and scratches.
The best part about coffee filters? They’re cheap. You can buy a pack of several hundred for a buck or two, and if you’re not using them to make coffee everyday, they’ll last a lifetime.
4. Never Scrub Baked on Pots and Pans Again
Tired of scrubbing burnt on food from your pots and pans? Try this easy trick.
Fill your pan about a quarter with water and add a splash of vinegar and a sprinkling of baking soda. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil down. Continue adding water until all the burnt on food is flaked off. With minimal scrubbing, your pots and pans will be clean, and you won’t have tired arms!
5. Get More Use Out of Single Use Appliances
If you’re like most people that like to cook, you probably have several appliances that get used only for single tasks, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Instead of storing a waffle iron for the rare occasions you want to make waffles, try using it for cooking hash browns, brownies or even eggs. Your stand mixer is the perfect tool for shredding cooked chicken breasts, and your food processor can do much more than just chop. Try grinding your own meat (lay cubed pieces on a sheet tray in a single layer and freeze until just firm, but not quite frozen solid, about a half hour), or grinding whole grains into flour.
6. Use Your French Press in New Ways
Have a French press coffee pot that doesn’t get a lot of use? Try one of these new ways to use it.
You can use it to make a pot of loose-leaf tea, or you can use it to froth milk for a cappuccino. It makes a great tool for rinsing rice, quinoa, or other grains that may fall through a colander, and it’s perfect for infusing olive oil with herbs.
Note: If you regularly use your pot for coffee, you may want to get a separate pot for other uses, as the coffee flavors may get into your other products and vice versa.
7. Get Some Ice Cube Trays Even if You Have an Ice Maker
Ice cube trays are inexpensive and easy to store, and they have tons of other uses besides just freezing water for your tea.
Freeze leftover stock, wine, marinara sauce or pesto in ice cube trays so that you’ll always have it on hand when you need it. This minimizes waste as well. You can also freeze fresh herbs in olive oil. You can freeze cookie dough, leftover coffee, or even smoothies. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag for future use. Two ice cubes is equal to about 1/4 cup.
8. Freeze Your Bacon
If you frequently use recipes that call for chopped raw bacon, you know what a pain it is to chop soft, slimy bacon, so this tip will change your world.
First, freeze the whole slab of bacon. Then when you need two slices chopped bacon, don’t just take the two slices off the frozen slab and chop them (although this is easier than chopping it at room temperature.) Instead, hold the bacon upright on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, make one half inch slice all the way down. You now have about two slices that are already chopped. When you put it in a hot pan, it will break up beautifully with a spatula or wooden spoon.
9. Frost Cupcakes the Easy Way
Want to make a quick batch of cupcakes, but don’t have time to cool and frost? Try this tip.
About three to four minutes before removing your cupcakes from the oven, set a single, large marshmallow on each one and pop it back in. The marshmallow will melt and frost your cupcakes for you. This works particularly well on chocolate cupcakes, but try it on whatever you like!
10. Freeze Tomato Paste
Instead of buying tiny cans of tomato paste, using a tablespoon or two and then inevitably throwing it out, why not buy a big can and freeze it instead?
Simply scoop it onto a parchment lined sheet pan in two-tablespoon measurements, freeze until firm, and then transfer to a freezer bag. Never throw out tomato paste again!
Cooking can be fun, but there are times when you just want it to be easier, quicker, or less expensive. These easy to follow kitchen hacks do just that, and they use ingredients and equipment that you likely already have in your kitchen.
Stock up on basics like lemons, baking soda, and vinegar for easy cleaning, and when you’re trying to do a basic task, ask yourself if there’s a way it can be done better. Chances are, the answer is yes. Before you know it, you’ll be creating your own kitchen hacks that you can’t live without.