By Chef Alli on May 31, 2022
Below is a list of cooking tips that will benefit every home cook. These tips and shortcuts make recipes more flavorful, cooking more fun and help keep prep time to a minimum.
1. How to Avoid Apples Turning Brown
Here’s the best way to keep sliced apples from turning brown: place the apple slices into a bowl of cool water then add a good sprinkle of kosher salt over the top. Let the apples soak for 5-10 minutes; use as needed for your fruit tray. No apple browning, ever, and this technique is much easier than using fresh lemon juice.
2. Freeze That Citrus
Did you know you can freeze citrus whole? If you have a lemon or lime that’s looking a bit past its peak or maybe you have too many on hand, toss them in the freezer. You can pull one or two out later to zest while frozen, or thaw and juice as needed.
3. Cooling Off Onions
Are your diced onions a bit too hot and strong in flavor? Give them a quick soak in lime juice for 10-15 minutes and drain well. The lime juice pulls away the heat and adds a nice bit of acidity to the salsa or pico de gallo you’re making. If what you’re making doesn’t need any acidity added, use water to soak the onions.
4. Perfect Pan-Sautéed Mushrooms
When making mushrooms, here’s the most flavorful way to do it: add the mushrooms to a dry skillet and let them cook, gently stirring every couple of minutes. Once you see that the mushrooms have released their moisture into the pan as they cook, let it evaporate. Now add the butter, continuing to cook until the mushrooms are nicely browned and softened. Lastly, and only at this point, season the mushrooms with a sprinkle of kosher salt.
5. How to Add Instant Umami Flavor
Umami is the savory or meaty taste of foods. Foods high in umami include seafood, meats, tomatoes and mushrooms. Any time you’re sautéing sliced mushrooms , consider this. Double up the batch (cooking as directed above), then blend the mushrooms in your food processor until they are a thick paste. Freeze the paste in one-tablespoon mounds on a cookie sheet, then place the frozen mounds into a freezer bag to store.
When you have a savory dish that needs a good punch of umami flavor, toss in a cube or two of the frozen mushroom paste. It’s delicious stirred into rice dishes, beef or pork pan sauces, stir-fried vegetables, polenta or cream-based sauces.
6. Get Saucy with Added Flavor
If you taste test a dish and think, “This just needs a little something…what is it?” Add a dash of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or fish sauce and taste again. Any one of these sauces will amp up savory flavors, especially tomato-based soups and sauces.
7. Creating Texture with Crispy Crunchy Toppings
Uh-oh. You’re out of the French-fried onions you like to put on top of your casserole for added crunch and texture. Panko bread crumbs to the rescue! Just brown some butter in a skillet, add the Panko bread crumbs and cook for 1-2 minutes. Spread over the top of your casserole and bake as usual.
Are pan-fried pork chops or country-fried steak fingers on the menu this week? Grind up pork rinds and substitute them for the bread crumbs. Talk about a fabulous crispy-crunchy exterior that’s also low-carb.
8. Use Better Than Bouillon
There is one ingredient my kitchen is NEVER without: Better Than Bouillon paste. This is a concentrated bouillon paste that is added to water to make a delicious high-quality broth. I add the concentrate itself in small amounts (1/2 -1 tsp, depending on the size of my recipe) to give dishes a more complex flavor, such as soups, sauces, gravies and dressings.
9. More Cheese Please
When you’re heating taco shells, sprinkle some shredded cheese inside each one during the last minute of baking time. The melted cheese will work as a “glue,” of sorts, inside each shell, helping to keep the filling more anchored inside. The melted cheese also helps keep the taco shells from breaking in half.
10. Want the Fluffiest Eggs and Crispiest Grilled Sandwiches? Mayo Magic!
By adding a bit of mayo to beaten eggs, you will soon find yourself enjoying the fluffiest, most tender scrambled eggs of your life. And, for superior browning on grilled sandwiches, replace butter with a quick spread of mayonnaise.
11. Ready-To-Go Meat Rub
Taco seasoning isn’t just for Mexican food! If you keep those little packets of taco seasoning on hand like I do, you’ve always got the perfect meat rub right at your fingertips. Add the seasoning blend to any marinade, too, for added flavor and spice.
12. Fresh Garlic Hack
If you absolutely hate crushing or mincing garlic right in the middle of a recipe, do what I do. I smash and mince several cloves of garlic at one time. Place 1-2 tsp. into the compartments of an ice cube tray, then fill each one with olive oil; freeze solid. Move the cubes to a freezer bag to keep handy in your kitchen freezer. Voila! You’ve always got pre-minced garlic conveniently on hand.
Frozen cubes of minced garlic can be tossed right into what you’re cooking without being thawed first. **Have a dedicated ice cube tray for this minced garlic hack. For some weird reason, most guests don’t seem to care for garlic-flavored beverages.
13. Turn Leftover Pie Crust into Cookies
My mom always used her leftover pie dough scraps for making pie crust cookies.
Mold the dough scraps together into a clump; roll out flat and brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the dough and slice into 3/4-inch spirals; place onto a greased baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes at 350 F. until the cookies are golden brown.
Conveniently, you can always just purchase refrigerated pie dough crusts to make these cookies, too. Cinnamon-sugar pie crust cookies are especially popular as part of holiday cookie platters since they evoke favorite childhood memories for many people.
14. The Secret to the Best Banana Pudding
If your family is crazy for creamy banana pudding desserts, crush shortbread cookies as an ingredient swap for Nilla wafers in the recipe. Wow!
15. Fool-Proof Soft Cookies Every Time
Incorporating dry instant pudding to your next batch of cookie dough is a delicious idea. Add it in place of half of the sugar in your favorite cookie recipe to give your cookies a tender, cake-like texture. Plus, your cookies will stay super soft for days.
16. Add Coffee to Bump Up Your Chocolate Recipes
Coffee and chocolate were born to be together; they complement each other perfectly. Any time you’re baking chocolate cookies, cakes or brownies, substitute strong (cooled) coffee for a good part of the liquid that your recipe calls for.
17. Grown Up French Toast
Elevate your French toast to an entirely new level with just one ingredient trade-out. Substitute RumChata or Bailey’s Irish Cream in place of the milk. Boom! You have a brand-new breakfast and brunch favorite.
18. Feather-Light Flap Jacks and Waffles
Who doesn’t love fluffy pancakes and ultra-light waffles? There are two quick and easy ways to acquire these characteristics. For beautiful pancakes, gently fold whipped egg whites into the batter. For waffles, substitute ginger ale or club soda as part of the liquid your recipe calls for.
Bonus Tip: And, if you’re making waffles or pancakes for a crowd, prepare them just ahead of your guests’ arrival, placing them onto a cookie sheet and into a 200 F. oven. This keeps them warm and ready to serve all at once. If you have several pancakes or waffles to keep warm, place parchment paper between the layers.