To be a star chef in your own home, you don’t need to go to culinary school or spend years working the line. Instead, what you really need to do is master the art of working smarter, not harder. What we’re talking about are hacks, folks. Kitchen hacks not only help in the short term — you’ve housed half a bag of potato chips, decide you want to save the rest, and realize you don’t have a chip clip. Now what? — but offer precious life skills that, once mastered, you can carry on into eternity.
The great thing about these hacks, too, is that they are easy to learn and remember. We’re talking about time or energy-saving techniques that’ll add up as you apply them. Below are the 12 most important kitchen hacks you need to know yesterday. Okay, some of these may not be necessary to live, but they’re fun, so learn them anyway. Call them party tricks, if you will.
Cut Onions Without Crying
Love onions, but don’t want to look like you’ve been watching Steel Magnolias and weeping into your pillow all afternoon? We’ve got the remedy. You can cut onions without shedding a single tear by cutting them underwater, putting them in the freezer beforehand, or cutting under a vent. You could also wear goggles, but you might have tears after your friends make fun of you. Your call.
Grill Steak without Cutting It
Cutting into your meat to check if it’s cooked through is fine — if you’re an amateur. A real man knows that presentation is just as important as taste, so you don’t want to serve up a slab of steak with a big ugly gash in the middle. Using the finger method, you can easily discern the doneness of your meat by using your thumb heel as a reference. To make the finger method work, touch your pointer finger to your thumb. With your other hand, feel the area under the thumb on your palm. That is rare.
From there, move away from your pointer finger, touching each next finger in line to your thumb. As you radiate out, you’ll feel medium rare, medium, and well done. (You could always just get a meat thermometer, as well.)
Grill Chicken with a Brick
The Italians call it pollo al mattone, but we just call it cooking with a damn brick. It’s a pretty foolproof trick, and if you do it right you’ll get the juiciest chicken you’ve ever eaten. The weight flattens the meat out and presses it against the grill, which helps the bird cook quickly and keep from drying out. The important thing to remember is to make sure you wrap the brick in foil after you tear it out of your driveway.
Protect Lips from Spicy Food with Lip Balm
What’s that you say? Your wings have the world’s hottest hot sauce on them? Sounds delicious! If you’re the type who can’t resist the allure of spicy foods, you can save your lips from burning off by slapping on some lip balm before you tuck into your meal. It won’t save the inside of your mouth, but it’ll provide a decent amount of protection for your smackers. (Note: This probably won’t help for the world’s hottest sauce, but if you’re putting that on wings you’re on your own, anyway.)
Open a Beer with Practically Anything
Bottle openers be damned — with the proper technique, you can open a beer with anything that has a moderately abrupt edge on it. The key to success is the proper grip and leverage. Take, for example, a screwdriver. If you place the blade of the screwdriver up under the cap and carefully pull up the edge of the cap (and then repeat three or four more times), you can easily open the bottle.
Seal a Bag of Chips Without a Clip
I love chips, but I hate keeping track of the stupid plastic accessories needed to keep them closed. With this clever folding technique, you can completely seal a bag of chips using nothing more than the bag itself — which is much better than busting out the duct tape and staple gun every time you want a snack. See how it’s done here.
Cut an Apple with Your Bare Hands
You can also do this with a phone book, but those things taste like shit, so we’ll show you how to do it with fruit instead. With the right leverage, you can rip an apple perfectly in half using nothing more than your bare, rawhide-like hands. This one requires a bit of practice, as you need to learn how exactly to grip the apple and where to apply the pressure needed to look like an absolute beast. This video explains it pretty well.
Cook Bacon in the Oven
I know it’s hard to neglect your perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillet, but if you want the most crispy bacon you’ve ever eaten, ditch the stovetop and turn on the oven. Not only does this method produce better, crispier bacon, but cooking on a baking sheet gives you more room for more bacon.
Did you hear that? More bacon. Here’s the exact method.
Eat Chicken Wings with One Hand (Save the Other for Beer)
And they say us guys don’t know how to multitask. Grab your wings from the proper end and giving the meat a quick downward push, you can release it from the bone with a single hand. Once this is accomplished, you can easily finish the job with your mouth. This frees up your other hand to pound down a bottle of suds or have a second wing in the waiting.
Open Jars with a Tennis Ball
Can’t open that pickle jar and don’t want to look like a sissy in front of your fellow dudes? Put down the saw — there’s a better way to do it. Just cut open a tennis ball and use that mofo to get a better grip. It works like a charm. There are other ways to open jars, but they’re not nearly as fun as ripping open a tennis ball like a retriever on a sugar binge.
Learn Proper Burger Construction
Pro tip: Lettuce repels grease better than bread. The best way to keep your those gloriously juicy burgers from turning your bottom bun to mush is to put the lettuce on the bottom.
This one doesn’t really require further explanation, we promise.
Eat Beans without Getting Gassy
Ahh. the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more likely you are to clear out an elevator before it reaches the third floor. Beans are an awesome source of protein and they’re tasty to boot, but they also contain high amounts of oligosaccharides — complex sugars that are hard to digest and generally cause gas. By soaking beans for a few hours and discarding the water, you can effectively break down these sugars and circumvent any thunderous, room-clearing farts (unless that’s your thing).
Article originally published August 21, 2013. Last updated by Sam Slaughter.
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