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Some insanely clever cooking hacks you need to start using

These time-saving tricks will make you a master in the kitchen

A person in the kitchen preparing the food to cook.
FAIZZUL FIKRI / Shutterstock

We all love a good hack. Social media is full of them — for life, for the office, for pet care, for cleaning around the house, and yes, for the kitchen. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to have an awesome meal. There are some cool cooking hacks that will help you be more efficient when you cook. If that sounds good to you, keep reading for a few of our genius food hacks that have been tried and tested that will save you time and stress, and maybe earn you a few extra compliments on your cooking.

Steak fries
exclusive-design / Adobe Stock

Food prep hacks

Cut steak fries easily using an apple slicer

Did you know that an apple slicer can do so much more than slice apples? It’s very handy for cutting other fruits like pears, too. It can even portion out mozzarella nicely. But our favorite thing to cut using one of these little gizmos is potatoes. The triangular sections are the perfect size for some hearty steak fries! Just slice, fry, and serve up with a juicy ribeye and a glass of whiskey. Yum.

Prevent cutting board slippage with a wet paper towel

If you’ve ever had your cutting board slip around on you, you know how frustrating (and dangerous!) it can be. When using a sharp knife in the kitchen, taking every precaution to keep your digits intact is crucial. This little safety hack takes about two seconds and can help keep all ten fingers where they belong. Simply dampen a paper towel and lay it flat beneath your cutting board. Presto. No more slippage.

Ribeye steaks, raw
ReinhardThrainer / Pixabay

Cooking hacks

Use baking soda to tenderize meat

If you’re tired of toughness, the answer is baking soda. This tricky technique works for beef, chicken, and pork and is very easy to do. As strange as it may sound, the science behind this hack is simple. The baking soda alkalizes the surface of the meat, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond. This creates a much more tender, and therefore delicious, piece of meat. Simply rub your meat with baking soda, coating it thoroughly, then allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours. Rinse completely, then cook as you normally would for an exceptionally tender piece of meat.

Microwave citrus to squeeze out every drop

With produce prices soaring, it’s important to get every last drop out of our ingredients, and this hack will help you do exactly that. By microwaving your citrus fruits before juicing them, you’ll get much more out of your squeeze. Just nuke for about 10 seconds, give them a firm roll on the counter, slice, and squeeze.

Save a salty soup with a raw potato

This hack has been around for a while but is still unfamiliar to many. We’ve all been there — in a moment of chefy excitement, we went a little overboard with the salt in our soup and now it tastes like something a tropical fish might live in. Worry not. Simply plop a raw, peeled potato into the salty stew and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. The starchiness of the spud will allow it to absorb the excess salt and get your dish back to delicious in just a few minutes.

Always finish sauces and soups with butter

The answer for almost every culinary conundrum is good old butter. It’s truly just a magical gift from the gods for which we are entirely unworthy. So if you’ve ever wondered why restaurant soups and sauces taste so much more velvety and rich than those you make at home — the answer is butter. When making any thickened sauce or soup, always add a few tablespoons of cold butter at the end. Swirling it into its savory bath as it melts away will create a smooth texture and depth of flavor that will put your dish over the top.

Thicken soups and sauces with instant mashed potatoes

There’s more than one way to thicken a soup or sauce, but this one has got to be our favorite. We don’t always have time to make a roux, and slurries can be finicky if not tempered in just the right way. Enter instant mashed potatoes. A scoop of this magical powdered spud and your too-thin gravy just got an instant upgrade. Add a teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

Homemade butterscotch cupcakes with caramel syrup and cream cheese frosting
fahrwasser / Adobe Stock

Dessert and bread hacks

Zip-top bags make great piping bags

Fancy piping bags are great, but we aren’t all Martha Stewart, okay? Plus, they’re a major pain to wash, can be pricey, and it’s just not worth it for a pretty cupcake, dammit. But sometimes we want a tidily piped “Happy Birthday” on our homemade cake. Or a lovely swirl to the filling on our deviled eggs at Thanksgiving or Easter. That’s where zip-top bags come in handy. Simply fill your bag with whatever is in your heart to pipe, snip a corner off with scissors, and go to town. No cake decorating class is necessary.

Grate cold butter for easy spreading

Trying to spread cold butter on toast when you’re only half awake and waiting for the coffee to brew is perhaps the most infuriating feeling in the world. Never again. If you’ve forgotten to fill the countertop butter crock again, there’s still hope. Just grab your cheese grater or microplane, and give that butter a good grating (the smaller the better). The tiny, shredded butter pieces will soften almost immediately and happily spread wherever you please.

Keep baked goods fresh by adding a piece of white bread

If you’re one of those psychos who manages to keep baked goods in your home for more than a day or two without eating them all immediately, this hack is an absolute must. By adding a piece of white bread to your container of cookies (or brownies, pastries, or cakes!), you will keep them from going stale. This hack works because, crazily enough, your baked goods will actually absorb the moisture from the bread, keeping them nice and fresh. Think of it like a Hocus Pocus/Sanderson Sisters kind of situation for the world of baked goods.

Crispy bacon
Wright Brand Bacon / Unsplash

Breakfast hacks

Skip the pan: Cook bacon in the oven

You didn’t think we were going to forget about the most important meal of the day? Of course, we have some breakfast food hacks for you. The first one involves almost everyone’s breakfast favorite, bacon. Next time you’re cooking bacon, don’t pull out a skillet, heat your oven to 450 degrees and put the bacon on a wire rack on a baking sheet (bonus hack: Line the sheet with foil for easier cleanup), and cook for 20 minutes until the bacon is crisp.

Use a waffle iron to make hash browns

This one is another huge time-saver. Instead of frying and flipping those shredded potatoes in a skillet, put them in your waffle iron and shut the lid. They’ll cook evenly on both sides at once and come out crispy and delicious.

Use a squeeze bottle to make pancakes

Next time you’re making pancakes, instead of scooping the batter from the bowl and making a mess, fill an empty squeeze bottle (like the ones that are used for ketchup and mustard) with the batter, put on the lid, and squeeze it right on the pan. You’ll have perfect, mess-free pancakes every time.

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Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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