10 Food Tips in the Kitchen

There’s no doubt that most people have hectic daily schedules. We’re constantly hearing advice about the importance of buying fresh food and cooking healthy meals, but all the steps involved—from shopping to cleaning to storing leftovers—can make that hard to do. Even tasks that seem simple can become difficult to squeeze in between work, long commutes, caring for kids and trying to have a social life. So what’s the solution?

You don’t have to accept the wasted time and energy that sometimes come with cooking. The kitchen doesn’t only house your one-touch Keurig or your state-of-the-art, hassle-free rice cooker; it’s also home to a plethora of life-hacks for your not-so-convenient kitchen procedures. From apples and avocados to ziti and zucchini, there are so many awesome food tips and tricks to be learned that can make working in the kitchen a real treat. Whether you’re sick of the kitchen stress or just interested in learning some fun and quirky kitchen tips, you’ve come to the right place.



1. KEEP YOUR BANANAS FROM BROWNING

Bananas are a post-workout snack and sandwich staple, but trying to buy the right amount at the store is always a gamble. Buy too few and you’re banana-less, but buy too many and they’re brown and mushy before you know it.

If you love bananas but can never eat them all before they go bad, this is the hack for you. The secret is in how you store them. Most of us buy a bunch of bananas and keep them on the counter or fridge, but bananas actually ripen faster when they’re in contact with each other. Keeping them in a bunch significantly reduces their shelf life. A great alternative is to store them in a cardboard six-pack bottle carrier. Just slip one banana into each slot and you have a perfect, compact banana storage unit—keeping the fruit fresh and smoothie-ready

2.  MAKE CITRUS FRUITS THE JUICIEST

Juicing fruits isn’t necessarily the easiest task. Home cooks often need juices for baking, beverages and cocktails, but fruits that are old or out of season can be dry and hard to juice. And even fresh, juicy fruit often leaves us with the suspicion that we’re not getting all the juice out. Luckily, there are a few tricks that can aid in getting out as much juice as possible.

First, store your citrus in the refrigerator. This will slow aging and keep it juicier longer. But fruit that’s cold is stiffer and harder to juice. This problem has an easy fix: When you’re ready to use the fruits, microwave for them 15 to 20 seconds. The way you cut and handle the fruit also has an effect on the outcome. Always cut fruit lengthwise and use tongs instead of your bare hands to squeeze juice out.

3. TEST AN EGG’S FRESHNESS

It can be difficult to tell if an egg is okay for consumption because there aren’t any odor or visual clues that indicate its freshness. Go by the dates printed on the carton, and you’ll end up throwing away perfectly good food. But no one wants to crack a rotten egg into their morning omelette.

An easy way to tell a good egg from a bad egg is to submerge them in water. A fresh egg will sink to the bottom, and a rotten egg will float. The reason lies in the unique nature of the eggshell, a porous protective layer that’s airtight and keeps out germs, but allows some moisture to pass through. As eggs age, their liquid insides begin to evaporate through the shell. This is what makes a bad egg float and the closer to the surface, the more rotten the egg is.
4. HOW TO REHYDRATE YOUR BROWN SUGAR

Most of us need brown sugar every so often for baking, oatmeal or glazing meats. Luckily, one bag of brown sugar can last up to two years—but that’s not always what happens. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing that you forgot to put the lid back on your tub of brown sugar, and now it’s completely dried out. At this point, most people just toss it, but this is wasting perfectly good sugar.

Brown sugar that’s dried out will readily reabsorb water and become moist again if you give it the chance. The trick is to expose it to steam. Throw your tub of brown sugar into the microwave alongside a glass of water for a minute or two (or as long as it takes to soften up). This will help rehydrate the sugar. Another tip: add an apple slice or an orange peel to your brown sugar to help maintain its moisture when storing.

5. HOW TO QUICKLY SOFTEN BUTTER

When you’re planning a meal, it’s hard enough remembering to pick a recipe and get all the ingredients you’ll need ahead of time. Once you’ve done that, you usually stash them all in the fridge but that can be a mistake. Many recipes call for soft butter, and it takes roughly an hour for a stick of butter at room temperature to reach the right consistency. We don’t know about you, but we almost never remember to set butter out ahead of time. This is a real pain, because we all know that trying to spread or stir hard butter is a useless endeavor.

Trying to heat up butter in the microwave can create a runny mess. But there are ways to drastically reduce the time it takes to soften. The trick is to remember that the more surface area you have, the faster this process happens. That’s because it’s the exposure of the butter’s surface to warmer air that warms it up. A stick of butter has fairly low surface area. Two tricks to achieving more surface area are to either grate your butter, or place it in a plastic bag and flatten it with a rolling pin. You’ll be amazed at how much more quickly it reaches a spreadable consistency!

6. GRATE CHEESE WITH EASE

There’s no substitute for grated cheese in nachos and tacos, or sprinkled on top of soup and chili. But cheese can be quite tricky to grate, and we don’t all have a fancy electric cheese grater to get things done. The grating may go well for the first 10 seconds or so, but then the grater gets gummed up with cheese that refuses to budge—especially if it’s a soft cheese like mozzarella.

The trick: Just place your cheese in the freezer for about 30 minutes before you plan on grating it. Freezing gives your cheese the perfect consistency to be easily grated; it falls into perfectly shaped shreds, and it won’t stick to the grater.

7. MAKE THE PERFECT TACO SHELL

Taco night at home? The crispy versus soft conundrum will always divide taco lovers. There’s a crispy taco fan in most families, but if all you have is soft flour tortillas, you can still please everyone. To crisp soft taco shells in minutes, just drape them over the rungs of your oven rack to give them that nice taco shell shape. Turn the oven on at a low heat, wait a few minutes, and tap the shells to check for crispness. We much prefer to use this quick trick over using corn tortilla shells.

8. HOW TO MAKE COFFEE WITHOUT A COFFEE POT

Any true coffee addict knows the panic of trying to use the coffee maker and finding it’s broken. When you’re getting ready in the morning, a cup of coffee isn’t optional; it’s essential. But whether you’re on a camping trip, coping with an equipment failure, or in a new apartment with all your stuff packed in boxes, there are times when you’ll find yourself coffee maker-less. So what do you do?

The trick is to remember just how simple coffee is: All you need is to combine ground beans with hot water. You can do that in a saucepan or other heat-safe container. First combine your usual amount of coffee grounds with your usual amount of water, and boil. (If you’re not sure of the measurements, use a coffee cup or the pot from your coffee maker to measure out water.) Lower the temperature and allow the coffee grounds to settle at the bottom of the pot. Ladle out your coffee from the top. Another option to ensure a ground-free brew is to line a small strainer or sieve with a paper towel and pour the brew through it—a makeshift coffee filter. Enjoy that hot cup of deliciousness.

9. THE BEST WAY TO COOL DOWN COFFEE

Piping hot coffee is one of life’s great joys, and insulated mugs are great for keeping your drinks from going lukewarm. But combine the two, and you can get stuck with a frustrating situation. Most of us know the struggle of not being able to drink your coffee immediately because it’s so hot.

Aside from waiting impatiently—or burning your tongue—what do you do? Using ice cubes is an unfortunate solution because it instantly waters down your coffee. Instead, be prepared: next time you make coffee, make a little extra and freeze some in an ice cube tray. Just add your coffee cubes next time you need to cool your drink down. No more burning your tongue!

10. CHILL YOUR WINE WITHOUT WATERING IT DOWN

This is one of our favorites because it’s absolutely ingenious—and because it makes it easier to drink white wine! We’ve all dealt with the problem of forgetting to refrigerate a bottle of wine in time to serve. Or maybe you’re drinking outside on a scorching hot day, and your glass goes from frosty to tepid in minutes. Nobody wants to drink room temperature wine, but at the same time nobody wants melty ice cubes watering it down.

The solution: frozen grapes. Just pop a few in your glass. They make perfect ice cubes because they don’t melt fast like ice—and when they do melt, they just add more grape juice to your “grape juice.”