Random Tips and Tricks

An ongoing list of tricks, tips, lessons learned and links to helpful things. Check back often and please add your own in the comments.

  • As good as it smells, don’t slice into hot, freshly baked bread. It won’t hold its shape and will leave you with a flattened (but delicious) mess.
  • Wax paper and parchment paper are NOT the same thing. The latter is great for lining pans during baking. The former will melt in heat.
  • Put foil over the top of lasagna, enchiladas or other cheese-topped casseroles during the first part of cooking it to avoid over-browning. Remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes.
  • To avoid lumps, mix/shake cornstarch into some water, broth, or other liquid before adding it to your recipe.
  • It’s easier to slice meat thinly if you leave it in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to slicing.
  • If your cake crumbles or sticks upon turning it out of the pan, you can use it to make cake pops or even as layers in a trifle.
  • You can revive tortilla chips and nuts that are starting to turn stale by toasting them lightly in the oven.
  • Check the lid on a container before you “shake well,” especially if you are in someone else’s home. Unless you think he might marry you one day.
  • Don’t pour oil into an already-hot skillet. If you do, make sure you have baking soda or a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Crack eggs into a smaller bowl individually before adding them to your dish. It could save the whole thing.
  • When searing meat, remember that the pan will “let go” of it when the surface has developed a nice crust; trying to pry it up sooner with ruin the surface of the meat and leave bits stuck to the pan.
  • Uniformly chopping/sizing/shaping the ingredients of a dish will help ensure that everything cooks evenly. It doesn’t need to be laboratory-precise, but a close approximation really does go a long way.
  • Always save at least a cup of your pasta water; it is the secret to the consistency and success of many Italian pasta sauces. It’s the starch in the water that blends otherwise disconnected ingredients into a silky, cohesive sauce.
  • Don’t look at anyone else (even if you’re chatting) while using a sharp knife. Even if you think you can handle it.
  • When opening bubbly or using sharp objects, remember: “towards your buddy, not your body!”
  • When I am caramelizing onions, I usually add a few teaspoons of water to the pan every few minutes to redistribute the brown-ness that has formed on the onions. This quickens the process, but keep it mind that the onions won’t be as sweet as if you caramelize them for a very long time.
  • Use chicken or vegetable stock when it calls for water (in savory recipes) or juice or milk (in sweets) to enrich the flavor of the finished product.
  • Buy a reliable meat thermometer. Don’t resist.
  • Make sure the surface of anything you plan to roast, sear, fry, etc. (something you want to turn out crusty/crispy/crunch) is as dry as possible before cooking it. Any moisture left on it will cause your food to steam.
  • My Pinterest board of tips, articles, etc.

 

 

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