Your Best Cooking Tips

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  • If you need to melt chocolate, use a double boiler.  A high-sided bowl in a pan of water is infinitely easier and certainly less work than X number of 5-10 second increments in a microwave whose heat output is outside of your control.
  • Anna_P said:
    Did this last night so I'll add it to mine:

    Cook bacon from a cold pan, over medium heat. Cooks more evenly, doesn't curl up and you get nice strips of crispy bacon. And if you need to cook a large amount (more than 3 or 4 strips), lay the strips out on a baking sheet and cook at 350F in the oven, making sure to turn each side so it cooks evenly. 

    My mother usually baked her bacon as she needed to cook enough bacon for six people.  I believe I have her bacon sheet.
  • If I'm halving a lot of cherry or grape tomatoes, I put them between two tupperware lids of the same size (with lips of lids holding the tomatoes in), hold pressure on the top lid (bottom lid is on counter), then I slice through all of them at once.
  • I have way more spices than would fit on a spice rack.  I used to spend forever going through them in the cupboard, trying to find the right one.  Then I used a label maker and put labels on all of their lids, so I can see what they are without having to remove them from the cupboard.
  • edited March 2015
    Save all your shrimp shells (from raw or cooked) in a zip bag in the freezer. Lobster and crab too. When you have enough (maybe from 4# worth or so, meaning from weight of shrimp, not 4# of shells, that would take forever!), boil them in water to cover for half hour to an hour. Then strain out shells and boil down til a bit more concentrated, just keep tasting it, you'll know when it's got plenty of flavor. Then you can use immediately in soups, curries, sauces, or freeze. Same thing with chicken carcasses, skin, bones and all, especially those already cooked from the deli that have been picked over. Don't use anything someone has gnawed on though. You don't even need to add any veggies like onions, celery, or carrots for more flavor. Or any salt.

    Delicious stock/broth!
  • Chop the entire bunch of parsley or cilantro. Keep it in a container in the fridge or spread it out on paper towels and let it dry. It's so much easier to use it for subsequent meals or to throw on top of something reheated. Mine always goes to waste if I don't pre-chop it all.

    If you have spices that you use all the time: buy in bulk and use a peanut butter jar. Put a dedicated measuring spoon of the right size in it. I have spoons in my sea salt, cumin, turmeric, and paprika. Not for those who have perfectly arranged spice racks with all matching bottles, but it's so much better than realizing while something is sizzling on the stove that the little jar of cumin is empty and you have to pull out the step stool to get the bulk jar off the top shelf. Also, you don't need to wash measuring spoons as often.
  • easy trick- great sauce for chicken, one can peaches (or other fruit, in juice, not syrup, drain, use a burr mixer (hand held) in the can, puree, add a bit of nutmeg, or cinnamon, or what have you- great with chicken, turkey....with rice or...
  • edited March 2015
    @kimmeister peeling with a spoon is the best for ginger! You just use a little teaspoon and use it to scrape off the skin. It takes hardly any so there is very little waste and it is much quicker than using a knife.

    That sounds rather like the recommendation I had from a friend recently to use a fork. I tried it and was amazed how easy it was!

    Also, you are all geniuses and have already mentioned a lot of my own tips. Though another one is that you can use apple (or pear) puree in place of eggs in a lot of general cake baking - works really well as a substitute for them to make them suitable for folk sensitive to eggs. I got that from my grandmother who was used to catering for my grandfather who didn't eat eggs or dairy - her adjusted ginger cake recipe makes for a great vegan one and lasts for ages. 
  • Cool tip, lundibleu.  How much puree do you use for each egg?
  • altalinda said:
    Cool tip, lundibleu.  How much puree do you use for each egg?
    I guess it depends on size of the eggs you'd usually use, and how thick the puree is too. I guess I work on around 90-100g (or around 100ml if that's an easier measure) per egg, roughly, but tend to adjust it a bit if I need to - i.e. if the puree is a bit thicker or looser than normal.

    You can use other fruit too, depending on the cake. Apple and/or pear are good for most things, but stronger flavoured fruits work well if you have a stronger flavour. Rhubarb or plum goes quite nicely in a fruitcake for example.
  • My father told me that very cheap wine was not to be bought, cheap wine was to be used for cooking, and good wine was to be drank. I don't know anything about wine, so it's usually my guideline when I invite friends.
  • @Sophie Some cheap wines can be pretty tasty and good. However, cooking wine should be the same wine that you would want to drink. Never, ever use something that is labeled _Cooking Wine_, you will probably be sad since they are really not drinkable and methinks ruin the taste of any good dish.
  • @JaneE I don't think I've ever seen a bottle labelled "Cooking Wine". Did I not look in the right places? And I think my father's tip was more to avoid me buying unnecessarily expensive wine for cooking, it doesn't mean he doesn't drink cheap wine! My region produces very good white wine, so I tend to buy that, because I know a cheap bottle will still taste good.
  • @Sophie @JaneE I always heard don't cook with wine you wouldn't drink. Serve the fancy pricy wines at the table, cook with good tasting reasonably priced wines
  • Here's the definitive NYT article on cooking with wine.

    Bottom line: don't use anything too fancy, fruity or expensive.  And @Sophia is right: don't use anything labeled "cooking wine."

    The author got her best results using cheap Charles Shaw wine from Trader Joe's.  She also mentions that Julia Child used dry vermouth.  JC's fave brand was Noilly Pratt.  I buy a big bottle of NP from my local wine warehouse and it usually lasts months.

  • I use dry vermouth instead of white wine in most dishes - partly because there is no such thing as "leftover wine" in our house, and we're not very good at leaving the "cooking wine" for cooking with. If I really want wine specifically for cooking I tend to buy a cheap half bottle that my husband knows he isn't allowed to drink.
  • I know this is a basic baking thing but, making sure you banking soda is fresh, I made some blueberry muffins that were 'disappointing' (hockey puckish) went to make pancakes, thought about those muffins had a unopened can of baking powder, used that and light fluffy deliciousness happened.
    Added to see if this thread will resurrect.
  • Here's some new tips:

    1. Toss blueberries in flour before adding to batter for muffins, bread, etc.  That will help prevent Purple Batter Syndrome.

    2. When deep frying, let the oil heat up in between batches.  Cooking lowers the temperature.  And get yourself a DeLonghi deep fryer. 

    3. For home fries or hash browns, bake potatoes the night before and put them in the fridge.  Cut them up in the morning.
  • For home fries, twice-cooking is the way to go.  My original recipe is to do it in oil at a lower temperature, take it out, let cool, then put the fries back in once the oil is hotter and cook again.  What I do (because I'm lazy) is take the fries, put them in a microwave-safe container, cover with water, microwave for four minutes, drain and fry.


  • For home fries, twice-cooking is the way to go.  My original recipe is to do it in oil at a lower temperature, take it out, let cool, then put the fries back in once the oil is hotter and cook again.  What I do (because I'm lazy) is take the fries, put them in a microwave-safe container, cover with water, microwave for four minutes, drain and fry.


    That's a really clever idea - saves you having to wash the starch off the spuds before you do the first fry.
  • To make garlic easier to peel, I smash the cloves with the flat side of my knife. Great stress relief and makes it easier to chop too. 
  • For home fries, twice-cooking is the way to go.  My original recipe is to do it in oil at a lower temperature, take it out, let cool, then put the fries back in once the oil is hotter and cook again.  What I do (because I'm lazy) is take the fries, put them in a microwave-safe container, cover with water, microwave for four minutes, drain and fry.


    That's a really clever idea - saves you having to wash the starch off the spuds before you do the first fry.
    Thanks :D 

    Soaking potatoes really does a TON of good for certain recipes.  Not so much mashing though - actually, when you're mashing potatoes, you want to save a tiny bit of the boiling water (2-3 tablespoons tops) and use that as liquid to mash with.  Starch makes them extra fluffy.  Also, the better you want them to taste at the time, use more butter.  The better you want them to taste reheated, use more cream.  I also flavor mine with roasted garlic...so delicious!
  • For recipes that call for cutting cold butter into flour: pie crust, scones, instead of cutting cold butter into little cubes, take frozen butter and grate on the large holes on a box grater, then cut it in. Helps keep your product cold and it require less handling. If has problems with tough pie crust before, but the ones I made using this technique, flaky deliciousness.
  • alloyjane said:
    If you need to melt chocolate, use a double boiler.  A high-sided bowl in a pan of water is infinitely easier and certainly less work than X number of 5-10 second increments in a microwave whose heat output is outside of your control.

    AMEN.  The microwave option is worthless, and doesn't keep your chocolate at a consistent temperature if you're using it for dipping or molding.  I've had really good luck with the cheapie IKEA stainless steel bowls to use as double boiler - I've got nearly a dozen of them for truffle season.

    My tiny tip:  for better mascerated strawberries, it's better to hull them, then mash with a fork or potato masher, then sprinkle with just a little sugar if they're not as red as you'd like.  Cut strawberry spears don't juice as well and the texture is boring because it's all too uniform.

    Also, shred your own cheese.  Pre-shredded has a coating that messes with the meltiness.

  • edited August 2015
    If you need to cut corn kernels from the cob:  Nestle the pointy end of the cob into the hole of a bundt pan.  You can just rotate the secured cob as you slice the kernels down with a sharp knife...they'll fall straight into the pan rather than ponging all over your kitchen!  If the bundt pan slides on your counter, wrap a kitchen towel around the base to stabilize it.
  • quick and easy sauce- one can peaches (in juice, not syrup) drain (save the juice for ice tea or vinaigrettes!).

    puree, pour over cooked chicken and simmer, add ginger or cinnamon or nutmeg or...makes a great (healthy) sauce and adds a serving of fruit.

    (same can be done with canned apricots, etc...but I like the peach.
  • Lots of pizza talk in another thread, so I thought I'd share this!  For years I used a simmered tomato sauce when I made pizza, but Orangette's Molly and Brandon recommend a raw sauce – it's going to cook in the oven anyway – and we do prefer the brightness of it.  No recipe, just a method:

    Use best-quality canned plum tomatoes.  Strain them – and then whir in a blender or processor with salt, a pinch of sugar, and garlic.  (If using a blender, mash the garlic into a paste along with a bit of the salt first; no need to do that for a food processor.)  Taste, and add more sugar if it needs sweetness, or some red wine vinegar if it needs acidity.  Just make it exactly to your liking!
  • @WinterWhite ; I like that! I wonder if that method would work for something like lasagna as well. Saving the step of cooking a sauce would be a great time saver.
  • While we're swapping pizza hints, this is the best pizza dough ever. It's Tony Gemignani's recipe and it is the BOMB. Retarding the rise overnight gives the dough so much flavour, and because it has quite a bit of olive oil in it, it freezes (and thaws) really well.
  • I always add a shot of balsamic vinegar, love the earthiness it adds,
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