By Aylin Erman and Anna Brones
Mother knows best! When it comes to the kitchen, this idiom couldn't hold more true. But it's not only your female superiors who have so graciously passed on their secrets - with the rise of celebrity chefs and the number of Food Network productions, the general public is increasingly more educated on ways to become the master of mealtime making.
Sometimes however, it's the information that gets lost between the lines that matters most, so we've assembled 60 of the most important kitchen tidbits that have stood the test of time and experience. This guide is packed with essential culinary pointers that will not only help you cook better meals but also navigate the kitchen with even greater ease and effectiveness.
Keep your onions in the refrigerator. A chilled onion is easier to chop, and causes fewer tears.
If you switch out seltzer for tap water or milk, you'll end up with fluffier pancakes, waffles and scrambled eggs.
Want to boost the antioxidant power of your green tea? Add some lemon to it.
If your bananas are black, spotty and on the verge of turning from ripe to rotten, put them in the freezer so you can keep them on hand for a batch of banana bread on a rainy afternoon.
Put a dash of cinnamon or cardamom in your coffee for an extra spice boost. Wow your guests when it's time for dessert by adding cinnamon to your whipped cream.
Make your own vanilla sugar by placing a whole vanilla bean in a small jar and filling it with sugar. Screw on the lid and store until you need sugar with just a little extra flavor.
Not sure if your eggs are still good or not? Test their freshness by dissolving 2 teaspoons of salt in a cup of cold water. Place your egg in the water and if it floats it is an old egg, if it sinks, it's fresh.
If you're freezing summer's bounty, spread berries out over a baking pan. Place pan in freezer until the berries are well frozen, then transfer to freezer bags. This keeps the berries individually frozen instead of in one big mass.
Not sure if spaghetti is fully cooked? Pull a noodle out of a pot of simmering water, let the water drip from it for a few seconds, and then chuck it against the nearest kitchen wall. If it adheres to the wall, it's al dente!
Always keep dough covered with a moist cloth to avoid a dry crust from forming on it.
Never refrigerate tomatoes and citrus fruits. Refrigeration kills their flavors, nutrients, and textures.
Knock on a watermelon to check for signs of hollowness. It is sounds hollow, its ripe. If it doesn't sound hollow, it's unripe.
Pour oil into a pan that has already been preheated. This will prevent sticking later on. Only add vegetables to a saucepan if they begin to sizzle upon impact. To check if the oil is hot enough to add vegetables, flick a few drops of water into the pan - if the oil makes a sizzling sound, it's ready.
Oil biochemically changes for the worse when cooked. Enjoy extra-virgin oils in their raw state and benefit in both taste and nutrition.
Want to dehydrate without splurging on an expensive dehydrator? Set your oven on its lowest temperature setting and keep the door slightly ajar.
Squeeze lemon juice over half-eaten fruits and prevent them from rotting or turning brown.
Pour some vinegar over defrosting meat to accelerate the thawing process as well as tenderize the meat.
To keep cookies fresh, toss a piece of bread in the cookie jar. The cookies will extract moisture from the bread and retain their softness.
Keep milk fresher for longer by adding a dash of salt into the carton right after opening it for the first time.
Soak almonds in hot water for 20 minutes to make removing their skins easy.
Place dough in the freezer for a few minutes to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin.
To smoothen the icing on a cake, use a knife dipped in hot water and gently rub it over the top and the sides.
Cut a cheesecake with a wet knife to ensure that the filling doesn't stick to the knife's edges and ruin presentation.
To get the most digestive benefit from bananas, wait until they're browned and spotted - the more spots, the better. Under-ripe or just ripe bananas can lead to constipation. Overripe bananas have developed their sugars and induce the complete opposite effect.
Ice-creams set faster and better in aluminum containers. A pinch of soda in your icing will keep it moist and prevent it from cracking on the cake.
Is the salt in your shaker clumping? Put a few grains of rice into the shaker to absorb excess moisture.
Added just a pinch too many of salt to your soup? A raw potato added to the soup white cooking absorbs the extra sodium. Toss a chunk in the pot and let it linger in there until the soup is appealing to your tastes.
Adding a little bit of baking soda to dish water will help to remove pungent odors from utensils and dishes.
The key to smooth dressings, sauces, and gravy is to put all ingredients into a tightly sealed jar and then shake until all lumps and inconsistencies disappear.
Rub hands with dry salt to remove onion and garlic odor.
Add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil to a pot of boiling pasta to stop the water from boiling over the edge of the pan.
Dip fish into scalding water for a minute to scale more easily.
Another way to spread icing more easily on a cake is to sprinkle the top with flour as soon as the cake is removed from the oven.
To make rice as white and fluffy as possible, add approximately 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar per quart of water while cooking.
If you want to eliminate eggs, try this easy egg replacement: mix one tablespoon ground flaxseeds with three tablespoons warm water. Let sit for a few minutes and substitute for one egg in baking recipes.
Avoid storing onions near potatoes. Doing so will cause the potatoes to spoil sooner.
Forget to bring butter to room temperature for a recipe that calls for it? For a quick fix, fill a glass with hot tap water and let it sit for a few seconds. Empty the water and place the glass upside down over the amount of butter required for the recipe. Wait one minute and the butter should be ready to use!
Don't have a rolling pin? Use an empty bottle.
In a recipe with both salt and some sort of acid, such as citrus, vinegar, or wine, you can offset one of the flavors by adding more of the other. For example, in a dish with too much vinegar, add salt to balance it out. Likewise, in an over-salted dish, add more vinegar.
Dust raisins, berries, or chocolate chips with flour to prevent them from sinking in while baking in a cake.
Always add sea salt to vegetables before roasting. The salt brings out the juices from the vegetables and gives them a caramelized flavor and deliciously browned appearance.
To prevent egg shells from cracking, add a pinch of salt to the water before hard-boiling. Place a slice of apple in hardened brown sugar to soften it back up.
When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to the mix to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness.
Can't stomach an entire avocado? Mash the remaining flesh and smooth it onto your skin for an impromptu, but highly effective, face and body mask. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and then wash clean.
To prevent potatoes from budding, place them in a bag with apples.
Brush beaten egg white over pie crust before baking to end up with a deliciously glossy finish.
Store spices in a cool, dark place that is not above the stove. Humidity, light, and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor.
Boil pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.
For rich, creamy dressings made healthy, substitute half the mayo with Greek-style yogurt.
For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight.
To easily peel a mango, cut a small part of the end off and you will be able to easily stand it up while you peel it.
Don't like watered down iced coffee? Freeze coffee in an ice cube tray, and use those instead of regular ice cubes.
Put berries on a toothpick or skewer and freeze them for colorful and tasteful additions to spruce up a glass of champagne or sparkling water.
For a milder garlic flavor in dishes, roast garlic in the oven and then freeze the cloves until you are ready to use. Perfect for adding to sauces, mixing with olive oil for a spread and more.
Store bunches of basil in a glass of water so it keeps longer.
Instead of lemon, add cucumber or apple slices to your water.
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Image: Sassy Lassies Vintage Life, Aylin Erman
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