Kitchen Mistakes We Made so You Don't Have To

Our food experts know a good idea when they see one. Working side by side in a test kitchen, one eye on their cutting board and the other on their neighbors, is the next best thing to standing next to cook-wise grandmothers at the stove. With their swapping of tips and techniques as commonplace as passing the olive oil, we thought it was time for the rest of us to take advantage of some of that insider info. What follows is a save-worthy, spread-around list of 10 of their favorite tricks, time-savers, and "aha" moments.

Whisk. Don't Sift.

Leave the sifter on the shelf when combining dry ingredients for baking. We've found that for basic cakes and cookies, simply whisking together the flour, leaveners, and spices in a bowl removes any lumps and aerates everything sufficiently.

Shop Smart

For the best flavor, freshness, and nutrition, buy vegetables whole and untrimmed--and don't waste a thing. Remove beet and turnip greens, for instance, when you get home, and store them separately (they last longer that way). Sauteed or quick-braised until reduced in volume, they will turn flavorful and satiny. Celery, celery root, and even radish leaves add an aromatic herbal note to salads. When you see roots, grab 'em. A delicate shaving of fresh horseradish delivers a more potent punch than its bottled counterpart--and herbs with their roots left on stay vibrant longer. Cilantro stems and roots add depth and complexity to Southeast Asian and Indian stir-fries, soups, and curries.

Cut to the Chase

"Other than my professional San Marco cappuccino machine, a Japanese cleaver is my favorite kitchen tool. Handmade in Kyoto, it's a very well-balanced knife made of hand-forged carbon steel. Light, exceedingly sharp, and easily sharpened, it cuts through everything except bone (it's not a meat cleaver) and hard seeds."
- Martha Stewart

Read More: The 20 Most-Trusted Cooking Tips and Techniques from the Martha Stewart Test Kitchen

Meat Basics

"For restaurant-quality grilled meat at home, always bring it to room temperature before cooking. If you cook it straight from the fridge, it will never brown evenly and will, in fact, steam before it sears. (This applies to poultry and fish as well.) Always season it generously with salt to bring out the flavor, and after cooking, let it rest before slicing. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, leaving it perfectly succulent." -Shira Bocar

Smell & Taste (Before Using)

"You only need to ruin vanilla pastry cream with a garlic-scented spatula once to become a lifelong sniffer of utensils, cutting boards, and wooden salad bowls. I love the new coffee/spice grinders that come apart so you can completely clean them. Nothing is worse than Chinese-five-spice-flavored coffee in the morning."
- Shira Bocar

Related: 15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook

Better Ahead

Meats braised in advance, a great boon when entertaining, not only get us ahead but are better made ahead. It's simply a matter of the flavors' mingling, evolving, and heightening. Here's a roundup of some of our other favorite foods that become just that much tastier the next day. Lobster stew, seafood gumbo: An overnight bath in broth turns these dishes more nuanced.

Minestrone, chili, beans, curries, Bolognese sauce: They become more than the sum of their parts.
Barbecue sauce, salsa, chutney, Bloody Mary mix: Even add-ins and condiments will be all the better for a day's rest.
Sweets: Chocolate desserts become richer in body and deeper in flavor, oatmeal cookies develop a nice chew, and pies set (the secret to cutting perfect, rather than puddly, slices).

Shred Green for Quick Cooking

"Think beyond the braise when preparing collards or other greens. Crib from the Brazilians: Remove the stems (reserve them for soup), stack and roll up the leaves, and finely chiffonade them (cut them into thin strips). Then try a quick sauté or steam. Or throw some raw into your soup or smoothie mix for a powerful hit of phytonutrients."
- Lucinda Scala Quinn

Don't Crowd the Pan (or Oven)

It's tempting to add just one more piece of meat to the skillet when browning, but don't do it, because the meat will never get the brown crust you want. Instead, cook in batches, and don't rush the process: Dark caramelization yields complex flavor. The same is true when roasting vegetables. And for the most evenly baked cookies and cakes, give the pans some space, with two at most in the oven at once.

Get Wet

Dampening your hands when forming meatballs or macaroons, or handling a sticky, difficult-to-work-with dough, makes the task much faster and easier, and far less messy.

Toast It!

"Italian cooks taught me the big difference in flavor between raw and caramelized tomato paste. When adding the former to the pot, push the other ingredients to the edges and get the tomato paste working in the center. When your nose tells you it's done, mix everything together and carry on."
- Jennifer Aaronson

More from Martha Stewart:
Hands Down, The 20 Grilling Recipes You Must Try This Summer
35 Beyond Delicious No-Bake Dessert Recipes
Fast, One-Pot Meal Ideas To Feed the Whole Family
Easy, Everyday Meatless Recipes

Tried and Tested: You'll have this pasta recipe in your repertoire for the rest of your life.