40+ Creative Cooking Hacks That Amateur Chefs Might Not Know Yet

By Navkiran K

This article was originally published on myfryingpan

When it comes to cooking, there are a lot of hacks that can make life easier (at least when you’re in the kitchen). Some of these pointers and tricks might seem weird or downright unappealing at first, but they’ll help you out when you need it most. We promise you’ll find at least one of them useful, if not all of them. Even if you don’t cook often, these tricks will come in handy when you decide to whip something up for yourself or others. Trust us on this one; these super effective cooking hacks work like magic. And guess what? You’ll be a master chef in no time. Whether it’s using baking soda or ginger tea, you will likely find everything on this list already in your pantry. So put on an apron and get ready for some kitchen tricks that make cooking much more effortless.

Magic Happens When You Mix Soy Sauce And Butter

Throw some soy sauce and butter together to get the most savory flavor out of your dishes. The result is an excellent addition no matter what kind of main dish or side it’s being used in. They’re perfect for boosting flavor when combined.

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If you have never tried mixing them before, now is your chance. Once you do, this flavor combination will become your instant favorite. It works extremely well, especially on mushrooms or popcorn. It’s best if your preference is Umami flavor, a strong meaty taste.

Split The Baking Time For Fudgy Brownies

A perfect brownie is one of the most rewarding dishes in existence. But if you want your masterpiece to be flawless, some key details need attention before baking. Preheating your oven is crucial to make sure that brownies come out perfectly. 

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Giving them enough time on the counter before placing them back in the oven allows for a more even bake. This means they won’t sink as much on top or have crunchy edges. This is a basic tip, but many people forget it.

Freeze Lime Juice Into Ice Cube Trays

Lime juice is an excellent ingredient for making food and drinks. It can be used in many different ways, in sweet, sour, and savory dishes. If you have an excess of limes (or lemons), don’t just let them go to waste. 

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Lime cubes are a great way to get your drink on. With just tequila and some sugar, you can have an instant cocktail. Freezing them will save the limes before they go bad, making them perfect for cocktails and regular drinks.

Leave Pancake Batter Lumpy

For fluffy, thick pancakes that turn out perfect every time, not flat, leave a few lumps in the batter. An experiment done by Cook’s Illustrated showed that how much you stir the batter makes all of the difference and will change the consistency.

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You want to make sure you mix your pancake batter delicately so that the pancakes will be fluffy and not thin. A good way of doing this is by leaving some lumps intact. This will ensure a super airy pancake with height.

Use An Inexpensive Nonstick Pan 

Use a nonstick pan sparingly because they are only suitable for certain things. Nonstick materials are great for making pancakes, French toast, and eggs. However, they don’t hold up well in other types of cooking, like stir-frying or searing meat. 

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This is because they give off a particular type of heat that is not as hot towards crispiness as regular frying pan sets. So you should stick with what works best for your cooking needs. When in doubt, stick to the basics.

Add A Pinch Of Baking Soda To Make Meat Brown

Browning ground meat is essential for a lot of recipes, but it can be tricky if you don’t know the correct technique. One tip to make sure your meat gets brown evenly and deeply in all spots? Sprinkle in some baking soda. 

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Tossing the cooked mix with this ingredient will help lock in moisture while cooking so that liquid doesn’t escape from deep-fried or pan sauces, which would otherwise pool on top, preventing an even brown colorization. Sounds weird but works beautifully!

Make Baked Chicken Taste Fried With A Bit Of Mayonnaise 

To make baked chicken taste like it’s been fried, add a bit of mayo to the egg-and breadcrumb coating before baking. The moisture from this addition crisps up each crumb as it bakes, giving off an exciting crunch when you take a bite.

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In addition, this little addition in your dish will give you that juicy satisfaction and boost of flavor without all the unnecessary fat typically found in fried food. A few spoonfuls of mayo can do wonders for creating this tasty dish. 

Best Way To Use Limes Is By Cutting Off The Bottom

Limes are the best ingredient for making margaritas, but you have to cut them before juicing. The easiest way is to cut off the bottom, so all of that yummy juice runs through instead of getting wrapped in the rinds.

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You would be astonished by how much juice comes pouring out when doing this instead of cutting in half like we usually do when we juice vegetables or other fruits. You can thank us later for this ingenious cooking hack.

Roll Down The Top Of Bag While Pouring Marinade 

A great way to make food taste even better is by using a marinade. Once you’re familiar with the fundamentals, it would be easy for you to make your own creations filled with fresh flavors and spices. To pour marinade perfectly, do this.

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When pouring marinades or leftovers into a Ziploc, roll down the top of your bag so that it doesn’t get all over the place. It is super easy to shape it to sit upright on its own without falling over. 

The Instant Pot Has A Built-In Lid Holder

There are many great things about the instant pot, but one feature that might be overlooked is its lid holder. This means you can cook in peace and not worry about that puddle of condensation that results from setting the lid on the counter.

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Gone are the days of searching around looking for an empty spot on your countertop where the pot’s cover can sit without dirtying or damaging anything else in sight. The designers really thought of everything when making this handy appliance.

Shrink A Sheet Pan With This Simple Technique

There’s a hack for getting the baking dish size you need without having to go out and buy another whole new item. All you need is some foil. Put it on top of your sheet pan so they will line up.

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You can take a sheet pan and turn it into an even larger square-shaped one with this hack. If the idea of making a halved pizza or other baked goods recipe stresses your culinary skills, then simply use this technique.

Store Ginger In The Freezer For Easy Grating

While most people store ginger in the refrigerator to prevent it from drying out, freezing is the best way. Not only does storing your ginger with care extend its life span, but it also makes for more effortless grating when you’re ready. 

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Frozen ginger is actually easier to grate than fresh. This is also the simplest way of mincing it. However, if you want sliced ginger for recipes, then just be sure and remove them from the freezer several hours before cooking.

Add A Pinch Of Salt To Your Coffee To Make It Less Bitter

Salting your coffee is the best way to keep its bitterness under control. If you realize that you don’t like the brew’s taste, add a pinch of salt. It will make it less intense and cancel out the unpleasant bitterness.

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Our taste buds let us know if something is sweet or sour. Bitter tastes can make our calcium ions go to our brain, and salt can help with other flavors. When we eat something bitter, the bitterness is suppressed if we toss in some salt.

Transform A Regular Cake Pan Into A Bundt Pan

If you’re looking for an impressive way to make a holiday bundt cake but don’t own a tube pan and are short on time or just not up for going out and buying one? This simple hack using two different pieces of cooking equipment works great. 

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To make sure your cake is level, put a cup or ramekin in the middle of it. If the cake starts sloping away from the center, use uncooked rice to weigh it down and keep it stable while you cake bakes.

Roast Your Lemons For Lemonade

An excellent way to tame the acidic bite of lemons is by roasting them. This will also extract more juice and leave you with a deep flavor and richer-tasting lemonade. This trick will make your drinks and desserts much better.

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To roast lemons, just slice them in half and place them on a baking sheet. Prepare at 400°F for 20-30 minutes until browned but not burnt around edges. Then let them cool entirely before juicing or transferring juice into containers. 

Enhance Your Guacamole With Pico De Gallo

Guacamole is usually made from perfect avocados, which often seems to be a fleeting miracle. Once it’s been mashed and exposed to the open air, it can turn brown very quickly. But where there’s a will to keep your guacamole from turning into mushy messes, there’s a way. 

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To prevent browning, cover your guacamole with pico de gallo. Not only does this help keep the avocado fresh, but it is also super delicious, and for many people, guacamole is not even complete without the onion, cilantro, and tomato.

Pat Dry Meat Before Searing

Moisture is the enemy of perfectly cooked meat. To get the cleanest, most flavorful sear when searing your protein, you need time and patience. You’ll want to pat dry any moist areas on the outside with paper towels before cooking.

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Using paper towels to pat the outside surface of your meat or fish will help create a better seal and allow for cleaner flavoring when cooking. This is because less moisture gets trapped inside, which can make the food soggy. 

Clean A Stubborn Cast Iron Pan With Salt

You might notice that a cast-iron pan is covered in rust after being used. The great news is this can be fixed – but not by using soap. Instead, use some coarse salt which will scrub off any dirt and leave no residue behind. 

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Salt cleanses the skillet by breaking up bits of food residue on the pan. Toss the dirty crystals in the garbage. Rinse the pan with hot water before drying. To keep your cast-iron looking good, put some drops of cooking oil on it.

Grate Ginger With A Microplane 

Ginger is a powerful healing root. Luckily, we have one of the best tools for getting those essential nutrients: the microplane grater. This tool was designed specifically with hard cheeses in mind and even garlic cloves. But we can also use it for ginger.

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This tool can quickly remove tough fibers from roots without using too much space on your kitchen counter. It is also good at finely grating spices like ginger, perfect when you need that extra boost of flavor right away. 

Season Zucchini And Mushrooms After They Brown

Seasoning your mushrooms and zucchini before they brown in the pan will make them soggy. This is one of the most common mistakes people make when cooking these vegetables. Always let mushrooms and zucchini cook their natural moisture out before seasoning.

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Once the vegetables are cooked, add salt to reduce their moisture and crisp them up. You can check that your veggies are not soggy by making sure they are dry before cooking. It will save you time in cooking. 

Add Pieces Of Cold Butter To The Hot Sauce

Have you ever been to a restaurant and had intensely flavorful gravy on your plate? You may have just experienced monter au beurre. This is one of many techniques used by chefs around the world, and it is one we recommend adopting.

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When translated, monter au beurre means “to mount with butter.” To the chef, this means to finish a sauce using cold cubed butter. Vigorously mixing it into your sauce on low heat will emulsify and change its appearance and enhance the flavor. 

Finish Hot Chili And Stews With A Dash Of Vinegar

Ever notice that your chili can sometimes taste off? You might put in too much of an ingredient or forget something. Well, try adding a bit of vinegar before pouring it into bowls. Acidic ingredients will help bring out those spices. 

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The vinegar will improve the flavor, giving it that umami infusion your chili might be missing. You won’t get a sour tang with this, but you should still be sparing with it, or else you’ll end up overwhelming other flavors. 

When Cooking With Aromatics, Add Garlic Last

To help avoid burning garlic, many recipes call for sautéing other ingredients like onions and carrots first. But that doesn’t mean you cannot add garlic at the beginning. Just keep a few variables on top of mind when cooking with garlic. 

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There’s a reason why garlic is more likely to scorch than onion. It has less water content and higher amounts of naturally occurring sugars like fructose. Also, garlic is usually cut into small pieces that can cook faster than big pieces of onion.

Take Your Mac And Cheese To The Next Level

Cheese, pasta, milk, buttery goodness – heaven for your taste buds. If you think your mac and cheese game couldn’t get any better, you’re wrong. We have a fantastic idea that will surprise you. Add in some dijon mustard to take it to the next level.

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Whether you’re cooking macaroni from scratch or a box, mix in mustard while it’s cooking. Yellow, Dijon, and grainy are all excellent options for this step. Let it sit before serving to get an extra kick of flavor in your dish. 

Don’t Cook Steaks Or Stir-Fries With Olive Oil

Olive oil might be good for making salad dressings, but don’t use it when cooking steaks or stir-fries. Olive oil’s low smoke point means that the fat will start burning at around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, while steak is typically cooked over higher heat.

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Therefore, it is not recommended to use olive oil in these recipes. Since its neutral flavor won’t give your dish much depth compared to other high-temperature oils like peanut butter which has a more intense aroma and kick, don’t panic about switching it up.

Finish Vinaigrettes With Hot Sauce

Vinaigrettes are not only for salads. The acidity and balance of flavors can perk up any dish in just a jiffy. Why stop at the confines of your typical green leafy veggies? It’s time to take your vinaigrette beyond salads.

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Adding a bit of hot sauce can turn an otherwise bland dish into something people crave. Adding just a few drops to vinaigrettes, dips, or sauces will transform your dish from dull and lackluster into bold and delicious tasting greatness.

To Microwave Leftovers, Put A Damp Paper Towel On Top

For the best tasting leftovers, use this reheating hack to keep their flavor intact. While microwaving your leftover dish, place some wet paper towels on top of it for an even steam effect that will help it heat up evenly and keep the flavor.

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It can create a vast difference between dry, half-cold leftovers and a meal that tastes just as great. As the water boils and produces steam, it’ll hydrate the dish underneath, especially in foods prone to drying out like rice or pasta.

Rinse Rice With Water Before Cooking

When you are preparing top cook rice, it is best to rinse it off. You want that milky white tint to fade away until the water is crystal clear. And, when this happens, you’re done with your task. Why would you rinse rice, you may ask?

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The exterior of each grain is covered in a fine coating that contains tiny powdery bits of other grains and bits of earth ground into tiny pieces. Cooking rice with this sticky residue makes the rice gooey and not ideal for eating. 

Line Cake Stand With Parchment Paper

If you want to have the perfect cake decorating area, put pieces of parchment paper on your stand. It will keep your table clean while you are frosting the cake. This is an incredible hack when the presentation matters most.

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Simply put down strips of paper around your cake before pulling out the frosting. Once everything has been decorated to perfection, remove these pieces when you are ready to serve. This will keep your table and edges of the serving plate clean. 

Use Cocoa Powder To Prep Pans Or Countertops 

Ever wonder why brownies or chocolate cakes have all that flour on the outside? It’s because we use it to dust the pan. To avoid this, use cocoa powder instead. Here’s a hack for an easy way to coat your dishes.

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Butter an empty dish. Put spoonfuls of powder in each corner until it is covered. Shake off the excess powder before gently tapping it down so only small amounts are near the edges where they will not cook through when baking.

To Make Whipped Cream Fluffy, Refrigerate The Mixing Bowl

Achieving the perfect whipped cream consistency is all about knowing how much time to spend in preparation. If you pop your mixing bowl into the fridge before starting, good job. Creamy goodness is what you get when this recipe’s done right.

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To get your fluffy mixture just right, you should refrigerate both the mixing bowl as well as any attachments like whisks 15 minutes prior to or during preparation time so that they are always at their best when using this technique. 

Add A Pinch Of Baking Soda To Caramelize Onion Faster

One way to get your onions lovely and golden brown is by caramelizing them with baking soda. A higher pH level speeds up the Maillard reaction, which in turn produces more compounds that give off their own pungent scent.

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You might also notice a difference in softer and more subtle flavor. This happens because pectin, the chemical glue holding cells together, weakens at higher concentrations. So, all you need is 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every pound of onions.

Prevent Cakes From Sticking To Pans With This Diy Paste

Do you find yourself constantly worrying about cakes breaking because they always stick to your pan? We know that feeling. It can be so frustrating. But don’t worry, because there’s a simple solution; just give this magical paste a try. 

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You can whip together flour, shortening, and vegetable oil. The recipe makes a couple of cups of paste that can be stored for up to three months—also, no worries about it affecting the flavor. Simply brush the pan with this paste before pouring in the batter. 

Place A Sheet Tray On Top Of Bacon To Prevent Curling

Tired of your bacon curling up? Place a second sheet tray on top to prevent it. Pop the cooked meat into an oven-safe pan along with some parchment paper and another layer for good measure, then pop that all away in there. 

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This is also helpful for candied bacon. Bacon should be drained or patted down with paper towels to remove excess grease. If you want to do precision cuts, cook it until it is not crispy anymore, then cut them up.

Spin The Bowl Instead Of Turning Your Hand Mixer

It is often easier to turn a bowl instead of your mixer when you are making a thick batter with ingredients such as milk and eggs. Turning the mixing device takes more energy, which can put a strain on your joints. 

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The hand mixer only requires one arm but spinning the container will help save some strength by using less effort than turning around while holding onto something heavy. It is also easier to rotate a smaller container in this way.

Use Wax Paper To De-Gunk Your Can Opener

Wax paper is the perfect tool for cleaning your can opener. Running it through all of those gears helps gently dislodge any deeply hidden grime. Additionally, waxing lubricates this nifty little tool without having dirt build up on its surface.

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The next time you have to cut open a can, be sure that the wax paper is nearby. Watch in amazement as your kitchen tool promptly leaves behind an oily film of black crud and ends up working like new.

To Make Chicken Breasts More Flavorful, Brine Them 

Baking a chicken breast is a great way to cook meat, but many people don’t know that you can make them even more flavorful by brining them. A quick soak in salt and water helps meat retain moisture while also keeping it flavorful. 

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When you’re set to go, remove the chicken from its brine. Give it a rinse with cold water and pat dry before cooking so that all of those delightful flavors can come through in your meal. This method only takes 15 minutes. 

Electric stoves can get a lot hotter than gas stoves

Remember that electric stoves can get much hotter than gas ones. The difference is essential to keep in mind when cooking because it will affect the recipes you’re following; your food will turn out differently depending on which type of stove you’re using. 

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For example, high temperatures are better suited towards searing meats, while low settings work well with casseroles and pasta dishes. Therefore, gas yields a nice sear, whereas electric will more likely burn food unless you adjust accordingly.

Place Onions In The Fridge Or Freezer Before Cutting

There’s no cutting corners when it comes to chopping onions. Cutting an onion can make people cry because enzyme chemicals released from its skin react with air and turn into something known as sulfuric acid, which can irritate your eyes. 

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Chilling the onion, whether it’s for 30 minutes or 24 hours, will slow down that chemical process. If you know they’re going to be used soon, then for a chop-free experience, pop them into the refrigerator. But don’t store your onions in the fridge long-term.

Always Taste Your Prep Mixture

It’s easy to get carried away and cook a ton of food when you have all the ingredients. But it never hurts to taste test one more time before cooking the rest, especially if it is food with different ingredients like different types of meatballs.

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This will ensure that what comes out of your kitchen tastes as good or better than it does in front of you, which can sometimes get tricky when recipes call for prepping multiple batches at once. This way, you save time and potential disasters.

Use Olive Or Pickle Brine To Enhance Savory Dishes

Use olive brine or pickle juice as the base of a vinaigrette. Spicing up your everyday recipes is easy with these flavorful liquids is easy as most of them can also be utilized in cooking; they add wonderful flavor to dressings and sauces.

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Pickle juice is a great ingredient for many dishes. For instance, it can be used as an attractive sweet-and-sour glaze on grilled meats or vegetables that are already doused in brine. It also turns an okay dressing into something amazing.

When In Doubt? Double The Garlic

Garlic is a versatile and easy-to-use ingredient that enhances the flavor of any dish. It’s no wonder chefs across the world rave about this magic vegetable. The pungent flavor of this lovely plant gives anything it touches an unforgettable kick.

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If in doubt, double the garlic. You’d be hard-pressed to find something your family won’t enjoy once they have tasted how great using fresh cloves tastes in every recipe. From salads to pasta, garlic will make your food taste better.

Put Skewers On A Big Piece Of Meat

Kebabs are a delicacy among numerous populations. Plus, they are relatively easy to make, so they are usually a popular choice, especially when you’re hosting. Today, we’ve brought you a hack that will make these snacks even easier to prepare.

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One of the trickiest parts about making kebabs is ensuring all the pieces are cooked and cut evenly. To ensure this, take your meat and slice it across, then stick several skewers in even intervals. This way, you only need to cut along the length of the skewers and cook everything once.

Cook Noodles In A Waffle Iron

Just when you thought making noodles couldn’t get easier, another hack drops! Noodles can get a bit boring over time, but lucky for you, we have a recipe that will leave you craving for more. All you’ll need is a pack of your favorite brand, an egg, and a waffle iron.

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Boil some water and deep your noodles in for about 2 minutes. In a bowl, mix the egg and the seasoning that comes with the pack. Once the noodles are done, strain them and put them in the bowl with the mixture. Finally, place that in the iron, close it, and cook for five minutes.