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38 Pro Tips for Every At-Home Chef

Whether you're cooking or baking, these tips will help bring your kitchen and food to the next level.

By
Bruce and Jeanne Lubin,
Chef

From keeping a hair dryer in the kitchen to stacking pots and pans, these clever hacks will have your food coming out better, all while being easier for you to make.

Maximize Your Ingredient

1. Spin-Dry for Best Results
You need to wash and dry fresh herbs (just like fruits and veggies) before using. But wet herbs can turn into a mess on your cutting board, and any lingering moisture can dilute their flavor. Of course, you can let herbs dry naturally on a paper towel. Or you can speed the process by tossing them in a salad spinner or giving them some help with a hair dryer.

2. Shake Up Your Garlic
It can be so simple to remove the skins from garlic! Just break the cloves off from the head and place them in a bowl or mug. Place another bowl on top and shake heartily. Even more fun: Use a cocktail shaker! With either approach, the skins will start to come off, making the garlic easy to peel.

3. Skip the Point
The pointy end of lemons can make them difficult to squeeze by hand or even with a press. Take just a second to trim that end and create a flat edge. The reward: More juice!

4. Better Butter Spread
To make your butter super spreadable for bread or corn on the cob, take a room-temperature stick of butter and whip it with a small amount of water. Not only does this trick make it light and spreadable, but it will also last longer because it expands in volume!

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5. Never Leave Your List at Home Again
How many times have you jotted down the ingredients you need to purchase for a new recipe, only to leave the list at home? Next time, take a photo of the ingredient list with your smartphone. You’re much less likely to forget your phone than a random scrap of paper. And it’s eco-friendly.

Master Smart Techniques

6. Simple Step to Better Bacon
Pan-fried bacon never seems to cook evenly, because we try to cram in slices that don’t fit so well. The super-easy solution: Cut the slices in half. They’ll lay flatter to cook and fit into sandwiches better to gobble up.

7. Press Your Breakfast
Have a panini press tucked back in a cabinet? Pull it out to cook breakfast! Just a few minutes in the press cooks bacon crisp and delicious. Or create an omelet: Scatter some chopped veggies on the press, pour two beaten eggs over the top, and close the press to cook for about 2 minutes. Roll the result to serve and eat.

8. Sandwich Toast That’s Tops
When toasting bread for sandwiches, put two slices of bread in one wide toaster slot. That way, the bread gets toasty on the outside but stays soft on the inside. Great for BLTs!

9. Simmer on Any Stove
Cooking over low heat for any amount of time is super difficult—especially on a gas stove, where you can only pare back the flames so much. But if you can’t take the flames lower, make the burners higher to put more space between the heat source and the pan. How? Simply stack two burner grates.
                                       
10. Pluck Herbs with Less Work
Cooking with certain fresh herbs requires stripping their leaves from their stems. Translation: a lot of work. But you can use an easy trick to save time and still savor the flavor of herbs such as cilantro and dill. The magic tool: a simple colander! Just thread the herbs through the holes of the colander, starting from the inside. Leaves pull away and collect in the bowl of the colander.

11. You Can Keep a Dried Mushroom Down
Ready to rehydrate? There’s a tip you need to know to stop the bob. Those dried mushrooms tend to want to float on the soaking water instead of diving in. The problem: That leaves some mushrooms tough or still crunchy. The solution: Force them down by nesting a smaller liquid measuring glass or bowl inside the larger glass or bowl you’re using to soak the mushrooms.

12. Make Your Own Mini Pizza Stone
Baking, or pizza, stones give you crisp cooking results. How they work: Put the stone in the oven to heat before you add the food to bake on top. The only catch is, the stones can be pricey (plus, heavy and large to store) for how much use they get in a typical week. So why not make your own smaller version? All you need are unglazed quarry tiles, which are cheap and easy to pick up at home improvement stores and garden centers. They’re small enough to fit in your toaster for cooking and a drawer for storage. Use a few together to cover more cooking area, as needed.

13. Make Fast Froth
You can froth milk for a café-style latte (or hot chocolate) right in your microwave! Add about ½ cup milk to a mason jar. Secure the lid and shake vigorously until the milk volume is doubled. Remove the lid, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Spoon on the foam, and enjoy your sip!

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