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.

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin,

25. A New Cookie Shortcut
If you can’t find or don’t own cookie cutters, there’s an easy replacement that’s probably in your kitchen right now. Pull out your nonstick cooking spray, then pull off the top. Facing down, the lid’s edge makes easy cuts into dough to shape perfect-size cookies or biscuits.

26. Plastic Wrap to the Rise Rescue
Most bread recipes require multiple “fold” and “let rise” steps. It’s easy to lose track. But all it takes to know just where you are in the process is plastic wrap and a marker. Write notes on the current step and timing on the plastic wrap you use to cover the bowl of rising dough.

27. Surprising Cake Decorating Tool
Trying to decorate a cookie or write or draw on a cake? Icing bags are still too big and leave you without much control. Try a clean kids’ medicine dispenser—the syringe design helps the icing come out slowly at your push.

Best Results

28. Smooth Batter Secret
Having your ingredients (milk, butter, and eggs) at room temperature is the secret to smooth batter. If you haven’t planned ahead, you can take the chill off milk and butter quickly in the microwave. But what about those eggs? Give them a warm bath! Place eggs from the fridge in a bowl of warm water. As the water cools, repeat by draining the bowl and refilling it with fresh warm water. Let the eggs sit in warm water for about 5 minutes before cracking and adding to the batter.

29. Drop That Cake
That’s right, drop it! After you pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top. Then, from a height of about a foot, drop the pan bottom on your countertop. The drop will magically knock out any air bubbles in the batter for a more professional cake shape and appearance. Do this for cakes leavened with baking soda or baking powder.

30. Drop Cookies Too
For cookies, the drop comes after you take them out of the oven. Just bang the pan straight down on the stove to force the cookies to settle.

31. Scoop Dreams
For perfectly baked cupcakes that are uniform in size, use an ice cream scoop instead of pouring batter or using a regular spoon. Give the scoop a spritz of nonstick spray to make the task even easier.

32. Bananas for Baking Anytime
Sudden craving for banana muffins or bread but your bunch isn’t soft enough yet? You can speed the ripening process along with your oven! Line a baking pan with parchment paper or foil, then place the bananas on it and cook in a 300ºF oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Then peel and get to baking your favorite banana recipes!

33. Lock in Moisture
Do your cakes seem to dry out as they cool? Keep your cake moist by setting a piece of bread on top until you’re ready to frost it. You can secure with a toothpick if you like. The cake will stay fresh and moist even if you let it sit overnight!

34. Easy and Impressive Chocolate Garnish
Want to really impress your guests? Get out the bubble wrap! For an amazing garnish, spread melted chocolate on top of clean bubble wrap. Let it set, turn over, peel off the bubble wrap, and stand in awe of your creation. It’s perfect for topping a cake, or break into smaller pieces to garnish cupcakes, cocktails, or coffee.

35. Try a Cookie Stack
Cookie bottoms keep burning? Try baking on two sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Sweet Solutions — Simple Ways to Soften Hard Sugar

36. Treat it to a Towel 
Another way to restore moisture? Give it the warm-towel treatment: Microwave brown sugar in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel in 15- to 20-second increments until soft. Use your fingers or a fork to soften any clumps that remain.

37. Prick a Potato
Wash and dry a potato, then poke a few holes into the potato with a fork. Toss the potato in and seal the sugar container. Your brown sugar will be ready for action the next day, no matter how hard it has become.

38. Fight Sugar with Sugar
Toss in a marshmallow or two. It’ll add the moisture your brown sugar needs. You'll never have to throw out a hardened rock of brown sugar again, and you won't have to spend money on a special brown-sugar-keeper disk.


The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.