So much of working more easily in the kitchen is about the short cuts and knowing what to use. Here are a few of my tips in no particular order of importance. Please add your favorite kitchen tips to the comments at the end of this post.
- The most important purchase you can make for your kitchen is good knives. There’s a reason there’s a knife that’s called a “chef’s knife”. It’s worth investing in a high quality chef’s knife, which will serve many purposes. I would also add a smaller knife for more delicate tasks.
- This brings me to my next tip: Knives can do so much. There are so many gadgets out there that not only cost money but also clutter up your kitchen, so before you grab one, think if your knife can do what that gadget does. For example, those silly garlic peel removers. Instead of spending money on a rubber tube that you can peel your garlic cloves with, just take your chef’s knife in your left hand, hold the widest part of the blade flat over the clove and give the FLAT flat part of the knife just above the clove a hard smack. The clove will split and you will be able to easily peel the skin off. I’ve also seen gadgets for cutting avocado…use your knife!!
- Baking paper! Over the years I have learned to use baking paper as much as possible. For cakes, it prevents the cakes form sticking to the bottom of the pan, cookies slide right off baking paper, and more. Don’t forget to spray it with non-stick spray if your recipe says to grease the pan. I love baking paper.
- Non-stick spray: It’s easy to use and not oily. In addition to using it instead of oil or butter and flour, I also spray the inside of roasting pans before I cook meat. This makes it much easier to clean the pan afterwards.
- When in doubt, go for the bigger pot. There’s nothing more annoying than starting your cooking process and discovering that you are running out of space in your pot. So when you are in doubt, use a bigger pot. Worst case scenario, it will take more place in your sink afte
rwards, but at least you won’t be cursing when you don’t have enough space to stir, or even worse, you have to transfer you food mid-way through.
- Fresh herbs: Whenever you can, use fresh herbs. The difference is astounding! Plant your own in your garden or in pots. They grow so easily and look good. One of my favorites is my Bay tree, which grows outside my kitchen window. Whenever I cook meat dishes, I reach out, pick some leaves and pop them in the pot (washed, of course). They are so much nicer than the dried leaves. Sometimes recipes specifically call for dried herbs, and usually there’s a reason, as basil, for example, is extremely pungent fresh, but dried is a lot less overbearing. Play around and see what you like.
- Cutting the acid in tomatoes: Tomatoes are very acidic, and can often make a dish taste quite sour. When you are using any tomato products – crushed tomatoes, tomato paste or even a large quantity of fresh cooked tomatoes, add a teaspoon of sugar to your mixture for every cup or two of tomato, and it will cut the acidity. If you taste and it’s still sour, add a little more, but not too much. You don’t want to sweeten a savory dish.
- Whatever you do, don’t burn the garlic: You can save your cooking from many disasters and mistakes. One mistake that is fatal is burning the garlic as burned garlic is very bitter and will ruin any dish. To avoid this, here are a few suggestions:
- When a recipe tells you to saute or fry onions and garlic together until the onions are soft, do not put them in at the same time. Onions take a lot longer to soften than the garlic takes to cook. Add the garlic only once your onions have softened and then fry the garlic for a few seconds only – not more than 30!
- If you are only frying garlic, don’t preheat your oil, rather add your garlic at the same time as you put your oil on the heat, and the garlic will slowly cook as the oil heats up.
- Do not wait till the garlic is brown to take it off the heat – as soon as it start to change to a slightly golden color, stop the cooking process.
- Usually sauteing the garlic is followed by adding some kind of liquid to the pan to create a sauce, so always make sure that your liquid ingredient is ready to be poured into the pan before you start cooking the garlic (for example, if you are adding a can of crushed tomatoes, make sure you open the can first). This will immediately stop the cooking process and ensure that the garlic doesn’t burn.
- No tears onion chopping: There are so many tips for avoiding tearing up when chopping onions. The one that’s worked for me over the years is quite simply storing the onions in the fridge. Cold onions release less less syn-propanethial S-
oxide, which is responsible for irritating the eyes and causing tearing.
- Keep your celery crunchy: When you are storing left over celery in the fridge, take a piece of paper towel and wet it. Wrap it around the stalks of celery and the celery will not wilt in the fridge. Oddly enough this actually works!