Chef’s aren’t special. In fact, we just happen to know a few special kitchen hacks that make our cooking game much easier and down-right awesome. Want to be awesome? Give my kitchen hacks a try…I promise it will only make everyone wonder when you went to culinary school.
1. ALWAYS use butter in your eggs…trust me on this one. It’s MAGICAL. Butter transforms eggs. And you only need a sliver and it will do the trick.
2. If you need to use a lot of onions or shallots and want to skip the tears…place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will solidify the sulfenic acid that makes you cry and you can chop away tear free. Also, always make sure to have a SHARP knife. This will prevent you from bruising the onion cell walls and releasing the acid.
4. Feeding mashed or roasted potatoes to a group? Peel them and cut them the night before and store them in the fridge in water. The next day, rinse and prepare. You just saved yourself quite some time of prep!
5. Want to keep your knives sharp? NEVER place them in the dishwasher. The soap dulls the blade. **Want more knife tips? Check out my 101 on Knife Skills***
6. When you want to add raw onions to a salad but don’t want the sharp taste, just soak them for 2 minutes in cold water. The sharp oniony bite will be all gone…as will the bad breath 🙂
7. Need parsley or cilantro garnish for a party? Chop them up finely, place in a paper towel, wet the towel, squeeze the water out and you are all set! Place in a bowl and use them to garnish all day and night without them wilting.
8. Cook meat like a pro…from steaks, roasts to burgers, buy yourself a digital thermometer. Seriously. All the chef’s use it. THAT’s one of our secrets to roasts and steak perfection. This one in particular is my fave now… I love that it’s bluetooth and I can see the constant temperature right on my phone. Genius!
9. Get your knives professionally sharpened. Treat them well and they will treat you well.
10. Use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast to spruce up old recipes when you grow tired of chicken breasts. Plus… it’s cheaper 🙂
11. Take a look at your local cooking schools or stores (ie, Sur la table, Williams and Sonoma) they offer free cooking classes or majorly discounted ones when they do not fill them up.
12. Get a mandoline. They are awesome! Slice potatoes thinly for your morning breakfast potatoes and impress everyone with your pommes dauphinois. It does not need to be expensive. I bought this one for $20 on Amazon several years ago… and it’s still fantastic. But do be careful these suckers are SHARP!
13. When buying tomatoes on the vine, take them OFF the vine immediately. They will go bad a great deal faster WITH the vines.
14. When making quinoa or rice…make the whole darn bag! ALL OF IT. Why?!? Whatever you do not use, place in gallon size bags and freeze. Your freezer will always be full of last minute side dishes on a busy week night.
15. Speaking of freezers, don’t be afraid of frozen veggies or fruits. They are picked at peek freshness so they are great especially in the off season. I religiously keep frozen corn, broccoli and my very favorite pearl onions. For me pearl onions are the biggest pain to peel so why not let the grocer do it for you? They caramelize just as gorgeously as they do when they are fresh.
16. Canned roasted red peppers will make almost any dish a superstar. Add them to salads, sammies, pasta and plain hummus to transform classic hummus to a zesty roasted red pepper hummus!
17. Only use San Marizano tomatoes for marinara sauce. Seriously. It’s worth it. I promise. Buy the gigantic cans, make a ton of sauce and freeze it.
18. Always have homemade chicken broth or stock in your freezer. If not, then just get a good box of low sodium store bought stock or broth. It serves as a quick solution to many weeknight troubles…soup is always a great answer to a last minute dinner. Pair it with an easy salad and a hunk of crusty bread and everyone is happy.
20. Don’t throw out your roasted chicken or rotisserie carcasses. Collect them in a ziplock bag and throw them in a freezer. When you have a few saved up, place them in a pot with some carrots, onions, celery and herbs and create a killer stock.
21. One of my greatest secrets. Keep your Parmesan rinds. They create a world of difference in soups and sauces.
22. When cooking, set-up a garbage bag near by. I like to close it in a kitchen drawer so it always hangs near me. That way all your garbage can be easily thrown out immediately and not clutter your work space.
23. Speaking of which. Learn to keep your work area clean, you will be a lot more efficient.
24. Always have a good crusty loaf of bread in the freezer. Wrap it up in foil then place it in a ziplock. You never know when you run out of bread or need to make breadcrumbs or a bruschetta last minute.
25. Get a good dutch oven. They are incredible. No need to spend hundreds of dollars. I bought this one and I love it! My roast and stew game is forever changed.
27. Buy cheap cuts of meat and learn how to transform them into succulent stews and ragus. You will look like a magician when you transform them.
28. To get a good sear you have to cook at a high temperature. Accept this and master the secret to a great sear. Plus get a good fan and crack some windows open. It’s gettin’ hot in herrrre!!!
29. Learn how to flambe. It’s a great technique for adding tons of flavor…plus what an awesome party trick!
30. First lesson I learned in culinary school: grab a paper towel, wet it, ring it out, place under your cutting board. Your cutting board will now stay in place. Like magic!
31. One of the greatest inventions is caremalized onions. Always caremelize a few more than you need to… they wilt down to nothing and can be slathered on toast, thrown on top of a steak, mixed in with a mayo…the possibilities are endless.
32. If you use butter often…keep it out on the counter. It stays soft and ready to shmear. Trust me… It’s the European way.
33. If your brown sugar gets hard, stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Voila!
35. While you are at it, grind your own black pepper and have it in a designated black pepper bowl for easy pinching and seasoning.
36. Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts are a must to have in the freezer. Brush them with olive oil, salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Roast for 25 minutes at 400 degrees until gorgeous and juices run clear. The bone and the skin helps keep the chicken moist and delicious. Store it in a tupperware container in the fridge and use in salads, pastas, soups, sandwiches or as the entree.
37. Use a stand-up mixer and a paddle attachment to shred chicken in no time.
38. Ever over cook chicken breast? Use it in pastas and soups. No one will know the difference.
39. Pesto is a life saver. Easy to make and can be used as a shmear, pasta sauce, soup garnish, part of a dressing, marinade…the possibilities are endless…
40. Taste your food. This may seem obvious but people forget. Taste your food all the time, at every step. Nothing worse than a beautiful soup that has too much or not enough salt.
41. Ever over-salt your soup? Throw a potato in there and it will take away some of the salt.
42. Invest in a good slow cooker. I love my Breville. Particularly because the insert can be used in the oven, on the stove and in the slow cooker. Plus I can make lovely and super easy pulled pork in it…
43. Skip the mess and cook bacon in the oven. It’s crispy and delicious. I even have a how-to!
44. Use dental floss to cut soft cheeses and dough. It comes out even and uniform.
45. Use a coffee grinder to grind spices. No need to get fancy.
46. For the hot summer months, freeze lemons, limes or oranges in mini muffin tins with water. Makes for the ultimate fancy ice cube.
47. When purchasing garlic, take a few heads and roast. It’s super versatile, cheap and a must to have in the fridge. It will last for weeks if preserved in olive oil. Add it to mayo’s, sauces, soups and just smear it on bread.
48. Peel the rest of your garlic, puree it with some olive oil in a blender of food processor and have chopped garlic ready to use in the fridge at any time. I did this at every restaurant and catering company I worked at.
49. Throw your limes, lemons and oranges in the microwave for 15 seconds before juicing them. It will make the juices flow out much easier.
50. Want a pop of freshness in your dish? Dust some lemon zest right before serving. It completely changes the flavor profile and makes everything stand out a bit more.
51. USE MORE BUTTER. Really. The number one secret to a restaurant’s amazing food is: BUTTER. Why does the fish taste so good? Butter. Why does my kid eat the vegetables? Butter. Why are those mashed potatoes so creamy? Butter. (and maybe some cream) The best part is…you do not need a lot… but it will make a WORLD of a difference.
That’s it guys! Those are MY TOP HACKS!! Were they helpful?!? What are your favorite hacks to use in the kitchen?!?