Do you find cooking to be an exercise in frustration?
There are small but common irritations that prevent us from enjoying food as much as we would like — or from producing meals that resemble the dishes on magazine covers. Fortunately, there are also some easy ways to get over these hurdles.
Here are 12 of our favorite food hacks.
1. Cook bacon in the oven
The heat will be distributed more evenly in the oven, so the bacon will cook more evenly. Try it at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The first time or two, you’ll have to watch to see how long it takes. But after that, it should be smooth sailing. Plus, now you’ve got a free burner to make extra pancakes when guests come over.
2. Water your guacamole — and potatoes
Guacamole goes brown in the fridge pretty fast. We won’t bore you with the chemistry, but the culprit is air. No matter how tightly you seal the container, some is going to get in there.
One quick fix is to pour a thin layer of water on top. The water will block the air from the guacamole, keeping it nice and green. Just pour the water off when you’re ready to eat it.
This same trick will work with peeled potatoes: Just keep them in water until you’re ready to use and then pour out the water.
3. Soften butter quickly
Put the hard butter on a plate and heat up a glass by using running hot water or a microwave. Then, place the warm glass upside-down over the butter, making sure the butter doesn’t touch the glass. After a few minutes, the warmth will soften the butter.
There are a lot of variables here, such as how much butter is involved, its starting temperature and how hot the glass is. So, use your judgment and keep an eye on it so you get soft butter, not liquid butter.
4. Easily remove stray pieces of eggshell
Anyone who’s done any amount of cooking has cracked an egg and split it oh-so-carefully, only to have bits of shell crumble into the bowl anyway. Don’t just sigh and start poking around in there. Instead, wet your finger a little before you start fishing out the shell.
The water will help the shell stick to your hand and save you minutes of frustrating shell fishing.
5. Get at pomegranate seeds easily
Ripe pomegranates can be really tasty, but getting the seeds out of them without also getting the bitter-tasting pith is a lot of work. Messy, stain-causing work. There’s an easier way.
Before you start cutting into it, roll the pomegranate around on a clean surface. Press firmly, and you’ll start to hear a crackling sound as the pith separates from the seeds. Keep going until you no longer hear the crackling sound. It could take a few minutes.
Once that’s done, slice it in half. To be on the safe side, put a paper towel over the knife and pomegranate so that if any particularly juicy seeds start squirting, the paper towel — not your shirt — will catch the juice.
Hold one half of the cut pomegranate inverted over a bowl, and tap on the outer shell with a spoon or something similar. The seeds will come out slowly, so you might want to give the shell a squeeze from time to time. Once you’re done, repeat with the other half.
There will still be some bits of pith in the bowl, so be sure to pick those out before you eat.
6. Keep tomatoes fresh
Once again, air is the enemy. Store tomatoes with the stem side down — that’s where the air gets in the most quickly — and you’ll add shelf life to your tomatoes.
Also, keep them at room temperature, not in the fridge.
7. Peel hard-boiled eggs easily
Maybe you’re making an egg salad, so the look of the hard-boiled eggs doesn’t matter. But if you’re making deviled eggs, or if you just want your eggs to be pretty, try adding a little baking soda to the water when you’re boiling them.
The baking soda essentially will permeate the shell enough to make it not stick to the egg, but shouldn’t alter the flavor.
8. Slice cheese with floss
Want to cut some brie or other soft cheese, but hate the way a knife ends up smashing it as it cuts? Use a length of unflavored dental floss to cut through the cheese.
9. Make iced — but not watered-down — coffee
Want a cold coffee, but still want it to taste like coffee? Take some coffee left in today’s pot and pour it into ice cube trays to freeze. Then, use the frozen coffee to chill the cup the next day without losing any of the coffee flavor.
10. Have cooking wine at the ready
Next time you have a bottle of wine you can’t finish, pour it into an ice-cube tray and let it freeze. Then, you can just drop in a couple of cubes when recipes call for it.
Freezing the wine means it will taste a bit off. But as long as it’s not in the freezer too long, it should still work.
11. Make cheap wine taste better
Probably everyone has heard of the idea of letting wine breathe, especially young wine. But, realistically, who thinks far enough in advance to open the bottle and pour it into a decanter a few hours before dinner? Or, for that matter, who owns a decanter they actually think to use?
The point of aerating wine is to let as much of the liquid come into contact with air as possible. So, get two pitchers. Pour the wine into one, and then pour it back and forth between the two pitchers about 15 times.
It will taste better. If you don’t believe it, do the pitcher trick with half of the bottle and use the other half as a control, and see if it doesn’t improve the taste of the wine.
12. Keep bugs out of your drinks
Want to enjoy a glass of lemonade on the front porch, but hate how the gnats love the sugar as much as you do? Invert a coffee filter and punch a straw through it. Then place the filter on top of your drink for a cheap, easy lid.
It’s unlikely to be reusable, but if you’re careful, you could probably get a couple of uses out of it.
What’s your favorite food hack? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.