Jeff Flowers on March 20, 2015 1 Comment I think it’s a safe assumption that we can always use a bit of help in the kitchen, especially myself, but that’s another story. No matter if you’re a professional chef, been cooking for years or just trying to figure out a couple of easy meals to cook for your family, we can all benefit from learning a few shortcuts and hacks. Like the perfect ingredients, our list of cooking hacks will help your food taste, smell and look its absolute best… all while you kicked back and enjoyed a glass of wine. By following our cooking hacks you will transform into a cook, worthy of having your very own TV show and line of cookware in no time flat. 1. How to Keep Your Fruit From Browning While fruit is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body, it’s probably one of the last things you want to put into your mouth when it starts turning brown. To keep your fruit looking appetizing for as long as possible, blend two parts water with one part honey and add your fruits to the mixture. The reason this hack is effective is that the peptide in honey helps to stagger the oxidation process that causes fruit to turn brown. Giving you an extra few days to meet your recommended dietary requirements. 2. How to Quickly Chill Your Glass of Wine Ever want to pour yourself a glass of white wine, but it’s not chilled to the temperature you’d like? Obviously, a wine refrigerator is the best solution for keeping your wine at its perfect serving temperature, but what if you don’t want to wait for this essential appliance to do its job? You may be tempted to drop a few ice cubes in the glass, but instead, use frozen grapes. These won’t water down the wine like ice cubes would. And when you’re done enjoying your wine, you can eat the grapes and enjoy the traces of wine left on them. 3. How to Keep Brown Sugar From Becoming a Brown Brick Brown sugar makes for a great addition to desserts, sweet potatoes, and even some meats. It’s a staple for kitchens around the world. Unfortunately, when left out long enough, brown sugar also makes for a great doorstop. To keep your sugar nice and soft, add an apple slice, orange peel, or piece of bread to the sugar before placing it all in a storage container. If your brown sugar has already hardened, but you need to use it, toss it in the microwave along with a small glass of water. While it’s warming up in the microwave the steam from the water will help it return it to its natural state. Now that you’re brown sugar is soft and ready to use, take the steamed-out microwave as an opportunity to give it a quick scrub. Photo Credit: Andrea Nguyen / Flickr 4. How to Boil Eggs to Perfection Boiling eggs to perfection has always been my Achilles’s heel in the kitchen. I either overcook them until they have that greenish layer, or I don’t cook them enough. And, let’s not even get started on the clinging bits of shell when it’s done. Make it easy on yourself with these hacks. First, stick a thumb tack in the bottom of the eggs before you add them to the boiling water. Cook them for approximately 12-15 minutes. While they are cooking, you’ll also want to have a bowl of ice water ready. Once you have boiled your eggs to perfection, transfer them to the ice water for a quick cool. Bonus Hack: Before you start boiling the water, add a bit of baking soda to the water. Additionally, after your boiled eggs have spent some time in the ice bath, put them back in the hot water for about 45 seconds. Make sure the water is not longer boiling, and just slowly cooling off. With both of these tips combined, your boiled eggs will be much easier to peel. 5. How to Keep Burbling Boiling Water in the Pot Rather than watching pots of boiling water like a culinary hawk, let a wooden spoon keep that furiously boiling water in check. Simply place the spoon over the top of the pot. When the water starts to boil up, the bubbles will hit the wooden spoon and prevent the water from spilling over the side all over your cooktop or range. One theory about how this cooking hack keeps pots from boiling over is that wood is a poor conductor for heat, meaning the water more or less stays away from it. Another theory, and likely more accurate, is that when the bubbles hit a surface area that is unable to absorb the water, they pop. Once the bubbles pop, the water subsides back into the pot, instead of making a big mess. 6. How to Cook Both Sides of Food Without Flipping It The next time you’re cooking something in the oven that has to be flipped, you can eliminate that step by preheating your cooking sheet along with your oven before adding your veggies or French fries. This allows the surface of your cooking sheet to heat up, thus allowing your food to thoroughly cook without having to pull it out of the oven and flip them on your own. While this trick works with several items, it’s not recommended for baking cookies. They’ll still cook, but they may not look very appetizing, and you’ll likely overcook the bottom of them. 7. How to Keep Your Pizza Leftovers Crisp & Fresh Photo Credit: VotePrime / Flickr While you can reheat pizza in the oven, many people opt for the convenience of using the microwave. While I would still recommend using a toaster oven, if you insist on using the microwave here’s how to do it without ruining your slice. Place a paper towel on a plate, and then your slice on top of the paper towel. Change the settings on your microwave to only use about 40-60% power and heat it up for one minute. Warming it up slowly without completely nuking it will give you the best-tasting slice. Some insist adding a small glass of water, or dribbling a few drops of water on the plate. This theory for this is that it will prevent your pizza from coming out rock-hard. Another popular way to heat up leftover pizza, and some would insist it’s the best way, is to use a skillet on your cooktop. The residual oils in the crust will heat up the bottom, making it crisp once again. Put a lid on the skillet to retain the heat within while assisting in heating up the cheese and other toppings. 8. How to Cook an Entire Bird Evenly The next time you’re cooking up a whole bird, add ice cubes to the recipe. Ice up the breast of the bird before sliding it into the oven. The breast meat doesn’t need as much time to cook as the dark thigh meat, so icing up the breast helps it to cook slower and more evenly with the rest of your fowl dish. 9. How to Cut Your Brownies Cleanly Nothing ruins the first impression of perfectly baked brownies like a hideous cutting job that leaves you with more crumbs and broken bars than anything else. Before you add the brownie batter to the pan, place one sheet of parchment paper from left to right and another from front to back before greasing the pan along with the paper. When the brownies are done, use the parchment paper to lift them from the pan before slicing them up with a serrated knife. If you’d rather not use parchment paper or simply don’t have any, you can also achieve the same effect by using a plastic knife. Now you’ve got a use for any plasticware you may have from takeout. 10. How To Keep Fresh Herbs on Hand If you like making a lot of sauces and pastas, you’re sure to appreciate the addition of fresh herbs. Rather than head to the store every time you plan on making your “secret” sauce, simply add chopped herbs to an ice cube tray and pour olive oil over them. Once you’ve done that, stick the ice cube tray in your freezer. Storing this mixture in your freezer will help keep the herbs fresh and the olive oil, usually, makes for a great addition to your recipe. 11. How to Prevent Cross Contamination I’m not even sure if this should be considered a “cooking hack” as it seems more like common sense. However, you’d be surprised at how often cross contamination happens when you’re preparing a meal. In fact, the CDC estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses every single year! What Cooking Hacks Did We Miss? So, before you start cutting meats and vegetables, be sure to use two different cutting boards. One keeps the uncooked meat juices from coating vegetables, fruit, and anything else you need to chop up. You could even go as far as buying cutting boards in two different colors, so that you never have to worry about mixing them up and accidentally cross contaminating your food. You don’t have to go to culinary school to cook more like a professional chef. These hacks and a little practice are sure to impress your friends, your family, and your taste buds. What cooking hack would you like me to add to the list? Let’s hear your “hacks” down in the comments below. Give me details and I’ll add them to this list.