If you're anything like me, you're always looking for simple ways to take your cooking up a notch. And sometimes there's truly no better way than to ask other home cooks what secrets they have in the kitchen. So when redditor u/erin_with_an_i asked the r/Cooking community to share their cooking hacks that are relatively unknown, I immediately started taking notes. Here are some of the creative tips and tricks people shared.
1."I keep a shot glass in my microwave. If I’m cooking anything that requires moisture (reheating rice, for example), I add water to the glass and turn the microwave on for 30 seconds to warm the water. Then I put in whatever I’m making. The microwave gets steamy and warms things like rice and pasta beautifully. Just don’t forget to remove the glass when making popcorn!"
2."Preheat your sheet pan at 425 degrees before adding your vegetables when roasting. Gives them a nicer sear, and they cook slightly faster. Second tip on sheet pans: It's worth having a 'clean' and a 'seasoned' sheet pan for different uses. Clean for things like cookies, seasoned for savory applications."
3."When your box of brown sugar is rock hard, instead of chipping it away with a knife, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. It gets nice, soft, and shakable again."
4."Most of the time, I add seasoning to my flour when I make a roux. Started with garlic powder and smoked paprika when I made my roux for white cheddar mac 'n' cheese. It enhanced it, so I do it whenever I can."
5."Whenever I need to caramelize onions, I always add water to the pan and cover with a lid to steam the onions first. Eventually the water cooks off and you're left with very soft onions, which saves you like 20 minutes for a big batch."
6."Dissolve your cinnamon in vanilla before adding eggs and milk to your batter for French toast. The cinnamon will incorporate so much better instead of just sitting on top of the mixture."
7."I scrunch up a piece of parchment paper under the tap water and squeeze the water out before using it to line cake and brownie tins so that it’ll stick to the sides better. The water will evaporate during the baking process and doesn’t affect the batter."
8."I put thick slices of day-old bread under my chicken before roasting; they absorb the chicken juice so that the underside is not soggy, and the bread edges become so crispy that I just nibble on them like roasted chicken–flavored soaked croutons."
9."I dehydrate whole lemons by placing them on a sunny windowsill and turning them every few days to avoid soft spots and spoilage. It takes a few months, then I wipe them off with a damp cloth and store them in a dry container or ziplock bag. All the flavor of the juice goes into the rind, and you just use a fine hand grater when you want a kick of the purest lemon flavor you have ever tasted! It’s perfect for when you want the concentrated flavor without adding any additional liquid to your recipe, and unlike with fresh lemon zest, there’s no bitter taste!"
10."When I’m almost out of a condiment, I make a salad dressing in the condiment jar and shake vigorously to incorporate the remaining condiment into the salad dressing."
"I do this with tomato sauce jars. Pour some of the pasta water in, shake it up, and pour it into the sauce on the stove. It also prerinses the jar for recycling!"
11."Instant mashed potato flakes are my go-to thickener in any kind of stew or chili. You don't have to whisk like you do cornstarch or flour."
12."I add a little cornstarch when I’m whisking eggs for scrambling. Makes them super fluffy."
13."A friend of mine taught me to put herb-and-garlic cream cheese in my mashed potatoes. I also tried dill pickle on my own, and if you’ve never had dill pickle mashed potatoes, you are in for a treat. The leftovers make fantastic croquettes."
14."I always cook more rice than I need, then portion out the leftovers into ziplock bags (1 cup of rice per bag) and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, put it on a plate or bowl, sprinkle about a teaspoon of water over the frozen rice, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave for two minutes for perfectly fluffy rice again."
15."When I make a French omelet, I whisk the eggs in a metal sieve first. It removes all the little white stringy bits (the chalazae), and the finished product is perfectly uniform and pale yellow. I can't take credit for this, though. I learned it from watching The Bear."
16."I use flavored coffee creamer (usually hazelnut, but sometimes French vanilla) in the egg batter when making French toast. Also, I use a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg over butter instead of maple syrup on the French toast. The last part is how my family has been making it for years since they emigrated from Belgium in the 1800s. The flavored creamer is my recent tweak on it."
17."I like to roast a whole chicken in a Dutch oven with potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. Once it's cooked, I take out the chicken, add some broth to the veggies and chicken fat, and blend that as the base for a soup."
18."Air-fry whole eggs (instead of hard-boiling them) at 250 degrees for 18 minutes, then immediately plunge them into cold running water. Perfect eggs every time, and you almost never fight with peeling them. I make a whole dozen at a time for lunch prep."
19."I’ve replaced salt in 75% of my cooking with mushroom extract powder from the Asian market. It still seasons but bumps the umami."
20."Lay sourdough on one layer of cabbage leaves when you bake it. It's just the right amount of moisture to steam the bottom, keeping the crust from becoming rock hard."
21."To get nice sunny-side up eggs where the white on top of the yolk is cooked too, I use a little oil in the frying pan on a medium-high heat, crack in the egg, and season. Once the white has started to cook, I add about a teaspoon of water into the pan. Then I place a lid on it, letting it cook for about a minute. The steam cooks the whites while keeping the yolk runny. It saves oil, saves you from flipping the egg, and is super quick."
22."Rub a little baking powder on chicken a few hours before grilling or roasting to help get the skin extra crispy."
23."When I bake a cake (and sometimes muffins or brownies, too), I grease the pan, spoon sugar into it, and rotate the pan until it fully coats (and just dump out the excess sugar), the way my dad taught me to. The bake gets a sweet, crispy crust and comes out from the pan easier."
24."Not sure how common this is, but my mother-in-law puts a few tablespoons of instant vanilla pudding powder in heavy cream when she makes whipped cream for desserts. It helps it keep its shape when you put leftovers in the fridge."
25."Anything with chocolate in it gets a dash of cinnamon — it enhances the flavor. My ex’s family used to go nuts over my chocolate chip cookies. It’s just the recipe from the bag with cinnamon added. Also, cinnamon in hot chocolate is amazing. My dad adds cinnamon to the Pearl Milling Co. pancakes, and they suddenly taste so fancy."
Are there any cooking hacks that you swear by that aren't as well known? Let us know in the comments or fill out this anonymous form!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.