My Favorite Kitchen Hints

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

When I was a child, I loved reading about cooking tips, even if I didn’t cook. I think we all like to learn to do things faster or better.

Here are some timesavers and helpful hints I’ve discovered over the years. I hope you’ll share with us your own favorite kitchen tips and tricks.

General Cooking Tips:

  • If you own a lot of cookbooks, photocopy your favorite recipes from your cookbooks, put the copies between plastic sheet protectors and store them in a binder. It’s a lot easier to access the recipes you use often, avoiding the need to hunt down the right cookbook and search through the index.
  • Lay down a small cookie sheet over the back burner of your stove as you cook on the front burner, to contain messy spatters. It’s a lot easier to wash a cookie sheet than to clean the burners. I also prop large cookie sheets on the back wall of my stove when I’m frying, to keep the wall clean.
  • When using dried spices, crush them in your palm just before using to release the flavor.
  • Know your measurements—¼ cup equals 4 tablespoons, so if a recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of something, you can measure ¼ cup first, then 2 more tablespoons to save measuring time. Also, 1 tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons so if a recipe calls for ½ tablespoon, you can get an accurate amount by measuring 1 ½ teaspoons, instead of trying to eyeball a half tablespoon from a tablespoon measure.
  • Clean as you go—when something is simmering for a few minutes or baking in the oven, take the time to wash your prep dishes. When prepping, I use plates instead of bowls to hold my prepped ingredients because it’s easier to fit plates in the dishwasher, instead of bowls.

Kitchen Equipment

  • Invest in more than one set of measuring tools. I have two sets of dry measuring cups and three sets of measuring spoons, as well as three liquid measuring cups in different sizes—that way, you aren’t always having to wash your measuring tools as you cook.
  • Remove the ring that holds together your measuring spoons to break up the set. If you need just the tablespoon, you don’t have to wash the whole set of spoons afterwards.
  • Have several cutting boards: a small one to mince a few herbs or to cut a piece of fruit, a medium all-purpose one and one with a channel around the edges to catch meat juices when carving a roast. Also, keep on hand a plastic cutting board for raw meat and poultry that can be sanitized in your dishwasher.
  • If you’ve lost any equipment manuals (electric blender, food processor, mixer, etc.), go to the company’s website. Usually, all the manuals are available online to be downloaded—even manuals for older models.
  • Use your microwave oven to melt chocolate and toast nuts. Chocolate will melt faster in a microwave than using a double boiler, and nuts toast faster in a microwave than in a regular oven. For specifics, check out this archived post.

Food Storage

  • Store herbs and spices in airtight containers, preferably glass, to preserve oils. Save empty spice bottles and transfer any spices you buy that are sold in small plastic bags. (Make sure the smell of the original spice does not linger in the bottle by storing the bottles uncapped to air out after washing.) I use adhesive paper to print my own labels.
  • If you store baking items in a drawer—spices, extracts, etc.—label the cover of the item so you can pick out what you need instantly.
  • Refrigerate oil-rich seeds, such as poppy and sesame. To preserve color, also refrigerate red-colored spices such as chili powder and paprika.
  • Designate a refrigerator shelf for leftovers so you can see at a glance what needs to be eaten. Use a post-it to label every container to identify the contents and include the date it was made.
  • Freeze fresh hot peppers like jalapeno or Thai bird chiles in small plastic bags. They’ll grow limp when defrosted but if you are mincing them anyway, the texture won’t matter.

For more ideas, check out our kitchen hints and hacks.

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Posted: Feb 26th by Sandy_Hu