If you don’t already cook your own meals at home, chances are that being in the kitchen might come with a good bit of confusion and anxiety. That’s no way to create a new, lasting habit. So to help make things a little easier, I’ve started compiling some simple tips and tricks that you can take with you on your next (or first) culinary adventure.
Here, in no particular order, are 11 random tips for success in the kitchen...
Random Tip #1
Get yourself at least one cast iron pan. Seriously. Best thing ever.
Random Tip #2
The thick ends of asparagus are very dry and tough. To decide how much to cut off, remove one stalk, hold it by the ends, and bend it until it snaps. Wherever it breaks naturally is where you should cut the bunch.
Also, asparagus often comes packaged with a rubber band at each end. Leave them on until you’re done cutting. We’ll call that tip 2a…
Random Tip #3
It’s easier to get small, crispy pieces of bacon (for adding into or onto things) if you cook it first and then cut it. If you cut it into small chunks before you cook it, not only will the pieces stick together, but you’ll be doing a lot more flipping and finagling to get them all cooked on both sides.
Random Tip #4
Whenever you remove the peel or cut the ends off of vegetables (especially aromatic ones like garlic and onions), don’t throw them away. Put them in a gallon bag (or other such container) and store them in the freezer until the next time you make a stock or a broth.
We do the same thing with chicken bones (and those tough, annoying little tendons in chicken tenderloins). We tend to not eat any bone-in beef, but if we did we’d keep those, too.
Random Tip #5
In the kitchen, I live by the dictum If you buy cheap, you buy twice. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive thing, but it’s very likely that the least expensive option will not perform as well or last as long as the others. You’ve been warned.
Random Tip #6
When selecting pots and pans, the heavier, the better. Heavier means a more dense metal. More dense metal means more heat retention. More heat retention means faster, more even cooking (and a better ability to brown).
Random Tip #7
The very first question you should ask yourself when selecting anything for your kitchen--small appliances, tools, gadgets, etc.--is “How can I clean this?” It’s an oft-overlooked question, but an important one.
- That wine decanter might look really cool, but how the heck will you clean out that tiny spout? Maybe one with a larger opening might be a tad more practical.
- Do those kitchen shears come apart into two pieces, or will you be forever stuck with tiny amounts of old, dried up chicken where the two pieces overlap?
- Burr grinders are awesome, just make sure it comes apart so you can occasionally clean the old coffee grounds out.
Not all small appliances will come apart completely, but the idea is to buy the one that allows the most cleaning.
Random Tip #8
Regular coffee grinders act like little blenders and whip their blade around in hopes of attacking every piece of whatever’s inside (y’know - like a coffee bean). Burr coffee grinders use rotating plates to actually crush all of the beans into similarly-sized pieces. This inevitably results in a more even grind.
I’m not here to tell you if that difference should be important to you, because maybe you don’t care enough. Or maybe you also want to use your mini-blender to cut up herbs and such, as well. Just know that there is a significant difference in the end product of both kinds of grinder.
Random Tip #9
Think long and hard before spending (re: wasting) your money on a novelty gadget. Tiny egg poachers, perfect-pig-in-a-blanket makers, avocado slicers (seriously?...). These devices are sold on the premise that they make life easier, but the novelty wears off rather quickly. Trust me, they almost always end up on a shelf or in a cabinet collecting dust. I know you tell yourself that you’ll really use something like that, but…f’real. You probably won’t. Not for more than a month, anyway.
Random Tip #10
If you want a pot of liquid to boil faster, put the lid on it. It’s always been interesting to me the amount of people who don’t do that...
Random Tip #11
If cooking still seems overwhelming, whether because of the process or time restraints, I have two words for you: slow cooker. Seriously, so easy. Not only are there thousands of slow cooker recipes available on the internet, but you can also just throw in some chopped up vegetables, a big hunk of seasoned meat, some liquid if needed, and boom! Just let it do its thing.
There you go, folks. 11 little tips and tricks that will, hopefully, make life in the kitchen that much more bearable for you.
If you have any tips of your own, share them below!
Note: some of the products I linked to were simply to illustrate what I was talking about, while some are the actual make and model that I use myself.
Here are the ones I use myself and highly recommend (though, with some things, the brand doesn’t matter all that much):
- Calphalon Cast Iron Skillet Pretty much everything comes “pre-seasoned” nowadays. I would still season it yourself (I use coconut oil).
- OXO Kitchen Shears To be honest, not everything I have is OXO brand, but everything I have that is OXO brand is fantastic.
- Cuisinart Burr Grinder Well, I used to have this one. But I’ve moved a lot, and this didn’t make it through all of them. I sold it to save space.
- Cuisinart Slow Cooker It took me far too long to get myself one of these.