Whether you're practically a chef or a cooking novice, there are all sorts of ways to make your time in the kitchen easier and more efficient. The next time you're cooking, try out some of these simple yet effective kitchen hacks — you'll be amazed at how much time and effort you save.
If you've ever wished you could chop onions without the tears, try rinsing them first — the water washes away the topmost layer, where the irritant responsible for making you well up resides. Freezing or chilling onions works even better, as long as you're planning to cook them. If you don't have time for that — and you don't mind looking a little silly — putting a piece of bread in your mouth can help absorb the irritant gas before it gets in your eyes.
If you've ever come across a recipe that called for softened butter and suddenly realized you've left yours in the fridge, there's a better solution than throwing it in the microwave. To soften butter in a flash, simply warm up a glass with some hot water and place it over a chunk of butter for a minute or two. If you need to soften a whole stick at once, try grating it with a cheese grater or even flattening it with a rolling pin — just make sure you put it in a plastic bag first.
A great, sinple way to prevent pastries and other baked goods from drying out is to add a slice of white bread to the container. The bread holds in the moisture, keeping cakes and cookies delightfully soft. Alternatively, instead of throwing out those old silica packets, you can keep them a little longer and use them in the same way.
You don't need a fancy kitchen gadget to separate egg yolks. The easiest way is to do it by hand — simply wet your hands first, then scoop up the yolk and place it in a second bowl, or crack the egg straight into your hand. If you'd rather not use your hands, cracking the egg and flipping it from shell to shell is another great option. You can even learn to separate your eggs using a plastic bottle: squeeze the bottle first, then place it over the egg yolk and let the air pressure suck the yolk into the bottle. It may take a little practice, but it's worth it!
If you enjoy your eggs poached but struggle to get it just right, don't give up yet. Adding vinegar to the boiling water can help eggs keep their shape during poaching, but if that still doesn't quite cut it, try wrapping the eggs in little plastic pouches before putting them in the water. Or, for an even easier solution, crack an egg into a microwave-safe bowl that has some water and a small amount of vinegar. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap, and microwave it for about a minute.
Give your bananas a longer shelf life by separating the bunch, then wrapping the ends with plastic wrap. This blocks the natural fruit-ripening chemicals and keeps them fresh longer. Alternatively, if it's riper bananas you're looking for — for example, if you're ready for some banana bread now but your bananas aren't — toss the fruit in a paper bag to speed up the process. You can also bake them in the over for a few minutes until the skin starts going black.
For fresh herbs that actually stay fresh, store them with paper towels to absorb excess moisture. This keeps your greens dry and helps extend their shelf life up to a couple of weeks. Storing them in water helps, too; trim the stems first, then place a plastic bag over the top of the bottle or cup and tie a knot to secure it. If your herbs start to go bad, don't panic — chop them up into water and freeze them in ice cube trays instead, then simply add the cubes to whatever you're cooking.
To keep drinks nice and cold on a hot day, try this clever ice substitute: freeze part of your drink in ice cube trays instead of water. This trick works with lemonade, juice, or even wine, beer, or cocktails. Adding these flavored cubes instead of regular ice will chill your drinks without watering them down.
To cook roast vegetables more quickly, place a baking tray in the oven as it preheats. Once the oven is hot and your veggies are ready to go in, they'll already have a head start on cooking; as a bonus, it'll keep the bottom of your vegetables just as brown as the top, without having to flip them over. This trick can also work for just about anything oven-baked that you're trying to crisp up on both sides.
The microwave is undoubtedly the quickest way of reheating leftovers, but unfortunately, it has a tendency to leave food dry and unappetizing. To solve this problem, place a microwave-safe cup of water in the microwave alongside your food — the water will create steam as the food heats up, keeping it deliciously moist. If you don't have room for a cup, a wet paper towel works as well.
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