Helpful Food Tips That Make Cooking Fun & Easy

by Lynnette

bacon, beef, breads, butter, celery, chicken, cookies, corn, flour, freezing foods, gravy, leftovers, lemons, microwave cooking tips, milk, onions, pasta, pizza, popcorn, potatoes, salads, snacks and desserts, soups and stews, sugar

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food-tips-cooking-tipsWhile performing a deep-clean on our kitchen this week, I found an old list of “all the best cooking tips” that I compiled some time ago.

This list has followed me from kitchen to kitchen with every move we’ve made through the years.

Some of the following cooking tips have been committed to memory by now, but I figure this is as good a place as any to store them once and for all.

And who knows?… Maybe someone else will find ’em helpful.


To keep brown sugar from getting hard, store it in a zip-close plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will stay soft forever! Or, you can keep it in the freezer in a freezer bag.

For a moist, juicy hamburger try mixing a finely shredded raw potato into one pound of ground beef. You can also put chips of ice inside the center of each raw burger before cooking. And if you need to speed up cooking time, simply cut a big hole out of the middle of the patty before cooking.

When you have a partially filled beverage bottle that’s missing the cap, use a small balloon as a cover. Think about it… the air will not escape!

For beautifully round cookies, pack cookie dough into well-greased soup cans, refrigerated biscuit cans, or frozen juice cans. Then store in the freezer until you’re ready to bake another batch of cookies. (Note: If using soup cans, simply cut out the bottom of the can — before or after freezing — then push out the dough and bake.

When microwaving baked potatoes, stick 3-4 toothpicks into one of the long sides of the potato before placing it in the microwave. Stand it on the toothpicks and it will cook more evenly.

Use flour tortillas or pita shells for a quick pizza crust. Just add sauce and your favorite toppings. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350*.

To soften butter at the last minute, invert a bowl that’s been rinsed in boiling water over the butter dish. In no time, the butter will be spreadable! (For a super-hot bowl, and therefore super-fast softening time, I use a big glass mixing bowl filled a third of the way with water and microwave on high. As soon as it starts to boil, remove and invert over the butter dish.)

How to make gravy: Mix 1 T. of fat from the drippings and 1 T. of flour (or cornstarch) and 1 cup of liquid. (For thicker gravy, increase flour/cornstarch to 2 T.) You can also add 1 T. of softened butter.

If gravy is…

…too pale. Heat mixture of 1 T. sugar and 1 T. water in heavy pan until water evaporates and sugar begins to caramelize. Then reheat gravy in pan with sugar. (A little black coffee will do the trick, too.)

…too lumpy. Run gravy through blender, then reheat. (You can avoid this in the first place by mixing flour and/or cornstarch with water to form a paste, then adding the mixture gently to the pan and stirring constantly until gravy boils and thickens.)

…too greasy. Add a small amount of baking soda. Or, refrigerate until fat congeals on top and can be scraped off. Or, let fat rise to the top, wrap ice cubes in paper toweling, and skim cubes over the surface of the gravy.

When using an electric mixer, take a piece of waxed paper. Tear a little hole in the middle of it, slip the step of the beaters through the hole. Then attach the beaters in the machine. (The waxed paper should be big enough to cover the bowl.)

If you just need a few drops of lemon juice, prick a fresh lemon with a fork and squeeze out the juice you need. Seal the skin with butter and return the lemon to the refrigerator.

To brown chicken in the microwave, coat it with butter (not margarine — it’s the milk solids in butter that brown), then soy sauce, and paprika.

For a fresher salad… prior to serving, cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and a piece of plastic wrap or a plate. Store bowl upside down in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Then invert and add dressing. The greens will stay wonderfully crisp.

To spice up popcorn (fresh or microwave) just add some taco seasoning mix to the fresh popped kernels!

Instead of using an electric mixer, make instant pudding in the blender. It’s less messy and easier to pour into serving dishes.

Here’s the best way to bake potatoes so the skin turns out just the way you like it — crisp or soft. Cook potato as usual and remove from oven. For crisp skin, wrap in a paper towel. For soft skin, wrap in foil. When baking potatoes, if you place a few washed nails into each potato, heat will be transferred to the centers faster. (The quickest way to bake a potato is to boil it in salted water for 10 minutes, then place it in a very hot oven.)

If you dip an onion in scalding hot water before peeling, it won’t cause your eyes to water.

To get “homemade” results from store-bought packaged biscuits, allow them to come to room temperature before baking. You’ll have higher, lighter biscuits.

Bread will stay fresher longer with a celery stalk placed inside the bread bag.

To freshen day-old bread, place it in a brown paper bag. Close the bag with a paper clip and sprinkle water lightly over the outside of the bag. Heat in oven for 10 minutes at 350*.

When reheating baked goods in the microwave (including pizza)… to prevent them from becoming tough and chewy, simply place on a paper plate that you’ve momentarily run under the faucet. (Shake off the excess water first.)

Meatloaf will not stick to the pan if you place a strip of bacon at the bottom of the pan before placing meatloaf in it.

To keep leftover spaghetti moist and tasty, store it in a plastic bag, make sure it’s airtight, and refrigerate.

Try making a small roast beef and a small roast pork together. The meats pick up the taste from each other and the gravy is out of this world!

When you defrost a frozen loaf of bread, it may turn soggy unless you do this: Remove the twist tie from the bread wrapping and slip in double layers of paper toweling above and below the bread. Then, here’s the real trick: Place on microwave rack to elevate bottom and defrost on medium-low (30% power) for 3 minutes per 1lb loaf. Rotate bread once for even defrosting.

Yes, you can refrigerate bananas without the peels turning black. Simply put them in a white (not transparent) plastic bag (like a kitchen trash bag), and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Days later, the skins will be as yellow as the day you put them in there.


Here are more great food tips from Martha Stewart and others.