90: The staggering percentage of Americans who claim to hate home cooking, per a Harvard Business Review report. By now, you’re probably well aware that cooking your own meal is a healthier choice than eating out. But it’s not always easy—or enjoyable—to sauté up spinach night after night. We’ve rounded up 50 time-saving kitchen tricks to make it way easier and far more fun to don your apron.
Make scrambled eggs in the microwave.
Grab a mug and spritz it with nonstick spray. Crack a couple eggs inside. Top with a splash of milk or water, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, then stir with a fork to combine. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, for a total of 90 seconds and a 12-grams-of-protein-strong breakfast is served!
Poach a dozen eggs at a time in a muffin tin.
For those who prefer their yolks to run as much as a marathoner, try this similarly-speedy option that’s better by the dozen. Fill each muffin cup with a tablespoon of water, then crack an egg in each cavity. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes for set whites and oozy yolks—perfect for adding to a family-sized batch of avocado toasts or Benedicts.
Use an egg slicer for even portions of fruits and veggies.
This tiny kitchen tool isn’t just for cutting hard-boiled eggs. Try slicing strawberries, kiwis, mushrooms, and more into even thickness in one fell swoop (and minus the finger-slicing risk of a mandoline).
Freeze leftover wine or broth in an ice cube tray.
Don’t dump the rest of that Pinot or allow it to oxidize in the fridge for weeks on end. Pour leftover wine into an ice cube tray, top with plastic wrap to keep ice crystals at bay, and freeze. Tomorrow, you’ll have one-ounce portions that you can pop out and add to sauces, soups, risottos, and stews for nearly-instant depth of flavor.
Fill another tray with coffee for full-powered iced java.
Stop diluting your energy boost with standard ice cubes. Instead, freeze an ice cube tray filled with your favorite coffee blend so you can cool down your drink without watering down the taste.
Use a spiralizer for perfect baked curly fries.
This twirly tool should not be reserved for zoodles alone. Spiralize a russet or sweet potato into thin ribbons, then toss with a tablespoon of oil and your favorite seasonings. Spread out evenly on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and bake at 425 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to avoid burning any pieces.
Bake a cake in a mug.
Steer clear of double-serving temptation by baking one cake in a mug (rather than a whole pan). Coat a mug or ramekin with nonstick spray, then crack an egg inside. Whisk until even in consistency, then stir in ¼ cup nut butter or nutella. Microwave for 60 seconds for an ooey-gooey healthy-ish dessert.
Peel ginger with a spoon.
No need for a special tool to de-skin this oddly-shaped root. Since the peel is fairly thin, simply scrape a metal spoon down the side and around the tricky rounded edges of the ginger to flake the skin away.
Store mise en place in a muffin tin.
Slicing and dicing ingredients before starting to cook is a tried-and-true chef strategy so you can stick to the recipe timeline—and avoid under- or overcooking any component. Read the recipe entirely and prep the ingredients according to instructions. As each item is recipe-ready, place it in a muffin tin cavity. Once your mise en place is complete, carry the tin from the cutting board to your cooking space and you’re ready for your quick-fire challenge.
Use rules for perfectly-even pie crust.
Fool everyone into thinking you’re a Great British Baking Challenge contestant by serving them a pie with exactly the right amount of homemade crust. Place a ruler (or two thin wooden dowels) on each end of your pastry dough, then roll until the dough is big enough to cover your pie pan and until you hit the guides on each side. The result: Crust that cooks evenly and looks Instagram-ready.
Roll, crimp, then chill that pastry.
Do chill your dough before baking to allow the gluten to relax and the fat to firm up again after you’ve worked with it. Don’t struggle with rolling out rock-hard pie dough. Instead, mix the dough, roll it out (using trick #10), then place it in your pie pan before refrigerating for at least 30 minutes. Fill, bake, and enjoy your low-fuss dessert.
Roast bananas to get a bunch bread-ready.
No need to chase down brown bananas. Ripen a bunch in a flash by baking on a foil-lined baking sheet at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes, depending on size, until the skins are dark brown and the fruit is soft.
Extend the life of your bananas by wrapping the stems.
On the other side of the fruit front, keep your bananas yellow longer by pulling them apart into single-banana units and covering each stem in plastic wrap or foil. The wrap helps contain the naturally-producing ethylene gas to the stem end of the fruit. Otherwise, it would spread to the whole banana and accelerate the ripening.
Fast-forward ripening in a paper bag.
In other ethylene gas-related news, channel its powers to speed up the ripening of fruits—such as avocados for guacamole and kiwis for fruit salad—by storing them in a brown paper bag folded closed. This traps the gas inside the bag (while allowing a slight amount of breathing) so the fruit sugars mature and acids break down. That’s because of the fast ethylene.
Test avocado readiness at the stem.
Test your toast topping before you slice inside the fruit. Peel back the stem. If it pulls away easily and you see green, you’re good to go and can expect creamy, green flesh inside. If it resists, allow it to ripen longer, and if you see brown, the avocado is likely past its prime.
Serve hot foods on warm plates.
We give you full permission to wash your dishes just before dinner: Run them under piping-hot water and wipe with a clean dish towel, then immediately top with your hot dish. Alternatively, you can pop a stack of plates or bowls in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Use frozen dishware for cold food and drinks.
Just like cold beer tastes best and stays colder longer in a chilled glass, a scoop of ice cream or bowl of gazpacho will remain at a tastier temp for a few extra minutes if you serve them in icy bowls. Store them in the freezer overnight before you plan to add a chilly element to your menu, then remove just before plating.
Preheat the pan.
For the crispiest vegetables, a more even and quicker cooking time, and the best meat sear, follow this restaurant chef trick: Preheat your sheet pan, oven-safe skillet, or pizza stone for three minutes or so before adding the other ingredients.
Attract eggshell pieces with…eggshells.
Did your cracked egg end up with a jagged edge and a rogue piece of shell floating in the white? Keep a broken half handy and use it to scoop up the tiny shell piece from the now-ready-to-scramble egg. No mess, no additional tools required, and it attracts the errant shell shards like a magnet.
Boil spuds to de-skin without the stress.
All you need to peel a whole bushel of potatoes is a knife, a set of tongs, a pot of boiling water, and a bowl of ice water. Score the raw potatoes around their equator with a knife. Gently place them in the boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes. Use the tongs to safely remove your now-hot potatoes and transfer them to the ice water. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, you can effortlessly slide the peels off from the center out to the ends.
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Destem a strawberry with a straw.
Here’s a berry easy trick to remove the stem: Insert a plastic straw through the pointy, bottom end of the strawberry and press it straight up to push the leaves out.
Coat measuring spoons and cups with cooking spray.
Honey, maple syrup, and other sticky ingredients slip right out of measuring cups when you grease them first. Here’s how to do so without adding too much extra fat to your recipe: spritz measuring glasses, cups, and spoons with nonstick cooking spray before filling with the main event.
Shake garlic cloves in a mason jar to slip the skins off.
Control the mess and speed up peeling a pile of garlic cloves by separating them, popping the cloves in a mason jar, and screwing on the lid. Give the jar a good shake and the skins should slide right off, leaving you ready to mince. You can also use the same strategy with two equal-sized bowls, one inverted on top of the other.
Separate pomegranate seeds in a bowl of water.
Keep your clothes stain-free and your mess contained by removing pomegranate arils under water. Score the skin with a knife around the center, peel the halves apart, cut the halves in half again, then place the pomegranate pieces under water. Gently rub the arils to release them from the white membrane (the latter of which will float to the top of the water so you can skim it off). Strain the water from the fruit—and you’ll have arils for a far lower investment than the produce aisle cups.
Teach eggs to swim.
Don’t rely on the date listed on your egg carton. A more accurate measure of age can be found flowing from your tap. Fill a tall glass with water, then carefully lower an egg inside. If it sinks and stays on the bottom, the egg is fresh. If it floats to the top (a sign of gas built up inside the shell), it’s time to toss it.
Toast bread for the whole family.
Avoid toaster battles—or standing over the appliance for minutes on end—with a little savvy oven arranging. Stack two oven racks on adjacent levels. Set a sheet pan on the bottom one and stack slices perpendicular between the rack grates. Bake at 450 degrees until golden brown, and in about 5 minutes, you’ll have a whole loaf of toast.
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Crisp up crunchy taco shells on an oven rack.
Another smart rack hack: Lay flour or corn tortillas over two grates that are one space apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden. Not only will they crisp up nicely, the crunchy shells will sit upright on their flat bottoms—making them easy to put down between bites without the fillings spilling out.
Make burrito bowls with a muffin tin.
Flip your muffin tin upside down and shape fluted cups with corn tortillas between four of the cavities. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until the edges just begin to lightly brown.
Slice grapes and small tomatoes between two lids.
Small round ingredients can be a hassle to slice, with their rolling ways and tiny size. Instead of cutting each individually, stack as many as you can fit on top of a plastic lid. Top with a matching lid and take a sharp knife to slice parallel between the two. Liftoff the top lid to find a handful of halved grapes—in a fraction of the time-slicing one by one would take.
Give pickle juice a second life.
Don’t mourn the swan song of your pickle slices. Recycle the brine that remains for:
More pickles: Bring the brine to a boil and pour over onions, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, or green beans.
A better Bloody mary: Stir a tablespoon of pickle juice into your tomato-based cocktail for a tangy touch.
To marinate chicken: Chick-fil-A reportedly uses pickle juice to make their fillets tender and juicy. Since it’s high in sodium, it acts similar to a classic salt water brine. Try soaking chicken, pork, or steak in pickle juice for 30 minutes before cooking to help the meat retain more moisture.
Reheat a slice of pizza in a skillet.
Snack attack? If you’re warming a slice, use your skillet. This will help you score a crispy crust and melty cheese all at once, all without turning on your oven. Cook over medium heat for a minute, add a couple drops of water for steam, then put a lid on it. Two to three minutes later, you’ll slice will be nice.
Pre-scoop ice cream for parties.
For drip-free single-serving ice cream snacks or a DIY sundae bar, scoop a variety of ice cream flavors on a sheet pan and freeze. When guests arrive, they can snag a mound or two and dig in without the pint fight.
Use marshmallows to keep brown sugar scoopable.
Revive rock hard brown sugar with a s’more-sized marshmallow. The confection’s marvelous moisture-retaining qualities will carry over to the sugar. (Note: You can also add one from the beginning to avoid the brown sugar brick in the first place.)
Nuke brown sugar to loosen up clumps.
If you’re in a hurry to regain fluffy sugar grains, dump brown sugar lumps in a bowl. Top with a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds.
Cut apples, then reassemble to prevent browning.
The secret to brown bag apple slices that are fresh and crisp? The core. Use an apple slicer to create wedges, then press the fruit back into one piece. Hold it in place with a rubber band or two, or wrap with plastic wrap and come lunchtime, you’ll notice little to no brown bites. For extra protection from oxidation, squeeze a lemon over the flesh before reassembling and wrapping.
Freeze meat before slicing for easy-to-sear slices.
It can be challenging to slice stir-fry skinny or pho-friendly segments of fresh steak or pork. Freeze proteins for 15 minutes prior to cutting to give it enough texture to make cutting a cinch.
Make the most of your waffle iron.
It’s not just for breakfast! Really, what can’t you waffle? We recommend cooking the following items in your iron, too, for more crunch per munch: Hash browns, falafel patties, grilled cheese sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, brownies, and these non-waffle things to make in a waffle iron.
Assemble freezer smoothie packs.
No time in the morning or after your workout? No problem—if you plan ahead. Portion out fruits and vegetables in your desired ratios (we like 1 cup of pineapple cubes slices, 1 cup of spinach leaves, and ½ cup of banana slices) and freeze. When you’re ready to refuel, blend with a cup of milk or yogurt and a scoop of protein powder or spoonful of nut butter for an on-the-go meal.
Roast chicken in a bundt pan.
For evenly-cooked chicken, pull out grandma’s bundt pan. Pat the bird dry, season well, and place it standing up with its cavity in the bundt pan center. Fill the pan itself with sliced potatoes and root vegetables—they’ll cook simultaneously while soaking up the juices. Bake at 425 degrees until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
Slice greens with a pizza cutter.
Make quick work of a heap of herbs by rolling a pizza cutter over the leaves. Keep the round slicer handy for DIY chopped salads, too: Add all your ingredients to a sturdy glass or stainless steel bowl and roll the cutter back and forth, rotating the bowl by 90 degrees every few passes, until you form bite-sized pieces.
“Mince” garlic with a mortar and pestle.
Unless you’re a knife maestro, it can be tough to slice garlic thin enough for a subtle flavor boost. So next time, skip chopping the cloves and grind them into a paste with a mortar and pestle. It will be easy to incorporate and less bitter than if you shave it over a microplane or push it through a garlic press.
Peel a mango with a glass.
It takes about 15 seconds! Using a knife, slice thick pieces off the sides of the mango (cutting as close as possible to the pit without hitting it). Set the edge of one mango wedge on the top of a drinking glass and push it down to separate the skin from the flesh. Repeat with the other slice, dump the fruit out of the glass, and slice into bite-sized pieces for fruit salads, smoothies, and salsas.
Cook bacon between two sheet pans.
Baking bacon is a classic kitchen trick to save face—from the fat splatters. Go double-duty next time and layer the pork pieces between two sheet pans, the bottom one slightly larger than the top, to keep the bacon flat and curl-free, too.
Recycle a clean condiment bottle for flawless flapjacks.
While we’re talking breakfast, thoroughly clean an empty ketchup or mustard bottle to use as a pancake batter delivery system. It will allow you to easily control the size and shape of your ‘cakes.
Try this to make a banana blender short stack.
For a flour-free, better-for-you batter, combine 1 banana, 2 eggs, ¼ tsp baking powder, a dash of vanilla, and a pinch of cinnamon in a blender. Whir well and pour into your squeaky-clean squeeze bottle.
Watch for the bubbles to know when to flip pancakes.
Squeeze round pancakes on an oiled skillet. Watch for bitty bubbles around the edges for a hint at the optimal turn time. Use a spatula to gently peek at the bottom and if it’s lightly browned, give it a flip.
Microwave frozen berries to use instead of syrup.
For a sweet topping sans all the sugar, drizzle your picture-perfect pancakes with berry sauce. Warm frozen mixed berries in a skillet or saucepan. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any seeds and spoon over your stack (or waffles or yogurt).
Make your salad the best dressed.
Shake up your signature dressing in a squeeze bottle or mason jar and store in the door of your refrigerator to make veggies taste like a treat. For nearly-effortless refills, use a permanent marker to draw lines on the side of the container for each ingredient (oil to here, vinegar to here, soy sauce to here…).
Listen to your cookies—they’ll tell you when they’re done.
Looks can be deceiving, including with dessert doneness. Listen, don’t look for the truth about a pan of cookies. They’re cooked enough when they start to crackle. Your next steps: Pull the pan out from the oven, allow the cookies to rest for 5 minutes, remove with a spatula, then cool on a wire rack.
Bake oh-so-easy fudge cake.
The best news yet: Stop following instructions (on the back of the cake mix box, that is). Stir together with a can of pumpkin and a box of chocolate cake mix for a lighter dessert with a still-dense-and-decadent texture. Yes, it will be thick when you add it to the pan. Trust us: It will bake and puff up like a beautiful brownie.
Crack eggs on the counter.
Sick of those pesky shells that get into your bowl when you crack an egg? That’s because you’re cracking it on the edge of the bowl! Instead, crack the egg on a flat, clean surface next to the bowl so little pieces of shell don’t get inside the egg.
Roll out lemons and limes.
Do your lemons and limes feel hard as rocks when you try to squeeze them? There’s an easier way to do that! Before cutting them in half, roll the fruit on the counter firmly with the palm of your hand. This softens up the fruit and makes it easier to juice.