They say cooking is an art form, and that's certainly true for culinary novices. While creating a spice rub or trussing a chicken is old hat to longtime home cooks, for newbies, it's like being told to recreate the Sistine Chapel with crayons.
However, even if you're out of practice in the kitchen, you can still cook with the best of them in the near future. These ways to be a better cook will help you channel your inner chef, wowing everyone who earns a spot at your dinner table in the process.
So, imagine my surprise when I was at a friend’s house and they were grilling up burgers with ice cubes on top!
We've rounded up the easiest ways to improve your game in the kitchen.
1. Baked potatoes
To ensure your baked potato comes out extra fluffy on the inside, chef Molly Stevens of Stonewall Kitchen recommends piercing the outside with a fork before wrapping it in foil to bake in the oven.
2. Moist pastries
To keep your homemade cakes and pastries moist without going soggy, Eataly's pastry sous chef Kyle Bartone suggests placing a silica packet in an airtight container with the confections. Just make sure it doesn't touch your treats!
3. Still-green leftover guacamole
Not much compares to wonderfully homemade guacamole, but there's a common frustration in storing it overnight—finding your dip has gone brown the next day. The Kitchn's genius hacks involve pouring a thin layer of water on the top of your guac in its container, and then pouring it off and stirring when you're ready to enjoy it again.
4. Overnight French toast
According to Chopped's Marc Murphy, one pro-tip for cooking the perfect batch of French toast is to soak your bread in an egg and cream mixture overnight in the refrigerator. This will keep the bread from falling apart, and it will result in a rich and crispy toast when cooked.
5. Poached salmon
If you've always struggled to achieve restaurant-quality salmon that doesn't come out dry on the inside, try Food & Wine culinary director Justin Chapple's advice: poach it in a BPA-free plastic baggie.
6. Perfect chocolate chip cookies
According to Lindsay of Pinch of Yum, it's all about the butter when it comes to perfecting your homemade chocolate chip cookies. Be sure to use good quality, salted butter, and melt it halfway in the oven before bringing it back to room temperature and beating it with your eggs and sugar.
7. Homemade flour tortillas
If you've ever been to an authentic Tex-Mex restaurant, you'll quickly notice how much better homemade flour tortillas taste than the store-bought ones. The trick is to let the dough rest before cooking it in a skillet.
8. Juicy chicken breasts
If you're tired of ending up with dry chicken every time you oven bake it, heed this advice from Wide Open Eats: Brine your bird in salt and water (and lemon juice and herbs if you'd like the additional flavor) for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
9. Stored fresh herbs
Struggle to use up a bundle of fresh herbs because they wilt and go brown too fast? If you learn how to store herbs the proper way, you won't run into that issue again. Just trim the ends, put them in water, and cover them with plastic. Voila! You've got fresh herbs for days.
10. Pan-fried toast
You might think making toast is as basic as it gets in the kitchen. But for perfectly crunchy—yet not burned—toast, Chef Jamie Oliver prepares his bread in a frying pan before immediately spreading it with good quality butter.
11. Fresh salad greens
Keep extra salad greens fresh and crisp by adding a few paper towels to the bag or container. And be sure to store salad greens in a tightly wrapped bag with just a little air.
12. Restaurant-style refried beans
To make canned refried beans taste as smooth and creamy as your favorite Mexican restaurant's version, try this simple tip from blogger Michaela of An Affair From the Heart: Mix in some whole milk or sour cream when heating them. You'll get a perfectly creamy bowl of beans every time.
13. Softened crusty bread
If your baguette is as hard as a rock, rest assured that it's not a lost cause. The Kitchn recommends wrapping hardened bread in a damp paper towel and warming it up in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for five to 10 minutes, or in the microwave for 10 seconds.
14. Put An Ice Cube In Your Burgers
When grilling burgers at home, even good cooks struggle to keep the burgers nice and juicy while fully cooking the ground beef. As it turns out, an ice cube might provide the perfect solution.
While forming your burger patties, put an ice cube in the center of each burger and form the patty around it. Then toss the burgers onto the grill and cook them as you normally would. The ice will melt into the patty while it’s cooking, keep your meat nice and juicy. Say goodbye to dry burgers forever with this trick.
Fun Fact: Hot water usually freezes faster than cold water. This phenomenon is called the Mpemba effect, and for the moment there is no clear explanation, unanimously validated by the scientific community, to explain it.
15. Create Your Own Burrito Bowls
If you eat at home a lot, you’re probably on the hunt for new, innovative foods that differ from your average dish. Do you know what you’ll never get tired of? A delicious and crunchy burrito bowl.
For this trick, all you need is a muffin tin and corn tortillas. Flip the muffin tin upside down and form the corn tortillas into a little bowl between four of the cavities. Then bake your corn tortillas in the oven at 375 degrees for roughly 10 minutes. When they’re done, you’ll have crispy bowls ready to be filled with your favorite burrito fixings.
16. Use Plastic Wrapped Egg Pouches for Poached Eggs
The poached egg is the scourge of most home cooks. While you know that you should crack the egg into a pot of boiling water and wait for it to cook, it often disintegrates into the liquid, leaving you with a messy egg-ish product that looks nothing like the beautifully poached eggs you order at your favorite restaurant.
To fix this problem, cook your egg in a bit of plastic wrap. Before you drop your egg into the boiling water, line a small cup with plastic wrap, spray it with nonstick cooking spray, crack an egg into it, and tie it closed. Then, you can drop each of these plastic-wrapped pouches into your hot water and allow the egg to cook. Once it’s done, simply snip the plastic wrap off the outside of your egg and you’ll have a perfect, poached masterpiece.
17. Use Paper Plate To Prevent Electric Mixer Splatter
Electric mixers save you from the trouble of mixing a batter by hand. While these nifty devices speed up your baking process and ensure your ingredients are fully mixed, they can also be a bit messy. But with a simple paper plate, you can stop your electric mixer from splattering ingredients all over your counter.
Next time you use your electric mixer, grab a paper plate. Cut holes in the side of the plate just large enough to slide in the beater legs. Attach the beater legs to the mixer with the paper plate between the handheld portion of the mixer and the bottom of the beaters. The paper plate will follow all your movements as you mix, providing an easy DIY splatter guard.
18. Put a Dishtowel Under Your Bowls and Cutting Boards
There’s nothing worse than trying to prepare something in the kitchen while all your tools are slipping and sliding around your counter. Whether you’re mixing in a bowl that keeps trying to get away from you or slicing on a cutting board that won’t stay put, creating a little traction on your counter will lead to easier cooking.
Place a dishtowel or a paper towel under your bowls and cutting boards to keep them from sliding around. The towel should be slightly damp so it will cling to your counter, preventing your tools from escaping your hands. It’s a simple trick, but it can easily save you a lot of frustration in the kitchen.
19. Spray Your Cheese Grater With Cooking Spray
If your recipe calls for shredded cheese, you have to pull out the dreaded cheese grater. It’s not that the cheese grater is difficult to use, but it can be a pain to clean if your cheese tends to get caught in every nook and cranny.
Before you use your cheese grater, spray it with a bit of cooking spray. The cooking spray will keep the cheese from sticking, allowing you to shred faster and clean faster. With this trick, your cheese grater frustrations will melt away.
20. Freeze Leftover Wine or Broth in an Ice Cube Tray
If you use wine or broth to cook, then you know all too well that you often have leftover liquid that you’re not able to use in your dish. You can either toss your excess broth or wine or place it in the fridge, where it might go bad before you get a chance to use it again.
However, there is one other solution. Instead of allowing all that excess liquid to go to waste, pour it into an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer. Next time you need to use it for cooking, you can pop out a couple of frozen cubes and add them straight to your pot. It’ll be just as good as when you first opened it, and you’ll have better control of just how much liquid you use since you know the rest won’t go to waste.
21. Keep Cookies Fresh With a Slice of Bread
There are few things better in life than a tray of fresh-baked cookies. Cookies right out of the oven are soft, gooey, and undeniably delicious. But unless you eat all the cookies right away, they have a tendency to get hard and stale. Even if you store them in an airtight container, they still lose their gooey, soft texture.
However, you can keep your cookies tasting almost as fresh as when you first pulled them out of the oven with just a simple slice of bread. When you store your cookies in a container or bag, put in a slice of any type of bread with your sweet treat. The bread provides moisture for the cookies to soak up, keeping them nice and soft. But remember to only use one slice – any more and your cookies might go mushy.
22. Coat Mix-Ins With Flour To Prevent Sinking
When baking with mix-ins like nuts, fruit, or chocolate chips, bakers are faced with one annoying challenge. When combined with a batter, those mixed ingredients tend to sink to the bottom while your sweet treat bakes, combining all that flavor in just one part of your cake or muffin.
Thankfully, a little flour can fix your problem. Before you add the mix-ins to your batter, coat them in a bit of flour. Then, fold them into the cake batter as normal and pour the batter into your baking dish. The flour will help the mix-ins to spread evenly throughout the cake, creating that perfect varied flavor you’re shooting for.
23. Ripen Food in a Paper Bag
Have you ever brought home a bundle of fruits, only to realize that they’re not quite ripe enough to eat? While you can wait for the fruits to ripen on their own, you can also speed up the process with a paper bag.
Put unripened food in a paper bag and fold it closed. The bag will trap the ethylene gas inside, allowing the fruits to mature much more quickly than they would in the open air. Just be sure to check on it fairly regularly. If you leave it in the bag too long, you’ll just end up with rotten fruit!
24. Test For Ripe Avocados at the Stem
Avocados are the most finicky of fruits. It seems like they ripen in seconds. One day they’re tough and nearly inedible, and the next they’re brown and much too mushy to make a good meal. What’s worse, it’s difficult to tell when your avocado is truly ready to eat.
Instead of taking a guess and cutting into a potentially under-ripe avocado, check for ripeness at the stem. If the stem pulls back easily and shows a green interior, you have the perfect avocado. If it’s difficult to pull the stem away from the fruit, it’s not yet ripe. If you pull back the stem and the inside looks brown, the poor fruit is past its prime. By doing this simple check in the grocery store, you can guarantee that you’ll get perfect avocados every time.
25. Preheat the Pan
If you’ve ever looked at a recipe, then you know that every professional instructs you to preheat your pan before you cook. But do you actually follow that advice? You should.
If you don’t preheat the pan, your food will still cook. That’s why it’s such an easy step to ignore. But when you preheat the pan, you guarantee that your food cooks more quickly and evenly than it does when you toss it onto a cold pan. You should preheat your pan for at least three minutes before you add your ingredients. It seems like a simple step to ignore, but it might make all the difference in preparing a delicious meal.
26. Brush Your Fish With Mayonnaise
Eating fish is a wonderful way to fill your diet with healthy protein. But have you ever tried to cook your fillet on the grill, only to have it break apart and end up in tiny, unappetizing pieces? Fish are a fragile food, so keeping your fillet in one piece until you can get it on your plate is a difficult task.
Thankfully, there’s an easy solution. Before you throw your fish on the grill, brush it with a bit of mayonnaise. The mayonnaise will prevent your fish from sticking to the grill. A thin coating won’t change the flavor of your fish, but it will promote even browning for a fish fillet any chef would be proud to serve.
27. Boil Potatoes Before You Peel Them
If you’re going to make a full batch of potatoes, you first have to go through the horrendous process of peeling each and every one. Not only is it time-consuming, but it’s also rather tiring to scrape the skins off of each potato.
Instead of pulling out your trusty peeler, grab a pot of boiling water instead. Trace a small line with a knife around the center of each potato and allow the entire bunch to simmer in the boiling water for fifteen minutes. When the time is up, transfer each potato to a bowl of ice water. When the potatoes have cooled down, you’ll be able to slide the peel off easily and continue with the rest of your cooking.
28. Reheat Pizza in a Skillet
Pizza is the ultimate delivery food for those evenings when you just don’t want to cook. If you’re lucky, you’ll probably have plenty of leftovers from your pie that might last for days to come. While some people enjoy a cold pizza, others have to pop their slice into the microwave, which only results in a mushy crust that ruins the flavor of your pie.
Instead of settling for subpar second-day pizza, reheat your slice in a skillet. The skillet will keep the crust crunchy while simultaneously melting the cheese and heating the sauce. The result is a delicious slice that’s just as good as your original pie.
29. Peel Garlic Cloves In a Jar
If you have a bundle of garlic, you have to take off the skin before you’re able to use each clove. While that process isn’t necessarily difficult, it can be messy and frustrating depending on how many cloves you need.
To simplify your garlic peeling, pop each clove into a jar and screw on the lid. Give the jar a hearty shake and rattle around the cloves for a few seconds. The skin should slide right off, leaving you with clean cloves that are ready to be minced.
30. Grate & Freeze Butter To Prevent Melting
As most seasoned bakers know, the temperature of your butter matters when it comes to baking. If a recipe calls for cold butter, you really have to use cold butter. There’s just one problem—combining cold butter with your batter isn’t easy. Thankfully, there’s a simple method that will make combining even frozen butter with your dish incredibly easy.
Rather than tossing a stick of cold butter into your batter and trying to mix it in, grab your cheese grater. Grate the necessary amount for your dish and stick it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you need to use it. Then, combine the frozen butter with the dry ingredients. The butter will combine much more easily while still staying cold, just as the recipe calls for.
31. Preventing An Avocado Half From Turning Brown
Often, you may feel like eating avocado without necessarily needing to use it all. However, an unused half of avocado browns in no time at all, making it unusable even the next day. Luckily, a simple tip can help you keep one half in good condition for up to two days!
All you have to do is put the unused half of your avocado, flesh-side down, at the bottom of a bowl filled with water and put it in the refrigerator. You will be able to enjoy the second half of your avocado a few days later without any problem!
32. Cook The Best Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Like Swedish potatoes, you can cook your chicken breasts to give them even more flavor. Drop the dry, tasteless chicken breasts and welcome the stuffed ones! They are extremely easy to make and you’re sure to love them.
Simply cut slits in your chicken breasts, but don’t cut through the meat completely. Then, cook a mixture of olive oil, spinach and ricotta cheese in a frying pan and place it in the slits. Season with salt and pepper, add a little paprika and grated cheese, then bake in the oven at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
33. Keep your greens green longer
How many times have you bought greens that have died before you had time to eat them all? While placing them in the refrigerator will extend their life, there’s another trick that’s even better for keeping your lettuce or cilantro for up to 3 weeks!
Keep the bag that your greens were in when you bought them. Remove any air from the bag and squeeze well, then re-inflate it with your exhaled CO2. Your greens will last much longer that way!
34. Toothpicks, Your New Best Friend In The Kitchen
If you have toothpicks at home, you should know that they can be useful for much more than just removing an unpleasant piece of food from between your teeth. Toothpicks can be used in the kitchen every day!
First, you can use a toothpick to hold the tip of one of your vegetables or citrus fruits in place over the rest of the food you haven’t used. Covering the exposed part of the food with the cut end of it will prevent its oxidation.
Another interesting and effective way to use toothpicks when cooking is to prick 4 of them into a potato. Cooking a potato in the microwave for a quick and tasty side dish to your meal is a great idea, but you may have noticed that it is never cooked evenly. However, if you make legs to raise the potato, the heat from the microwave will cook it evenly on all sides!
35. Cut Herbs With a Pizza Cutter
While knives are perfect for slicing through your favorite veggies, it takes a little more work to cut your herbs. If you use a knife on these leafy greens, you may notice that you often end up with a mushy mess, rather than a collection of fresh herbs that can be tossed right into your dish.
If you want to simplify the process of cutting your herbs, turn to a pizza cutter. Lay your herbs on a cutting board and run the pizza cutter over your greens. The cutter will slice right through them, creating cleaner lines than the ones you often get with a knife. Once you’ve run the pizza cutter over your herbs a few times, you’ll have the collection of leafy greens you need to give your dish a bit more flavor.
36. Freeze Meat Before You Slice
If you’re getting ready to cook with fresh meat, you may notice that the texture isn’t conducive to precise slicing. You can cut rough cubes or thin portions, but slicing a thin, sandwich-friendly piece off the top or creating uniform cuts is out of the realm of possibility for most home chefs.
To remedy this problem, stick your meat in the freezer before you start slicing. Don’t let it get too hard—15 minutes should be plenty of time. Once the meat is a little colder, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to slice. It’ll be chilled enough to allow for your precise cuts, but you can still toss it right onto the skillet and proceed with the rest of your meal.
37. Add Mayonnaise to Your Scrambled Eggs
Light, fluffy, creamy scrambled eggs are the ultimate dream. To achieve that consistency, most cooks add a bit of milk or cream to their egg mixture to keep things moist and rich. Mayonnaise, however, might be just the thing you need to get perfect scrambled eggs every time you cook.
Instead of adding milk to your next scramble, add a spoonful of mayo. The mayo adds enough fat to give your eggs that fluffy texture you’re craving, but the small amount won’t change the flavor. Don’t settle for subpar scrambled eggs when a restaurant-level scramble is within reach.
38. Use A Cookie Scoop
When baking cookies, it is difficult to make them all the same size by hand, and when the sizes are too different, the cookies don’t necessarily bake evenly, spoiling their taste at the end.
Fortunately, a simple spoon will solve your problem. Simply portion out all your cookies using a cookie scoop. They’ll be uniform in size and baking, so they’ll all be delicious!
39. The Best Way To Cook Eggs
A very original, but absolutely great way to cook your eggs is to do it in a pan with mason jar lids and water. It is a method particularly loved by fans of the keto diet, but everyone would benefit from doing it!
Simply place the mason jar lids in your already heated frying pan and crack your eggs in it. Crack the yolks, season, then after about a minute of cooking, add 1/4 cup of water to your pan. Let them cook covered for 3 minutes. You will obtain delicious and perfectly round egg cakes perfect for your English muffins, or even to serve themselves as “bread” for your sandwich!
40. Microwave Your Lemon For More Juice
Juicing a lemon isn’t always an easy task. Sometimes it requires a whole lot of muscle for just a little bit of fresh lemon juice—the effort isn’t even worth the output.
Before you juice your next lemon, toss it into the microwave for a short seven to ten seconds. Once the timer goes off, roll the lemon back and forth across the counter underneath your palm, applying a little bit of pressure. Then cut it and juice it as you normally would. You should get much more juice with significantly less effort when you use this method.
41. Remove a Strawberry Stem With a Straw
If you’re using fresh strawberries in a dish, the process of removing the stem from every berry is time-consuming and frustrating. Simplify your stem-removal by grabbing a plastic straw.
Insert the straw at the pointy end of your strawberry and push it up through the center until the stem pops out. You’ll still have a whole strawberry you can use for cooking, and the stem removal will be significantly easier than cutting every strawberry with a knife.
42. Cook Fish in Parchment
While you can certainly toss your fish right onto the grill to prepare a quick evening dinner, there are a few benefits to cooking fish in parchment paper. When the fillets are sealed into individual packets, they’ll soak up whatever flavor you include in the parchment.
When making your next fish dish, wrap your fillet in parchment paper alongside seasonings and vegetables. Not only will this method make for a quicker clean-up, but it will also result in single-serving packets that are bursting with flavor.
43. Cook Perfect Potato Chips
The chips sold in the store are delicious, but sometimes we need to pass our potatoes that will soon be no longer good, or we just want healthier chips, or chips seasoned to our taste. But getting them right isn’t as easy as you might think!
To make good crispy chips, cut them about 1/8 thick. Place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water to rinse. Drain, then add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 6 cups of water. The vinegar will make them crispy! Let them soak for 30 minutes to 2 hours, then drain and dry. Then, put about 4 inches of oil in a medium sized pot and raise the temperature to 300°. Fry your potato chips, turning them regularly, until they are golden brown and crispy, so for about 5 minutes. Finally, season them to your liking!