What other kitchen tricks don't I know about?

I couldn’t decide - Cafe for cooking, or IMHO for poll?

So anyway, here I am working myself to death canning things in the kitchen today. (17 jars, representing 5 seperate recipes!) My peppers went crazy (and are no longer having that bitterness problem), so I made pepper jelly, pickled japalenos, and Madras pickled eggplant to get rid of my peppers, and then I pickled some ginger and some garlic for the hell of it. So as I’m peeling the ginger, swearing at it, I think “there has got to be a better way.” I’d always just done it with a vegetable peeler, but I google and find, hey! You can just scrape it with a spoon! Still a pain, but not such a ridiculous one! Amazing!

And then I discovered blanching garlic cloves to peel them when you need them whole all on my own (figured since it works with tomatoes… I do hope being a tiny bit cooked doesn’t affect the pickles, though.)

So what else don’t I know that would make life a lot easier? (Any tips on trimming fat off roasts? Or cutting meat in general? I really suck at that.)

Smashing garlic cloves makes them easier to peel ('course, if you need them whole, this doesn’t help a lot).

You can remove garlic smell from skin by rubbing it with a piece of stainless steel under running water.

It’s easier to juice a piece of citrus if you roll it on a countertop or cutting board while pushing down on the fruit hard.

Letting the meat “rest” undisturbed for at least 10 minutes after roasting (big roasts, up to half an hour) not only makes it easier to carve, but it makes it juicier, because they reabsorb some of the juices they’re sitting in.

Putting a piece of bread in your brown sugar bag stops the brown sugar from getting hard. If you forget to do this, you can microwave the brown sugar brick briefly and it’ll temporarily soften again - long enough to measure it out and mix it into whatever you’re cooking.

If you butter a slice of bread, you can use the bread to butter a cob of corn without chasing the butter around with a knife or wearing a groove in your butter stick. Plus, you have bread ‘n’ butter! What could be better?

Speaking of corn on the cob, if you can buy it really, really fresh (like from a farmstand), then it hardly needs to be cooked, it just needs to be warmed up in boiling water. 1 minute, tops.

Instead of buying expensive minced garlic canned with preservative crap, I blanche and peel a bunch of garlic cloves at once and put them in a jar. Cover them with olive oil, and stick it in the fridge. The oil will get solid, of course, but you can dig the garlic out with a fork and it’s ready to go. When the jar is empty, use the garlic infused olive oil for cooking or bread dipping. (Note: home prepared infused oils should always be kept refrigerated, as they may be contaminated with bacteria from the garlic or other food you put in them.)

You can slice mushrooms perfectly with a sturdy egg slicer, like this.

(This might be a German thing), you can make spaetzle without a special spaetzle maker by dropping gobs of batter through a large holed colandar with a flat bottom. Smoosh it through with a rubber spatula if it needs encouragement.

That is the best tip I ever recieved from my friend, executive chef of Leeds Castle.

That and you can judge roughly how well a steak is done by pressing it and comparing it to the fleshy bit of your hand directly below your thumb.

Thumb touched to index finger = rare
Thumb touched to middle finger = medium rare
Thumb touched to ring finger = medium
Thumb touched to little finger = well done

Just don’t (as I did), press the steak with a metal spatula and then immediately use the same spatula to press your hand for comparison’s sake. Ow. :smack:

Huh. I don’t think I’ve ever used a spaetzle maker to make spaetzle. Always a colander. I’m not sure I was even aware there were such things as spaetzle makers. Weird.

Szlater took mine about steak and your hand, so I offer up this, the cooking tricks I use most often:

When making homemade frosting, putting a dash of salt in it will make it taste sweeter.

You can use the wrapper from the butter stick to grease cakepans. It’s best if you let the butter come to room temperature first, because more of it sticks to the wrapper.

A serving of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards and should be around three ounces. A serving of fruit is the size of your fist or a tennis ball. (The hand thing does not apply if you’ve got huge hands. You can’t eat a pound of steak and call it a serving just because that’s how big your palm is. Sorry!)

Almond extract can be substituted for vanilla, and very few people will notice.

One ounce of melted, unsweetened baking chocolate equals three tablespoons of cocoa powder plus one tablespoon of oil or melted butter/Crisco.

Zsofia, if you really like boiling garlic, you should check out this butter-laden recipe: Steak with Forty Cloves of Garlic. The boiling makes the garlic really sweet and pretty much fantastic.

Corn, asparagus and mushrooms all cook better in the microwave than in a pot or pan. I wet the bowl (put some water in and then pour it out) add the veges and nuke. You have to work out you own timing I like corn and asparagus crisp and still a little crunchy. 3 cobs of corn last night was 2 minutes. A bunch of asparagus 30 - 60 seconds. A huge bowl of potobellos about 90 - 120 sec (in chunks not slices).

Both corn and asparagus retain significantly more sweetness and taste if not cooked in water or steamed (even for short periods) and the mushrooms attain the same consistency as sauteed ones without the oil. A spoonful of cream added to the small amount of juices produced is enough to serve them on toast.

To remove the seeds from an apple or a pear, I slice the fruit in half and scoop them out with a melon baller.

You do not need to brush mushrooms to clean them, you can wash them under water. Despite what some angry French chef might tell you, the actual amount of water absorbed is tiny, and if you’re going to be cooking them, it will get cooked out anyway, so what’s the harm?

To keep apples, pears, avacados, and certain other fruits from browning, stick them in some water that has soem lemon or lime juice in it, or a vitamin c tablet ground up and dissolved. The ascorbic acid will prevent the oxidation. If you want to actualyl incorporate lime or lemon flavor into the dish, then use less or no water.

Always add salt to everything (so long as you don’t had bad kidneys.) Salt will make any food taste better, so long as you don’t use too much. The same goes for MSG (salt, of course, activates the “salt” taste bud, and MSG activates the, you guessed it, “MSG” taste bud.)) In theory, sugar, an acid, or something bitter could also make a dish taste better, but it seems that we can detect much lower amounts of those, so as a result they are more likely to throw ff the falvor of a dish than improve it (unless it’s a dish that calls for a alrge amount of sweet, sour, or bitter. But few things call for sweet, sour, AND bitter.)

Dental floss cuts cheese pretty easily, and you avoid the whole “cheese sticking to the knife” thing that way, too.

I’ve never tried this, but have seen it on tv a couple times.

to clean a cutting board:
Put salt on it, then cut a lemon in half and rub it over the salt, and over the cutting board.

That lemon Garfield226 was rolling on the counter will give even more juice if you heat it first, either in the microwave for a few seconds or in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes.

Forty-Clove Chicken is good too. I toss the giblets in the roaster, cover with branches of rosemary (you really need to grow your own), separate and peel 2-4 heads of garlic (I blanch them), put the ugly ones inside the chicken and scatter the rest around it, and add some white wine for juice. Roast slowly, basting with the juices once in a while, and let it rest a bit when you take it out, as WhyNot says.

If you microwave your corn-on-the-cob in the husks, the silk is supposed to all come off when you open it up. (It doesn’t really take it all, but it’s better than peeling it cold.)

I typically use a paring knife to peel ginger. It’s easier to use than a peeler, IMO, and would definitely be easier than a spoon, if you know how to hold a paring knife. If you get a cheap ceramic ginger grater, you don’t have to peel first–the skin is separated from the ginger as you grate. (However, I find it faster to pare and chop than to grate, and my ginger graters keep getting broken.)

If you are cooking the garlic whole, you don’t really need to peel it first. Remove the flaky, dried peel, and cook with the skin on. The garlic can be peeled easily after it’s cooked, and then you don’t have to cook it twice. (Roasted garlic is fun to squeeze out of the skin, too. :slight_smile: )

To remove the pit from an avocado: Slice the avocado in half around the pit and pull the halves apart. Then hold the half with the pit in one hand and use a good, heavy knife (like a chef’s knife) to whack the pit, as if you were trying to cut the pit. The knife will get stuck in the pit. Give the knife a quick twist away from you, and the pit will come out easily and cleanly. Whack the knife broadside against the edge of a trash can or the sink, and the pit will come off.

If you are going to make guacamole, or otherwise smash up the avocado: After removing the pit, hold the avocado half in one hand, then cut the flesh in a checkerboard pattern (several slices across and several slices down, down to the skin). Then use a spoon to scoop the diced avocado into a bowl, turning the skin inside out as you scoop.

If you’re talking about cutting raw meat (rather than cooked), such as slicing thin for stir-fry, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. You don’t want it frozen, but it will stiffen it up so that it slices easier.

rjk stole my “microwave the lemon” thing…but then, it isn’t really MINE…I was just gonna use it.

Local cookbooks are full of this sort of thing sometimes. I’ve got an old one (1950…older than me) that was published by a woman’s club in my home town which has all sorts of household hints “If you just need a few drops of lemon juice, prick the skin of a lemon with a fork and squeeze. This eliminates waste…To keep plaster of paris from setting too fast, mix it with vinegar instead of water…Vegetables grown underground should be cooked in cold water, while vegetables grown above ground should be cooked in boiling water…If you need to make oyster soup for 100 people, you’ll need: 2 gallons milk, 2 gallons oysters, 1/4 cup salt, and one pound of butter.”)

I love local cookbooks as anthropological documents. They’re best if published by local churches or (as in decades previous) ladies’ groups.

Me, too! I have two treasures in my collection. The Margaret Mary McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking and America Cooks I say “collection” tongue-in-cheek. I really do use them as cookbooks.

The McBride one was my great-grandmother’s. I belive it was a collect-a-section each week or month at the A&P or something like that. It’s hilarious. Whole sections devoted to the different ways to set tables for dinner parties (I’m probably the only Doper besides **Eve **who knows where a desert fork is supposed to go for a formal dinner party circa 1959.) There’s a great section on how to make formula for your baby out of tinned milk and Karo syrup - and of course information on the “scientific” method of feeding: on a strict time schedule. (Although interestingly, they still note that breastmilk is superior, something which surprised me, considering the social mores against it at the time.)

America Cooks is my old standby. It was published by “The General Federation of Women’s Clubs”, and includes things like “Baked Doves with Apple Stuffing”, “Green Rice Mold” and “Mrs. Eisenhower’s Sugar Cookies”. Most of the submissions are by “Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname”.

For a more recent entry, I highly recommend Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks. It’s not a cookbook with recipes, but a compendium of, well, food tips and cooking tricks.

What’s the reasoning behind this?

In addition to WhyNot’s recommendation, you could always buy this book, too.

Or in my case (if I ever tried this, which will be “never”) the knife will slice clean through at least two of my fingers.

Well, nobody wants pickled garlic with the skin on. :slight_smile:

I’m definately going to try freezing the meat for a bit next time I make my Moroccan braised beef, which requires trimming and cubing and is hell on me.

Oh, I’ve got one - store your cottage cheese upside down and it stays fresh a lot longer.

Those hard boiled egg slicers also cut mushrooms and strawberries well.

I have a tip for cleaning pans with lots of gunk in them after the meal. Put them back on a hot burner and put in enough water to cover the stuck on bits. Let boil for about 10-15 minutes to give the hot water enough time to melt the stuck on bits. Pull the pot off the burner and scrape a spatula over the stuck bits. Most everything should be gone by now. If not, squeeze a few drops of soap in the pot, and fill with hot water till the stuck bits are covered and add about ¼ cup of baking soda to the pot. Leave for about ½ hour and scrape some more. Your pot should clean up very nicely after this treatment.

I don’t get this - what am I doing with my hand and what am I doing with the meat?

It sounds like it could be a useful tip if I could figure out what it meant.