Table of Contents
Build a Better Butter Board
For those of you jumping on the butter board craze (softened butter smeared on a plank and sprinkled with sweet or savory toppings for scooping), be smart. Pick a board that is nonporous—wooden ones may have bacteria trapped in the cracks that can mix with the butter. I love marble or slate because they look great and will be perfect for all the holiday baking you’ll be doing—or once you’ve moved on to the next big thing!
Blend Better Dressings
A great trick used in almost every restaurant I’ve worked in is adding a few ice cubes to the blender when making dressings. The quick change in temperature makes the mixture bind, and as a result, you get a thick, silky dressing.
—Hernan Melendez, executive chef at Valley Kitchen at Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel Valley, Calif.
Make Cleanup a Breeze
Your fridge is likely to be filled to the brim during the holidays. Before you purchase and prep everything, empty the fridge and line the shelves with plastic wrap. Any spills can simply be thrown away, which saves a lot of time with cleanup.
Poach Chicken in Wine
The wine gently flavors the chicken, and, even more important, the acidity helps keep [the meat] tender. Go with whatever style of white wine you like to drink: Dry, fruity, even sweet will all work great. You can also just use water and a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of rice vinegar.
—Mark Bittman, author of the newly revised How to Cook Everything Fast cookbook
Core Apples With a Wine Opener
If you don’t have an apple corer handy, use a winged corkscrew instead—it works just as well. Try it out for whole baked apples stuffed with marzipan, raisins, nuts and cinnamon for the winter.
—Sebastian Matheja, chef de cuisine at Dabble at the Conrad New York Midtown in N.Y.C.
Reuse Butter Wrappers
Don’t toss that butter wrapper in the trash! Get one more round out of it by using the buttery side to grease your cookie sheets and cake pans. It saves on butter and money.
Wash Cast Iron Without Soap
To remove stubborn stuck-on food from a cast-iron skillet, add 1 to 2 cups of water to the pan and let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes to loosen the food. Pour the water and debris out, then wipe it clean for a skillet that looks brand-new.
Prevent Rusty Blades
Wrap your knives in newspaper when you store them away. The light oils in the ink help prevent rust from forming over time.
—Koji Hagihara, executive chef at Hakata TonTon in N.Y.C.
Amp up Your Pepper
Always toast your black pepper before putting it into a pepper mill. Add whole peppercorns to a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat, and shake the pan until they’re warm and very fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. This leads to a much more aromatic and flavorful bite.
Improve Your Desserts
Put salt in everything. I know it sounds weird, but cookies, cakes, pies and ice cream all taste much better with a big ol’ pinch of salt in there. I’m not talking about turning desserts salty: They’ll just be well-seasoned, so they taste balanced and not cloyingly sweet.
Use the Entire Herb
Don’t throw away your cilantro or parsley stems! The stems actually have the most intense flavor. Slice them super thin, like chives, and season your favorite foods with them.
Turn Crumbs Into Fast Flavor
Take the shards that are in the bottom of a bag of chips, and puree them in a food processor. Use the mixture as a coating for fish and chicken, and as a replacement for bread crumbs.
—Paul Reilly, chef-owner at Apple Blossom in Denver
Fix Overwhipped Cream
If you overwhip your cream and it looks gritty rather than soft and fluffy, gently fold in a few more tablespoons of heavy cream. You’ll soon get that beautiful, smooth consistency back.
Add the Right Amount of Heat
Put a handful of fresh chiles into the freezer. Then grate a little—or as much as you want—into curries, sauces and burgers. Freezing the chile makes it really easy to grate with minimum fuss.
Prevent Apple Slices From Browning
Soak your cut apples in a bowl of lemon-lime soda, like Sprite or 7-Up, for about five minutes and then rinse them off. The citric acid in the soda will make sure they don’t get gross and brown. Magic!
Kelsey Barnard Clark
Juice Fruits Faster
I use citrus juice in pretty much everything this time of year. Quickly juice lemons, limes or oranges by cutting off the peel and pureeing the whole fruit in a food processor or blender. Store it in jars in the fridge for fresh juices on the fly.
Elevate Store-Bought Dough
If you don’t have time to make your own cookie dough, roll a premade cookie log in coarse sugar or chopped nuts. Then slice and bake. They will look prettier! You can also mix chocolate chips or chocolate-coated candies into the dough, roll into balls, and bake. People will never know!
—Alex Guarnaschelli, cohost of The Kitchen on the Food Network
Use up the Crusts
If your kids are like mine, they don’t like crust on their sandwiches. Instead of wasting and tossing the crusts in the garbage, put them in a plastic bag in the freezer and use them for bread crumbs or bread pudding later.
Peel Garlic Quickly
Cut a thin slice off the very top and bottom of a whole garlic head. Put the entire head into a jar with a lid, and shake the heck out of it! This peels all the cloves—and relieves some stress at the same time.
Preserve the Color of Fresh Herbs
Soak fresh herbs in a bowl of ice water before blending them into sauces and dressings. This will help prevent the blade from getting too hot as it blends, allowing the herbs to retain their vibrant color.
Keep Food Hotter Longer
Warm your dinner plates in the microwave for one minute or in a 200° oven for five minutes before you serve on them. A cold plate will quickly take heat away from the food.
Get a Better Sear
Let steaks air-dry in the fridge, uncovered, for a day or two before cooking. This draws out the moisture, which tenderizes the meat and will give it a nice brown crust when cooked. Remember to bring steaks up to room temperature before cooking.
Save a Salty Soup
If your soup or stew turns out too salty, add a raw, peeled potato and simmer for 10 to 30 minutes. Potatoes are rich in starch and will absorb some of the extra salt. The potato will also soak up liquid so you may need to add more broth or water, which will also dilute the saltiness.
Boost the Flavor of Spices
Always toast your dried spices before using them. Most spices have essential oils; gentle heat releases the oils, and the flavors bloom. Throw whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat, and toast for three to five minutes (or ground spices for one minute). You will smell the aromas as they come alive.
Stop a Pot From Boiling Over
Place a wooden spoon across the top of a pot of water to keep it from boiling over. (When the hot bubbles touch the colder, dryer wood, they burst and release the steam inside.) Or you can throw in an ice cube as it starts to froth up too much. It’ll help keep your stove top and the outside of the pan clean.
Fry an Egg to Perfection
Even if you’re using a nonstick skillet, use a little olive oil or butter when frying eggs. Carefully tilt the skillet so the oil or melted butter pools at front edge of pan, and use a spoon to baste the tops of the eggs as they cook. This adds flavor and helps your eggs cook evenly.
—Trisha Yearwood, host of Food Network’s Trisha’s Southern Kitchen
Get her recipe for Corn Waffles with Fried Eggs & Sweet Chili Sauce HERE.
Peel Mangoes Without a Peeler
Take a slice of mango, and place the fleshy side against the rim of a drinking glass. Press gently and slide the slice down the glass—it should remove the skin cleanly!
—Ayesha Curry, lifestyle expert, who will launch her own magazine in May
Season like a Pro
Since you can’t add flavor to the center of the meat, the outside of the steak has to do all the work. Sprinkle salt and pepper from high up over the meat—it’ll fall in an even layer—and use more than you think you should. Then add a pinch more.
Make Cleanup a Breeze
On baking days I keep a large bowl of hot, soapy water in my sink and plop utensils into it as I finish using them. By the time I’m ready to do the dishes, I don’t have to worry about dough or batter sticking to them.
—Molly Yeh, host of Food Network’s Girl Meets Farm
Declutter Your Cookware
Don’t buy a ton of different pots and pans for your kitchen. All you need are something for boiling, braising, sautéing and roasting—anything else is too much. Also, most important, keep your knives sharp.
—David Chang, star of the upcoming Ugly Delicious season 2, and author of the upcoming memoir Eat a Peach
Fix a Broken Sauce
Have a chocolate or cream sauce that has separated or become grainy? My mom always added more cream or butter, but it didn’t work. The easiest fix is to balance the excess of fatty ingredients: Just stir in a few spoonfuls of warm water.
—Alex Guarnaschelli, chef of Butter in N.Y.C.
Add Oil at the Best Time
It’s better to heat your pan first and then add oil. The longer oil sits on a hot surface, the more time it has to break down. Following this method, you’ll use less oil, food will be less soggy, and you’ll get a better sear.
—Adam Richman, chef and travel host
Make Better Burgers
You can’t taste your burgers before they’re cooked, but you can test the seasoning. Make a little patty about the size of a quarter, and place it in a hot skillet—it’ll cook in less than 30 seconds. Now you can make sure the burgers have the right balance of ingredients before cooking them all.
—Rachael Ray, host of Rachael Ray Show
Choose the Best Dried Pasta
When looking at pasta in the package, make sure it isn’t broken or chipped, doesn’t look dusty with flour or have white spots—all those things mean the pasta is old and has been sitting on the shelf for a long time. Look for pasta with a golden-yellow color and a rough texture. Sauce doesn’t stick to shiny pastas very well.
—Lidia Bastianich, author of Felidia: Recipes from My Flagship Restaurant
Get her recipe for Fusilli Primavera HERE.
Simplify Your Kitchen Tool Kit
If you don’t have a fish spatula, get one immediately—it’s my favorite. It has a thin, almost-sharp edge, so it’s great for flipping, stirring, cutting and getting that first brownie or piece of lasagna out of the pan.
—Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s Chopped
Give Any Recipe a Boost
Put grated ginger and chopped garlic and scallions into a large bowl and cover with water. Let it sit overnight to let the liquid soak up the flavors. Strain out the solids, and use that flavored stock as a base for noodles, soup, dumpling filling or anything you like.
—Simone Tong, chef-owner of Little Tong Noodle Shop in N.Y.C.
Peel Garlic Faster
I like to throw whole, unpeeled garlic cloves into the microwave for 10 seconds. It makes the peels slip right off. This blanching method is also a great way to reduce the harsh flavor of raw garlic in uncooked recipes, like salsas, salad dressings, chimichurri and guacamole.
—Lorena Garcia, executive chef and partner of Chica in Miami and Las Vegas
Stop a Cutting Board From Slipping
Place a damp paper towel underneath your cutting board before chopping. It acts as a grip so the board won’t move around on the counter. I do this at the restaurant and at home.
—Stefano Secchi, chef of Rezdôra in N.Y.C.
Save a Burnt Soup
If you scorch a soup or sauce, transfer it into a new pot without scraping the burnt bottom. Wrap an English cucumber in cheese cloth, crush it with the back of a knife, and drop it in the new pot. Let it sit for 15 minutes; the cucumber will act like a sponge and suck up the burnt flavor. Then remove the cucumber, simmer, and adjust the seasoning.
—Fabrizio Schenardi, executive chef of Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Add a New Layer of Flavor
The hard Parmesan rind is a quick and cheap way to add lots of flavor with minimum effort. Drop it in a soup, risotto or stew, and the rind melts and permeates the dish with its cheesy, umami characteristic. The rinds freeze incredibly well, so you’ll have them whenever needed.
—Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and author of Simple
Bake a Flakier Pie Crust
When you’re making a crust, the butter needs to stay very cold so it won’t melt until it gets into the oven. Here’s a trick: Freeze your butter, and grate it on a box grater. It’ll keep the butter cold, and the pea-size pieces are easier to combine with the flour.
—Katie Button, chef and co-owner of Cúrate Bar de Tapas in Asheville, N.C.
Season with the Proper Salt
Kosher salt should be used to season vegetables, protein, pasta water, etc. Flaky-textured salt, like Maldon sea salt, is more expensive and is best used for finishing. A little goes a long way.
—Cédric Vongerichten, executive chef and owner of Wayan in N.Y.C.
Bring Out the Sweetness in Tomatoes
If you’re making a tomato sauce or soup and the tomatoes aren’t ripe enough, add a pinch of sugar and a splash of red-wine vinegar. They will help to bring out the natural flavor.
—Andrew Jones, executive chef at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, in St. Lucia
Use Up Leftover Bread
When your bread is about to go stale, stick it in the freezer to harden. Then run it against the large holes on a cheese grater to make your own bread crumbs. Store it in a bag in the freezer, and you’ll always have a homemade batch when you need it.
—Alon Shaya, chef-owner of Saba in New Orleans and Safta in Denver
To Save Time
“When you bring produce home, clean and prep everything before you put it in the refrigerator. This is simple but revolutionary: In the middle of a recipe, you can just reach into your fridge and grab already-peeled carrots or already-cleaned mushrooms and quarter them.”
—Ree Drummond, author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier
For Stress-Free Hosting
“The hardest thing about dinner is getting everything to the table hot at the same time. I plan a menu that has one thing roasted in the oven (like rack of lamb), one thing cooked on the stove (sautéed cherry tomatoes) and one thing made ahead (orzo with roasted vegetables). Easy party and relaxed host!”
—Ina Garten, star of Barefoot Contessa
For Juicy Turkey
“Roasting turkey always results in dry white meat because dark meat needs to reach 175° to make it tender (white meat is ready at 160°). Give dark meat a head start: Before stuffing, bring 2 inches of stock to a boil in a roasting pan, and sit the bird in it for 10 minutes. Remove the turkey (save the stock for gravy)and proceed with your recipe.”
—Andrew Zimmern, chef and travel host
For Perfect Steaks
“Reverse-sear your steak: Start in a low heated oven and slow-roast to your desired doneness, then finish in a hot cast-iron skillet. It gives you better internal temperature control and produces an awesome brown crust.”
—Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
Giada De Laurentiis
For Better Pasta
“After you’ve drained your pasta and it’s still hot, grate a little fresh Parmesan on top, wait a few seconds, and then toss it with your sauce. The cheese will melt directly on the pasta, which will give your sauce something to stick on to.”
—Giada De Laurentiis, chef and owner of Giada Vegas
To Cook Like a Pro
“‘Mise en place.’ Everything in its place—before you turn on your oven. This is the only way to master any recipe or get to really be good at actually cooking as a daily ritual or hobby. You must be prepared and have everything ready and measured out.”
For Easy Caramel
“When making caramel, cover the pan with a glass lid. The steam washes the sides of the pan to keep the sugar from crystallizing, and because the lid is glass, you can see when the sugar starts to color.”
—Carla Hall, author of Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration
To Master a Recipe
“Mind the details. If the ingredient list calls for ‘1 cup sifted flour,’ then sift it first before you measure. If it calls for ‘1 cup flour, sifted,’ measure before sifting. It makes a big difference in the final product.”
—Martha Stewart, host of Martha Bakes
To Avoid the Mess
“Clean as you go! But seriously, don’t just move stuff around. Everything needs a home, even dirty dishes: small bowls inside of large ones, proper rinsing and stacking. We say it a lot because it’s imperative. Cooking is no fun when you have an entire job waiting for you after.”
—Kristen Kish, author of Kristen Kish Cooking
For Better Bakes
“If you know you’ll be baking, place your eggs on the counter the night before. At room temperature they won’t seize up when mixed with the butter, and egg whites whip up fluffier.”
—Duff Goldman, judge on Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network
To Peel Garlic Fast
“To peel a lot of garlic at once, break open the bulb and put all the cloves in a large bowl. Invert another bowl over it, hold them together where the rims meet, and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. All the skins will come off!”
—Adam Richman, host of Matchday Meals on Facebook Watch
To Keep Olive Oil Fresh
“Store it in the fridge! Olive oil is expensive and gets rancid easily, so don’t leave your bottle on the stove. Each time you heat up the stove or oven, the oil heats and cools too—making it spoil faster. ”
—Alex Guarnaschelli, judge on Chopped
For Better Chicken & Fish
“After you rinse it, wrap it in paper towels for 3 to 4 hours before you cook it. This will remove all excess moisture which contains all the aromatics and liquid that you don’t want in the protein you are cooking.”
—Michael Schulson, chef-founder of Schulson Collective