Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ten (Kind of Obvious) Cooking Tips

Hey guys!

This edition of my usual Wednesday Ten Things post is a list of little cooking tips I wish I had known before I started cooking. Most of these will be fairly obvious to you experienced chefs...but for the newbies who have just started venturing out into virgin chef territory will appreciate this list.

1. When making homemade pizza with a pita or a wrap, toast the wrap BEFORE putting the toppings on. This will make it a little crispier and will hold up to the moisture from the sauce so you don't have pizza soup in the middle of your pie.

2. Buy tomatoes on the vine. This will vastly extend the life of your tomatoes. I have been known to get close to three weeks out of tomatoes that are still attached to the vine (usually sold in bunches of 3 or 4).


3. When freezing bananas, unpeel it and chop it into pieces before you freeze it. Trying to peel a thawed banana is hell and trying to blend an entire frozen banana into a smoothie (unless you have a Vita Mix) is next to impossible. So save yourself the trouble and peel and chop that sucker before freezing it.

4. White flour and wheat flour are NOT the same. You can't sub in wheat flour for the same amount of white flour that a recipe calls for and expect it to come out the same way. It won't. Wheat flour is a lot more dense and will leave your recipe dry and/or flat. Sub out half if you're are looking to make the recipe healthier, or looks for recipes that specifically cater to wheat flour.

5. You don't have to keep buttermilk on hand. This one I just recently learned and is something I definitely wish I had known years ago. To make "homemade" buttermilk for a recipe, simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk and let stand for ten minutes.

6. When making multiple batches of baked goods, don't reuse your cookie sheet or pan right away. Either allow it to fully cool, or run the bottom of the sheet under cold water. Otherwise your delicious creation will cook unevenly or burn on the bottom.

7. Household items that can double as kitchen appliances: Wine or liquor bottles make good rolling pins. I didn't have a rolling pin for the longest time (I do now, I'm more classy than I was I guess) but most everyone has a bottle of wine or liquor on hand. It also helps to take a few nips from the bottle when baking. It makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Also, hammers make good meat tenderizers. You work with what you've got.

8. When reheating grains like rice or pasta, add a little water to keep it moist and fresh like you just cooked it. You can also use a little broth if you are looking to add a little flavor.

9. Remove the seeds from tomatoes when making dips or using as a pizza topping. The seeds will make your dip watery and your pizza soggy. Removing the seeds and just chopping up the "shell" of the tomato will yield much better results without sacrificing the taste you're going for.

10. Freeze extra broth in an ice cube tray. I don't know about you, but I almost never use a whole box of broth, I always have a little bit leftover. Rather than throw it away, freezing it in ice cube trays allows you to just take out what you use and save the rest without having to buy a new box for every recipe. Just make sure you use seperate trays for your regular ice and your don't want beef flavored water.

What little tips do you wish someone had told you before you started cooking? What great shortcuts have you learned along the way?


  1. Definitely hear you on #4! I made cookies with whole wheat flour once, a TOTAL disaster for sure. It is definitely the worst thing I have ever made.

  2. Thanks for the tips. The extent of my cooking is boiling pasta and stir-frying or baking chicken. I'm a mess. :)

  3. I'm glad you brought up the tip about the buttermilk! I learned that last year as well and it has made it so much easier!!

  4. I love the ice cube tray idea!!! I always have left over broth from making things :-) Will definitely have to label so Mike doesn't have a vodka BEEF club!

  5. I agree with you about the wheat flour. The few times I have tried to use all wheat flour when it calls for white, I was really disappointed. I just use half white and half wheat.

  6. Ok I love this rundown. I never buy buttermilk anymore! I always have milk + lemons. Easy peasy. I also only buy vine tomatoes and am all for doubling up on functionality for kitchen tools! Yay for space savers!

  7. Love the broth one... I've heard of that but for some reason I've never done it!

    I have onion goggles now (I HATE cutting onions) but I found out that putting an onion in the freezer a half hour or so before you're going to cup/chop it makes it less tear-y! I also have every cutting/slicing tool in the world to help cut down with the tears ;)

  8. I LOVE the buttermilk tip - I just learned that this year and it has saved me a couple of times. There is a new book that lists ALL of the baking substitutions (like when you don't have baking soda) and I am hoping I get it as a birthday present!

  9. Great tips, I love making my own buttermilk with apple cider vinegar!

  10. very smart list! i kept wondering why my bananas weren't breaking apart when i wanted to make banana soft serve. isn't it amazing when the solution is so simple?

  11. I didn't know the wheat flour one or buttermilk. Thanks!

    I use wine bottles inside my boots to make them stand up in my closet. Not kitchen related, but whatever.

  12. I know ALL about the frozen banana ALL too well. You'd think it would be common sense. Not so much.

    Also adding a little milk to pastas and mashed potatoes - and anything starchy, really - makes WORLDS of difference.

  13. All helpful suggestions!

    To go with #10, I've been using ice cube trays for everything lately: pesto, homemade juice mixes for frozen drinks (pre-alcohol), crushed garlic, concentrated iced tea...

  14. I've frozen tomato paste too. Recipes always call for way less than is in the can.

  15. I love making lists like this as well! Each day is a learning process in the kitchen and I find it's so helpful to share (plus it helps me remember everything!)