What was the last thing you cooked? Whether you love mixing new dishes or prefer to bake scrumptious cakes, there is something oh-so-therapeutic about cooking. Whatever emotion you are feeling, just put some music on and blend some ingredients – I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better afterwards! Just recently I’ve been asking everyone for their best cooking tips to help me improve, and here are the food tricks I love the most so far.
1. Use Squeeze Bottles
Do you use condiments in a squeezy bottle? Most people much prefer using these to other container types – they are just so convenient and easy to use! So why don’t we use them in the rest of our cooking? Whether you are making pancakes, biscuits or batters, use a well-washed condiment bottle and just squeeze out the perfect amount. Professional-looking cooking without the expensive equipment!
2. Ice Potatoes
Potatoes are a real staple food item – especially when the nights get colder, and jacket potatoes, cottage pies and roast potatoes seem so tempting. But if you get fed up with peeling potatoes, try this quick trick. Cook your potatoes as normal, and then drop them into ice cold water. After a few seconds, pick the potato up, hold it in two hands, twist and pull. The skin will come away, leaving a perfect cooked-and-peeled potato. This has saved me hours!
Save time while you are cooking by freezing a variety of your commonly used spice blends. Herbs, garlic and stock can all be frozen into neat ice-cubes, to be defrosted as and when you need them. This is perfect for when you need to rustle something up quickly, but keep it tasty, and I’ve tried some great new spice blends this way too. You can also freeze ginger into ice-cubes – ideal for seasoning, or for making ginger tea when you’ve got a tummy ache, and left-over wine ice-cubes are great for casseroles.
4. Marinade without Mess
Do you marinade meats? Some of my favorite recipes involve marinating or brining, but it can be a lot of effort – and make a lot of mess! Make like a chef and do it in half the time using zip style bags. Just add the meat and marinade into the bag, squeeze out any air and seal. It works like a charm, and you can even reduce the amount of marinade needed.
5. Sear Your Meat!
Cooking meat and fish evenly can be a task all by itself – and most of the time, I’m cooking plenty of accompaniments at the same time too. It never occurred to me that I might be making it harder than it had to be until I attended a professional chef demonstration – and the chefs had some great tips to share. My favorite? Sear meat on both sides, and then put it into a hot oven in the same pan for around six minutes.
6. Butter Stops Boiling
How often do you flood your hob when cooking with boiling water? Whether I’m making spaghetti, macaroni, noodles or rice, I always seem to let the water bubble over and cause a big mess. Another great chef advised me to put a small lump of butter or some cooking oil in the water – and voila! No more boiling over. My hob stays clean for so much longer now!
7. Make Your Food Last Longer
Best before dates are a controversial topic – some will stick to them religiously, whilst others don’t care whether their food is in date or not. What does matter is how it tastes – stale food is never going to taste great! Some great tips I’ve picked up are storing a celery rib in with bread – it really will keep it soft and fresh for much longer – or buttering the edge of cheese before you store it to stop hardness from setting in. There are even ways to try and restore freshness – putting a slice of bread into a bag of hardened brown sugar is said to revive it perfectly.
8. Remove Fat, Not Flavor
Have you ever tried following those lower-fat recipes? While some taste great, I’ve never found a low fat stew or soup that tastes as good as the original. My solution? Cook the recipe as usual, using the full amount of fat. Once it’s cooked, drop a few ice-cubes into the mixture. The fat will stick to the cubes, and you can remove them and serve a much healthier but still tasty meal. You can even use this for desserts such as cheesecakes – just wrap the ice-cubes in a towel and wipe over the top.
9. Seek out Help
Convenience foods really divide chefs – some will happily use packet mixes and pre-cooked foods, whilst others prefer to make everything themselves. But there is a way to embrace shortcuts without putting so much time and effort in – just find the best local people to help you out. In France, we found a gorgeous local baker who’d sell his pizza bases, and around the corner there is a steakhouse who will happily provide some of their more exotic sauces. See what you can find, and don’t forget to quiz them for their cooking tips too!
10. Stock Your Pantry
Another French food trick! You’ll never go into a French pantry and find nothing. They keep plenty of basics at all times – wine, Dijon mustard, butter, parsley and shallots were just some of the essentials. Then, pick up any good-priced extras when you go shopping, and dare yourself to use them in recipes. You can create some real masterpieces this way! Persillade is my go-to product – it’s the cooking trick I pass on to everyone.
Food tricks can be a lifesaver if you are short on time, short on ingredients or something goes wrong – knowing that baking powder saves greasy gravy has saved me many times! Do you have a food trick you couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear it!
Top Image Source: meldmagazine.com