7 Cooking Hacks That Actually Work (and 2 That Don’t)
The internet is filled with an overwhelming amount of kitchen hacks that promise to make you a faster, smarter, and better home cook. A quick Google or Pinterest search will pull up everything from how to instantly ripen rock-hard avocados in the oven, to how to cook perfect salmon in the dishwasher. The only problem? At a glance, it can be hard to tell which of these hacks actually work and which do not. To help with that, we put several to the test in our own kitchens. Here are seven that genuinely delivered — plus two that aren’t worth your time at all.
1. Keep two dishes warm at once by splitting your slow cooker with a DIY divider.
The original hack has you make a slow cooker divider with a few sheets of aluminum foil. It’s meant to be a smart solution for keeping two dips warm, but we found that dips were really just the beginning. Come holiday season, this divider hack would also work in keeping several different sides warm, whether they were originally cooked in the slow cooker or not. It’ll even work to keep drinks like spiced cider and mulled wine warm all throughout the night. (Just make sure to opt for heavy-duty foil.)
2. Microwave lemons to get more juice out of them.
We’ve seen all sorts of tips for getting the most juice from a piece of citrus — everything from the way it’s sliced, to rolling it on the counter, to heating it in the microwave. And turns out that a quick 20-second flash in the microwave really does yield significantly more juice.
3. Pre-soak brown rice in water to cut cooking time in half.
We love everything about brown rice, except for the fact that it takes forever to cook. But it turns out that soaking brown rice can help you trim the 45-minute cook time down to a mere 20 minutes.
4. Blanch basil first to make pesto stay greener, longer.
Add another step to the beginning of your pesto-making process and you will be handsomely rewarded. It turns out that blanching the basil will prevent this herb from taking on a muddy color and keep it bright and vibrant.
Our verdict?: This works! Read more here.
5. Make homemade whipped cream in 60 seconds with just a Mason jar.
No mixer? No problem! We learned that all you need is heavy whipping cream, a good size Mason jar, and some vigorous shaking for about a minute to make a quick batch of whipped cream. This is a great one to break out during the holiday season.
We’ll be the first to say that running a loaf of hardened bread under a faucet and then baking it in the oven sounds like a total long shot. But you guys? Surprisingly, this really and truly works. (At least when we tried it.) This hack will not only give stale bread new life — with a soft center and crisp outside — but it will also fill your kitchen with the scent of freshly baked bread. Win-win.
7. Ripen bananas by tossing them into a low-and-slow oven.
When you have a serious craving for banana bread but only have firm, not-quite-ripe bananas on hand, this hack has your back. You’ll need a little patience, but about 40 minutes in a low-temp oven will concentrate the fruit’s natural sugar and transform your bananas into a bunch that’s just right for baking.
2 Hacks That Didn’t Quite Cut It
1. Ripen an avocado by tossing it into a low-and-slow oven.
After success with the banana hack, our hopes were high for this one, too. Unfortunately, if you’re staring down a few firm avocados, heating them in the oven isn’t going to speed up the ripening process. You’re just going to have to sit tight for a couple more days.
2. Fix a too-salty soup by adding a chopped potato.
The theory is that you can toss a chopped potato into a pot of over-seasoned soup and let it simmer for a while. When you remove it, it will have also soaked up all the excess salt. In practice, though, it doesn’t live up to the hype. Instead, adding extra ingredients — like rice, pasta, vegetables, water, or more low-sodium broth — is your best bet for taming an over-seasoned soup.
Your turn! What’s a kitchen hack that you actually swear by?