Because I always look this graceful in the kitchen.

As you may have guessed, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. You might even call it my office. And I’ve learned a few tricks over the years, most of them through trial and error. I’ve created a list of my Top 30 Kitchen Tips in the hopes that some of them might be useful to you in your kitchen!  This list covered the basics: cooking, baking and organization. Some of them may seem like common sense. However, I personally find that when I’m out of my comfort zone, the obvious answers may still surprise me.

If you have any questions about specific tools or if you need me to clarify something on this list, ask away in the comments section!

  1. Mise en place. You all know the term at this point from books or blogs or cooking shows. Own it! Mise en place refers to both your physical space and mental attitude. If you plan and stay organized, things will go much more smoothly and your time in the kitchen will be more enjoyable. Make sure you have all of your ingredients in the right quantity before you get started. Measure them out first.  And read the entire recipe before you start. Read it twice if you’re as scatterbrained as I am.
  2. If the recipe you’re making has a lot of complex steps, see if you can start it the night before. Anything that needs to chill, such as tart dough, can be made in advance.
  3. Take your time. If you want something to look beautiful when presented, make sure that lines are even, batter is distributed evenly and the sides of the plate are wiped clean.
  4. Take notes while you work. Always have a pen and paper handy in the kitchen.
  5. Taste your food constantly while cooking. It’s better than trying to fix it at the end.
  6. Educate your palate and learn to troubleshoot flavors. If a dish tastes off, what’s it missing? What’s overpowering? Everything can be broken into 4 categories: sweet, salty, bitter, sour. The flavors that best counter balance each other are sweet/sour and salt/bitter. Ever heard the trick where you add some salt to coffee to make it less bitter? The same thing applies to cooking. If something is too sweet, try adding something sour, such as a squirt of lemon juice. If you can master this, your cooking will improve by a mile. More often than not a bland dish needs either more salt or more acidity (citrus, vinegar, etc.)
  7. Buy quality ingredients for best results. Don’t skimp on items such as oil, vinegar, cheese, chocolate, alcohol and produce.
  8. It’s much easier to add something to a dish than it is to take it away.
  9. Use disposable plastic gloves when working with beets, cherries, or anything that stains your hands. They’re also great for cutting hot peppers and handling raw meat. I am guaranteed to rub my eyes after cutting jalapenos if I don’t wear gloves.
  10. Make sure your knives are very sharp. You’re more likely to injure yourself with a dull knife that requires more force.
  11. Cut against a flat surface. Nothing should roll while you’re trying to cut it. If there’s no flat surface, make one.
  12. Get a meat thermometer. Your steak will come out perfectly every time.
  13. Always season your meat before cooking. Always sear your meat after seasoning.
  14. Always season your salads with salt or salt & pepper.
  15. If your sauce is too thin, let it reduce. If it’s too thick, add water or stock.
  16. You control the stovetop. If the pan is smoking or the food is burning, don’t just turn down the temperature. Move the pan off the burner. It will still cook from residual heat.
  17. Always turn the handle of the pan so it’s not sticking out past the stove. Otherwise someone will knock over your soup (not that I’m speaking from personal experience).
  18. Learn about the smoke points of different fats and oils. You can’t sear meat with butter, but you can sear it with clarified butter.  Clarified butter has a higher smoke point.
  19. Forgot to let your butter sit out to room temperature? No problem. Cut the butter into small cubes and microwave them for 7-10 seconds at a time, flipping them over until they’re soft.
  20. Always line your baking sheets with foil or parchment paper. Less mess to clean up!
  21. Don’t get the rolls of parchment from the grocery store. Buy parchment that’s cut to fit baking sheets. It will save you time and frustration.
  22. Get a kitchen scale and weigh out your ingredients for baked goods. Most recipes list ingredients by both weight and volume. If not, you can convert the recipe.
  23. Baking spray with flour is a huge time saver and works just as well as butter and flour.
  24. You don’t actually need to sift the dry ingredients (with the exception of powdered sugar). Just whisk them.
  25. If your baked goods aren’t rising, check the dates on your baking powder, baking soda and yeast. They don’t work forever.
  26. Yeast likes warm, dark places. I let my dough rise in the attic or laundry room (with the dryer on).
  27. Always chill dough before baking it. If the butter isn’t cold, your dough will lose it’s shape.
  28. Don’t use a spoon to measure out cookie dough and muffins. Get a scoop to ensure that the size and shape stay uniform. Dip it in hot water periodically to keep the dough/batter looking pretty.
  29. Make homemade stock! It can be a bit labor intensive but it’s worth it. Homemade stock is the difference between a mediocre sauce and a restaurant quality sauce.
  30. Label and date every random container in your refrigerator. Keep masking tape and a permanent marker in the kitchen. No more wondering how old the tomato paste is.

Now… what are some of YOUR favorite kitchen tips?  Share them in the comments section!

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Comments

  1. Hi Jen! I’ve bookmarked this page! Great info.

  2. Such a great resource here! A quick way to soften butter without the microwave – place stick between 2 layers of wax paper and pound it a few times with a rolling pin.

    Another tip for baking – if your ingredients need to be cold, keep them cool. If they need to be at room temperature, let eggs, milk, etc stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

  3. Good post. Stuff everyone needs to know.

  4. Great tips! Really nice of you to take the time and share it with everyone.

  5. These are brilliant tips! I never sift flour unless I’m making sponge but I will now whisk it! “D

  6. These tips are so wonderful – I try to think of MY tips but can’t think of any after reading these tips!! Enjoyed going through this and definitely I’m going to try some!

  7. So much fantastic information – bookmarked my friend thank you!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  8. This is fab! I’m guilty of no.19 and this list has been super helpful. Thanks! :)

  9. Great tips! So thorough and a great reference for less experienced cooks. I wish I’d had something like this when I first started out!

  10. Good post, Jen.
    Learning the fine tuning of #6, (while it sounds easy, it isn’t) would single-handedly change everyone’s cooking for the better.
    Learning to organize cooking as in 1,2 &3 will also make time in the kitchen more enjoyable and efficient.
    Good tips!
    Pamela

  11. Great stuff Jen – I’m sharing it on the old Facebook too, you’re right some of this would be common sense, but to somebody with little to no training such as myself, the tips will be of IMMENSE help to me in the future. Great work!

  12. Thanks for the tip about the parchment paper. I didn’t know you could buy it that way – will save me lots of time and frustration!

    My tip is more about recipe organization. I put recipes that I want to try in pockets in a binder, divided by meal type (breakfast, lunch, salad, etc.) When I’m making my weekly menu, I choose one or two new recipes to try, put them in plastic sleeves, and stick them to the refrigerator with a magnet. After I make the recipe and it’s good (a “make-again”), I add the recipe to my online recipe book. This method just helps me stay organized!

  13. Thanks Jen!! Love the new and refresher tips!

  14. I like the tip about not really needing to sift dry ingredients. I find that to be an irritating and time-consuming step.

  15. Good tips, it makes a difference when you are prepared in the kitchen.

  16. Excellent tips! Wish I had known about #21 years ago…I think we’ve all spent far too time wrestling with a stubborn, curly sheet of parchment paper.
    Definitely bookmarking this post!

  17. Having a problem with your site/feedburner connection. I only get the msg to enroll, enter my email address and get the msg I am already enrolled, and it keeps cycling around. I want to move on and send the recipe by email. Please assist.

  18. This is a great list Jen! Mise en place saves my life!

  19. Wonderful tips!!!! The pot handle is especiallly good for those of us who have children underfoot!

  20. Such great tips! One of mine is to always have baking soda on hand for cleaning. It gets stuck on food off of plates, the oven, whatever. Also, it may seem obvious but reading a recipe all the way through it crucial (not that I’ve ever neglected to do that either :) )

  21. Jen, great job on this! You’ve covered everything. My one tip: Have fun!

    daisy

  22. Awesome stuff to know! Bookmarked, for sure :)

    I’m so bad about remembering to constantly remembering to try my food. You can imagine the shock that often leads to at the end of the process :)

  23. Excellent, excellent tips. Here’s the best tip I got from culinary school: put a damp towel under your cutting board to keep it from moving as you are working. And I always, always do.

  24. What wonderful tips, and I sure could have used the one about wearing gloves while handling cherries just the other night! ;)

  25. Awesome tips! I love that so many of your tips are really good common sense :) I’ve been thinking about getting a kitchen scale, but don’t know if I can have another gadget on the counter, do you use yours a lot?

    • Savory Simple says:

      I won’t bake without it. I totally get it about the gadgets which is why I keep most of them stored away. The only things on my counter are my stand mixer, 3 small containers with my tools (spatulas, whisks, etc), and my blender. The scale can go anywhere until you need it.

  26. Great tips. I read through whole list. My favorite is TASTING FOOD throughout cooking. Mine is that I keep all my normal baking ingredients in a rolling portable basket in pantry. I simply lift it out. Flour, sugar, baking power/soda vanilla, fine salt all together. No looking around.The flour and sugar are in the rectangular flat plastic containers that have lids that snap in 4 places. (From QVC) so lids never come off and the sugar and flour stack. I always cut off the label of the flour and stick it in container. My other tip is using mason jars to hold all the loose things I buy, such as nuts, beans, spices, etc.

  27. Very useful tips Jen! #5 – living in Asia, where all cooks taste their dishes multiple times before serving, I’ve learned to do a lot of taste-testing. And to go along with that, like you mentioned, it’s a lot harder to take out something you added too much of than to add more of it – so always add a little and taste a lot!

  28. Wow – such great advice! And the best part is, they’re all so logical – and common sens . . ical?! Seriously though – #20 and #23 have been life-savers for me. Thanks for sharing all this —-

  29. LOVE this list, thanks for sharing! Having a pen and paper handy is definitely a must for me – memory never serves as well as I think it will when I sit down to type out a recipe :)

  30. Great list!

  31. Terrific list! I actually do many of these (not all). But I’d say your first tip – learning to live mise en place – is the most important. Things really do go faster and better when you’re organized and prepared

  32. great tips! everyone teases me about my mise en place, calling it “cute” or “ocd” …. without a doubt, the recipes that i don’t use a mise en place for, i usually haven’t read as thoroughly and end up missing something..

  33. Wow – this is amazing. I agree whole-heartedly with everything! Gloves, read the recipe many times before even beginning, pay attention to the details like clean plates, lines and edges.

    Lining pans with foil or parchment (or silpat), cookie scoops, chilled dough – YES!! Huge believer!

    Great list, Jen!

  34. I didn’t know the trick for softening butter (#19…I’m pretty sure :)) And love the tip to start the night before where you can. It’s one of my favorite time management tricks, especially when it comes to breakfast foods!

  35. What an amazing 30 tips! I was so excited when I read the intro and I can’t wait to try them out this weekend!

  36. Thank you for such an informative post…I’ve always hated sifting ingredients…good to know it’s not necessary!

  37. SUCH a great post with so many useful tips !

  38. Elizabeth B says:

    Great list of tips. I would also add to use a timer when baking or cooking. It is too easy to get distracted and a timer helps a lot.

  39. #21? Mind. Blown.

  40. These are all fantastic tips!! Another great one is to clean up as you go.

  41. Phalbe H says:

    If you’re using a recipe in a book, be sure to put a bookmark in the page or a weight to keep it open to the right page. I once started cooking, had to run to the grocery store and didn’t notice that the page had turned while I was gone. Total disaster!

  42. I agree with #22 do you have a good conversion table that you can pass on to us

  43. Duh I got it thank you

  44. I don’t know how long it has been since I’ve needed to wash a sheet pan — I always line them! I didn’t realize there was affordable precut parchment sheets for the home baker like I used to use at a bakery I worked at. Do you know how many are in that unit? It doesn’t say, that I can see anyway… Thanks. Gail

    • Hmmm… I’m not sure. If you do a general search on Amazon you might find a seller with a count. I’m going to guess 100 based on the stacks I’ve received but don’t hold me to that! :}

  45. I always use that flour-baking-spray!!! I feel a little bit guilty about it but it works so well! Great tips, Jen! Especially about how to balance the flavors of a recipe and converting recipes to weight! Love it!

  46. Great tips! Shared! ;-)

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