My Top 30 Kitchen Tips

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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