No matter your level of skill in the kitchen, there’s always more to learn. And isn’t that the great thing about cooking?
Whether it’s being reminded that everyone makes mistakes and that your overcooked chicken is not the end of the world, or knowing exactly how to get those eggs to room temperature in a hurry because you forgot to take them out of the fridge, we can all benefit from some great cooking advice.
These real-life cooking hacks from our very own SheKnows food experts are guaranteed to make your life much easier. (Particularly the one about the wine… I use that one frequently.)
1. Pizza boxes are surprisingly useful when baking
You’ve just spent hours decorating some fabulous cookies for a special event. Now, the big question: How do you pack and transport them safely to your party? I find that pizza boxes work perfectly. They’re compact, lidded, stackable and recyclable. And bonus: Most pizza places will sell them to you for a dollar or two if you ask. — Sandra Denneler, SheKnows Food Expert
2. When following a recipe, process matters
Read through a recipe in its entirety before starting to cook, then prep all your ingredients before you begin. These two small steps will take all the mid-cooking chaos out of a meal and usually get dinner on the table faster than trying to do it all at once. — Gina Matsoukas, SheKnows food writer
3. Simple really is better (and easier!)
In cooking, keep everything simple by using minimal ingredients of very good quality. That way, the final dish is not overcrowded with flavors. — Rowena Dumlao-Giardina, SheKnows food writer
4. Failure is an option
Don’t be afraid of failure! The best way to improve your cooking is to learn from your mistakes. One of the first things I learned how to cook was sugar cookies, and the first 15 or so batches were basically inedible (it turns out teaspoons of baking soda versus tablespoons of baking soda really make all the difference!). Maybe it’s because I was still a plucky youth, but I didn’t let myself get discouraged or give up; I kept on mixing until I created an edible batch. Don’t be afraid to use unfamiliar ingredients, combine flavors in new ways or tackle seemingly impossible recipes. Not every dish can be a winner, but with every mistake in the kitchen, you’re getting that much closer to perfection. — Justina Huddleston, SheKnows food writer
More: What is your true kitchen expertise? (QUIZ)
5. Kitchen tools come with directions for a reason
When using foil or plastic wrap, be sure to push the tabs in on each side of the box to secure the roll. It will make your life so much easier in the kitchen. — Nancy F., SheKnows food writer
6. Baking hacks you’ll thank us for later
When baking cakes and muffins, it’s best to have everything at room temperature unless otherwise stated in the recipe. But if you’re like me, you often forget to take out your butter, eggs and milk in advance. You can soften butter gently in the microwave by cutting it into chunks and zapping it for a few seconds at a time. Warm milk in the microwave too. And you can warm your eggs in a bowl of hot (not boiling) tap water for 10 minutes. I use these tricks all the time! — Carolyn Ketchum, SheKnows Food Expert
7. Freezer bags have more uses than just storing leftovers
Plastic freezer bags are my kitchen friend, and I use them in cooking and decorating all the time:
- Use them to marinate meat and/or veggies. It saves the cleanup mess, and you can toss it around to get the marinade all over so easily.
- Use them to melt candy wafers/melts. Add a handful of wafers to the bag, microwave for 10-second intervals until just melted, snip an end, and “pipe” the candy onto your dessert or edible project. You can also use them to pipe frosting onto cakes and cupcakes too.
- Use them to add cupcake batter to liners or to make perfect pancake shapes. Add the batter to the freezer bag, snip an end, and squeeze out the batter.
So many great uses! — Michelle Clausen, SheKnows food writer
8. Waste not, want not
I hate wasting food. So I keep a few gallon Ziploc bags in the freezer for food scraps that I can use again. I keep one for veggie scraps and one each for chicken, beef and seafood bones and shells. Once they’re full, I use them to make stock. I also have one for woody asparagus ends that I turn into a really wonderful soup. — Diana Johnson, SheKnows food writer
9. An easy way to add tons of flavor
I love to incorporate fresh herbs and seasonings into my cooking. Fresh herbs really brighten up your dish without much effort or cost — and they’re easy to grow too! — Patricia Conte, SheKnows food writer
10. Quite possibly the best advice ever
Sometimes things don’t turn out. Grab a glass of wine, and start over. — Brandy O’Neill, SheKnows food writer