Welcome to the Ten Second Kitchen Tips blog! I am excited to enter the world of food blogging, though I have been writing tips and sharing recipes for years.
Tips include almost everything from how to remove a pit from an avocado to getting more juice out of your lemon. We have also made this site a resource for measurements and conversions, cooking terms, and more. Take a peek though our list of over one hundred tips and let us know what you think.
Ten Second Tips for the Kitchen is dedicated to everyone who loves to cook. Carole Lee de Jong offers her expertise, tips, ideas, tricks, resources, recipes, cooking terms, conversions and more that every cook can use every day. These ideas have been collected over my years of experience and are now available to help make the most of your time in the kitchen. Enjoy!
Overripe Bananas: The next time one or more of your bananas turns black, peel them and put them in a zippered freezer bag. Once you have a sufficient amount frozen, thaw and make your favorite banana bread or muffins, or drop into the blender frozen when making your next smoothie.
Peeling: Peel a banana from the bottom and you won’t have to pick off the fibrous “strings.”
Storage: Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.
Ripen Faster: Store the green bananas in a brown paper bag.
Make a depression or divot about ½ inch deep in the center of your patty to help your burger cook flat instead of puffy. The puffiness is caused by fat and connective tissue in the meat. Trust me, the divot works to make the patty flat!
Divide the total weight of the burger meat you have by the number of patties you want to make, then mound that weight on your kitchen scale. Every burger will be the same size.
To Grate: If you freeze the cheese slightly before grating, it will be easier to grate and take less time.
To make cleaning easier coat your grater with spray oil; this will prevent the cheese from sticking to your grater.
To store: Store cheese in a sealed container with two lumps of sugar to prevent mold.
Put leftover French baguettes through the food processor, put the crumbs in a zippered freezer bag, and place in the freezer for the next time you need bread crumbs.
Alternatively, if you know an entire baguette will not be consumed the day you bring it home, put the portion you know will not be eaten into the freezer in a zippered freezer bag. When you are ready to use it, leave it out on the counter for about half an hour.
To open: Pomegranates are probably my all-time favorite fruit, and I always pick one or two up when they are in season. When I was a kid, I would tuck a paper towel in the neck of my shirt and swim in the dark red juice but there is a better way!
The next time you bring home a delicious pomegranate, score the top on the blossom end. Hold the fruit immersed in a bowl of water and break apart into quarters. Gently push the seeds out of the membrane. When done, drain the water and enjoy!
To soften: Take the entire carton and put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Check and if it hasn’t softened keep going at 5 second intervals. This will make the scooping easier and won’t turn your ice cream into a puddle.
To make birthday party treats ahead of time: Scoop ice cream into muffin pan liners and place in muffin tins. Decorate with sprinkles, nuts or chocolate chips. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.
To cut easily: freeze for thirty minutes.
To reduce shrinkage: Run bacon under cold water before frying, This can reduce shrinkage and curling by up to 50%.
To separate slices: Before you open a package of bacon, roll it. This will help separate the slices for easy removal.
To fry ahead of time: Cook and drain, then wrap in wax paper. Freeze them in a plastic zippered bag or other freezer container. Reheat briefly in a skillet.
Here’s an easy way to prevent freezer burn zippered freezer bag. Zip it up leaving a small opening to allow air to escape. Fill a bowl of water and dip the item in the bag. The pressure from the water will seal the item and the air will escape leaving a vacuum around your item. Carefully press the bag to allow as much air to escape as possible, then seal. This will give your food item longer life and prevent the development of freezer crystals on your food.
You can also use another method if you have a drinking straw on hand. Put the food item or liquid in a zip top freezer bag. Insert a drinking straw into one end of the bag, close the zipper up to the straw and pinch it closed. Then suck out as much air as possible.
To find the tender part of the spear: Gently bend the asparagus spear until it breaks. The natural breaking point will separate the tough stringy part from the tender end. If you are concerned about waste, you can also take a vegetable peeler and simply peel down the second half of the spear.
Turkey or Chicken: The next time you are stuffing a turkey or chicken, make your stuffing as desired, but instead of putting the stuffing right into the cavity of the bird, line a bowl with cheesecloth or get a cheesecloth bag and then stuff that into the bird. This makes it so much easier to remove the stuffing when you are ready.
If you are stuffing your bird the old fashioned way then use the “heel” of your sliced bread. Stuff your bird as usual then cover the opening of the carcass with the bread to keep the stuffing from falling out.
If you have leftover wine, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and add to sauces when needed.
When cork expands: When you want to re-cork your bottle of wine and your cork no longer fits, immerse it in boiling water for several minutes.
To open without an opener: Peel the lead wrapper off the neck of the bottle so the cork is exposed; then tap, tap the bottom of the bottle until the cork starts to pop out. When it’s out almost all the way, simply pull it out with your hand.
When removing fat from a hot sauce, stew or soup, simply fold a paper towel and dip it in the top of the mixture. Repeat as necessary. Another option is to drop an ice cube in the pot for just a few seconds. The ice will attract the fat like a magnet. Scoop it out immediately with a slotted spoon.
When boiling rice, a good rule of thumb is to fill the water in the pan and cover the rice up to about your first digit. Boil on high until you see little craters and the water receding into the rice. Then cover and reduce the heat until done.
To prevent boil over: If you rub some butter or oil along the inside rim of the pot, it will reduce or prevent the pot from boiling over.
Dotting casseroles or other dishes: When a recipe calls for you to “dot” the top with butter, it can be a messy process with soft butter. In the future, try keeping a stick of butter in the freezer. By using a vegetable peeler or grater, you can evenly distribute the butter over your dish with no mess.
Soften: To quickly soften butter that happens to be frozen or chilled, just grate the amount needed, it will be soft in no time. You can also invert a heated bowl over a stick of butter for a few minutes to quicken the softening process.
Make a throw-away pastry bag: Take a zippered bag. Trim a corner with scissors and place a frosting tip and coupling into the end. Spoon in your frosting for a disposable bag.
To fill: For ease of filling, put the bag in a tall drinking glass and pull the top of the bag over the edge of the glass.
To prevent boil over: When cooking pasta, rub or spray the sides of your pot with oil; this will prevent boiling over.
To store: When you have extra cooked pasta, store individual portions in zippered bags and put in the freezer. In a pinch, throw the frozen pasta in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until heated. The frozen crystals melt and steam the pasta to perfection!
To clean: The best way to clean fresh parsley is to cut off the long stems and wash in your salad spinner until there are no traces of sand.
To store: Fresh parsley can be dried or frozen for later use. For either method, wash and dry parsley then chop. To freeze, place in a plastic zipper bag and freeze. To dry, spread chopped parsley evenly on a baking sheet and place in a 200 degree oven and remove from oven when completely dry. Store dried parsley in an airtight container.
To prevent dripping when pouring, tilt the pan as you normally would to pour out the contents only continue turning the pan in the same direction until you do a complete rotation. When turning the pan completely around, that last drip slides back into the pan itself instead of your counter.
When cooking I like to have all my ingredients already measured next to where I am working. In the early days I would use several bowls but you can use your regular or mini muffin tin. Just pre-measure and dump into each section of the tin and you’ve only got one item to wash.
To reduce tears: To reduce the amount of onion oils that make you tear, put your peeled onion in the freezer for about 5 minutes prior to cutting.
To dice: While many of you know how to dice an onion, this tip is safer and easier. Cut an onion in half and peel the outer layers from each half almost to the root. Do not take the outer layers off as this will be your handle. Hold onto the layers in a bunch to hold the onion half then slice vertically and horizontally for perfect dice.
To reduce cooking time: Making caramelized onions takes forever, but you can speed up the process by placing the sliced onions in your microwave.
Onion Leftovers: If you need only 1/2 of an onion, save the root half. It will last longer.
To mix: The next time you make meatloaf, put all ingredients in a zippered plastic bag and knead the ingredients in the bag. No mess! You can also use your potato masher to mix ingredients and also keep those hands grease free.
To make a meatloaf that cooks faster, don’t use a loaf pan. Instead, mold your loaf on a cookie sheet or metal pie plate lined with foil or parchment. The longer and skinnier you make it, the faster it will cook. As an added bonus, you won’t have a pan to clean and will have more browned crust.
For individual portions: Divide the meatloaf into muffin tins. This will not only cook faster, it’s great for kids too.
To prevent sticking in pan: Meatloaf will not stick if you place a few strips of bacon on the bottom of the pan.
To reduce clean up: Keep extra large zippered plastic bags on hand for the next time you want to marinate almost anything. Drop your fish or meat, vegetables and your marinade into the bag and ensure the ingredients are coated with the marinade. When you are ready to cook, simply throw out the bag – no mess and, of course, less time!
Get more juice: select a lemon with a thin skin. Before juicing, put the whole lemon in the microwave for about 15 seconds, and you might even double the amount of juice you get. If you don’t have a microwave, submerging your lemon in hot water for 15 minutes before squeezing will yield much more juice.
Storing: Never waste that extra lemon juice. Store it in your ice cube trays and freeze.
To peel a kiwi, insert an apple corer through the stem. Then take a teaspoon and guide it between the skin and the meat of the fruit. Turn the spoon around the fruit and the peel should slip off. You can also cut the kiwi in half lengthwise, then slip the spoon between the meat and the skin.
To remove pin bones: Some fish, like salmon, have pesky bones that are hard to remove and unpleasant to bite into. To resolve this problem, drape your filet over an upside-down bowl. The curve of the bowl makes the little bones stick up for easy removal with tweezers.
To thaw quickly: Put frozen fish in a zippered freezer bag and submerge in a bowl filled with water.
To remove freezer burn taste: Try thawing frozen fish in milk. The milk draws out the freezer taste and provides a fresh-caught flavor.
To decorate: To put attractive scalloped edges on cucumber slices, scrape the outside with the tines of a fork lengthwise over the peeled or unpeeled cucumber, then slice.
To remove seeds: Slice the cucumber lengthwise and use a grapefruit spoon to scrape out the seeds. Works like a charm.
To save for iced coffee, put any leftover coffee in an ice cube tray and freeze. The next time you have iced coffee, use your “coffee” cubes instead of ice and your beverage won’t water down. This also works well for iced tea if you have any leftover tea.
To clean the coffee pot: Put soiled pot on the bottom rack of your dishwasher and run.
To remove juice from a fresh coconut: use a waiter’s style wine cork puller. Simply corkscrew into the nut’s eye an inch or so, hold the bottleneck jack against the nut’s shell and pull out the corkscrew with its plug of coconut meat as if you were pulling out a cork. This will produce a quarter-inch diameter hole for draining out the coconut juice. A little more effective than the traditional screwdriver.
To make the opening of clams easier, put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will relax them so that you can insert the clam knife more easily. Note that larger clams may take a little longer. If the juice has turned icy, just let them sit for a few minutes before serving.
When serving clams casino or clams or oysters on the half shell, present them on a platter of rock salt. This will not only look pretty, it will prevent them from slipping.
To ensure that your fresh clams are free of sand, try soaking them in fresh water, sprinkle some pepper flakes on top and wait an hour or two for them to spit out those pesky grains of sand.
Another option: try soaking them in fresh water and add a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper.
Remove corn silk: An easy way to remove corn silk from corn on the cob is to take a damp paper towel and rub it along the cob.
Husking: To make husking corn much easier, lay cob on your cutting board and simply cut off each end. You can roll and remove all the husk easily.
When boiling corn on the cob: Instead of adding salt to the boiling water, add a pinch of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness of the corn.
To take corn off the cob, place the ear of corn on top of the center of a bundt pan. Slice the kernels off the cob and they will fall into the pan. Also a nice option is to invert a smaller bowl into an upright larger bowl. Remove the smaller, inverted bowl when done and voila.
To remove the pit from an avocado, slice the avocado in half lengthwise and pull it apart. Instead of digging out the pit, hold the half with the pit in your left hand and with your right hand stab it lengthwise with a knife. The pit will stick to the blade and can be pulled out easily without damaging the avocado.
To mash avocados: Instead of using a fork, use a pastry cutter to mash avocados for guacamole. It works much faster than a fork, and because of the shape of the pastry cutter you can get around the bowl easily.
To keep the color: The next time you make guacamole, reserve the pit of the avocado and place it in the middle of your guacamole dip. It will slow down the time it takes to turn brown and keep it bright green longer.
To store extra: Even though tomato paste comes in tiny cans, we often just need a little bit for our dishes and have most of the can left over. The next time you need a small amount of your canned tomato paste, don’t throw it out. First, put the can in the freezer. When mostly frozen, remove both ends of the can. Use one of the lids to push out the paste. On a cutting board slice the rings into the desired amount and freeze the disks for use later. Brilliant!
Another option is to fill a few ice cube portions with your leftover paste and freeze for use at another time. When needed, the paste will pop right out for your next dish.
Every summer my children get dressed up in Halloween costumes for a July trick-or-treat. Since there are no pumpkins available in August, we hollow out watermelons and make Jack-o-lanterns while we sit outside passing out candy to the ghosts and goblins. The next night we use the watermelon as a centerpiece on our outside table.
To ripen most: Wrap them in newspaper or brown paper bag and put in a warm place for 2-3 days. The ethylene gas they emit will make them ripe. Or, put unripe fruit in a paper bag, close the top, and leave it at room temperature. Check after a few days. Fruits like mangoes, kiwi, pears and nectarines ripen especially well with this method.
If you run out of propane while grilling many times until I learned this trick: Boil 1-2 cups of water. Tilt your propane tank, pour the hot water over it, and put your hand on the tank. Where the metal is warm, there is no gas; where it is cool indicates the level of propane you have left.
Prevent buildup on hands: Use one hand for the wet part (egg) and the other hand for the dry (flour or breadcrumbs). Keeping the wet from the dry will eliminate a buildup of batter on your hands and makes cleaning up easier.
You can also put sheet of wax paper or parchment on the plate before putting the flour or breadcrumbs. Lift the corners of the paper until the meat is covered.
Another option is when you need to coat foods with bread crumbs, batter, or flour, place the coating in a zipper lock freezer bag or any plastic bag and shake.
Help coating stick: After coating chicken, place in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes before you fry it.
To boil: When boiling an egg, add salt to the water. This will separate the membrane between the shell and the egg for easy peeling. When separating eggs, try breaking them into a funnel; the yolk will stay put and the whites will come through. This also helps you get the most egg white from your egg. Note that cold eggs are the easiest to separate because the yolks are more firm than room temperature eggs.
When poaching eggs, add a pinch of salt and a little white vinegar to keep the egg intact.
To crack an egg, always use a flat surface like a counter. If you crack it on the side of a bowl, for instance, it will not break evenly.
To prevent boiled eggs from cracking, add about two tablespoons of white vinegar for every quart of water before boiling. The eggs will not crack and will peel easier.
To remove broken shell: If you have a piece of eggshell in the bowl, scoop it out with the shell in your hand; the shell will attract the broken piece and make it easier to retrieve the broken piece.
To make deviled eggs with no mess, put eggs yolks from hard boiled eggs into a zippered plastic bag. Put in remaining deviled egg ingredients, close bag and mix. When finished, cut a small tip off corner of bag and squeeze into egg white. When finished, throw bag away. You won’t have a mess.
To poach in advance: Kept in a container, eggs can be poached well in advance by storing in a bowl of cool water. When needed simply drop eggs in simmering water for 30 seconds before serving. This is especially great when entertaining.
To remove a broken egg from the carton: Wet the carton with water and the egg should slip out.
To bring to room temperature faster: To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place them in a bowl of warm – not hot – water for 5 to 10 minutes. Generally, it is better to cook with room temperature eggs than cold ones.
For the best French fries let cut potatoes stand in cold water for one hour before frying. Dry thoroughly. Fry them just a few minutes and blot off the grease. Fry a second time until golden brown. Put them in a brown paper bag. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and shake. You will drain and salt in one action.
To soften: If you need a small amount, simply take that rock hard sugar and grate what you need. Another alternative is to put a slice of fresh bread in a container with the sugar. It should be soft again in just a few hours. For future use, store sugar in an airtight container or zippered bag.
To store: To keep potatoes from sprouting, put an apple in the potato bag.
To reduce baking time: Drop the potatoes in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, remove; pierce with fork and bake as usual. You can also put the potatoes in the microwave for about 10 minutes prior to baking and get the same result.
To keep from budding: Put an apple in the bag in the refrigerator
To keep raw potatoes from turning brown: Place in cool bowl of water with lemon juice or vinegar – About 1 tablespoon for every cup of water.
To whiten cut potatoes that have already turned brown: Place them in a pan of milk at a bare simmer.
Store extra batter: To keep pancakes on hand anytime, make extra batter on the weekend and store in the freezer in a zippered bag. When needed, microwave the bag for a minute or two and viola! Weekend pancakes during the week. Another way to prepare pancakes if you expect a time crunch on a working day is to make batter the night before and put in a squeeze container for instant use the next morning. To make fun shapes (especially for kids), place cookie cutters on a griddle, fill with pancake batter and see your favorite fun shapes come to life!