I love to cook: filling my kitchen with the smells of fresh baking, then sharing the results of that baking with hopefully-appreciative friends. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t times when I dread stepping into my kitchen. Sometimes, even little things, like avoiding a mess, turn into a big headache. Thankfully, with these kitchen hacks, the kitchen becomes easier to manage than ever.
1. Pry Open Those Jars
There’s not always someone around to call into the kitchen to crack open a jar for you. Instead of wasting your time and energy, grab a rubber band, wrap it around the lid of the jar, and crank it open! If that still doesn’t work, cover it with a dishtowel and try again. It should help that stubborn lid pop right off.
2. Fix Your Butter
Ever melted more butter than you needed? Need to take it back to solid form again? Place your melted butter in a bowel, then drop that bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. It will quickly resolidify, allowing you to store it more easily.
3. Skip the Measuring Mess
Measuring sticky liquid sweeteners can leave your measuring cups gummed up and honey, agave, or maple syrup everywhere. Not anymore! For small measurements, heat the spoon or dip it in oil before measuring. For measuring cups, spritz with cooking spray for a much smoother measurement (and easier release, so that everything actually ends up in your recipe). If your recipe includes a liquid oil measurement, use the same measuring cup you use for your sweetener, but measure the oil first: it will help the sticky substance slid right out of the cup.
4. Put Life Back in Your Leftover Pizza
Leftover pizza is almost as good as the first time you ate it. Unfortunately, it’s not always the same texture you’d hope for. When you put it in the microwave, place a microwave-safe cup or mug of water in with it. This hint of moisture in the air will make a much better pizza.
5. Keep Your Food Fresh Longer
Struggling with cake going stale on the counter? Store it with slices of bread. They will help keep your cake moist and fresh (though it will still keep longer in the fridge or freezer. Have nuts that have gone rancid due to sitting in the cabinet too long? Try freezing them to prolong their life and keep those natural oils. Tomatoes rotting on the counter? Store them upside down (and remember to keep them at room temperature, not in the fridge.)
Another important fruit and vegetable fresh hack: scrub fruits and vegetables down with water mixed with a little baking soda as soon as they enter the house. This will remove pesticides and help your fruit last longer.
6. Make Better Boiled Eggs
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to pick each piece of shell off of an egg individually. When you boil your eggs, use vinegar or baking soda in the water. It will permeate the shell of the egg and make them easier to peel without impacting the taste of your finished egg.
7. Keep Your Cast Iron Shining
Using salt, not soapy water, will prevent rust in your cast iron and extend its life (and prevent you from having to re-season it, which can be a long process).
8. Keep that Onion Smell Out of the Kitchen
When you’re adding onions to your recipe, you want that pungent flavor. That doesn’t mean, however, that you want the scent throughout your entire kitchen! Peel and slice the onion, then drop it into a cold bowl of water for a few minutes before cooking.
9. Make Your Guests Happier
Need to serve a large buffet to many people? Chill cold dishes or warm hot ones in the microwave ahead of time to help keep food at the ideal temperature while guests wait for everyone to be served.
10. Make Plastic Wrap Easier to Use
Tired of plastic wrap that just doesn’t stretch the way you want it to? Store it in the fridge, instead of on the shelf. This will make it easier to stretch your plastic wrap the way it’s supposed to be used.
11. Extend the Life of Wooden Cutting Boards
You know that you need to clean wooden cutting boards regularly to avoid bacteria buildup, but you don’t want to toss them in the dishwasher, either. To clean wooden cutting boards, use half a lemon dipped in coarse salt to scrub them down. This will help remove bacteria and keep your cutting board looking its best.
12. Make Cupcakes Without Sticking
Need to make cupcakes, but you’re out of cupcake liners? Parchment paper will serve the same purpose in a pinch. It’s also great for baking under cakes and brownies to make them easier to get out of the pan.
13. Keep Your Fruit Perfect
Sometimes, we buy fruit–bananas, avocados, and so on–before it’s fully ripe. Unfortunately, this can mean a long wait before your fruit is ready to eat! Toss it in a paper bag and leave it overnight or for a couple of days to speed up the ripening process.
Need to keep peeled, cut fruit from browning? Squeeze lemon juice over it or toss with a mixture of one part honey to two parts water. This simple addition will keep your fruit fresh longer.
14. Slim Down Stocks, Soups, and Stews
Sometimes, you don’t want excess fat in your soups or sauces. Try skimming an ice cube across the top of the surface of the liquid using a slotted spoon. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to remove with a spoon or a piece of toasted bread. Make sure that your guests aren’t gluten-free if you use this method!
15. Get More Juice for Your Lemon
Need to get plenty of juice out of your lemon? Refrigerate it before use. Right before you use it, pop it in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. Then, roll it on the counter. This will make it much easier to get the right amount of juice out of your lemon.
16. Grate Soft Cheese with Ease
Soft cheese can be a serious pain to grate. By freezing mozzarella or other soft cheeses for about 30 minutes, however, you can make a harder cheese that is much easy to grate without sacrificing that fresh-grated flavor.
17. Make Boiling Pasta, Rice, and Other Products Easier
Tired of water splashing all over your stove when you’re boiling something on the stove? Simply place a wooden spoon over the top of the pot to prevent boil-over.
With these kitchen hacks, it’s easier than ever to get in the kitchen and prepare fantastic food for the people you love most–and the best part is, your loved ones will feel as though you’ve slaved over the meal for them!