Cooking Tips

50 Tiny Skills to Improve Your Cooking Today

Make these small, doable tweaks in your kitchen to save time and money and make your food taste better.

Published Jan. 1, 2022.

At America's Test Kitchen, our goal is to make you a better cook. We also want to save you time, save you money, and make your food taste better. So pick a number, any number, and commit to that tiny tip. Heck, learn all 50.

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1. Whisk side to side, not in a loop. (You generate more whisk strokes per minute.)

2. Try cooking your pasta in broth

3. Want stronger-tasting garlic? Grate it. Want more mellow garlic? Slice it. 

4. When making grilled cheese, butter the exterior of the bread instead of adding butter to the pan.

5. If you add salt to a dish and it still tastes underseasoned, adding an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice should do the trick.

6. Leave the batter a little lumpy for a fluffier, taller pancake.

7. Get in the habit of labeling and dating your zipper-lock/vacuum-sealer bags before you fill them and store them in the freezer.

8. Want to cook crispy and tender bacon on the stovetop? Add water

9. Keep a trash/compost bowl on your counter as you cook. It keeps you more organized and minimizes trips to the trash bin.

10. Learn to dice onions easier with the leapfrog method:

11. Learn to microwave-fry. Try it with capers or olives to get a crispy, crunchy topping in minutes.

12. Taking photos of your food? Here's a tip from an expert: Angle the camera overhead next to a daylight window.

13. When storing nonstick pans, place paper plates between the pans to prevent them from getting scratched.

14. Memorize the quick pickle technique.

15. Wash your dishes and wipe down your cutting board as you’re cooking. (Your future self will thank you.)

16. Clean your kitchen sponge!

17. Allow food to rest longer than you’d think. This allows its juices to redistribute so that they don’t end up on your cutting board.

18. Speed up the ripening of avocados by placing them inside a paper bag with a banana.

19. For ultracrispy roasted chicken skin, salt the chicken and place it in the fridge uncovered overnight.

20. Want restaurant-quality seared scallops? Use oil on the first side, and then butter-baste on the second side:

21. Add sour cream to your whipped cream.

22. Keep Infinite Sauce in your fridge at all times.

23. Buy an instant-read thermometer. It’s the difference between a good cook and a great cook. (This is our all-time favorite. This one's our favorite inexpensive option.)

24. Before chopping beets (or anything that might stain), spray your cutting board with vegetable oil spray.

25. Always keep cookie dough balls in your freezer.

26. When tackling a new recipe for the first time, read it all the way through twice before starting.

27. Freeze your overripe bananas (and make ice cream with them later).

28. Master the no-splatter steak cooking method.

29. Learn how to spatchcock a chicken (heck, spatchcock a turkey). It saves you roasting time and makes carving a breeze.

30. Use your favorite plates and flatware, even if it’s just for you.

31. Measure your baking ingredients by weight, not volume. (Get a digital kitchen scale!)

32. Put together a music playlist just for cooking.

33. Measuring something sticky like honey or corn syrup? Spray the measuring cup with vegetable oil spray first. 

34. Freeze herbs in ice cube trays. You’ll be able to elevate your sauces at a moment’s notice.

35. Slicing raw meat? Chill it in the freezer for 15 minutes first to firm it up. It’ll be easier to slice than if left at room temperature.

36. Make soups and stews a day ahead and refrigerate them overnight. They’ll taste better.

37. It doesn’t really matter which brand of black pepper you buy. Just make sure that you grind it fresh.

38. The easiest way of poaching eggs? Use your microwave.

39. Sprinkle sugar on your steaks before grilling them.

40. Learn to make Millionaire’s Shortbread and you’ll always have an impressive gift for friends and family:

41. Use a bench scraper to scoop up crumbs and scraps into a trash can or compost bin. Or use it as a tool to lift chopped food into a bowl.

42. Wrap fresh leafy herbs in a damp paper towel inside a zipper-lock bag and put them in the crisper drawer. They’ll last so much longer.

43. Clean your rasp-style grater or fine-mesh strainer immediately after using it, before all those bits of food dry and become impossible to remove. 

44. Think it needs salt? Sugar? Acid? Sprinkle a little onto your tasting spoon before committing.

45. Make restaurant-quality french fries by starting the potatoes in cold oil.

46. Place a damp paper towel or dish towel underneath your cutting board to keep it in place.

47. Fresh herbs starting to lose their oomph? Dry them in your microwave. 

48. Don’t use vegetable oil spray on a nonstick pan. It will gum up the surface.

49. Rinse your white rice until the water runs clear to make it cook up fluffier.

50. Always, always, always taste as you go.

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