Kitchen Tricks & Tips

These are some tips which I learnt from my experience while cooking, some from my mom,sister and friends.

Imp Note: You can read the tips and utilize, but please do not copy and republish in your blogs/websites :)

Before making any item, read the recipe carefully and prepare all ingredients. Chop or slice vegetables if required. Measure the amount of liquid ingredients (like any sauce, milk, ketch up, oil, etc) and transfer them into small individual bowls.

1. How to peel:

  • To peel the almonds easily, soak them in hot water for 10-15 minutes before starting to peel the skin.
  • Begin by cutting off the amount of ginger you need and then trimming it of any small nubs so that you have a relatively uniform piece to work with.
  • Then, hold the ginger in one hand and use the tip of your spoon to scrape off the peel.
  • You’ll find it comes off very easily and that you get a smoother, more uniform end result than when you use a knife or vegetable peeler.
  • You can also store ginger in the fridge and freezer after it’s peeled, so you don’t have to waste a bit of this rejuvenating root.
  • To remove the skin of garlic cloves easily, rub them with little amount of oil and dry them in sun for 20-30 minutes before peeling.
  • Always buy the freshest garlic you can find; the fresher it is, the sweeter it will be. The best garlic has firm tissue-like skin and should not be bruised, sprouted, soft or shriveled.If you find cloves that have green shoots, discard the shoots — they will only add bitterness
  • After working with garlic, rub your hands vigorously on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds before washing them. It will remove the odor.
  • Boil hazelnuts in baking soda and water (2 cups boiling water to 1 cup hazelnuts and 3 tablespoons baking soda) for a few minutes then immerse them in cold water before you peel the skins away. Apparently this trick is far from new.
  • This process may be a little bit too much for when you just want one or two shallots; it's probably worth it to just hack them up. But when you want to keep them more intact, or when you need over a dozen, this method is helpful.
  • Soak the shallots in boiling water. - Soak for 2-3 minutes, or until the outer skins are softening. It's easiest if you separate the shallots into their individual cloves first.
  • Rinse under cold water. - Stop the shallots from cooking by running them under cold water.
  • Trim. Cut off the top and root ends.At this point, you can squeeze the shallots and try to slip off their skins, which should be loosened by the soaking. If you're going to cut them in half anyway, though, here's one more shortcut.
  • Make a very shallow cut in the top layer. This should go through no more than one layer of the shallot.
  • Peel away the top layer of the shallot and the skin. Skinless shallot! Proceed with halving or mincing.
Roasted Red Peppers:
  • Preheat the broiler of your oven.
  • Cut your peppers in half lengthwise at the stem.
  • Remove the stems and the ribs. To remove the stem, grab the green tip and pull it up, towards you, and snap it away from the pepper body. Pinch the ribs out with your fingers. Turn the pepper halves upside down and gently tap them against the cutting board so the loose seeds fall out.
  • Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Place the pepper halves, cut side down, on the baking sheet and brush them lightly with the oil.
  • Place them about 3 to 4 inches under the broiler. After about 10 minutes, the skins will start to blister and blacken. When they are evenly blackened and blistered, remove from oven.
  • Using tongs, place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal it. Set aside. Wait 15 to 20 minutes.
  • After 15 to 20 minutes, the peppers should be cool enough to handle and the skins will easily peel off.
  •  As we rarely have need for a whole, peeled apple, cut apple into quarters before peeling. Then pull the peeler horizontally across the top of the chunk, taking off a tiny strip (about 1/4-inch), just to give us a place for the peeler to "grab" when we start peeling downward.
  • Then simply pull the peeler down vertically, taking off 1/2-inch strips as we go.
  • Once the chunk is peeled, do the same horizontal move across the bottom to remove the final bit of peel.
5 Uses of Apple Peels:
  • Make jelly: Any apple peels will do, but red colored ones make an especially lovely jelly.
  • Brew tea: Pink tea! We can't wait to try this recipe.
  • Add to oatmeal: Store peels in the freezer and add them to simmering oatmeal along with raisins and cinnamon. For a finer texture, process the peels in a blender first.
  • Add to smoothies: Throw some frozen apple peels into a smoothie for extra fiber.
  • Clean aluminum cookware: The acid in apple peels can remove stains and discoloration from aluminum pots and pans. Fill the pan with water, add apple peels, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Make a small X at the base of the peach with a paring knife.
  • Dip in boiling water for about 30 seconds.
  • Slip off the skins.
2. How to Cut:
  • Peel and cut onion into two halves and soak in a bowl of water for 15 minutes before chopping them. This will save you from burning eyes and runny tears.
  • Ginger can be tricky to peel with all its bumps and irregularities. Rather than using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, reach for the spoon. Scrape it against the skin and it'll come right off, following every contour and minimizing waste.
  • I keep a small handled-strainer in my tool crock next to the stove so that I can quickly cut a lemon or lime in half and squeeze it directly through the strainer into the pot. Much easier than picking out seeds afterwards!
  • To slice avocados for salads or guacamole, split them in half, remove the pit by whacking it with the heel of your knife and twisting it out, then slice it directly in the skin using the tip of a paring knife or chef's knife. When you then scoop it out with a spoon, you'll have slices ready to go, with less mess than trying to fiddle with slippery peeled avocado a cutting board.
  • When chopping herbs, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around.
  • Lay the corn horizontally on a board, then cut off the kernels.After cutting corn off the cob, use the back side of a knife (not the blade side) to scrape the cob again to extract the sweet milk left behind. This milk adds flavor and body to any corn dish.
  • When using fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley, add whole stems to salads and sandwiches, and chop and stir leaves into salsas and guacamole.
  • To optimize the juice you get from a lemon or lime, roll it hard under your palm for a minute before juicing. (Or — never say I told you this — microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds.)
  • Reduce the heat of chiles by removing the seeds. My method is making four straight cuts down the sides. This will create four long slivers, and the cluster of seeds will remain in the center of the chile. The result will be less heat and more great flavor.
                     1. Slice lengthwise along one side of the chile, keeping the stem and seedpod intact.
                     2. Turn the chile and slice off another side; repeat to remove the other two sides.
                     3. Once you have removed all the flesh, discard the stem and seeds.

  • Start by cutting the head of cauliflower in half and then into quarters through the core.
  • All the florets are attached to this core by their own little stems. Separating them is a simple matter of running your knife between the florets and the stem to cut it out.
  • Once you've removed the stem, the cauliflower will naturally fall apart into large florets.
  • You can break these large florets down into smaller, bite-sized florets with your knife. Use the tip of your knife like a wedge to cut away the smaller florets growing off the sides. The big ones can just be cut into quarters. You can also use your fingers to snap apart the florets.
  • The stems are edible, though very fibrous. If you want to cook them, start steaming or roasting them a little ahead of time to give them a jumpstart on cooking before you add the florets.
  • Halve the avocado as you normally would, by cutting around the perimeter, lengthwise.
  • With the cut side UP (this is less stable but more effective at getting through the skin without mashing the avocado), cut into slices.
  • Peel the strip of skin off of each slice.
  • Cut each slice into chunks.
3.Cooking Tips:
  • A cast-iron pan is a valuable kitchen ally. It offers an even cooking surface and is a breeze to clean.
  • Always start with a smokin' hot pan!
  • Don't overcrowd the pan when you're sauteing — it'll make your food steam instead.
  • Want to know if your oil is hot enough for frying? Here’s a tip: Stick a wooden skewer or spoon in the oil. If bubbles form around the wood, then you are good to go.
  • If you find you need more oil in the pan when sauteing, add it in a stream along the edges of the pan so that by the time the oil reaches the ingredient being cooked, it will be heated.
  • When you’re going to saute garlic, slice it rather than mincing it — it's less likely to burn that way.
  • To make melt in the mouth paneer curry, soak paneer cubes in hot water for 10 minutes before using them in recipe.
  • To make French fries crisp, first deep-fry them until half done and then store in a container or cover with a plastic wrap and place in freezer section of refrigerator for 4-5 hours. Deep-fry again just before serving.
  • Add a pinch of sugar while boiling or cooking green leafy vegetables to retain their bright green color/Plunge vegetables in ice water after blanching (boiling) them so they maintain a bright color.
  • When making mashed potatoes, after you drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pan, cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. This allows the potatoes to dry out so they'll mash to a beautiful texture and soak up the butter and cream more easily.
  • To keep each rice grain separate after cooking and to retain its white color, add 2-3 drops of lemon juice while cooking.
  • If you're cooking cauliflower, add a bit of milk to the water with salt to keep the cauliflower bright white. Shock it in cold water to stop the cooking and then serve.
  • To give extra richness to Indian curry, use cashew nut paste, milk or poppy seed paste instead of coconut milk as base for gravy.
  • If your curry or dal has become salty by mistake then do not throw it away. Just add peeled and diced half-raw potato in it and boil for 5 minutes and discard the potato. Potato absorbs the extra salt.
  • To prevent diced eggplant (brinjal) and potato from turning brown, put them in a bowl of water.
  • When you deep-fry, hold each piece of food with long tongs as you add it to the oil. Hold it just below the oil's surface for five seconds before releasing it. This will seal the exterior and stop it from sticking to the pot or the other food.
  • To get nice, crispy caramelization on roasted vegetables, simulate the intense heat of an industrial oven: Bring your oven up as hot as it goes, then put an empty roasting or sheet pan inside for 10 to 15 minutes. Toss the vegetables — try carrots or Brussels sprouts — with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them on the hot pan. This method will give you the high heat you need to caramelize the sugars in the vegetables quickly.
  • For an easy weeknight meal, save and freeze leftover sauces from previous meals in ice cube trays. The cubes can be reheated in a sauté pan when you need a quick sauce.
  • Season all of your food from start to finish. Seasoning in stages brings the most out of your ingredients and gives you the most flavor.
  • For perfect vegetable soup, start with diced carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes sautéed in oil or butter before you add any liquid. This brings out the taste and caramelizes the sugars.
  • Keep flavored vinegars near the stove so you won't always reach for the salt. Acid enhances flavor.
  • When a recipe calls for zest, instead of grating it into a separate container or onto parchment paper, hold the zester over the mixing bowl and zest directly onto the butter or cream. The aromatic citrus oils that are sprayed into the bowl will give the dessert a zesty finish.
  • Don't dress the salad when having a big party. Leave it on the side and let the people do it themselves. I've had too many soggy salads because of this.
  • Caramelize onions very quickly by cooking them in a dry nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. They will caramelize beautifully in a lot less time than with traditional methods.
  • When making caramel, use a nonstick pot. That way, when you pour the mixture out, there is no waste, and cleaning the pot is a breeze.
  • Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.
  • Whenever you cook pasta, remove some of the pasta-cooking water (about 1/4 or 1/3 cup) just before draining. When you add the sauce of your choice to the pasta, add a little of the cooking liquid. This helps sauce to amalgamate; the starch in the water adds body and a kind of creaminess. An old Italian friend of mine instructed me in this finishing touch early on, and I would never, ever leave it out. It makes all the difference.
  • Do not use oil in the water when boiling pasta: It will keep the sauce from sticking to the cooked pasta.
  • Do not throw away the nutritious leftover water in which vegetables were boiled. Use it to make dough of paratha or chapati or for making gravies.
  • To make your daily breakfast parathas more healthy and nutritious, add either crushed sweet corn, pureed spinach, grated radish, grated cabbage, fenugreek leaves or boiled and mashed vegetables while preparing the dough.
  • To make chapatis and rotis soft, always bind smooth and soft dough and let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before making them.
  • To make a great sandwich, spread the mayonnaise from corner to corner on the bread. People rush this step and just do a swoosh down the middle. Every bite should be flavorful. Now that's a sandwich!
  • Always season meat and fish evenly; sprinkle salt and pepper as though it's "snowing." This will avoid clumping or ending up with too much seasoning in some areas and none in others.
  • Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan, then place the chicken on top. The onion will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about 3 minutes on high heat.
  • Season fish simply and cook it with respect. The flavor of the fish is what you want. When it comes off the grill or out of the oven or pan, finish it with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Always. There is just something about lemon and fish that is heavenly.
  • If you don't have time to brine your chicken, use this simple trick: Heavily salt the chicken (inside and out) about an hour before you cook it. Then pat it dry and roast. This ensures crispy skin and juicy meat.
  • Use a cake tester to test the doneness of fish, meat and vegetables. It's my secret weapon — I use it in the kitchen to test everything.
  • For crispy fish skin, rest the fish on paper towels skin-side down for a few minutes before cooking (the towels absorb moisture). Then saute skin-side down over medium heat in oil and butter. Flip over for the last few minutes of cooking.
Baking Tips:
  • The smaller the item, the higher the baking temperature. For example, I bake mini chocolate chip-toffee cookies at 500 degrees F for only 4 minutes. Perfect end result.
  • For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight.
  • Invest in parchment paper for lining pans. It makes all of your baked goods super easy to remove, and it makes cleanup a dream (no butter-flour mixture or errant batter to scrape off).
  • When baking cookies, be sure your dough is thoroughly chilled when it goes on your baking pan. This will allow the leavening ingredients to work before the butter flattens out and your cookies lose their textural distinctions.
  • To prevent an under- or overdone cake, get an oven thermometer—it’s the best way to be sure your oven is calibrated correctly. Bake the cake in the middle (too close to the top or bottom can cause overbrowning). Gently close the oven door—a hard slam can release air bubbles trapped in the batter. To check for doneness, lightly press the center of the cake; if it springs back, it’s done. Or insert a wooden pick; it should come out clean.
  • Pan size is specified in recipes because a cake increases in volume 50 to 100 percent during baking; if your pan is too small, the cake could overflow. Color is important, too; glass or dark nonstick pans usually require a 25-degree reduction in baking temperature versus silver-colored aluminum pans.
  • Different flours contain varying percentages of protein—the more protein, the more gluten. Cake flour has the least protein and yields extra-light baked goods, like angel food cake. Bread flour has the most and is used for denser items; all-purpose is in the middle and produces tender cakes.
  • Depending on how tightly flour is packed into a measuring cup, you can end up with double the amount intended. That’s why we give flour measurements.
  • The intimate chemistry among key ingredients delivers the foundation for good cake. Flour thickens the batter and provides gluten, a protein that gives the cake structure. It forms when flour is combined with a liquid and agitated. Don’t overmix, which can cause your cake to turn tough. Leaveners, like baking soda or powder, produce carbon dioxide bubbles, which are trapped by the starch in the batter and expand during baking, causing the cake to rise. Fats, like butter, shortening, or oil, help retard gluten formation while providing moisture for the cake. This ensures a tender texture. Sugar breaks up gluten, keeping the texture tender; it absorbs liquid, keeping the cake moist; and it caramelizes in baking, enriching flavors and helping the cake brown. Eggs firm up when cooked, helping cake batters set in the oven. Egg yolks contain fat, as well as lecithin, an emulsifier that allows fats and water to mix smoothly and ensures even texture.
  • Cool cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove from pan. Once cooled, place a plate on top, invert the pan, and gently tap or shake it to release the cake.When it has cooled, run a narrow spatula around the edges, and release onto a plate.
  • Use an offset spatula to frost the top, add the next layer, then coat the whole cake with a thin layer of frosting. (This “crumb coat” holds loose crumbs in place.) Place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, then remove and finish frosting, starting with the top, then the sides.
  • Since there is less air pressure at higher altitudes, cakes rise more and can dry out because liquids evaporate more quickly. If you live above 3,500 feet, follow these guidelines: Increase the oven temperature to 375° and liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup used. Decrease each cup of sugar by 1 tablespoon, each teaspoon of baking powder by ⅛ teaspoon, and the baking time by 5 minutes.
  • Serving cake:
           1. Serve at room temperature.
           2. Don't "pre-slice" cake more than 20 minutes in advance. It dries out too quickly.
           3. You don't have to eat the fondant. It's really pretty, but if you don't want a mouthful of pure sugar, peel it off.

Storing & Freezing Tips:
  • Store spices in a cool, dark place, not above your stove. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor.
  • Do not tightly pack dry ingredients while measuring unless directed in the recipe. Fill measuring cup or measuring spoon with recipe ingredient and then level top surface with a knife to measure the accurate amount.
  • Prolong the lifespan of greens by wrapping them loosely in a damp paper towel and placing in a resealable plastic bag. That local arugula will last about four days longer.
  • The paper towels will even give you a built-in freshness indicator. At the first hint of decay, you'll see darker spots of liquid forming on the paper towels. This is a good sign that you should use up your herbs and greens within a day or two.
  • For chopped or picked herbs, store them in a small deli container with a folded up damp paper towel on top of them.
  • To keep green chillies fresh for longer time, remove and discard its stem before storing in refrigerator.
  • Put 3-4 cloves in sugar tin (container) to keep ants away.
  • Freeze things flat and stack them. Whether it's soups, stews, or ground meat, the flatter and wider you can get them, the faster they'll freeze and defrost, which not only makes you more efficient, it also improves the quality of the food (the longer something takes to freeze, the more cellular damage it will suffer).
  • When freezing raw meat, soups, and stews, if you have a vacuum sealer, use it! Otherwise, place foods in heavy-duty freezer bags, squeeze out all the air, lay the bag flat, and use your hands to work the contents into as flat and even a shape as possible.
  • When freezing vegetables, cut them into pieces 1-inch or less and blanch any green vegetables. Place them on a large plate or sheet tray spaced apart from each other and freeze them solid before transferring to a plastic freezer bag and storing flat.
  • Always make stock in a large quantity and freeze it in plastic bags. That way, when you want to make a nice soup or boil veggies, you can simply pull the bag out of the freezer.
  • Buy fruit at its peak at a farmers' market and freeze it in an airtight container so you can enjoy it year round.

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