Baking may be a science, and cooking an art, but prep is half the battle for both camps. And while it seems as if onions will always cause tears and cleanly cutting a cake is impossible, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The effort that goes into cooking makes it that much easier to throw in the towel and order takeout instead. But eating out is generally less healthy than cooking at home, and almost always more expensive. Those who regularly cook don’t consume as many calories, carbs, fat, and sugar as people who have the pizza delivery guy on speed dial, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.
Check out these hacks that will simplify the process every step of the way, from the aisles of the grocery store to the dinner table.
Cut Onions Without Crying
Chopping onions may look like emotional work, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Save the tears for someone (or something) else by placing onions in the freezer 15 minutes before cutting. Chilling onions keeps tear-jearker compounds—propanethial S-oxide—at bay by reducing evaporation.
Find Ripe Avocados
Avocados can be a fickle fruit, and knowing when an avocado is ripe is one of cooking’s greatest mysteries. If the stem at the top pulls away from the fruit easily, it’s ready to eat. Avoid squeezing as it can cause undue bruising.
Keep Ice Cream Soft
Eating ice cream is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The same cannot be said for scooping the frozen dessert. Storing pints—or cartons—of ice cream in Ziploc bags in the freezer keeps consistency in check. Proper storage and temperature prevent formation of ice crystals that can mess with ice cream’s creamy texture.
Remove Shells From Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggshells present a multitude of challenges in the kitchen, whether it’s ensuring they don’t end up in the frying pan or removing them from hard-boiled eggs. Cooking eggs for the optimal time is helpful. After cooking, gently tap the top and bottom of the egg, then roll it with the palm of your hand to make the shell come off in one fell swoop.
Roast Peppers Using a Steamer
You can thank the Food Network’s resident smart guy, Alton Brown, for this pepper-roasting hack. Collapsible steamers can double as pepper roasters when placed directly on stove burners. Add the peppers, roast for about seven minutes, cover with a metal bowl, remove from the open flame, and steam for at least 10 minutes.
Prevent Asparagus From Burning
Cooking asparagus evenly can be a challenge, due to its delicate tips and thick stems, which cook at different rates. Baking asparagus by folding the edges of heavy-duty foil into a makeshift pan helps prevent tips from burning. If the tips are fully cooked, but the bottom of the stems still have some time to go, fold the foil over the tips to create a protective blanket.
Put Fruit in Its Place
Assembly is everything when it comes to expertly served sangria. The cream rises to the top, and for all intents and purposes fruit is sangria’s cream. To keep the fruit at the bottom of the glass, add it first, then ice, and then pour the drink.
Replace Knives With Floss
Poorly cut cake is the ultimate party foul. Knives cannot be trusted for a clean cut, but dental floss never fails. Unscented floss works in a few ways. When making a cake, you can cut layers by wrapping the floss around the cake’s perimeter, then crossing the ends and pulling; this makes for a crumb-less cut. After the cake is baked and frosted, floss can help you cut the perfect slice too: Hold each end of the floss tightly, then push it down through the cake, much like you would with the blade of a knife. This trick can also be used for cutting soft cheeses, such as brie, or hard-boiled eggs.
Cut Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
Tiny tomatoes of the grape and cherry variety are fast movers. Cutting them one by one is time-consuming, but that’s not the only way to get the job done. Place tomatoes between two lids (the ones from Tupperware or yogurt containers will do) that are facing each other, and run a serrated knife through the space in the middle of the lids, cutting the whole batch with one quick pass of the blade.
Peel Garlic Without Making Your Hands Smell
Garlic peeling hacks abound, but violently shaking the cloves in a jar is a surefire way to avoid smelling like garlic. The movement will separate the garlic from the skin, so all you have to do is chop.
About the Contributor
TakePart is a digital news and lifestyle magazine featuring independent journalism on today’s most important, socially relevant topics, alongside a social action platform. TakePart is the digital division of Participant Media, the company behind Pivot Television Network and acclaimed documentaries such as CITIZENFOUR, An Inconvenient Truth, and Food, Inc. and feature films such as Lincoln and Spotlight. For more content like this, please visit takepart.com.