The pandemic changed people’s lives in myriad ways. It cost people jobs, reshaped how people worked, and even pushed people to open side or full-time businesses. It also drove a wave of at-home cooking not seen in decades.
Granted, some of that came out of necessity as restaurants closed their doors temporarily or forever in the wake of quarantine orders. Yet, many people who took up even basic cooking as a pandemic requirement caught the cooking bug. Now, they’re wondering how to wring the most from their kitchens.
If that’s you, keep reading for six kitchen life hacks to make your food creation experience even better.
1. Invest in Some Education
No, that doesn’t mean you must enroll in the Culinary Institute of America. Although you could, if you really wanted to. Investing takes on a lot of forms.
You can invest your time by finding good cooking for beginners videos on social media sites like YouTube. You can also invest your time by asking friends or family who are good cooks to show you how to cook a specific meal.
If you’re more serious about cooking, you can invest money in video courses that walk you through essential techniques, such as the differences between simmering and boiling. There is a difference and it does matter.
If you really love the group learning experience, you can even enroll in local cooking classes. These often cater to specific groups or kinds of foods, such as beginners or Italian food.
2. Kitchen Tools, Part 1
One of the easy kitchen hacks is making sure you have the right kitchen tools on hand. It might seem obvious what you need, but it’s easy to overlook some of the essentials. When you’re just starting out, it makes sense to focus on what you can afford.
So, what qualifies as essential kitchen tools?
You’ll need a few pots and pans. You’ll want at least one skillet, a saucepot, and a stockpot. The good news is that you get those in pretty much every set of cookware.
You’ll also want at least one baking sheet or, depending on the house you grew up in, a cookie sheet. You should also get yourself a cake pan because they’re good for more than just cake.
A knife set is preferable, but you should have at least one chef’s knife. They’re very sharp and very versatile.
Get some measuring cups, measuring spoons, and mixing bowls. You’ll also need some large spoons and a spatula. Opt for silicon if you get nonstick cookware.
Beyond that, you’ll want a can opener, peeler, and whisk. You’ll use all of these a lot when cooking at home.
3. Kitchen Tools, Part 2
There is an old chestnut that it’s a poor craftsman that blames their tools. There is a kernel of fact hiding in there. Buying more expensive tools won’t make you better at a skill you never learned.
Once you acquire the basic skills of cooking, though, your kitchen tools do start to matter more. Those cheap aluminum pots and pans aren’t going to let you do the same kinds of things as tri-ply stainless steel cookware. They just won’t stand up to some of the high-heat cooking techniques like pan searing.
By the same token, you start to realize that the $20 kitchen knife set you got doesn’t hold an edge very well. Those dull blades help to explain why you constantly mangle vegetables and meat when you cut them. A quality set, like a Messermeister knife set, will hold up better and provide you with superior results.
4. Baking Is Chemistry
One of the most frustrating things for new cooks is that baking projects fail so often even when your dinner projects turn out fine. Here’s the thing: baking is chemistry. With regular cooking on the stovetop, there is a lot of room for experimentation and a fair of slack as long as you use decent techniques.
Baking doesn’t work that way. You can’t really feel your way through it until you’ve done countless hours of baking. Even then, it’s risky.
The ingredients in baking are set up in very careful and specific ratios to get very specific results. If you want successful baking projects, follow the recipes exactly. Those cookies may not taste exactly like the ones that mom used to make, but they’ll still taste pretty good.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
It may feel trite, but one of the most important cooking tips is that practice makes perfect. The first time you try saute onions, there’s a good chance that you’ll undercook them or overcook them. The same is true for the first time and probably the second, third, and fourth time you try to make scrambled eggs.
You can’t really master a technique unless you do it over and over again. It’s also hard to get those things right until you see them done right, which is where investing in some education comes into the picture.
Keep trying until you get the results you’re looking for from your cooking.
6. Do the Dishes
It might not sound like a cooking hack, but doing the dishes every day is an essential daily kitchen hack. If you leave the dishes, there is a good chance you’ll end up needing a pot, pan, or dish that’s still dirty. If you must wash a dish just to make the meal you want to make, there’s a good chance you won’t make it.
Do the dishes every day to avoid that problem.
Kitchen Life Hacks and You
Kitchen life hacks change as you become a more experienced cook. For example, silicone bakeware is great, but you’ll only understand the value once you master baking essentials.
For beginners, start with the basics. Get yourself the essential kitchen tools. Invest some time or even money in some cooking education with online videos, courses, or classes.
Once you master the basics, invest in better cookware. Always remember that baking is chemistry. Do the dishes every day.
Looking for more kitchen life hacks? Check out the posts in our Cooking Tips section.