Cooking Secrets

  1. To get more juice from a lemon, heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds, roll it on your work surface, then squeeze.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate shavings. For firmer, larger shavings, warm the chocolate briefly in the microwave.
  3. Measuring properly is crucial for successful baking. Use dry measures (stand-alone cups in specific sizes) for flour and sugar. Use standard measuring cups for liquids. Do not use dry measures as scoops. Scoop flour, for example, into the cup with a large spoon, then use a knife to level off the top.
  4. To peel a garlic clove, rap it sharply but lightly with the side of a knife. The papery peel will separate from the flesh.
  5. Before adding toppings to a pizza crust, condition the dough with a light brushing of olive oil. This barrier helps prevent sogginess.
  6. Spray a spoon or measuring cup with oil before measuring honey, molasses or corn, cane and maple syrups. They will slip out easily. Running hot water over the spoon or cup also works, but not as well.
  7. Toss blueberries (especially frozen ones) lightly with flour before baking them in a loaf or cake. This helps prevents them from staining the surrounding dough. (Use some of the flour from the recipe instead of adding extra.)
  8. To make chocolate chip cookies that look magazine picture-perfect, don’t fold all your chips into the batter. Arrange some on top of the cookies before popping them in the oven.
  9. Mince garlic with salt. It will jump around less and be easier to chop into a paste if desired.
  10. Instead of cutting cold butter into bits for pastry dough, grate it in the large holes of a box grater.
  11. Help prevent meringue from weeping by spreading it on while the filling is hot. Spread it all the way to the edges to seal in the filling.
  12. Instead of messing around trying to oil the barbecue grate, lightly coat the outside of your meat or burger patty with oil.
  13. Egg whites whip better when at room temperature. For maximum fluff, start with a dry bowl without a speck of fat in it. Some people even wipe the bowl with vinegar.
  14. Before frosting a cake, line your platter with two sheets of waxed paper that overlap in the middle, or with four strips arranged in a square. Put the cake on top. After frosting, pull out the paper and, voilà, clean platter.
  15. Meat will be moister if you let it sit before cutting. This allows the juices to redistribute and re-absorb.
  16. Cook meat slightly underdone, then let it sit, tented with foil. The temperature will rise and it will continue to cook briefly.
  17. Cooking with wine is not an excuse to dump your swill. Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t want to drink. I like to match the nationality of the wine to the dish. Example: try a barbera or sangiovese in Italian ragu.
  18. Are your stir-fries missing that Chinese restaurant texture? The Chinese use a technique called velveting to make their chicken, shrimp and pork shiny, slippery and tender. The meat sits about half an hour in a mixture of cornstarch, egg whites, seasonings and cooking wine or sherry. Then it is blanched in oil or, more healthfully, boiling water before being drained and used in stir-fries.
  19. Coconut cream is sold in Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find any, get a can of non-premium coconut milk that has separated into liquid at the bottom and thick cream at the top. Scoop the cream.
  20. To discourage cheesecake from cracking as it cools, run a thin spatula around the edge.
  21. After mixing pancake batter, let it sit for five minutes before cooking. This allows the flour to suck up moisture and makes the pancakes fluffier.
  22. Nuts tend to sink in cakes and loaves. To help prevent this, toast them or toss them in a bit of flour from the recipe before adding them to the batter.
  23. You don’t need to cut the ends off green beans. Snap off the stems by hand and leave the cute little squiggle at the other end.
  24. If you add too much salt to a soup or stew, drop in a raw potato and boil for 5 minutes. When you remove the potato, the overt salty taste will be gone
  25. When making soup, to absorb the grease that settles to the top, place a leaf of lettuce on the top of soup while cooking. Remove when it has done its job
  26. Sprinkle a little salt in your frying pan before cooking to keep the grease from splattering.
  27. Cut the Fat: removing fat from homemade soup with a paper towel or skimming it is a messy and slow process. Simply add three or four ice cubes and the fat will congeal around them so you can remove it with a spoon. You may need to reheat a little when you are done.
  28. Have you ever wondered why your muffin tops turned out flat instead of having a pretty peak?
  29. It wasn’t your fault. It was the recipe. In order to get a peak on a muffin, the oven has to be hot enough to “set” the outside of the muffin but allow the inside to rise and remaining moist. In baking, if the goods get hot on top first, it seals and stops rising. Many recipes do not allocate a high enough temperature to create an ideal muffin peak. The oven temperature must be at least 400 — 450 degrees. You want the muffin to heat from the bottom up. Consider pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in the lower third of the oven, about 8 inches from the oven floor. When you’re ready to place muffins in the oven, place the muffins on the heated pizza stone or baking sheet and turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees.
  30. Have you ever wondered why some green vegetables like asparagus or green beans are a beautiful bright green after cooking and others are not? All green vegetables are green because they contain chlorophyll. The vibrant green created by the chlorophyll will change if magnesium from the chlorophyll compound is lost. Unfortunately, the chlorophyll in the vegetable cells loses its magnesium easily when heated or when it comes in contact with acid that’s produced due to cell breakdown of the vegetable. Therefore cook green vegetables for less than 7 minutes in order to retain their bright color.
  31. to ripen a hard rock avocado, place it in a brown paper bag with a couple of apples. Close the bag loosely to concentrate the ethylene. The avocados will be nearly ripe the next day.
  32. Chocolate Cake. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to your cake mix for a more delicious chocolate cake.
  33. Pancakes. Add a little sugar to your batter of pancakes and waffles to make them brown more quickly.
  34. Pie Pastry. To create flakier pastry, substitute a teaspoon of vinegar for one teaspoon of cold water called for in the recipe.
  35. Refrigerate all stocks, stews, and soups and remove the congealed fat before reheating.
  36. Spaghetti Sauce. Add a pinch of soda bicarbonate to spaghetti sauce to remove any acid taste from the tomatoes.
  37. Tender Meat. Putting one to two tablespoons of vinegar on your meat helps in tenderizing the meat while you are cooking.
  38. Vanilla. Make your own vanilla concentrate by placing two split and chopped vanilla pods in a liter of vodka or bourbon.