Our top 25 kitchen tricks that will change the way you cook

We've put together our favourite tricks and quick solutions to make certain tasks in the kitchen that little bit easier and save you time...

Funfetti layer cake filled with rainbow sprinkes

If you’re a regular cook, you’ll know the “eureka” feeling when you discover a way to cut an everyday kitchen task in half. As our cookery team has spent so many hours writing and triple-testing recipes, they’ve picked up a fair few tricks and tips along the way, so we asked them to impart their wisdom…
 

Scenario #1: My boiled eggs are difficult to peel
Solution: add vinegar

Two boiled eggs with black rice & aubergine

You probably already know that adding a dash of vinegar to egg poaching water helps coagulate the white. But did you know that adding a dash of vinegar to the water when boiling eggs helps the shell peel off more easily? Say goodbye to piles of tiny egg shell shards.

Test this tip out with one of our egg recipes.


Scenario #2: I need to cut dough into specific shapes
Solution: use a pizza cutter

A pizza blade can be wheeled through a sheet of pastry or bread dough with ease, saving you the expense of buying shaped cutters, or having to fiddle around, twizzling the point of a knife into strange angles.

Test this tip out with one of our biscuit recipes.
 

Scenario #3: My herbs are about to go off
Solution: freeze them

Herbs and flower petal in three ice cubes

‘Hard’ herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen whole. When you come to use them, they’ll naturally crumble into pieces, bypassing the mezzaluna completely.

Try this recipe for lemon, pancetta & rosemary turkey.


Scenario #4: My sugar has clumped in the packet
Solution: undo the damage with a slice of bread

If your brown sugar has clumped into pieces, place a piece of soft white bread in the packet and the sugar will break back down into sandy granules in a few hours. To stop it happening again, make sure the storage space is nice and dry.


Scenario #5: My lemons aren't yielding enough juice
Solution: microwave them

Whole and cut up lemons in a bowl

Save yourself the disappointment of an un-squeezy lemon by microwaving it whole for around 20-30 seconds on high. It’s just enough time to release the juices, but be careful not to go overboard and dry the flesh out.

Try one of our zesty lemon recipes.

Scenario #6: I’ve run out of bread
Solution: make instant flatbread

If you have plain flour in the cupboard, you always have bread on hand. Just take one mug of plain flour combined with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil per person, then slowly add cold water until it’s a soft, smooth dough which leaves the bowl clean. Divide the dough into balls, roll out to a 2mm thickness then dry fry in a non-stick pan. They’ll only take a few moments and are ready when both sides have golden brown patches all over.

Make this Indian flatbread recipe.
 

Scenario #7: I have a rind of Parmesan I don’t want to waste
Solution: use it as seasoning

Parmesan cheese slice

While the hard rind of cheese such parmesan, pecorino and Grana Padano is difficult to grate, it’s a shame to waste such an expensive byproduct. But there’s no need to. Add the rind whole when you’re sweating onions in the first stage of making a risotto or sauce. It will impart lots of its flavour but save you taking to it with a chainsaw. Don’t forget to remove it before serving though…

Try using cheese rind in a risotto recipe.

Scenario #8: I’m finding it hard to peel shallots
Solution: boil the kettle

Dinky shallots can be a pain to peel, but cover them in boiling water and the skin loosens, making the process far quicker.

Make this shallot Tartin recipe for a stunning vegetarian main.


Scenario #9: I need breadcrumbs but don’t have a food processor
Solution: get the grater out

WIld garlic chicken Kiev with mixed leaves

Make your own dried breadcrumbs by grating stale bread on the coarse side of a grater, then spread the crumbs in a thin layer over a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 140C, giving them a good shake halfway through. The golden, crispy crumbs will last in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Try our wild garlic chicken Kiev recipe made with panko breadcrumbs.


Scenario #10: I need a marinade for meat with only half-an-hour to cook
Solution: reach for the wine

If you need your meat injected with a short, sharp burst of flavour, choose marinade ingredients wisely. Red wine quickly penetrates meat, giving it a deep colour, while citrus zest and juice tenderises it rapidly.

Try our red wine marinade.


Scenario #11: I’m having a party and don’t have fridge space for drinks
Solution: salt water

Three glasses with red wine, white rose and white wine

Not enough space for your party loot? Save space for food by putting drinks into big tubs, buckets and bowls filled with salted ice water – the salt will cause the temperature to drop, giving you icy cold drinks in seconds.

Browse our cocktail recipes for drinks inspiration.
 

Scenario #12: I want to liven up supermarket pastry
Solution: customise with storecupboard ingredients

Spruce up a shop-bought block of shortcrust by popping it into a food processor with a flavouring like herbs, vanilla, cheese, cocoa powder, honey or spice. All great additons to give your pastry an edge.

Read this guide for five ways with chocolate pastry.


Scenario #13: I need to line a springform cake tin with no fuss
Solution: clamp it

Courgette, lemon & thyme layer cake

Bypass pencil outlines and fiddly scissors when lining a springform cake tin (that's one with a clippable ring and removeable base). Lay the parchment onto the flat base of the tin, then press down and clamp the ring into place on top of it, leaving the edges around the outside to easily tear off.

Try the clamping technique with this showstopping courgette, lemon & thyme cake.


Scenario #14: I want to make an easy rainbow cake
Solution: ditch the liquid food colouring

We love a stripy rainbow cake, but it’s perhaps one for an experienced baker to take on. If you want your sponge to sing with Technicolor joy but need an easier route to success, pick up a tub of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands. Mix some through your sponge batter (not too many) and when you cut a slice of your finished cake, you'll have beautiful polka dots.

Try our rainbow-speckled funfetti cake.
 

Scenario #15: I can't peel a kiwi properly
Solution: scoop out the flesh

To peel a kiwi, just chop off the top and bottom, then push a dessertspoon in between the fruit and the skin. Turn the kiwi until all the skin falls off the back of the spoon.

Watch our video on how to peel a kiwi:

 


Scenario #16: I don’t want my avocado to go brown
Solution: twist it

When you cut the avocado in half, twist into two pieces, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the side without the stone for immediate use. Return the empty skin to the other half, which still contains the stone, using the skin to cover it over. Keeping the stone in and covering with the skin helps retain colour and freshness until the following day.

Check out these avocado recipes.


Scenario #17: I want perfect fried eggs
Solution: steam them

Ham hock topped by fried egg

Achieve the perfect set white and runny yolk with a few splashes of water. Fry the eggs in a non-stick pan and when the whites are almost cooked, put a few drops of water into the pan, quickly cover it with a lid and turn the heat down low, or off completely, and leave for a minute or two to finish cooking. The effect will be a perfect semi-poach.

Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg.


Scenario #18: I can’t keep my pot of herbs alive
Solution: get snipping

As soon as you buy herb plants from the supermarket or greengrocer, remove the plastic wrapping and trim the top leaves quickly to use in your cooking. By trimming off the top leaves first you’ll help the plant shoot out from lower down the stem making it stronger. Water every other day or according to the instructions on the pack.

Scenario #19: I need brown rice to cook quickly
Solution: soak it

Brown rice with soya beans in a bowl

Nutty brown rice can take a long time to cook until tender, so speed up the process by soaking it in water overnight, as you would hard pulses like lentils. It’ll cook far quicker as a result.

Try a recipe with brown rice.
 

Scenario #20: I need a quick white sauce
Solution: cream cheese

Making a roux from flour and butter isn’t too difficult a process, but if time is of the essence, it might be easier to reach into the fridge. A tub of cream cheese watered down until the same consistency as béchamel makes a super simple alternative. If you want to boost the flavour, add a grating of nutmeg. Alternatively, use crème fraîche and grated cheese.


Scenario #21: Garlic cloves are tricky to peel
Solution: don’t bother

Garlic cloves

Garlic cloves are one of the trickiest items to prepare, and if you find it frustrating, invest in a sturdy garlic press, and voilà – the whole clove can be passed through it with the skin intact. It may take a bit of pushing, but once through, the flesh is passed through the holes while the skin is left in the press to be easily removed.

Watch this video for tips on how to crush garlic.


Scenario #22: I need to ramp up the flavour of my dish
Solution: branch out beyond salt and pepper

Don’t just stick with salt and pepper, experiment with other storecupboard seasonings. Try sprinkling a crushed chicken stock cube over a whole chicken before roasting, or add a splash of soy sauce or wine to boost the flavour of your gravy.

Enrich gravy with Madeira wine for a flavour boost.


Scenario #23: My bag of salad leaves is about to go out of date
Solution: cook them

Herb salad with pomegranate & pistachios

Plastic bags of washed and ready-to-eat salad leaves are really convenient but don’t seem to last very long at all, even in the fridge. If you find yourself with leftover leaves, that are starting to lose their crispness, ensure they don’t go to waste. Instead, pop them in a pan with a little olive oil or butter, garlic and seasoning and wilt down as you would for spinach. This works particularly well with leaves like watercress and rocket.

Learn how to build the perfect salad with our handy infographic.
 

Scenario #24: I’m entertaining and need a quick starter
Solution: spice up shop-bought dips

Stir a few extra ingredients through your favourite shop-bought houmous and everyone will think you’ve made it yourself. Add a dash of lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, some ground cumin, smoked paprika or a smidge of harissa paste to give it a kick. Alternatively add a few whole chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil to make it look homemade.

Try our cheat’s lemony spiced houmous.


Scenario #25: I only need a tiny squeeze of citrus, not the whole fruit
Solution: spike it

Full orange slices

Don’t cut a whole orange, lime or lemon and risk the rest going to waste for the sake of one small squeeze of juice. Use a skewer to pierce it to release a few drops without having to break the fruit open.

Have a cheat we’ve not covered? We’d love to hear your hints and tips…

Comments, questions and tips

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joe_woolley82
3rd Oct, 2014
Hi guys, great tips thanks! I've got a correction for the salted ice water tip: adding salt doesn't lower the temperature of the water. It lowers the freezing point i.e. salt will cause your ice to change phase (melt) into the water, but the water will remain the same temperature. That's why we add grit salt to our roads in winter: not to make the roads colder, but to lower the freezing point of the water which melts the ice :)
foodiefil
12th Oct, 2014
*thumbs up* thanks for clarifying! :)
cochrane
2nd Oct, 2014
Brilliant!
annajumps
2nd Oct, 2014
adding onto #9 about breadcrumbs, i find this works even better if you grate frozen bread.
cllewell
1st Oct, 2014
These tips are amazing - I can't wait to give them a go!
Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
deedee16
22nd Oct, 2014
Tip: If you accidentally add too much spice to a curry, cooking half a lemon in the pot for a few minutes and adding a small spoon of sugar will neutralise the spice.
bobbiepotter
2nd Oct, 2014
Chocolate Fondants To ensure perfect liquid middles every time for those tricksy chocolate fondants, half fill the mould and pop in a chocolate truffle sweet then fill as normal. Even if the fondant mix stays a little to long in the oven you will be guaranteed a flowing chocolate centre. Ta da!!