Baking Hacks and Cooks Tips

Even the most experienced bakers and cooks can pick up tips from others, experienced or not. Here are a few baking hacks and cooking tips that we’ve picked up over the years. Just a few ways to either save something, re-use something or in some way sweeten the deal. The baking hacks are listed first, followed by all sorts of other cooks tips in somewhat random order.

cooking hacks

Cooking Tips

Little Changes that Make a Difference

  • Measuring shortening?
    Line the measuring cup with plastic wrap (enough to hang over the side). Measure the shortening, plop it in the mixture and then use the plastic wrap to grease the pan.
    Added bonus – no need to wash the measuring cup! Yeah!

  • Measuring sticky ingredients? (like honey)
    Use cooking spray to spray the inside of the measuring cup so that the ingredient will slide right out.

  • Want cupcakes to release fully from their liners?
    Spray the liners before filling them with batter.

  • Rolling out sugar cookies?
    Use confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) instead of flour on your mat and pin. It will work the same, but taste a whole lot better/sweeter.

  • Baking chocolate cake?
    When greasing the pan, use cocoa instead of flour to dust on top of the shortening. It will accomplish the same non-stick task, but match the color and flavor of the actual cake.

  • Want to soften dried fruit?
    Stick it into hot liquid, any warm liquid will give dried fruit an extra plump. Don’t throw away the liquid after you remove the fruit, it will just have a tinge of fruity sweetness. Think cranberry tea or cranberry vodka.

  • Slicing a large sandwich? (such as a submarine, hoagie, hero or dagwood)
    Slice the top part of the roll in half using a serrated knife as step #1, then assemble the sandwich on the bottom half of the roll before placing on the already cut in half top part of the bun. Continue slicing down through the sandwich starting the knife in the already cut top half void. Use sawing strokes with the serrated knife, without the pressure of cutting through the top bread, the fillings will stand in place much better and the sandwich will stand taller and say thanks afterwards.

  • Using frozen spinach?
    It’s a timesaver, but also holds lots of extra water. Unthaw the spinach and then place into a clean kitchen towel. Wring the towel out over the sink to squeeze out all the excess water possible.

  • Using beans?
    No need to drain, strain or rinse a can of beans. The liquid in the can is starchy and will add thickening, texture and flavor to most any sauce or rice dish that you are making.

  • Greens, like endive or escarole, taste too bitter?
    Soak them in salted ice water before serving and the bitterness will be toned way down.

  • Leftover fresh salsa?
    Sauté it in the pan just prior to making chili, soup or a bean dish. The salsa acts like sofrito, the mix of aromatic vegetables used in Latin American and Spanish cooking. Don’t cheat and use a jar of salsa for this one, it just won’t do the trick since it’s already been cooked.

  • Using a tough cut of meat?
    Always pierce tough cuts of meat with a fork when marinating. Then when cutting, be sure to cut across the grain (perpendicular to the fibers). Shortening the fibers will make them tenderer.

  • Marinating raw meat?
    Set some of the marinade aside beforehand to use for a topping sauce afterwards. If you forget to do this and really want some sauce on top, you need to boil any marinade that has touched raw meat for a few minutes in order to make it safe for consumption. Never return marinade that has touched raw meat to the fridge. Find more marinade tips and precautions here.

  • Left with a jar of pickle juice?
    Try using it in place of vinegar or lemon juice in a salad dressing recipe or in a sauce. Be careful to only use it in place of something that is also acidic. It’s nice in a sauce to pour over a steak sandwich.

  • Using fresh ginger?
    Use a spoon to scrape out all those nooks and crannies.

  • Got milk?
    Try adding a half cup to a pot of spaghetti sauce or stew that has become too thick. The sauce will become slightly sweeter and more delicious by most counts.

  • Using spices?
    Make them even more flavorful by browning them first in a little olive oil. Whether the spices are ground or whole this toasting will add a more earthy quality to the flavor.

  • Grilling fish?
    Cut a lemon in half and grill the cut sides. The grill brings out the sweetness of the lemon and also makes it juicier for squeezing, not to mention a lovely presentation when added to the serving plate.

  • You can toast pasta? (yes, just like nuts)
    Cooking dry pasta in a pan, after making a little olive oil hot and before adding the other ingredients, will add a nutty flavor to the dish.

  • Vegetable pizza that’s not soggy?
    Cut and salt fresh veggies (like tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms) and then let them rest on paper towels while you prepare the dough (about 30 minutes). This will draw out the extra moisture that would have otherwise come out during cooking making the crust soggy.

  • Fake baked pasta?
    Sure, just sprinkle some cheese and/or sautéed breadcrumbs, nuts or garlic on top of your cooked pasta dish and then pop it under the broiler for a few minutes.

  • Brining isn’t just for turkey?
    Try soaking raw shrimp in salted ice water for a few minutes before cooking. It will firm the shrimp while adding a boost of flavor and help to clean the shrimp at the same time.

  • Love coffee?
    Try adding a teaspoon of ground instant coffee to beef or pork gravy to add both color and flavor. Also try adding a shot of espresso to enhance the flavor of a favorite chili or stew.

  • Cutting corn off the cob?
    Place the ear tip down into an angle food cake or bundt pan. Slice down without the ear slipping around and then contain the cut corn in the cake pan.

  • Throwing out bacon fat?
    Just let it cool and solidify. It can be used to grease pans – for instance frying tasty potatoes or eggs.

  • Baking Hacks / Cooking Hacks

    Additional Info

    For baking hacks specific to making cupcakes, be sure to read about cupcake hacks.

    For a dozen cool cooking hacks, see our cooking hacks post.

    Start hacking with the initial grocery store visit by using these grocery hacks.

    For ideas on unique uses for common cooks tools, see our cooks tools post.

    For a list of cooks tools needed for a kitchen drawer, see our kitchen drawer essentials post.

    For lots of ideas on making mini muffins that can be put to use as appetizers, see our muffin pan ideas and more muffin pan recipes.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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