10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

by | May 22, 2013

Photo by me and the sysop

For myself and people of my generation, cooking represents the worst kind of irony. Feeding ourselves is our most basic human need, but for some reason no one bothered to tell us how to do it (or even that it was important to learn).

So we grew up, left the house and became dependent on restaurants and instant meals, only to find out 10 years later that this “food” has been killing us slowly.

Now what are we supposed to do?

Learning to cook is important, but can be intimidating if you’ve never done more than boil water, open cans and zap frozen entrees. Navigating the kitchen is much easier if you know a few simple tricks that seasoned chefs take for granted.

10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

1.Use tongs to cooking pretty much everything

Spatulas are awesome for anything that needs to be flipped or scraped, like eggs and pancakes. For everything else, tongs are the way to go. They’re much more nimble and less awkward to use, and you’ll find far fewer things jumping from your pan onto the floor. If you have non-stick cookware, be sure to use tongs with nylon tips. And always go for the 12-inchers.

2. Store everything in tupperware

As much as I’d like to be the kind of person who trims their herbs, puts them in an vase then wraps them in a damp paper towel so they last a week, I’m way too lazy for that. The good news though is that tupperware keeps almost everything fresh for much longer than your crisper, including berries, salad greens and produce that has already been cut. Because it is reusable, it is also more ecofriendly.

3. If you own a knife, don’t use a garlic press

Peeling and pressing garlic is a huge waste of time. To use a clove of garlic, set it on a cutting board and smash it with the flat side of a big knife (any chef’s knife will do). The papery skin will come right off, and you can mince it real quick right there in about 10 seconds. Done.

4. Keep a separate cutting board for things you don’t want flavored with garlic and onion

Assuming you follow any recipe ever, you’ll probably be using your cutting board for cutting onions or garlic. If so, I recommend getting a separate board you keep aside for cutting fruit, cheeses and other things that you’d prefer didn’t absorb the odors of previous meals.

5. Herbs that are supposed to be green should be purchased fresh, not dry

With the possible exception of dried oregano (great in Mexican, Greek and Italian foods), herbs are always better fresh. They’re also cheap and available almost anywhere. In particular, always buy fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, tarragon or chives if you can help it (a few should be in your fridge at all times). The dried versions are OK if not too old, but they’re very delicate and the jar will probably go bad before you use it twice.

6. Don’t bother with pre-filled spice racks

If you want spices to serve their purpose (making food taste better), you shouldn’t own a pre-filled spice rack. Spices go off quickly, and when their color starts to dull they’ve lost a lot of their flavor. There are several dried spices that are invaluable in my kitchen (cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, etc.), but you should purchase them as you need them, and in small quantities unless you use them frequently.

7. Overcooking is probably your biggest kitchen mistake

Overcooked vegetables are mushy and flavorless, overcooked meat is tough and chalky, overcooked grains are soggy and fall apart. In other words, overcooked food is bad food. Learn the art of taking food off the heat just before it is done, and let it finish cooking with its internal temperature. You can always cook it more, but you can never cook it less.

8. If it tastes OK but not great, it probably needs salt—and maybe some vinegar or olive oil

The media loves to bash salt, but I’m not convinced that sodium (rather than processed food) is the real problem. Also, the small amount you use when cooking at home won’t compare to what you’d get at a restaurant or in a packaged meal. Though over-salted food certainly tastes bad, under-salted food is bland and boring and a little dash can often save a dish.

If you think you’ve added enough salt but something is still off, try a small splash of vinegar or lemon (any acid) to brighten the flavor. If the food is dry or sticky, try adding a touch of olive oil. These three things can fix almost any lackluster meal.

9. Don’t buy regular big onions, use shallots or leeks

For most everyday cooking, milder onions will enhance your dish and give it more nuance. Big, strong onions certainly have their place in cooking (soups, roasts, etc.), but most kitchen experiments will be improved by more subtle onion flavor.

10. Fruit (other than berries) shouldn’t be stored in the fridge

Refrigerators dull the taste of most produce, so if you bought something that doesn’t need to go in there leave it out. Most fruits including apples, oranges, pears and bananas don’t belong in the refrigerator unless you’re not planning on eating them soon. I don’t refrigerate tomatoes, avocados or peppers either. Very hot climates are an exception, however.

What are your favorite simple kitchen tips?

Originally published June 1, 2011.

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82 Responses to “10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier”

  1. Ahh this is such a good list! More more more!

  2. David says:

    +1000000 for #7

    I would add:

    *Don’t by a huge knife set. Buy two really GOOD knives (pairing knife and a chef’s knife) to do 99.9% of the stuff you need to do in the kitchen and take CARE of them. Learn to hone them and rarely sharpen them. You can buy a cheap bread knife and it will work just fine.

    *Stay away from stuff that does only one job and the gimmicks. Buy tools that have multiple uses to avoid kitchen clutter.

    *Good cookware is worth it.

    *Buy a thermometer and use it for meats. It will avoid a LOT of #7 above!

  3. These are great! I’m so bad about using separate cutting boards, but I know it’s a good practice. And I completely agree on the salt factor! I’m always amazing at what just a pinch can do for flavor – especially in sweet dishes.

  4. Laurie says:

    Definitely agree, especially with the tongs. I use mine all the time! Great List!

    DomesticProductions.blogspot.com

  5. Sorry, gotta disagree with you on #3. While I agree garlic presses are a pain, mincing garlic on a microplane gets a lot more of the garlicky goodness into your food and is still easy to do/clean. Yum!

  6. Andrew Robinson says:

    Great tips. On #10, We have a large wooden bowl full of fresh fruit that we keep as a centerpiece on our dining table but as avocados ripen, they go into the refrigerator. If left out, they need to be eaten almost immediately. Refrigerated, they are good for a few days.

  7. E. Foley says:

    My favorite link about storing produce. Srsly, bookmark this because it is AWESOME and so very, very useful.

    http://myplasticfreelife.com/2010/05/how-to-store-produce-without-plastic/

  8. Andrew Violette says:

    Does #10 apply to peaches, pluots, nectarines, and apricots? Keeping them at room temperature (outside of something that seals them tight) would be an invitation to ants and fruit flies around these parts.

    I find that refrigeration also slows the ripening of the avocados. So if I find some near-ripe avocados, I keep them in the fridge until the day I’m going to use them, because they can go from perfect to overripe in a day’s time at room temp.

    I also concur with #9. Been doing that ever since reading “Kitchen Confidential” :)

  9. 11. Use a bigger bowl than you think you need. If the food just barely fits, you won’t be able to mix without spilling.

    12. Use the biggest knife that seems appropriate, not the smallest you can get away with. Sure, you can dice onions with a paring knife, but why would you?

    13. Never put sharp knives in the sink. At best it dulls the blade. At worst you cover it up with other dishes and forget it’s there until you grab it.

  10. Brian says:

    Re: no. 2, what are your thoughts regarding the health concerns about storing food in plastic containers?

    • Darya Pino says:

      Pyrex or glass containers would also work. However I’m worried less about BPA than people not eating enough vegetables. If you are worried about BPA and still want to use plastic, only certain types actually contain it. Look for containers that don’t, shouldn’t be that hard these days.

      • Natalie says:

        It is not just BPA. Chemicals from plastic leak into your food. Wait another 5-10 years and you’ll hear about it.
        Same applies to Teflon and non-stick cookware.

      • Brian says:

        Hey, my sad face got messed up!

      • MB says:

        hi, Nathalie

        I agree with Darya – if you start worrying about anything, you might lose sight of the important things.

        I worry too about BPA & other toxins, but the plastics are quite stable and in certain conditions are safe. Don’t heat them (even if the manufacturer promises microwave oven safety) or keep them for long in the sun, also don’t store liquids in them for long periods, or anything acidic (like tomato sauces) . But fruits, herbs (washed & dried to be handy), even peeled vegs, after drying them a bit, can stay just fine in plastic boxes (provided you consume them within 2-3 days, otherwise they lose flavors & start to harbor molds), which are also easy to stack & are light. Don’t clutter the fridge either with too many cooked meals / use silicon dishware to freeze the excess for later meals.
        Of course, less plastic bought & thrown away = less leaked toxins in the water&nature

        hope this helps

      • Natalie says:

        Hi MB,

        This is very important for me, especially because I have young children and I care about my family’s health. I got rid of plastic years ago and I use glass, white ceramic (because of lead) and stainless steel. It is so easy to find replacements to plastic now-days, it is a no-brainer. :-)

      • MB says:

        hey, kids are definitely making us think twice : -)
        only… try not to be too… careful : -) ; my boyfriend had a very health-conscious mother and made him ate lots of fresh vegs, no cakes (only rarely) , no frying and so on. And now I barely make him have a fresh carrot , raw spinach or bell-pepper, and it’s a battle for keeping the onion less fried… indeed, not all the kids are the same, but it’s a hard task to keep them on the right side with all the colorful & shinny marketing around.

  11. catheroo says:

    What a great list! Thank you. I have those 12-inchers. LOVE them. I use them all the time. Tonight I’m going home and cleaning out my spices. I know I have some really old stuff in there. And I did not know about not refrigerating fruit. DOH!

    More tips please!

  12. Neil Morris says:

    Re: Tip 3. Jamie Oliver suggests putting garlic cloves in a press without peeling them. Only the flesh comes out and it’s much quicker than using a knife. Just make sure that you have a decent press that is easy to clean.

    • Tom Godfrey says:

      Have to agree with this. There is no need to waste your time either peeling or chopping garlic -pull a clove off the bulb, put it straight in the press and squeeze; sometimes I need to use a knife to scrape the juicy bits off.
      My cheap Ikea press pulls the skin out on the end of the plunger and I can just pick it off. Total time taken is about 3 seconds and I don’t end up with hands smelling of garlic.

  13. Sarah says:

    I’d also like to add: when cooking spinach, do it in the microwave in a m’wave proof ceramic bowl for ~1min rather than in a saucepan. Cooking it in the saucepan makes it taste disgustingly tinny! (I only just figured this one out and I’m 42yo!!)

  14. ladyneeva says:

    Gotta disagree with 5 — sure, in some parts of the country you can get herbs fresh year round for reasonable prices. In other parts of the country, you’re not likely to find actually FRESH herbs in any season, and even the so-so ones that are available during the summer cost an arm and a leg.

    In my neck of the woods (Colorado Springs, CO) about the only fresh herbs you’ll find at most of the stores are huge bunches of at least partly wilted curly parsley and cilantro. Those are cheap enough at a dollar or so, but really too much for a single person or a couple to use before they’d go bad. Anything else you’re looking at tiny little plastic boxes with maybe eight or nine pieces for $3 each. Which may be cheap to some people, but certainly not to me heh.

    And in the winter you can forget finding even that much, and what you do find is decidedly past it’s prime.

    Properly stored in air tight light proof containers and kept away from heat (or even refrigerated) dried herbs are vastly preferable to NO herbs, and for some preparations I actually prefer dried. Such as for making herbed breads and for including in dry rubs.

    Also, as far as #6 goes – most spices are only harvested once a year, so it’s simply not possible logistically to buy ‘fresh’ spices every time you run out (unless you run out once a year and have access to an actual spice shop like Penzeys). At best, you’re just buying another batch from the same harvest as the one that you just ran out of. Again… keep them away from air, light, and heat and they’ll last a surprisingly long time. As long as they still smell like themselves, they’ll still taste like themselves since what gives spices their flavor is the aromatic oils and compounds inside them.

    • J. Chantale Sutherland says:

      I realize that this post is a year old, but if you’re still looking for a solution to fresh herbs, I look for herbs that are still in soil, then I plant them in a small planter. This way they last for months as long as you keep them in sun and water them daily.

      It makes using fresh herbs easier and less expensive

    • Betty says:

      I keep my least used spices in the freezer door. I have some curry powder, cumin and such which have been there for a long time, but still maintain excellent flavour. I am sure there are some things that would not like that treatment, but it works for me for quite a range of things.

  15. Tania says:

    I don’t agree about salt (no way to pretend that the amount in the average recipe or diet is okay lol) but love a lot of these. I’d add: always make sure your pans/pots are greased/oiled before use.

  16. Leslie M-B says:

    These are great tips, but I have to agree with ladyneeva about the fresh herbs. When I lived in the Sacramento Valley, I could go into my yard and clip fresh herbs or find them at local stores, but now that I’m living in Boise, fresh herbs are limited to what ladyneeva describes. :( Refrigerating dried herbs does prolong their life significantly, in my experience.

  17. Hank says:

    One tip–don’t use knives like the person in the picture–you’ll lose a fingertip! :). Grip the knife by the top of the blade near the handle and keep all fingers curled back on the hand that’s holding the food.

  18. Nathaniel C. says:

    I have to echo the advice against #5. Fresh herbs are very expensive and only rarely of good quality if you live in parts of the country that has actual seasons (i.e. the northern half).

    Ditto goes for #9. Although there are a few dishes where we use shallots instead, we only use them rarely because they are a LOT more expensive than onions.

    Bottom line: tips #5 and #9 are good if you have lots of extra cash burning holes in your pockets. Otherwise, stick with the less expensive mainstays.

  19. Shaftway says:

    On #3, if you do own a garlic press, don’t bother peeling the garlic. Most presses will work fine with unpeeled cloves, but you’ll probably need to clear the peels out of the smashed side after every clove or two.

  20. Cindy says:

    Great tips!! Particularly like number 4 — about the cutting boards. The only one I separate is one for raw chicken (felt marker on side of board marked ‘chicken’). So, sometimes end up with garlic scented apples.

  21. Josh says:

    Many herbs (basil, parsley, etc) can be frozen while fresh to preserve the fresh taste that drying would destroy.

  22. bobcat says:

    About the glass Pyrex (or other brand) storage containers vs. plastic…..I would go for the glass for this reason (and I am very proud of discovering this; I had an “ah ha” moment): It makes the food taste better, because the plastic absorbs odors and glass doesn’t!

    I used to think that I didn’t like leftovers, but it was really that nasty smell that hit me when I would open the plastic tupperware after taking it out of the fridge. I now store everything in those glass storage containers made by Pyrex, with the dark blue rubbery lids, and I never feel grossed out when I get the first whiff of my leftovers, after taking them out of the fridge. I think it’s because the plastic stores the onion, garlic, or fatty odors from previous meals. Even if you are storing healthy stuff, like roasted brussels sprouts with olive oil, you can see that flavor absorption would be a problem. And then those flavors/smells stay in there….for…ev…er (after multiple uses and washings). I also think that sometimes people don’t really even notice the smell in their conscious mind, but they just have a vague sense that they don’t like leftovers, and that is why!!!!!! It’s almost like the slight off taste is something people can’t put their finger on.

    So if I could give people any advice, it’s store in glass!!!!! Always, always. You won’t realize how much better it is until after you start doing it. :)

    I really liked Daria’s #8. I think that is a great and simple description of when to use or add more salt, vinegar/acid, or oil. That is really important for people to know, because a lot of times, people will think that they can never make ______ as good as the restaurants, and they don’t realize that the difference isn’t magic or skill, but SALT (and yes, using it in moderation is good, but if you cook at home, your palate will change and then it’s not a problem). If you make chana masala (which is Indian), and it does nothing for you, despite alllllll those spices, add more salt. Then if increasing the salt doesn’t work, add some apple cider (or any) vinegar, or lemon juice. Anything acidic. BINGO! Same with Thai food, like a lovely coconut milk/fresh ginger/chile curry. Those flavors are great, but they won’t pop without acid. But adding too much salt or acid can ruin something quickly, so go slowly.

    I like those thin Epicurian cutting boards that are wood-ish-looking that you can put in the dishwasher. So far, those haven’t absorbed odors for me. They come in black as well. Conversely, I have found those dramatic, expensive wooden or bamboo butcher block cutting boards to be an all-around hassle to clean and use. Not worth it, IMO, though they are attractive.

    Oh, my last tip is to buy all silicone cooking utensils!!!! (though silicone ladles are tough to find, but they do have them by an obscure brand on Amazon.com) The silicone are the least common of the options out there, when you go shopping for utensils, but they are normally there. I have found that stainless steel utensils, and even nylon, can scratch my nice Calphalon stainless steel tri-ply pots and pans. So just go with silicone utensils in the beginning, and you’ll never ruin any pots or pans. The silicone is dishwasher safe too. I know people whose nice pots are all scratched from using stainless utensils or regular flatware. Avoid that if you can.

  23. bobcat says:

    Another tip….and I am embarrassed to admit this, but it’s sooo true…..granulated garlic makes everything taste better! (though not necessarily in a deilcate fashion like real garlic can). I kind of agree with Nathaniel about the cost of fresh herbs (and this extends to garlic). They are nice, but not a necessity. If you are a young person with little time or money and are new to this, the thought of buying fresh veggies and fruit, AND fresh herbs to then flavor them, is intimidating. So it is nice to have some things on hand that will always make food taste better, like granulated garlic (but not garlic salt, that is too salty). I have found that in my soups, stews, bean dishes, substantial veggie sautes, etc…..granulated garlic provides much more of a flavor punch than fresh garlic, even when you saute the fresh garlic to maximize flavor. So for my time, the fresh is normally not worth it. I know there are health benefits to fresh garlic, but at times I’m lucky just to get the broccoli or chickpeas on the table, and make them taste “wow.”

    • bobcat says:

      Sorry, last two cents about fresh vs. dry: Marjoram is a great dried herb to use. I have also had plenty of success with dried thyme making things taste better, like potato dishes. I get arguably better flavor out of some dried herbs for stews/soups than their fresh counterpart. Exceptions abound. BASIL is something you should never try to use the dried version of!!!! Just add fresh at the end. Same with parsley and cilantro. I would imagine the same is true for dill. So it’s more like, 50/50 on what you can use dry vs. fresh.

  24. MB says:

    Good thinking to start a list of tips in the kitchen!

    Although to me it seems a bit unreal to see people so.. “scared” of their food&not knowing how to deal/ combine it; but I come from another culture, from behind the Curtain.

    Maybe there was something lost in passing generations’ legacy? I grow up with a mother that had to cook out of necessity (socio-economico-political reasons) so I managed to learn something, not that cooking is one of my big passions : o) ; and not that it meant it was extremely healthy, since we had to cook what was available (and that was quite restricted). And the information available for the public was also very scarce – yet, knowing that mice at my grandmother’s house could tip the garlic/onions with their little paws (that is, before being snatched by the cat) I always, even now : -), clean the garlic clove, wash it, wash the knife, then cut it/mince it … And also I gathered a bag of tips for a frugal way of dealing with food – like boiling hen&rooster (not much the chickens – too young & the meat cooks fast) wings, thighs, or breast bones, and finishing the meat in the oven / using a quick sauce in a pan, while keeping the broth for later ; or using wood utensils (you don’t have to soak them in soaps after cutting chicken or any meat, let very hot tap water – cleans fast the fats – running on it for some seconds, then wipe it with some soap, and rinse well using also a cloth; indeed keep different boards for the strong smelly stuff and the sweet, or less invasive smells, and the wood spoons won’t burn lips/tongue when tasting the food, though careful with the soup ; also they are biodegradable : -)

    Well, for the new times I might say that silicone is good, but must bear the mark for being food friendly, and I also found that it keeps smells too (especially for onion, garlic, fish).

    For having fresh herbs you can also start growing them in the window sill – albeit these might go better for the last flavor touch/decoration, because if used for meals, after 2 uses you might end up with an empty pot (and growing new leaves & maturing takes like 1 week).

    I also found books like The New Kitchen Science quite interesting & entertaining, if not sometimes overwhelming : o)

    • krissy knox says:

      @MB — I love your idea about growing your own herbs on the window sill! Because doing it that way, the herbs will be fresher, tastier, more healthy, and more economical! Excellent idea! :)

      krissy knox :)

  25. Timmeh says:

    Nice article. I already knew how to cook very well but it’s always nice to read about it. Just a few remarks though. Some fruits are better kept in the fridge; especially the delicate ones. Just take them out in time so they can come to the right temperature. The same goes for meat. Most people are afraid to leave meat out of the fridge for too long but make sure the meat is at room temperature before you put in in your pan, especially steaks. Same goes for fish.

    Fresh herbs are obviously great but as pointed out not available everywhere. Good quality frozen herbs can be a solution. In most dishes you won’t notice the difference and they’re much better than dried herbs.

    Adding salt is a matter of taste and you can get used to eating less salt really quickly. I have to agree though that the little bit of salt used in cooking is nowhere near as bad as in processed foods or restaurants. You could also try low sodium salt, which is available at most stores. Some people claim it doesn’t taste as good but I haven’t noticed it. Adding other spices instead of salt is also an option if you’re concerned about it.

    I must agree on the comment about getting a few good knives. Never buy one of those cheap sets with every knife available in it. Buy one good chef knife and get a good smaller one. Just rinse the knife between cutting products. Make sure it stays sharp!

  26. Jamie Brown says:

    Great list. But on the tongs – chopsticks are even more nimble! I use them for everything.

  27. K says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m Japanese, so I grew up using Saibashi (a kind of chopsticks) for cooking instead of tongs. They do the same thing, though, and can even be used for scrambling eggs!

  28. Tapestry says:

    1)Tongs are not fun to use you can never get all the good stuff out of the pan. Tongs are not easy to clean either.
    2)Tupperware is expensive, once a smell gets into it like garlic, or something does spoil(and it does) you can never get it out and have to throw it away. Get inexpensive Glad plasticware instead.
    3)Agree, I have used a garlic press, a press is expensive.
    4)Wash cutting boards with soap and water after use, have one for vegetables and one for fruit and you will never mix flavors.
    5 &6)Herbs are expensive and if you have to go to the store to get every darn fresh herb you will find that it isn’t worth the gasoline. Keep the ones in the bottle dried, they last a year, all you need to do is remember to use a bit more of it than if the receipe calls for fresh.
    7) Cook everything well done and you will never worry about ecoli, and all the other bacteria they talk about in meat and produce.
    8)Learn to eat food with less salt, its healthier, period
    9)Shallots and leeks are pricey, buy one large yellow onion; cut it up in smaller portions and store in Glad containers.
    10)All fruit tastes better cold, including apples and pears, bananas should never be stored there but all the rest put in the frig. They will last longer and you will never have gnats flying around the kitchen.

    • Wow, a point-by-point disagreement with everything she said. I could argue with every one of yours, but I’ll stick to 7 & 8.

      Cook everything well done and you’ll never worry about E. Coli. You’ll also never worry about good taste. And you’ll have to start worrying about increased carcinogens. To avoid a problem that is better solved by eating grass-fed beef, not beef from a cafo.

      And salt is not nearly the threat we’ve been led to believe. Sure, processed food probably has more than it needs for flavor, and excess salt seems to be a problem for people who already have hypertension. But this is solved by eating less processed food, which uses extra salt as a preservative. If you use enough for flavor there’s nothing to worry about.

      • MB says:

        Drew ,
        I can say you are wrong there too – grass-fed cows are not E.coli free, but the ones fed on box farms are more likely to have stronger strains of the bacteria, due to constant use of antibiotics.
        What do you mean by carcinogens in well done meat? nobody is advocating here burning a piece of meat – although grilling on charcoal for instance is better to be avoided or used as little as possible.

        And obviously you are not somebody with a rebellious hypertension, salt has been proved to create these bouts in somebody with a diagnosed hypertension.
        Maybe it’s better to learn that we are each other different (biochemically we are unique, btw) and one thing that works for somebody is only 60 % working for anybody else. Look for your own symptoms – like increased thirst for excess salt after a meal, and one will know what is the limit. But we HAVE to pay attention.

      • E. coli is mostly a problem of cafos, which you seem to be agreeing with. That’s why I said it’s better to address that problem by not buying cafo meat than by over-cooking it.

        And I did say “excess salt seems to be a problem for people who already have hypertension”. So when you say “in somebody with a diagnosed hypertension” do you think that’s proving I’m wrong? Because I read that as agreeing with me, but being disagreeable about it.

      • MB says:

        yep, it seemed we agreed on the mostly

        but for a hypertensive person “excess salt” is highly subjective , so it’s better only to keep to those minerals and the natural salt that pop up usually in vegetables/ grains/ meat – cooking mostly by steam, celery sticks have a salty taste, and so on ( until the overweight/ diabetes/ hectic life/ whatever mainly pushes the high blood pressure problem is kept under control )

    • julie says:

      I, too, disagree with much of this, and I’m grouchy this morning, so here:
      1. Chopsticks work as well, if not better than tongs.
      2. I think we need to get over the idea of disposable everything. Use glass, as Bobcat mentioned. It doesn’t keep the smell.
      7. I don’t like my food well done, I prefer rare or raw for almost everything, though I’m not a huge meat eater, so easy for me.
      10. I dislike cold fruit, everything, including watermelon, needs to come to RT before I’ll eat it. Fish and meat has to come to RT before I’ll cook it, or even reheat. Better quality, less frequency!

  29. Leese says:

    Hi Darya,
    Just to wanted to let you know what a great blog this is – stumbled on it yesterday after searching for tips to make garlic peeling/crushing easier and an hour later found myself still on here looking at your recipes and updates! Needless to say dinner was postponed :0)
    It’s really inspired me to seek out the local farmers markets in the uk (harder to find than you may think) and try some out. It’s such a refreshing change to find someone who not only knows what they are talking about scientifically but also enjoys food!

    One tip I can offer is if you have a little wine left over put it in an ice cube tray and it’s handy to throw a couple of cubes into anything you need wine for, if you don’t have a bottle handy/don’t want to open one just for cooking.

  30. JB says:

    Thanks so much! This is SO helpful! I know this is a website focused on healthstyle….but please feel free to keep articles like this coming! (I’m a recent college grad and appreciate all the life tips I can get!)

  31. El Cocinita says:

    I’d suggest tryign the microwave oven for some vegetable baking. Many silicone appliances are sold in purpose for this. Water tends to lower the amount of flavour, and this way of cooking maintains full flavour unaltered.

    There’s other alternatives that are more than acceptable when salt is not an option. Curry, pepper, garlic, … and well, any exotic spice you like. Don’t forget you need a little bit of salt if boiling to boil at higher temp and faster though.

    About using the fridge, I agree mostly, but not always. Sometimes having the fruits kept cool in the fridge helps when the weather is hot and you’re looking for something cold in the fridge. An orange at 6deg C is much more tasty than one at 30C, when temperature outside is 40C…

    And last, lucky you that you can buy fresh spices cheaply, because if I were to buy them on a daily basis, I’d spend more on spices than actual food. (No, growing spices at home is not an option for me, I use over 30 different spices currently and quite regularly)

  32. Joe says:

    Few thoughts on the matter:

    1. You can substitute lemon for salt for many foods.

    2. Coconut oil + curry spice can flavor many boring foods in the saute pan.

    3. Use an iron skillet and don’t wash it w/ soap, just scrap the remaining food out with a metal spatula under cold water, dry it and add some olive oil to keep it “seasoned”.

    4. If lazy or confused about getting all the macronutrients in each meal, substitute the animal protein with pea, hemp or whey protein powder. Mix it in almond milk. Drink it alongside the meal.

    5. If you’d like to eat less (consume fewer calories), drink a large glass of water with a squeeze of lemon while you prepare your dinner. Add flax seed or psyillum husk powder to it (shake it all up) if you want to eat considerably less (plus you’ll become more “regular” on the throne). Remember though to adjust portion sizes down, as you should be less inclined to eat the usual amount.

    6. Substitute the black pepper for cayenne pepper. Recent studies indicate the former can have mold and the latter can reduce appetite (but probably on marginally).

    7. Eat slower. Much. Gives your stomach enough time to signal your brain that it’s full.

    Yep.

    - Joe

  33. Sai says:

    Hi Darya,
    nice tips. I liked the one about fruits, apples really taste bad when stored in fridge and doesn’t taste good afterwards. Will try them keeping out and see if it works in this weather.

    I felt touched by your opening paragraph, very true!
    I’ve really struggled to learn to cook by myself as absolutely no one told me its essential or taught me to cook.
    Here’s my true story about how I learned to cook!

    http://thoughtsandreflectionsbysai.blogspot.in/2012/02/straight-from-heart-cooking-my-newly.html

  34. saloni says:

    i guess these are the best ten tips it took me almost 3years to grab them n yes i would like to add if u want the garvy to thicken add cream …it works even when ur dis gets sour or too sweet
    washing the garlic in hot water also remove there skin pretty quickly

  35. J. Chantale Sutherland says:

    #5 – I look for herbs that are still in soil, then I plant them in a small planter. This way they last for months as long as you keep them in sun and water them daily. It makes using fresh herbs easier and less expensive.

    Another alternative is to buy the seeds and grow your own herb garden.

  36. John Gill says:

    I have heard that homemade tapioca is only good for 2 days. Using fat free milk, it that true?

  37. Jay says:

    Some good points here. Although saying, don’t over cook food is like saying don’t burn yourself on the oven door. You try not to but sometimes it’s gonna happen.

  38. Kate says:

    I hate to say this, since it’s a downfall for me personally, but keeping your kitchen at least moderately tidy can really help you cook more.

    I know I’m much less motivated to cook a fresh meal from whole foods, even if I have all the ingredients, if I’ve left the kitchen a mess and there are a lot of dirty dishes, the sink is full, etc.

    There’s nothing worse than having to clean before you cook, knowing you have to clean again at the end.

  39. I must have been too busy to comment when this first came out.

    Onions, shallots, leeks:
    -Onions are cheaper and more widely available
    -Peeling & chopping one onion is way easier and faster than half a dozen shallots (lots of peeling) or cleaning 3 leeks of the dirt between their layers
    -once cooked, whether sauteed or tossed directly into water, onions are as mild and sweet as any shallot or leek

    Spices:
    Remember that WHOLE spices and GROUND spices are not the same. Most whole spices keep indefinitely, and are easy to grind fresh in a coffee mill-type spice grinder. Most ground spices do lose flavor fast.

    • fanny says:

      i’m with you in the onions. i think onions are great, they’re not overpowering if cooked properly. i can’t imagine many of my mexican dishes without onions.

  40. Jacqueline Nehama says:

    For meals that require a large number of chopped ingredients I found that using a flexible chopping board, allows me to chop and transfer to the pan without any mess. I have three or four of them for different ingredients eg.,one for onions and garlic,one for greens, one for spices etc. The are inexpensive and very easy to clean.

  41. Sean Walker says:

    Dull knives will cut you easier than a sharp one. Buy a good knife or two and keep them sharp.

  42. Nancy says:

    I totally agree with all your points! To be honest I never understood the garlic press, it leaves a lot of the good parts out of the game. Using your knife to smash it a little is great. I sometimes even go so far to cut it manually, leaves a strange smell on my hands :)

    And I simply love olive oil. I use it for everything :))))

  43. Nancy says:

    Great list really! I never understood garlic press, its taking half of the garlic out of the game.

    And olive oil, ah, my favorite! If I could I would use it for everything, from salads, to baking pie :)

  44. kim says:

    Hi Darya,

    Thank you so much for 10 simple kitchen tips Darya. For me I totally agree with all your points. olive oil is really good, that is healthy!

    This tips are important for me, like others issue they have young children in there house, like me I have young stepchild.

    Darya question what do you mean regarding the health concerns about storing or putting food in some plastic things?

    Thank you so much Darya!

    Kim

  45. Top tip:

    Freeze whole fresh ginger if you have too much. When you need it again, grate it straight from the freezer! Means you always have it to hand :)

  46. Sandy says:

    Many tips are also work in CHina. :)

  47. Marie says:

    Advice on Tupperware vs Crisper Bins??

    Hi Darya,

    I have a small fridge.

    Should I get rid of my crispers and use all sealed tupperware for fruits and veg instead?

    I know you recommend sealed tuppers for berries.

    On the other hand, I’ve bought some spongy lining for the bottom of my crisper and it’s my impression that some vegies do better with some air circulating around them.

    When do you recommend produce in tupperware vs crispers?

    Thanks for any thoughts,

    Marie

    • Darya Rose says:

      I think the crisper is nice to have, especially for larger items. I find that most veggies do better with some sort of plastic around them, but a little air can help too. Open plastic bags often work nicely. It depends a lot on the humidity levels in your fridge.

  48. When I was just starting out on my own there were so many things that I had to figure out for myself. A lot of them were things on this list. Thank you very much for all the helpful information because I know there are many people who would be interested to know all of these things. I wish someone had told them to me!

  49. AJ says:

    Hi, Darya!

    I always love your kitchen gear advice. I’m currently looking to freeze batches of beans in a non-plastic container. Do you have any recommendations? Pyrex? Glass (e.g. mason jars)? Have a great weekend!

    • Darya Rose says:

      Sounds good to me. You might have better luck with Pyrex since it may be a little more forgiving in letting air out for expansion, just make sure they’re sitting upright until frozen.

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