I love kitchen hacks. They’re handy, applicable in daily life, and a lot of times they’re just fun. Whereas, I don’t consider myself a kitchen wizard, I’m proud of the skills I’ve picked up working in various restaurants over the years. With the advent of the Internet and hacking culture, however, I’ve learned far more in the past few years online, than I ever did actually working in kitchens. Here are three hacks that I use now, but wish I knew then.
My all-time favorite kitchen trick is the simplest: pound a head of iceberg lettuce sharply on the counter to remove the core. Don’t hit it so hard that the head explodes all over your kitchen. Just give it a quick, sharp rap while holding the lettuce core side down, turn it over, twist and pull the core right out, and your lettuce is ready for shredding into a delicious salad or burger topping. You can find a great illustration for this and other cooking hacks at Wonder How To.
Another handy hack from that picture is the trick of softening butter faster by shredding it first. My wife’s one kitchen skill is making cookies, but she lacks the patience to wait for the butter to soften and usually ends up popping it into the microwave to speed up the process- which seems to make cookies that are dry and crumbly. Shred it first and get moister, delicious cookies sooner.
The last hack of the trio is the latest in my kitchen repertoire: freezing vegetable stock in ice cube trays. Fresh vegetable stock tastes better than stock from a can or bullion cubes and isn’t loaded with salt and preservatives. My problem is that I always end up making more stock than I could possibly use in a month. So, to make it last, I pour the cooled stock into a dedicated ice cube tray, freeze it, and then parcel the stock-cubes into separate ziplock bags for longer term storage. When I’m ready to cook with it (I make a wicked good fresh tomato & bell pepper soup!) I have perfect control over how much goes into the recipe.
Please note: make sure the stock is cool before putting it into the freezer to avoid dropping the temperature below safe levels. Also, as I mention above, use an ice cube tray that is dedicated to this one purpose. Otherwise, your regular old ice may take on a funky vegetable flavor and spoil your next Tom Collins.