10 Useful Food Hacks, Whatever Your Skill Level

And why they work!

(SPOT.ph) Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced cook who can make everything from boiled eggs to a killer beef wellington, you can always benefit from saving time and energy in the kitchen. Enter food hacks, which have gained a lot of traction over the past few years. Though there are some fraud hacks out there, there are plenty others that work, too, which can make your culinary escapades infinitely easier. We round up these hacks that you might find helpful in the kitchen.

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Try these food hacks the next time you’re cooking:

Freeze bananas and blend them for instant “ice cream.”

Okay, so ice cream is in quotes for a reason. You won’t exactly get the uber-rich, dairy-heavy profile of real ice cream, for obvious reasons. But you do get a creamy, sludgy mixture that can pass for a light soft-serve, and it’s the perfect cooler for hot days like these. The fruit’s natural sweetness also means you don’t need to add any additional sugar, though you are free to experiment with other mix-ins—try cocoa powder, peanut butter, or other frozen fruit for an extra flavor boost.

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Make easy-to-peel boiled eggs by starting with boiling water and then shocking them in an ice bath.

PHOTO BY Leilani Angel/Unsplash

Fresh eggs can be troublesome to peel—the egg’s membrane (the thin layer lining the shells) usually ends up sticking to the eggs so closely and so stubbornly due to its relatively low pH level. Letting the egg rest in the fridge for a few days can make the job easier, but not everyone has the luxury of time. The trick is to boil the water ahead (rather than putting the eggs in the pot with cold water and letting them come to a boil together) and then add the eggs. Once cooked, get the eggs and put them into an ice bath (i.e., a bowl with ice and ice water) to let them cool. After about five minutes, the shells should come right off.

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Chill onions before cutting them to lessen their tear-inducing effect.

Onions are notorious for making people cry—not because they’re jerks, but because they’re trying to protect themselves from being eaten. In each onion cell, you’ll find enzymes which break open and release their contents when an onion is cut or bitten into. These contents mix with other chemicals in the onion cells, triggering a cascade of chemical processes which form syn-propanethial-S-oxide molecules, which hurt your eyes. The solution? Chill your onions—the volatile compounds that make you tear up are less volatile when they’re cold, and this slows down the tear-inducing process.

Make greens last longer in the fridge by storing them in the fridge with paper towels.

PHOTO BY Adolfo Félix/Unsplash
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So you’re planning to up your veggie intake, only for all the leafy veggies you’ve purchased to wilt after a few days in the fridge. To combat this, lay them out in a single layer on a paper towel sheet, then roll the towel up to form a spiral with greens in between each layer. From here, you can either put them directly in the fridge, or put them in a plastic bag before placing them in your veggie drawer. The paper towel will help absorb any extra moisture that could otherwise make your greens rot.

Speed-ripen bananas by baking them in an oven.

The trick to great banana bread is to use overripe bananas, but if you’re stuck with just-ripe-enough fruits, you can still use them for your baking needs by “ripening” them in the oven. Simply bake them on a baking paper or foil-lined baking sheet on low heat—around 150°C should do it—from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the banana. The skin will turn glossy and black, while the inside will be very soft and warm (be careful peeling them!)—great for throwing into recipes for banana bread, muffins, cookies, and more.

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Store cookies with a slice of bread to keep them soft.

Cookies—specifically the soft, chewy kind—are generally at their most heavenly when they’re freshly baked, but maintaining that state is another story. Counter that by keeping them in an airtight container with a slice of bread. This works because cookies have more sugar, which is hygroscopic (i.e., it draws water out of the air and holds it in), while bread is the opposite (its moisture evaporates into air). When they’re put together, the cookie draws in the moisture from the air, which the bread happily provides—thus keeping the cookie soft.

Splash on some water on stale bread before reheating to bring it back to life.

As soft and crusty as a freshly baked loaf of bread can be, it only takes a few days for it to turn rock-hard and stale. But not all is lost: run your bread under tap water—yep, you’re supposed to get it wet (though not too soaked)—then stick it in the oven at about 230°C for five to seven minutes (other sources suggest a lower temperature for longer—150 to 160°C for six to 12 minutes), depending on the size of the loaf. The water turns into steam and rehydrates the bread’s interior while the oven's heat toasts up its exterior—i.e., your bread becomes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

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Peel ginger with a spoon.

Ginger provides an unmistakable aromatic heat to both sweet and savory dishes—but its often irregular shape makes it hard to peel with a knife, which tends to cut off too many parts that end up going to waste. Instead, try peeling it with a metal spoon by using the spoon’s edges to scrape off the skin. Aside from being safer for your fingers, the spoon’s shape makes it easier to reach into any curved areas.

Store plastic wrap in the freezer.

Plastic wrap is a lifesaver when it comes to sealing and protecting your food, thanks to its stickiness—but that very stickiness can also be a pain to deal with when it ends up clinging to itself before it can even cling onto your bowls. An easy solution to this is to store it in the freezer. Most plastic wrap is made of polyethylene plus other adhesives, and according to Dr. Chad Orzel, the adhesion between sheets “may be driven by the molecules in the surface re-arranging themselves to form weak chemical bonds”. The lower temperature in the freezer can inhibit that process.

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Grate butter into your flour mixture for the flakiest pie crust.

Flaky pie crusts usually call for incorporating cold cubes of butter into a dry flour mixture with a pastry cutter, as these create steam and form layers as it bakes. This can take time to do, however, which—especially in this tropical country!— may melt some of the butter in the process, making for a tougher crust and reducing the chances of forming those highly-coveted flakes. An alternative to this is to freeze the butter then grate it with the largest grating surface on a box or cheese grater. Freeze these shreds again for about 15 minutes, then toss it into your flour with a fork. This incorporates the butter quickly and more evenly into the dry ingredients, giving you a light, flaky crust as it bakes up.

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