A couple of weeks ago I asked the Budget Bytes Facebook community to share their favorite game-changing cooking tips, and boy did you guys deliver! The thread was so alive with great tips and people swapping ideas with each other that I just had to share the top tips here for everyone to enjoy. The thread is still going strong and more tips and comments are being added every day, so you can check it out here to see the latest!
Here were the top tips, as of a week or so ago, according to the number of comments and interactions (in no particular order). I hope you enjoy and feel free to discuss in the comments below or hop on over to Facebook to join the conversation!
Top Cooking Tips
1. Make Measuring a Breeze
Coating a measuring spoon or cup in oil to make ingredients like honey or peanut butter come right out.Jenn
2. Take Your Grilled Cheese Up a Notch
Mayo on bread versus butter for a grilled cheese.Shawna Cotton Beidler
3. Most Loved Kitchen Gadget
Less a trick, but splurging for an immersion blender was an amazing investment!Gina Zaneri
4. Add Flavor to Soups, Stews, and More
Using Better Than Bouillon in soups, sauces and gravy for some extra depth of flavor.Jennifer Keefer
5. Improve the Texture of Tofu
Freeze and defrost tofu. I learned it from you!Julia Anker
For context, freezing tofu changes the texture of the tofu, which is perfect for recipes where you want more texture and less softness. :)
6. Perfect Steak Every Time
When cooking steak on a stovetop use two pans. Put one on high and one on low. Use the hot pan to first sear the edges of the steak before cooking it on low/med. Searing the edges locks in the fluids and gives you a juicer steak.Kyle Hudson
7. Rethink Boiled Eggs
Steam eggs rather than boil.Lois Thurstan
See our guide on how to Steam Eggs Here.
8. Add Extra Umami to Your Recipes
Adding a bit of anchovies (or miso) to tomato sauce and adding butter at the end. Makes it super umami tasty and creamy.Mandy
9. Quick and Easy Corn on the Cob
Wrapping fresh corn on the cob (in the shucks) with a paper towel, running under water to wet the towel, and steaming in the microwave for 5 minutes. Comes out perfect every time.Donna Woodliff
10. Make Cleanup Easy
Using parchment paper when baking rolls and cookies so you don’t have to scrape the panAnonymous
11. Pressure Cooker Eggs
Hard boiled eggs in the instant pot!Marianne
12. Swap Your Skillet for the Oven
Making bacon in the oven.Anne
See our tutorial on How to Make Bacon in the Oven for more details!
13. Frozen Vegetables for Convenience
I learned this from you- but using frozen vegetables. I always bought fresh and I would dread washing and cutting and then I would waste a lot because it goes bad so fast. I still use fresh vegetables some but I keep frozen vegetables to roast for easy dinners too!Paige Wright
14. Easy Grease Cleanup
I just learned this recently from watching the Julia Pacheco cooking show. After frying up meats like ground meat or sausage , take a paper towel and with tongs or spoon or whatever move it around in the pan to remove the grease. Then just toss the paper towel. Saves from having to wash a greasy colander too!Eileen
15. Perfect Sautéed Mushrooms
Cooking mushrooms in a pan with 1/4 cup water and once the water is evaporated and the mushrooms are soft finishing them with butter for taste and shine. They don’t get nearly so greasy as when you cook just in oil or butter. Tip learned from this video.Mindy
16. Portion and Freeze
Freezing tomato paste in ice cube sized portions – now I buy a large can when I need tomato paste & freeze what I don’t use. Recipes I used usually called for 1 tablespoon so I always had left over paste.Anonymous
17. Recipes are Memories
Acceptance- i can’t make certain recipes as well or even close as some family members. So cherish the recipe for safe keeping holds special meaning since I can’t taste it.Heather Miker
Yesssss! 👏 🙌 Recipes can hold so many lovely recipes. They can be as nostalgic as a photo album.
18. Bulk Cook Beef
I made a bunch of ground beef for a taco night at church last week. Made it in the crock pot. I don’t think I’ll ever make it in a skillet again if I don’t have to! Soooo good! I cooked 5 pounds and it was perfect. So 5 pounds in the crock pot and divided up for future meals. Easy peasy.Kim Scott
20. Stay On Top of the Mess
CLEAN AS YOU GO so much easier that way.Sofia K.
21. Bright Your Food with Acid
1. Clean as you go!
2. Better Than Bouillon is the best broth base.
3. Add lemon juice or vinegar if your food is tasting a bit bland – the acid gives it a kick!Elise Durand
22. Salt is Everything
Salt is your friend! Samin Nosrat taught me that when food is properly salted it will have a “ZING” when you taste it. My cooking has improved exponentially since I have been following her advice.
Also- taste the water in which you boil pasta, potatoes or vegetables. It should taste pleasantly salty like the ocean. Your mashed potatoes will need much less butter and milk!Kristin Bergamini
Check out Samin Nosrat’s book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.
23. Mashed Bananas
Squishing a banana before peeling for muffins.Camille
24. Colanders Are Multipurpose
Super silly but … using the holes in a colander to pull through herbs like rosemary, lavender, cilantro.Capi Zabala
25. Lump-free Soup and Gravy
My friend showed how she takes a Mason jar, puts flour in it with milk and shakes it to make a slurry for gravy or thickening soups. It never gets lumpy doing it like that. Like a 1/4 flour to 1 cup milk.Erin Bosco
26. Easy Creamy Sauces
Cream cheese makes just about any sauce creamier, more stable, and more rich. It’s like magic. Cream cheese in spaghetti sauce makes it super rich and creamy and cuts down on the acid content. We always called it “Better Spaghetti”.Velah
27. Sheet Pans For The Win
Sheet pan pancakes in the oven.Samantha Johns
28. Parmesan for Umami
Adding some parmesan rind to a soup or sauce adds flavor/umami. Yum!Laurie Gannon
29. Mise En Place
Not a trick exactly, but the best thing I learned was mise en place, or putting everything in order before you begin, and reading through the full recipe before I start to cook. It makes all the difference in getting a good result, eliminating mistakes, and ease of cooking anything.Marion M.
Solid advice!! If you want more tips on how to execute a recipe, check out our 10 Tips for Recipe Success.
30. Use Technology to Your Advantage
Let a machine cook the rice for you. Because I certainly can’t.Lindsay
There’s no shame in getting a little help from technology! :)
31. Perfect Poached Eggs
Poaching eggs in a frying pan instead of a pot. Water is shallow and more room for poaching multiple eggs! (I don’t know why I never thought of it!)Regan
32. Cook Tomato Paste
Browning your tomato paste first before adding. The flavor is soo much better. Brown in butter or a little olive oil until it turns a dark brick red.Samantha Kelly
33. No More Tears
Use clear swim googles to cut onions. It looks hilarious, but I don’t cry anymore when I chop onions!Tori
34. Easy Egg Shell Removal
Shaking boiled eggs in a mug for easy shell removal.Brandy Ragsdale
So what do you think? Did you learn any new cooking tips? Share a cooking tip or trick that was a total game changer for you in the comments below!
Does anyone know of a good reference for converting recipes to cook in an Instant Pot?
Love the app. Love your meals.
Use your broiler to preheat your oven faster
I’d say my biggest game changer is learning proper knife skills and getting good knives (and keeping them sharp). It doesn’t take that long to learn how to properly cut an onion, but it helps you move faster and get better results, and it’s safer. You don’t need a lot of knives, a single good (properly fitted) chef’s knife will do 90% of what you need. I used a quality hand-me-down for many years.
In terms of “tricks” it’s cooking beans in the crock pot, which I learned from Rick Bayless. Just throw them in with some water (no soaking) plus whatever aromatics you want and cook for 4-6 hours.
Regarding tip #6, look at myth #2 here: https://www.seriouseats.com/old-wives-tales-about-cooking-steak
“Sear to seal in juices” has been disproven many times over. Searing is all about texture and flavor. I find reverse searing is an easier way to get consistent results (desired inner temperature and good crust).
I will always maintain that homemade broth is a soup game-changer. I do it in the crock pot, although a purist will insist on using the stove top. I put in a chicken carcass (such as from a whole roasted chicken) with 8 cups water. Leave on high for 2 hours. Then add aromatics and vegetables (smashed garlic cloves, bay leaf, peppercorns, 2-3 stalks celery, 1 onion, 2 carrots). Let it go another 2 hours. Then I bag it up, 2 cups into a 1 qt freezer bag. Cool the bags. Freeze flat on a sheet pan for future use.
Don’t leave it on low all day long like I used to do. It tastes brighter to do it on high for the shorter period of time. Also, only leave the vegetables and aromatics in for half the time. You want to pull out their flavor, not cook them to death.
Yes, it is so easy to use canned broth or bouillon. I don’t disagree with that. I’m just saying you can’t get that beautiful satiny gelatin mouthfeel out of a can/jar/box. It makes a noticeable difference, especially in soups. Please try it!
Also important to note that when you use it in a recipe, you’ll need to add an extra 1/2 tsp of salt or so since this is unsalted broth. Similar to how Beth doesn’t season a batch of beans until it gets used. Keeps it versatile and you can season appropriately to its application.
Which reminds me of my other game changing advice- taste your food before you serve it. Seems a little obvious maybe but taste test for saltiness in particular. You’re often aiming to get the right balance between different flavor profiles. Salt punches up the flavor, but some other times a hit of lemon juice or vinegar (as was mentioned in another tip) or a dash of sugar or honey will make a huge difference.
I’m trying this technique right now! I love to use homemade stock in my recipes. In soups, I use half homemade and half Better than Bouillon, to stretch out my stock stash!
Beth’s email today with pumpkin chili, a brilliant idea I can’t believe I never came up with, being a chili experimenter and loving pumpkin as I do, reminded me of a good compromise I made up a few years ago.
My adult daughter/roommate does not like the texture of beans. (No, I do not overcook them!) So I was forever making two separate pots of chili. But she was missing out on the nutrients and fiber in the beans, not to mention great flavor, and “her” chili was always a little soupy because we started cutting way back on meat.
So — duh, I also don’t know why I didn’t come up with this long ago — I now cook the beans ahead, then PUREE them and add to the cooking chili. The chili becomes rich and thick and still has everything you want from beans, and a great, new flavor profile.
BUT! It’s going to go into the chili pot in a clump, and clump up again a couple times before it finishes cooking. So whisk the heck out of it when you first put it in the chili, and several times over the period of cooking. It might take one more quick whisk when you reheat from frozen, but it’s so worth it.
Now to just add that pumpkin …
I can’t stand the texture of beans either, but never liked the flavor of chili without them (I would end up with a lot of beans at the bottom of my bowl lol). I started using chopped up mushrooms instead and I love it. If I’m cooking chili that others will eat I still add beans though.
Another easy trick is to thicken with canned refried beans. I’ve used them to thicken a too-watery minestrone and to make more of a meal out of many one-pot dishes.
Yes! I already used the colander hole trick for some cilantro just a few days ago. Also my step kids DEVOURED your one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta so I think I’ll try adding cream cheese to more sauces! Also what is the picture for #29? That looks delicious.
Thank you! That’s my one pot lemon artichoke chicken and rice. :)
I already do a lot of those game changer things, some of which I picked up from you. :-) However, I’m asking myself WHY oh WHY did I never think to use my crockpot for ground beef. I’m a big crockpot fan and make chicken, beef, and pork for shredded meat on a regular basis. Can’t imagine why I never thought to do it for ground beef, but that changes today!!!
Yes, I freeze leftover tomato paste or tomato sauce. Then sometimes I just randomly throw it in a tomato-based dish. I like having all my ingredients ready to go too. I have made lots of rice in my microwave my last two microwaves made perfect rice. We just had to get a new microwave and we haven’t had a chance to make rice yet. We will soon, since we are having a stirfry soon.
Hi Beth! I’m not on FB, so communicating this way. This is more of a Food Prep tip, less a cooking tip. We don’t do the same kind of weekly lunch meal prep as you do, tho it looks great. Over the years, to feed myself, spouse, and children (who are now adults , grown and gone) for lunch, I would prep in advance a weeks worth of sandwiches: ham and cheese, or turkey and cheese and freeze them. Everybody could usually manage to grab a sandwich in the a.m. from the freezer, a hard boiled egg from fridge, and an apple or orange, and put them in a paper bag!, tho sometimes I’d have bags ready on the counter! The main thing was, I did the sandwich making work Sunday night and that part was done. The sandwiches were made on toasted bread with butter on one side and mustard on the other. Mayo didn’t work. It may have been a little dull, but it made life easier and they were ok with it. I would, if I felt like it, make fresh sandwiches during the week, from roast chicken leftovers or something. Another good food prep thing is having muffins already made for people’s breakfasts. I make a protein heavy muffin using almond meal as the flour instead of wheat, with banana and pumpkin and eggs. When my kids and their families visit now I always make sure to have this stuff around and it gets eaten, and when they go home, this stuff is good for travel, too
Our son is raising a family now, and he does most of the cooking. He leans heavily on you, Beth, and Melissa Clark from NYTs. It’s the funniest thing, we talk about food quite a bit and we both will say, well is this from Beth or Melissa? I feel like you two are part of the family. Many thanks to you and Budget Bytes.
I absolutely love that idea, Sue! Thank you for sharing with us!
Hi Sue. Thank d for these tips. I was wondering if you could share your muffin recipe(s). They sound great!
Great tips!! Thanks for coordinating and then publishing these.
I peel my over-ripe bananas before I vacuum seal them. When I’m especially OCD I mash & measure them & then freeze them.
I also vacuum seal my meats in 1 pound increments & make ‘em flat for easy thawing.
To measure solid fats like Crisco, I fill a large measuring cup with water, put in the solid, and then watch for the water to rise to the appropriate level. eg I want 1 c. crisco, I fill my 4c with 2c cold water & put in enough crisco to make it rise to 3 c. Science.
Oooh, that’s a really cool method! I love it!
You could also use a kitchen scale. Even sciencey-er
Yep I totally agree with this, I’ve been struggling with recipes lately that want “1/2 cup butter” – I’m in the UK so a cup is 250ml from memory – I don’t measure butter in ml’s! And Tina I very much doubt your kitchen scales measure ml’s or cups… unless I’m missing something 🤔😊