Even if you think of yourself as a pretty efficient kitchen user, it’s likely that you still have a few tricks to learn. From adjusting the way you cook to changing how you clean your equipment and thinking outside the box about storage, there are plenty of smart measures you can take to minimize your kitchen woes and ensure that you’re more than happy to let guests into the room. Here are eleven of the most amazing kitchen hacks that will help you out.
1. Stop your eyes from watering while chopping onions
Sure, you could invest in a sturdy pair of goggles to stop your eyes from tearing up while slicing a pungent onion, but it’s cheaper and easier to just put a slice of bread in your mouth. Although this tactic sounds odd at first, there’s sound science behind it—the bread will stop sulfur gas from making its way to your eyes, and it’s this gas that turns into sulfuric acid when it encounters the natural water in your eyes. A bonus tip for onion-cutters is to chill your onions before trying to prepare them, as this inhibits some of the reactive enzymes that lead to sulfur gas production.
2. Keep your fridge smelling great
Whether you find yourself scrunching up your nose when you open the fridge door or are more concerned about food changing taste because of strong odors during storage, there’s a simple way to fix your problem. Just place a used tea bag into the fridge! After tea bags lose their flavor, they become porous enough to soak up nearby flavors and smells. You can use this same trick in your bin, where the teabags will absorb unwanted liquids as well as odors.
3. Stop pots from boiling over
If you’re cooking pasta or beans in boiling water, you might want to leave the room and get on with other chores. However, how many times have you returned to a warning hiss as the water starts to boil over and soak your stovetop with starchy water? You can prevent this common accident and free up more of your time by putting a wooden spoon across the top of your pot—the spoon soaks in steam and prompts bubbles to condense back to liquid. Add 1-2 drops of olive oil to the pan for even better results.
4. Rescue a salty soup
It’s easy to get carried away with the salt shaker while making a soup, but don’t worry—your soup isn’t ruined if you overdo it with the sodium. All you need is a potato. Peel it, and put it right into your soup, where it will soak up the excess salt you have added. When the flavor is more to your liking, just remove the potato and your soup is ready for consumption.
5. Disinfect sponges and cloths
Instead of replacing your dish rags, dish sponges and cloths, wet them and toss them into the microwave for a few seconds. The heat in the appliance destroys the germs lurking inside these items, leaving them disinfected and ready for use again.
6. Improve the appearance of wooden chopping boards
Wooden chopping boards look gorgeous in the beginning, but it’s common for them to develop distorted, cracked surfaces that make your kitchen appear shabbier. There are two secrets to keeping your wooden boards looking brand new for years. Firstly, avoid soaking them, and just wipe them down instead. Secondly, oil them regularly to protect the wood and stop it from cracking. Mineral oil is a good choice, but avoid cooking oils—they can turn rancid.
7. Use magnets
It’s common to have so many different utensils scattered around the kitchen in all the drawers and cupboards that it’s almost impossible to find what you’re looking for in a pinch. One inexpensive and effective way around this problem is to attach magnets to cupboard doors and certain areas of wall space, so you can instantly grab for that knife, spatula or ladle at the precise moment you need it.
8. Add extra freezer shelves
With only a few shelves or drawers to use, freezers can become chaotic and food can get crushed. If you buy some cheap magazine holders and place them horizontally, you instantly have extra shelves that make it easier to find the things you want and affords some protection to more delicate items.
9. Make it easy to peel shallots
Plenty of people dismiss a recipe that contains shallots, as it’s infamously irritating to peel them. However, they’re easy to peel after just 5-10 minutes in boiling water—in fact, you can just peel their skins right off, because the hot water will separate the peel from the allium’s surface.
10. Use chalkboard labels
If you have so many jars and bottles that you find it hard to know which spice, marinade or vinegar is which, you need a labelling system. However, even if you have such a system in place, you can make your approach more economical by investing in some reusable labels that let you write with chalk. That way, you’ll always know what’s in your containers, but you can easily relabel and reuse when necessary.
11. Give strawberries a longer life
Finally, if you love strawberries but despair over their relatively short life, try packing them in sugar. All you need is a clean, freezer-proof container. Place a layer of strawberries into this container after washing and hulling the fruit, then add about 1.5tsp of caster sugar to the container. Sprinkle the sugar to ensure it is evenly distributed, then add another layer of strawberries and repeat. When you take them out of the freezer, they’ll thaw in just 30 minutes (and the sugar will help to separate them).