25 Brilliant Kitchen Shortcuts You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

Save time prepping food and make cooking easier with these cooking hacks that are pure genius.

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Use an empty water bottle to separate egg whites and yolks

Use an empty water bottle to separate egg whites and yolks iStock/svehlik
Crack an egg into a shallow bowl, then hold the mouth of the bottle near the yolk and gently squeeze. When you release the squeeze, the yolk will be sucked out, and you can deposit it into another bowl. Check out more ways to cook eggs perfectly.

Cut corn with a Bundt pan

Cut corn with a Bundt pan
To remove corn from the cob quickly, stand the cob upright in the center 
of a Bundt pan. Holding the top of the cob steady, stroke a chef’s knife downward along the sides to remove kernels. Scrape the cob with the back of the knife to release juices. Kernels and juice collect in the Bundt pan—meaning one less mess for you to clean up. (Check out these mouthwatering grilled corn recipes).

Skip the pasta rinse

Skip the pasta rinseiStock/Donald Erickson
Rinsing noodles washes away flavor and natural starch, which helps yummy sauce stick. It’s why some recipes suggest saving pasta water to use in sauce. Instead, skip the wash and spread drained pasta on a pan to cool.

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Don’t cry over a broken cake…

Don’t cry over a broken cake…iStock/sf_foodphoto
Instead, make a trifle by layering salvaged cake pieces with fresh whipped cream and fruit in a pretty glass bowl, advises Tamar Adler, chef and author of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.

Keep counters clean with a baking sheet

Keep counters clean with a baking sheetiStock/Scukrov
Place all ingredients on an empty baking sheet prior to prepping them. (This will help you catch spills and avoid wasting time hunting for an item as you cook.)

Pizza wheels chop herbs 

Pizza wheels chop herbs 
Turn in the chopping knife: Instead, roll over herbs like parsley and cilantro with a pizza wheel for quick and safe slicing. A pizza wheel also effortlessly chops foods like pancakes and pasta for small children.

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Use a countertop bowl for easy garbage

Use a countertop bowl for easy garbageiStock/JackJelly
As you cook, toss scraps, eggshells, and other garbage into a large bowl. This will contain messes and save time if a trash can isn’t readily accessible. Line the bowl with a plastic bag to make cleanup even easier.

For easier hard-boiled eggs, salt is your BFF

For easier hard-boiled eggs, salt is your BFF
iStock/Peter Hermus
Want the shells of hard-boiled eggs to come off in big chunks instead of a million tiny pieces? Add a teaspoon of salt to the cooking water before putting in the eggs.

Clean a blender sans sponge

Clean a blender sans spongeiStock/c12
Fill it one-third full with warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid, recommends Woman’s Day. Run it for ten seconds. Rinse and dry.

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Whip up gourmet bread crumbs in a pinch

Whip up gourmet bread crumbs in a pinchiStock/Donald Erickson
Got extra burger or hot dog buns? Tear into pieces and freeze in a zipper-top bag. Ten to 20 pulses in a food processor will transform them into ready-to-use bread crumbs—no thawing necessary.

Juice a lemon with a microwave

Juice a lemon with a microwave iStock/rez-art
Zap a lemon for ten seconds to break down cells and make the juice flow faster, suggests Laurent Tourondel, chef and partner at Arlington Club in New York City. This is good to remember when trying to squeeze out as much juice as possible for a vinaigrette.

For better pie crusts, use a cheese grater

For better pie crusts, use a cheese grateriStock/blowbackphoto
A cheese grater makes quick work of piecrusts and biscuits. Instead of cutting the butter into the flour, simply grate a stick of frozen butter, and then toss the shreds with flour until a crumbly mixture forms, says Beth Moncel, creator of budgetbytes.com.

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Flavor sauces and stews with leftover wine

Flavor sauces and stews with leftover wineiStock/Spaulin
Freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays (eight cubes = one cup) to add flavor to sauces and stews.  White and sparkling work best in creamy or clear and brothy soups (think chowder and simple vegetable), while red wine goes well with tomato or beef-based varieties (think chili). Add a few generous splashes per portion.

Flip natural varieties of peanut butter upside down

Flip natural varieties of peanut butter upside down iStock/carlosgaw
This position allows the pool of oil near the lid to move through the rest of the jar and make the peanut butter creamier (and to skip messy stirring). Just make sure the cap is screwed on tight to avoid a greasy pantry shelf.

Use your porch to refrigerate

Use your porch to refrigerateiStock/fishysam
If your fridge is full because you’re hosting a party and the temperature is 40°F or below, place hardy perishables (like fruits and vegetables) in a cooler outside near the back door. Doing so will free up a lot of extra shelf space while still keeping food cold.

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Leftover Doritos? Think outside the chip bag

Leftover Doritos? Think outside the chip bagiStock/Spauln
Smash a handful of chips, stuff into a clean pepper mill, and grind away onto everything from mac and cheese to broccoli.

Make friends with your kitchen scissors

Make friends with your kitchen scissorsiStock/parema
Use them to chop cooked or tender raw vegetables (especially greens) right in the bowl or pan, suggests Mark Bittman in his book How to Cook Everything Fast.

Halve cherry tomatoes fast

Halve cherry tomatoes fast iStock/arinahabich
Save time on your next salad: Find two similarly sized storage container lids. Place cherry tomatoes on top of one, then firmly hold the other lid on top of the tomatoes. Use a very sharp knife to slice through the entire bunch at once.

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Apple cutters slice potatoes

Apple cutters slice potatoesiStock/topnatthapon
You’ll have perfectly sized pieces to bake as wedges.

Soften ice cream hard as a brick

Soften ice cream hard as a brickiStock/MmeEmil
Heat a sharp knife under warm water, then use it to make one-inch-deep cuts in a grid formation, spacing the lines about an inch apart. This increases your ice cream’s exposed surface area, speeding up the thawing process (similar to the beef trick). Run a scooper under warm water, and easily serve up each section.

Defrost meat last minute

Defrost meat last minute iStock/KarpenkovDenis
Thank high school science for this neat trick: Remember, metal conducts heat. Place meat in a plastic bag, then put it on top of an upside-down aluminum pot. Fill another pot with room-temperature water, and set it on the meat. In five to ten minutes, your meat will be defrosted.

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Cut away the mold

Cut away the moldiStock/MmeEmil
Before you toss suspect-looking leftovers, know this: firm foods are more likely to be salvageable than soft foods. Mold generally can’t penetrate deep into hard cheeses like Asiago and cheddar, so it’s OK to cut off about an inch. The same goes for firm produce like bell peppers and carrots. However, chuck moldy-looking foods with high moisture content—yogurt, soft cheeses, cooked leftovers, and bread. Porous foods are likely to be contaminated beneath the surface.

Chop strawberries with an egg slicer

Chop strawberries with an egg sliceriStock/AlekStar
Use an egg slicer to quickly chop strawberries for fruit salads and desserts. Or cut avocados for sandwiches and uniform mozzarella slices for salads and pizza.

Twist open a mason jar for easy fried eggs

Twist open a mason jar for easy fried eggsAndrew Purcell for Reader's Digest
For perfectly round fried eggs (handy for breakfast sandwiches), heat a pan and spritz Mason jar rings with cooking spray. Place the rings on the pan, and slowly drop one cracked egg into each of the rings. Cook for about 5 minutes for a medium yolk. Use tongs to remove the Mason jar rings, and serve.

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Whip up French toast in your microwave

Whip up French toast in your microwaveiStock/monkeybusinessimages
Rub a pat of butter on the bottom of a mug; fill it to the top with chopped bread. In 
a separate cup, mix one egg, three tablespoons of milk, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Pour the mixture into the mug, and microwave for one minute.

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