We’re closing out 2018 with a handy list of cooking tips and kitchen hacks to help us work faster and economize in the kitchen (proper storage is everything) plus get every ounce of flavour from our food — whether it’s the best way to cook pasta or the crispiest pizza crust — because it’s the little things that make all the difference.
1. It’s totally fine to store your bread in the fridge (and freezer) to keep it fresh.
Refrigerated bread only seems hard because of starch retrogradation, or the re-crystallization of the starch in the bread. You can reverse the starch crystallization by warming up your slice. “Most people [including us!] would say, don’t put it in the fridge because it’ll make it go stale faster. If you’re going to toast it or warm it up anyway, it doesn’t matter”, says Modernist Bread’s Nathan Myhrvold.
Read more on why it’s okay to refrigerate bread.
2. Table salt is ruining your food.
That trusted table salt is 100 percent working against you. Think about how hard it is to see grains coming out of a salt shaker — the grains are so tiny, and so free-flowing that’s it’s easy to go overboard with a single pour. You won’t find table salt in any professional kitchen, so strike it off your grocery list.
Swap out your salt shaker for a bowl or ramekin filled with larger-grained kosher salt and use your fingers to pick it up. Feeling how much salt you’re adding helps to prevent salt overkill and makes it easier to season to the point of perfection. Professional cooks know that proper salting is the most important factor in taking a dish from average to awesome.
Read more tips on how to season like a pro and use kosher salt at home.
3. If You’re Cracking Eggs On The Side Of The Bowl You’re Doing It Wrong
Simply hit the egg on a flat surface to crack the shell instead of using the edge of a dish (or a knife if you’ve been hacking your way into eggs). Unlike breaking an egg against a bowl edge, hitting a flat surface cracks the outer shell but doesn’t push the egg pieces into the white and yolk. Once you have a crack in the egg exterior, gently pull apart the shell with your thumbs and voila.
Read more about how to crack an egg.
4. Everyone should own this $10 spatula.
Because of its thin shape, it can get into the tiniest of spaces … like those tomato-paste jars where spoons can’t fit. And the long length means it reaches right to the bottom of tall pasta sauce and peanut butter jars. It even gets into all the nooks and crannies of the blender. (The hard sides act like a squeegee, scraping out every last drop of smoothie.).
Read more about this amazing spatula.
5. Cooking pasta al dente is about more than just texture.
Not only is al dente pasta texturally superior to mushy, water-logged noodles, but it might be better for you too. Al dente pasta has a lower glycemic index (GI), which mean it takes longer for you to digest, so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much as pasta that’s been fully cooked.
Read more about what we learned about pasta-making this year.
6. It’s important that your freezer is set to -18C or lower.
When it comes to stocking up on basics (and for last-minute, hanger-fuelled cravings) the freezer can be your best friend. It extends the lifespan of food by putting the brakes on bacterial growth, making our busy lives that much more convenient. But to stay safe and prevent food-borne illness (and unnecessary food waste) it’s important to use proper freezing and thawing techniques and make sure your freezer is set to the proper temperature of -18 °C or lower.
Read more freezer storage tips.
7. Parchment paper is one of your most useful and affordable kitchen tools.
Amongst its many handy applications, parchment paper saves on heavy scrubbing during kitchen clean-up, as it won’t stick to the baked goods (we’re looking at you, wax paper), and it won’t melt or flame up in the oven (still looking at you, wax paper). What’s the secret? The paper goes through a special treatment process that increases its density and resistance to heat, while imparting serious non-stick properties. It’s also ideal for wrapping cheese, making a quick piping bag or baking moist, tender fish for a quick dinner.
Read more on our favourite uses for parchment paper.
8. A really hot, thick cast-iron pan can make perfect pizza.
Nathan Myhrvold (Author of Modernist Cuisine, Modernist Bread and founder of The Cooking Lab) advocates using a pizza steel, (instead of a ceramic pizza stone) for your homemade pie, but says a cast-iron pan will also do the trick. The key to a thin, chewy Neapolitan-style pizza crust with tasty scorch marks on the bottom is baking it on a super-hot surface — steel conducts heat better than ceramic (the material of choice for pizza stones), but so does cast iron. (Pre-heating the pan is key.)
Read more on using cast-iron pans.
9. You can do better than Pinot Grigio.
There was a time in the mid ’90s when pinot grigio was actually the best-made inexpensive white wine you could find. Stainless steel and cold fermentation had started to catch on with modern winemakers, and the Northern Italians — who were quick to adopt it — made their native variety pinot grigio famous.
“What has happened is people think that they like pinot grigio, when what they actually like is wine that’s been cold fermented in stainless steel,” explains wine agent Mark Coster. It is time to move on from pinot grigio and open yourself up to new — and dare we say better — wine experiences. We now live in a time where it has become increasingly easy to do so.
We recommend six delicious alternatives to pinot grigio to get you started.
10. One-use kitchen gadgets have a place in the kitchen, too.
One-use kitchen tools are often considered a huge waste of space. But some of these little gadgets are super handy, especially if you’re in love with a specific ingredient (an egg clacker is a wonderful thing if you eat soft-boiled eggs every day). While avocado slicers and strawberry stem removers have no place in the Chatelaine Kitchen, there are some uni-tools our staffers swear by.
Read more about the one-use tools we think are worth making room for in your cutlery drawer.
Bonus: Is the Instant Pot really worth it? Find out here