75 Cooking Tips that Only Pros Know

Written By John Richards on Saturday, October 13, 2012 | 1:10 PM

Whether it's snack time or a family supper, breeze through meal prep with these expert tricks from the past 75 years of Woman's Day. From improving food's taste to storing produce safely, these top-notch tips will prepare you to cook any meal to perfection-Thanksgiving included! 

Skip the Last-Minute Run to the Store

1 | When you need extra ice cubes for a party, use muffin tins. The cups will make big ice cubes that last longer. July 1978
2 | If you don't have buttermilk, use 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make a cup.November 2007
3 | Substitute grapefruit juice for vinegar in vinaigrettes. August 1977
4 | Make bread crumbs if you have a lot of dry bread. (Tip for today: Use a food processor to create crumbs and store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator.) May 1945
5 | Can't find your funnel? An envelope with a bottom corner cut off works for dry ingredients.December 1941
6 | Instead of cream of tartar, use 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar for every ½ tsp needed. December 2007 

Keep Food Fresh and Flavorful

7 | Don't wash summer fruits and berries before refrigerating them or they'll get mushy. July 1978
8 | Sour cream lasts longer if you turn its container upside down in the fridge, preventing air from filling the top. September 1992
9 | Remove green shoots from garlic cloves. They're often bitter and affect the garlic's flavor.November 2006
10 | Cover crisp cookies tightly to keep them from getting soft. If they lose their crispness, refresh in a 300°F oven for about 5 minutes. April 1994
11 | Apples should be stored in a ventilated plastic bag in the fridge, as they release gases that can accelerate ripening in other vegetables. September 2007
12 | Tightly wrapped fresh ginger will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months and can be grated or sliced frozen-no need to thaw. May 2011
13 | After rinsing dirt from parsley, basil and other fresh herbs, wrap in damp paper towels and refrigerate in plastic bags. September 2011
14 | Snip ends off asparagus and stand upright in an inch of water in a glass. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. April 2010
15 | Red spices such as paprika and ground red pepper will keep their color and flavor longer if stored in the fridge. February 1992
16 | Soften up hardened brown sugar by placing an apple or piece of fresh bread in the container. Seal together for 1 day, then fluff with a fork. September 1941 

Buy the Best

17 | Gently wiggle each egg in the carton to make sure it hasn't broken and stuck to the bottom. April 2006
18 | Select plump, smooth tomatoes without any blemishes. If they're too firm, place in a warm spot to ripen. August 1970
19 | Steer clear of strong-smelling cantaloupes-they are overripe. The best melons have a subtle, sweet aroma. August 2011
20 | The color of an orange doesn't indicate age-some oranges turn green again after maturity. Look for ones that are firm and heavy for their size. July 1979
21 | Choose corn ears with bright green husks. Peek inside to make sure the rows are tightly packed to the tip. September 2010
22 | A ripe pineapple feels heavy, its leaves are crisp and green, and its skin is golden yellow.January 2012
23 | Avoid hard plums. Good ones yield to gentle pressure and are slightly soft at the tip end. July 1979 

Perfect the Taste, Texture or Appearance

24 | For flat bacon, lay the slices on a wire rack over a baking sheet and bake at 400°F for 18 to 20 minutes. September 2012
25 | Let cooked roasts stand at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes before carving to let juices settle and the meat firm up for easier slicing. January 2006
26 | Make stews, soups and chili a day ahead so their flavors can develop. May 2003
27 | Don't wrap baking potatoes in foil. It traps the moisture and steams potatoes rather than bakes them. February 1992
28 | Leftover unsauced spaghetti, other pastas and corn on the cob will taste almost fresh-cooked if you drop them in boiling water for just a minute or two, then drain. September 1975
29 | Cooking shrimp in their shells will make them more flavorful. December 2003
30 | When cooking poultry or a roast, use wooden spoons instead of a fork for turning so you don't pierce the flesh and lose juices. August 1977
31 | Don't rinse pasta after draining. If pasta starts to stick, add a little oil and toss gently. March 1978
32 | In thickening soup or sauce, cornstarch keeps it clear, while flour makes it opaque. One Tbsp cornstarch equals 2 Tbsp flour. August 1977
33 | To maintain top flavor, use low heat and a short cooking time to reheat leftovers. For safety, food must be hot all the way through. September 1975
34 | Baking raspberry jam right into scones (just stir through the dough) is a fun twist on a classic dish. June 1965
35 | Quick breads, such as banana bread, will cut in neater, thinner slices 1 day after baking. June 1965
36 | Refrigerate breaded foods at least 20 minutes before cooking. The breading will adhere better.June 2006 


Prep Food Perfectly

37 | Mushrooms are like sponges and shouldn't be immersed in water. Better to clean them with a soft-bristled brush or a slightly dampened towel. June 1979
38 | To get grit off spinach, swish bunches through a bowl of cool water. The dirt will fall to the bottom. June 1938
39 | Before cooking Brussels sprouts, slit them halfway through the base. They'll cook evenly and quickly. March 1958
40 | Refrigerate onions for at least half an hour before chopping to avoid tears. November 1992
41 | Removing seeds from a cantaloupe takes less time and saves more of the melon if you use a rubber spatula instead of a spoon. March 1983
42 | Wet your hands in cold water before mixing or shaping ground beef so the meat won't stick to them. October 2003
43 | When shredding raw potatoes, place the grater in a colander inside a pie pan. The water drains out while you shred. June 1963
44 | Chop or cut up canned whole tomatoes by snipping them in the can using kitchen shears.February 1992
45 | If you need to measure syrup or honey, swish vegetable oil around in the measuring cup first to prevent sticking. January 1974
46 | To slice raw beef paper-thin, first freeze it for 45 minutes, then cut against the grain. June 1979
47 | Slip your hands into plastic bags when prepping or cutting chiles to avoid touching the oils. When done, toss the bags. November 2006
48 | Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough strings from celery. April 1949
49 | To make cupcakes all the same size, measure the batter with an ice cream scoop. September 1982
50 | To peel garlic, put cloves on a board and whack with the flat side of a heavy knife or bottom of a saucepan. The papery skin will lift off. February 1992
51 | Tap an egg firmly on a flat surface rather than against a bowl edge so that it cracks more cleanly and you don't drive little shell pieces inside. April 2005
52 | To thoroughly clean leeks, place the cut pieces into a bowl of cold water, swish them around and lift them out with a slotted spoon, leaving the grit behind. Repeat with fresh water until water is clear.April 2011
53 | The easiest way to remove silk from an ear of corn: Wipe downward firmly with a clean, damp cloth. September 1992
54 | To cut fresh basil into narrow ribbons, stack the leaves on top of one another and roll them lengthwise into a tight cylinder, then slice crosswise. September 2005
55 | Shallots and pearl onions are easy to peel if you wet them first. If you're peeling quite a few, let them stand in hot water for about 10 minutes. September 1982  

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

56 | If you're buying a whole turkey, figure on 1 lb (uncooked) per person. For a boneless turkey breast, plan on ½ lb per person. November 2011
57 | Choose serving dishes and utensils a few days ahead to avoid last-minute confusion. November 1989
58 | Freeze cranberries before you grind or chop them and you'll have less mess. August 1977
59 | To thaw a frozen turkey safely, put it in the fridge and allow one day for each 5 lb. If you need to speed things up, submerge the wrapped bird in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. A 20-lb bird will take 10 hours. November 1994
60 | Pat turkey dry with a paper towel after rinsing inside and out under cold running water. No soaking or scrubbing is required. November 1949
61 | Loosely spoon stuffing, which expands during cooking, into the turkey. Use roughly ¾ cup stuffing per lb of turkey. Cover exposed stuffing with foil if you want to avoid crisping. November 1992
62 | Stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh near where the turkey breast begins-it's the last place to reach a safe temperature (165°F). November 2011
63 | Rub the bird with olive oil or butter before roasting and you won't need to baste it. November 2010
64 | If you're hosting a big gathering, consider buying two small turkeys instead of one. They cook in about half the time and are easier to lift. Bonus: four drumsticks! November 1958
65 | To thicken thin gravy, stir in a few Tbsp of granular or flake-style instant mashed potatoes. Cook until gravy is thickened. February 1992
66 | If your stuffing is too moist, transfer it from the turkey to a baking dish and bake uncovered at 375°F for 15 minutes. November 2011
67 | Short on time? Buy a pumpkin pie, then dress it up yourself with a homemade topper such as streusel. No one will know. November 1958 

Solve Pesky Problems

68 | Use a rubber glove to grip a lid that won't come off. November 1989
69 | Fix slightly overbeaten whipped cream by stirring in 1 or 2 Tbsp cold heavy cream. November 1992
70 | To let a little steam escape from a saucepan, lift the lid and clip a wooden clothespin onto the edge to keep it ajar. May 1955
71 | To get more juice from a lemon, halve it and heat in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds. Let cool, then squeeze. October 2005
72 | Dry wet food thoroughly before frying to prevent oil from spattering. February 1992
73 | Get rid of fruit flies by scattering some fresh basil or peppermint leaves inside your fruit bowl. The herbs are natural repellents. May 1998
74 | Forgot to take the butter out? Soften it quickly by cutting a stick into pieces and placing on a plate, then cover with a metal bowl that's been rinsed with hot water. October 2003
75 | Before sifting flour onto wax paper, always crease the paper down the center. This creates a handy pouring spout. February 1960


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