Food

9 Cooking Steps You Should Feel Free to Skip

9 Cooking Steps You Should Feel Free to Skip

Like most people, when I was figuring out my way around a kitchen, I always cooked from recipes…

…and I followed those recipes to the letter, assuming if I didn’t, the result would be a culinary catastrophe. I stuck with the instructions even when I had no idea what they meant — like that time I dutifully poured some hot basting liquid down the drain after reading a step that said “reduce sauce by a third.”

Fast forward a few decades when, if I’m even using a recipe, I find myself looking at it through my shortcut goggles. What can I cheat? What can I swap? What can I skip? Turns out, a lot. Here are a few things I’ve found I can pass right over…

Measuring Water to Grain Ratio It’s crazy that I’ve been cooking as long as I have and still have to read the instructions on a label to remind myself of the liquid-to-grain ratio and the varying cooking times. Is it 2:1 for wheat berries and 2 1/2: 1 for farro? Or the opposite? Or neither? Guess what, it doesn’t matter! I’ve learned you can just cook your wheat berries, farro, and barley like you cook your pasta, covering with water and simmering until the grains taste firm-tender. I still use the packages for general timing guidelines, but my anxiety around perfectly cooked grains has been significantly diminished. (For whatever reason, I’m too scared to try this method with quinoa or rice, but it has definitely been done.)

Preheating the Oven I always used to laugh at my kids who wouldn’t place their frozen Trader Joe’s taquitos in the oven until it had preheated to exactly 400°F, not a minute sooner. When you’re reheating food that’s already been cooked, there’s no harm in placing it on a rack the moment you turn on the heat. Your food will warm as the oven warms. There is not complicated chemistry involved in warming up a leftover lasagna or a frozen fully cooked chicken finger. Baking something from scratch? That’s another story. Take it from the girl who routinely (accidentally!) omits the baking soda — you want to be really careful about skipping steps in baking…

Sifting Together Dry Ingredients …Except for this one! The day I read that you can whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, etc) directly in the mixing bowl as opposed to hand-cranking a rusty-old sifter (they’re always rusty! Why?) was the day I started to hate baking, with all its annoyingly precise sciencey rules, a little bit less.

Cooking or Thawing Frozen Vegetables You can either add frozen vegetables directly to your pot (think peas into a risotto or a stir-fry or corn kernels into warmed polenta) or you can run them under hot water in a strainer (like green beans or chopped spinach) until they have thawed. You’ve just saved yourself at least five minutes and maybe even an extra pot to wash.

Peeling Carrots Put away the peeler! Unless for some reason the exterior of your carrot looks extra stringy and rough, there is no need to waste all that good veg. A good scrub will do the trick.

Washing Chicken If only my mom knew this in the ’80s. I have such vivid memories of her coming home from work and rushing to put dinner on the table. Ninety-percent of the time, that dinner involved chicken which meant rinsing and patting every breast or leg before adding it to the skillet. If she only knew that bacteria is killed through the normal process of cooking! And that dry chicken — as opposed to still sorta wet chicken — browns and roasts so much more effectively. (My mom also drives approximately 30% faster when she’s purchased butter at the store and wants to get it into the refrigerator ASAP, but that’s another story.)

Soaking Beans Overnight There’s a caveat here. Ever since I discovered dried heirloom beans, I find great comfort in soaking a pile of coronas or limas in a big bowl right before I go to sleep, knowing that they’ll be ready to go for dinner the next day. Romance and ritual aside, though, is this even necessary? No. It will just take longer for your beans to cook if you haven’t pre-soaked. If you haven’t thought ahead to soak overnight, boil beans for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, and let sit for another 45 minutes. At that point, they’ll be ready to throw into whatever recipe you’re making. (P.S. I’m sure you already know that an Instant Pot makes this process even faster.)

Trimming Cilantro How much do I dread picking off the little tiny thyme leaves from the sprig, or trimming basil or mint leaves from their woody stems? It’s no surprise that cilantro is my favorite herb, precisely because their stems are so tender, you can chop them right up along with the leaves or throw the entire bunch in to the blender with your avocado, cucumber, olive oil, and jalapeno for soup. Excuse me one second while I just go ahead and make that…

Pricking Baking Potatoes I’ve literally never done this in my life and I’ve baked approximately eight thousand russets. (And delicious russets at that!) Is this something people do unquestioningly out of ritualistic habit? Does it have something to do with tuber explosions? Will someone please explain?

P.S. Toby’s cookies that will blow you away (he skips a step! One that I always thought was crucial!) and 9 easy family meals we’ve loved to death.

  1. Michele says...

    I’ve read on a nutritionist’s blog that there’s a listeriosis risk from not heating/cooking frozen vegetables.

  2. Elena says...

    What is the dish pictured? Looks delish!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’ll ask Jenny!

  3. vanessa m says...

    “like that time I dutifully poured some hot basting liquid down the drain after reading a step that said ‘reduce sauce by a third.'” Does this remind anyone else of my beloved Amelia Bedelia!? lol!!

    • Suzanne says...

      Yes! Exactly.

  4. Madeline says...

    My mom once asked my brother to stick a fork in the potatoes and put them in the oven for dinner. She did not specifically instruct to take the fork out so he didn’t and 45 minutes later we had hot forks and exploded potato all over the oven.

  5. Candy says...

    Advice from a food writer: Modern flour has been sifted several times before it’s bagged and shipped to retailers (unlike flour from our great-grandmother’s time), so there’s really no need to sift before using. Whisking flour with other dry ingredients to distribute things evenly is just fine.

    Another rule you don’t need to follow exactly: Eggs at room temp. If you’re baking, they just need to be the around the same temp as the batter so they blend better. Warming them for a minute or two in hot tap water, to about 65 degrees, works well. You just don’t want them really cold.

  6. Cindy says...

    Another safety concern to add to the potatoes! You should never put a glass dish (like Pyrex) in an oven until it’s fully heated. The radiant heat from an electric burner in a pre-heating oven can heat the glass dish too quickly while the ambient oven temp isn’t yet up, leading to thermal shock from the difference in temperatures and a glass explosion. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s miserable to clean up potentially very dangerous.

    • Suzanne says...

      I had a baked potato explode in the oven. Not fun. I poke mine with a fork now.

  7. Rheanne says...

    Exploding potatoes = terrifying and potato literally everywhere! I mean everywhere! Better safe than sorry with the poking.

    • JC says...

      Exactly! This only happened to me once, but it’s seared in my memory!

  8. Jemma says...

    One thing I’ve learnt recently is that you can actually skip the step of proofing your active dry yeast if you know it’s ok to use. Like “proofing” is just a means of double checking that the yeast is not stale. So in most recipes you can just dissolve in the liquid and add it straight away without needing that 5 minute waiting period to see it foam.

  9. I agree with all of these except preheating the oven. If your pizza has meat on it, it is safest to heat the meat quickly (to kill bacteria) rather than slowly. That is why it is important to at least put meat in a preheated oven. I don’t wash chicken either…so that the raw juices don’t splash around the kitchen sink area. Can you tell I’m a germaphobe yet?

    • Michael says...

      yes
      as soon as your pizza gets to 165 F. its safe.
      and veggies can be contaminated with pathogens as easily as meat.

  10. amy says...

    Didn’t you read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder? The potato exploded in the fire!

    • Morgan says...

      haha I was coming here to say that! Never forget!

  11. Agnès says...

    Jenny, you definitely know how to start a conversation! I can picture you sipping a glass of wine, nodding and laughing as you’re reading the comments! (I’ll definitely cook potatoes today, and will think twice).

  12. AM says...

    best instant pot basmati rice hack: 2 cups rice + 2 cups water + 2 minutes on manual.
    That’s it. Even better if it sits for a while on “keep warm” while you make your other food. Always fluffy and soooo easy.

    • Abby says...

      Exactly how I cook it. Except I add one star anis to it. And you will never do it differently once you’ve tried it! Please do!

  13. Kate says...

    The exploded potato comments are killing me!! I’m with you on sifting dry ingredients. Maybe my baking could be 10 or even 30% better with it, but ain’t no working Mama got time for that. And a 5yo and 3yo do not care.

  14. Anon says...

    Great tips, thank you! Although I still wash my chicken and here is why: I was going to bake drumsticks in the oven one evening and decided to skip the wash (this was the one and only time that I didn’t wash the chicken legs). As we were eating supper, my husband suddenly had a strange expression on his face, and then proceeded to remove from his mouth a tiny METAL SCREW!!! So, I have continued to wash my chicken!

  15. shannon says...

    These are good tips ,most I have used but I will say I have had a tuber explosion lol and it’s not pretty so yes i do still poke my potatoes 🤪🙈

  16. Agnes says...

    My method is to follow a new recipe to the letter the first time before tweaking. Nothing more annoying in recipe reviews to see comments like, ‘I changed this for this, didn’t add this, added more of this. It turned out like crap. This recipe sucks!!’

    • Patty says...

      I do this too. I like to know how it should look and taste to begin with and then make changes as I make items again. I don’t trust recipes where reviews mention they changed x ingredients.

    • Karla says...

      Likewise, unless its onions. I reduce the onions almost no matter what the recipe is – I like ’em but not to where they overpower everything else.

    • Kara says...

      I have nothing to add here except the phrase “tuber explosions” keeps making me burst into giggles for some reason.

  17. brett says...

    I skip preheating the oven for things like roasting sweet potatoes, but if you’re hearing frozen things they get soggy if they slowly defrost in a preheating oven. Straight from the freezer to a hot oven for crispy tater tots, please!!

  18. Mercer says...

    Prick the potatoes, you must or an explosion you will have.

    • Michael Murphy says...

      This is true ! I wish I could share a hilarious pic of exploded potatoes

  19. Viki says...

    Ahh…with every “go ahead, you’re not scared are you scaredy-cat?” you provide at least one caveat. Lol. And here’s to your momma for protecting her family with good old Elbow Grease Chicken Scrub. Thank her for all of us momma who did the same.
    Oh, and that cranky old sifter…I still use mine. Why? Because it belonged to my grandmother Queenie and the sound of that metal on metal sound takes me back 40 years. I would wake, come home from school or fall asleep to the sound of that metal bar scraping on the screen knowing that the kitchen would soon be filled with a scent no expensive perfume could beat.
    My sons bought me a pretty new sifter with a squeeze handle mechanism. It’s around here somewhere. Probably in Queenie’s old Hoosier cabinet. It creaks a little too. Just like the old sifter…and me.
    Keep cooking & baking! It’s God’s work.
    Viki

    • Suzanne says...

      I love this. Your comment brings back good memories. Thank you.

  20. Liz says...

    Once I did not prick the potatoes and had a total tuber explosion. Very annoying and messy.

  21. Ana says...

    I feel validated by this absolutely genius post. I am firmly on Team Improv-Skipping and generally get inspired by a recipe and follow the core steps while winging the rest and sometimes substituting ingredients as needed. It has resulted in grandiose successes and total failures but make everything more fun and more innovative. My husband is not totally on board with this “anxiety driving” approach which is not reproducible enough to be palatable. I would not recommend this care-free approach with baking because in my experience the success to failure ratio is very low, which is probably why I am a terrible baker.

    • nadine says...

      Same, I love doing this. I find it fun too, and there are times that is less good but usually it works, with different ranges of success. My partner makes fun of me when I present meals and their names don’t have anything to do with the actual ingredient.
      I do it a lot while baking too, my trick is mostly focus on the texture needed and add/swap ingredients to get that. Also swap in the same category (milk can’t be swapped with water, you need something more fatty) Actually maybe the real trick, is to keep the expectation of the result flexible. Was it supposed to be a tart or a tea cake? Lol
      The counter point I have to admit though, is when a meal is particularly successful and I am not sure how to reproduce it.

  22. Robert Phillips says...

    I use a lot of cilantro in my chili recipe….. but keep the leaves for a garnish and only use the stems in the cooking. Ive found that the leaves just turn blackish but the stems have all of the cooking flavor. So, I take a bunch chop the tops off and rebag them and fine chop the stems for the chili.

  23. Hmmm… I don’t eat chicken but otherwise I think these things make for better dishes and aren’t skippable.

  24. Laura Hill says...

    I have Absolutely had baking potatoes explode in the oven if I haven’t pricked them to let the steam escape, and it’s a Huge, Stinky mess. DO Not skip this step. What’s it take? A second and a half per potato? Way less time than scraping potato guts from the bottom of your oven.

    • Robert Phillips says...

      I bake russets at 400 for 1.5-2.0 hours. I prep them by washing them and putting a big slice down the center, long wise and let them rip

    • El says...

      Yes! I am honestly scandalized by the “don’t pierce the potato” advice, lol.

  25. Elle says...

    I’m a bit cautious re ensuring frozen vegetables are cooked thoroughly, as here in Europe we’ve had some small outbreaks of listeriosis linked to frozen veg (with even some fatalities, though this is rare). The other tips are excellent though!

  26. I grew up in Ireland and we had potatoes with pretty much every meal. We never ever peeled them though. We just boiled them in their skins and served them with butter, salt and pepper and peeled them on our plates after; when the skin falls off in the easiest way!

  27. Sally says...

    I was a literal adult before I realised that most people peeled carrots. My mum never did. And I don’t now, unless the skin looks particularly yucky…

    And I was today-years-old when I learnt I don’t need to pre-heat the oven for everything… Honestly, it never occurred to me not to!

  28. Alice says...

    I have exploded unpricked potatoes!!!

  29. Carol W Wayne says...

    When I was a little girl, I read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder and in the book there is a story where the family is up early one morning harvesting potatoes…it is early morning and cold so they start a fire and put some potatoes in the fire to roast while they work…one of the potatoes explodes while cooking and burns Almanzo’s face…so ever since I have always poked a few holes in the potatoes….I can imagine that would not be fun to clean up…

    • Jennifer W says...

      I love that book, I always enjoyed their vivid descriptions of the food. It truly is a joy to read for food lovers!

    • Suzanne says...

      Farmer Boy was a great book for me. I have five sons and a husband who equate food with love. The books vivid descriptions were eye-opening for me to understand them. I eat to live, I know I’m in the minority here. But I’ve made cooking and baking a bigger priority because of the love it can convey.

  30. Sarah, Toronto! says...

    I have had a dramatic, Jackson Pollack like tater explosion…only once…it was enough. Pricking pots is easy, scraping cemented potatoes…no.
    Prick em ladies.

  31. It looks delicious.

  32. Jeff says...

    I remember my mom making dinner one night and hearing bangs coming from the kitchen – she had forgotten to put holes in her baked potatoes and two of the four in the oven had exploded. Might be a rare occurrence but it does happen and I’d rather take the ten seconds to put some holes in my potatoes than the time it took her to clean the oven.

  33. Kat O says...

    You really should wait for the oven to preheat, for many things. Especially with pizza (even frozen pizza!) you need the oven to be adequately hot so the bottom crisps, instead of slowly warming and getting soggy.

  34. Charlotte says...

    My mind is blown that everyone is painstakingly measuring their rice to liquid ratio! Rice + boiling water = keep boiling until rice is read and then strain, done!

  35. Emma says...

    Carrot peel is bitter so I’m going to peel them, although I don’t peel potatoes, even if I’m mashing them.
    If you’re roasting vegies, then sure, you don’t need to preheat the oven I guess but for baking which is basically science, yes preheating is required.
    Also, I always cook my rice by absorption which does require the correct ratio.
    I’m going to continue to wash raw whole chicken before I roast it; a lot of things done in the past are still good to do.

    Each to their own though! We all have our own way of doing things.

    • MJ says...

      Carrots do not have a peel, they are just one solid root vegetable.

      She mentions in the post that baking does require a preheat. And actually your example of roasting veggies does require a preheat if you want any kind of browning. Her post specifically mentions you don’t need to do it only if you are heating something through that is already cooked.

      And re: chicken, it has actually been proven that rinsing your chicken spreads even more bacteria than just leaving it alone. Water does not get rid of any bacteria, but it does splash and spread the bacteria around your sink area. Cooking kills the bacteria.

      Sometimes the way things are “done in the past” are good, but sometimes they aren’t.

  36. Aida Akopyan says...

    Minced garlic in a jar. I can’t remember the last time I chopped garlic!

    • EmBed says...

      Yes!!! My Czech mother in law does this, preserves it only with salt and it is just as good as fresh. The jarred garlic in the shop has all sorts of nasty preservatives that just don’t taste good, so I always turned my nose up at pre-chopped garlic — but the salt-only method works just fine. I haven’t chopped garlic in 7 years of living in Prague. :)

  37. Tracey says...

    Want 5 minute, no boil, no peel, creamy, fluffy, smooooooth mashed potato?

    Prick potatoes. Microwave until cooked all the way through (like, 2 minutes). Slice in half, so you have two dome shapes. Press through a potato ricer, skins and all, cut side down.

    Done! Add butter and salt, maybe cream or milk, whatever.

    For extra points save the flattened skins and salt and olive oil them for amazing chips.

    Honestly, it’s so easy, and no elbow grease required. I hate wet mash and short of getting all fancy and roasting spuds on a bed of rock salt like the pros this is 10/10 the best. And best of all, it’s easily scalable for a crowd.

    Ricer: https://www.ikea.com/au/en/p/idealisk-potato-press-stainless-steel-80191915/?gclid=CjwKCAjwkJj6BRA-EiwA0ZVPVvxrS3315k75F5Hb_jh5W4N-JltC60zzws8SIe8-h62zbzRa6iHKZhoCh5MQAvD_BwE

  38. Nicky says...

    do not skip sifting dry ingredients in baking unless you want your cakes/scones/muffins to be dence and heavy
    sifting takes maybe a minute and makes a huge difference in bsking

    • Clare says...

      Don’t sift and my scones are light af.

  39. LC says...

    It has definitely been done before? Lol. Cooking rice by covering with water, as opposed to using ratios, is what lots of people do in India every day :). This is how I learned how to cook rice and how all of the cooks in my family have always prepared rice. Just use a fine mesh sieve to drain the rice. Keep the rice water for congee.

  40. I never ever rinse my rice before cooking. Ever.

    • Bonnie says...

      I worked as a personal care attendant for a young man from the South who had had a stroke. Without fail, he could always hear me not rinsing the rice all the way from where he was in the living room. I can still hear him shouting at me, “Rice is DIIIIRRRTY!”

    • Emily Tan says...

      Hi there, Malaysian Chinese person obsessed with rice here. If you’re cooking the rice like pasta you don’t need to rinse it. But if you’re cooking it the Asian way (precise water ratios, steaming it until it’s absorbed all the liquid) then you do need to rinse the rice or it will be too sticky. The point is less about cleanliness and more about getting rid of excess rice flour that will make it all sticky and ruin that lovely individual-graininess of it all.

  41. Genevieve says...

    Er…skipping the ratio is NOT an option for rice. Sorry not sorry! At least not for Asian rice. Although I never use a measuring cup, I just measure from the bottom of the pot to the top of the rice with my thumb against my hand, which should be roughly the same distance as from the top of the rice to the top of water. Otherwise it will either be too dry or way too wet. If it’s too wet, leave the rice cooker on warm uncovered and it will dry up a bit.

    • Daisy says...

      In India, people just cook it with water and drain the excesses water once the rice is almost 90 percent done. The water/starch drained can be used to starch clothes as well

  42. Lindsay says...

    I disagree with the preheated oven one. Today I burnt my cookies bc of it. The oven gets very hot while it’s preheating, so only do it if you don’t mind extra browning/ or risking burnt edges.
    ( I accidentally pressed the off button and so after inputting 350 again, it had to go from 280 to 350 and they were too burnt to enjoy)

    • Gabriella says...

      Ordinarily, I love Jenny’s articles. However, I disagree with some of her tips.

      Soaking beans can make a very real difference. Your beans will tase creamier and less starchy and tough.

      If your potato is fresh enough and you haven’t pricked it, it will blow up in your oven.

      Also BE CAREFUL Jenny only gave the skip preheating your oven advice for frozen foods. As she said, don’t play with skipping the preheat stage for anything raw or that you make from scratch.

      Lastly, if a recipe tells you to sift for the hell of it, or because that’s what Grandma used to do, then perhaps you can make the point that the sifting is irrelevant. However, if you bake from something other than a family recipe (because I’m not putting down the grannies) choose a reputable cookbook. Thomas Keller is fussy as hell, but I turn out the highest quality product every time. If someone like Keller or even the less fussy but equally vetted chefs like Stella Parks, Melissa Clark, or Claudia Fleming tells you to sift the ingredients, they likely have a great reason for that, and it isn’t a step you should omit. It does make a difference!

    • Nicki says...

      She literally said it’s for rehearing food and ‘unless you’re baking something.’

    • Patti says...

      I think this referred to pre-cooked items.

    • Marian says...

      She said in the post that this technique *doesn’t* work for baking ;)

    • Rosanne barker says...

      I don’t understand your comment. Surely the oven can’t get hotter than the temperature you’ve set it at. I’ve put a temperature probe in my oven to time it and the electronic device showed that the temp steadily climbed until it reached set temp.

    • Lindsay says...

      Rosanne, why would my cookies get burnt in a few minutes while preheating then? I just don’t agree, if nothing else it will be risky and could change the texture etc. you are welcome to obey all of these tips! Good cooks are careful. Why risk the quality to save a couple minutes?!

      Nickie- you are literally the best reader – thank God you corrected me!

  43. Becca P. says...

    What’s the recipe for that delicious grain bowl pictured at the top? Thanks!

  44. Becky says...

    I have had an unpricked potato explode in my oven — two separate times! So I always stab them a few times now.

  45. Kamina says...

    I’ve never sifted OR whisked dry ingredients when baking? I just mix it with a wooden spoon. I do the baking powder/soda into the flour first to evenly distribute it, then I just dump the rest in and stir…and then I dump the wet ingredients in on top of that. I’m a proud one-bowl baker!

  46. Kamina says...

    My mum is a dietitian and we weren’t ALLOWED to peel vegetables growing up, because a lot of the nutrients are in the skin and outer parts. We even ate the skin of baked pumpkin! To this day I never peel anything except the occasional potato (if it’s really caked in dirt and I can’t be bothered scrubbing it) and feel a little bit guilty!

    Also – another nutrition tip from mum – soaking beans and then discarding the water and rinsing before cooking helps get rid of the lectins, which can cause tummy upset. This is where you get the myth that beans give people gas – the problem is usually that they haven’t done the overnight soak and rinse.

    • Daisy says...

      Yes and soaking and better yet if they are sprouted lessens flatulence.

    • Rusty says...

      I don’t peeel anything!! Nothing at all!
      Because the nutrients get peeled right off.
      Skip it!

    • Ife says...

      Yes, my mom said the same thing about soaking beans throwing out the soaking water for beans. I’ve also noticed from personal experience that this (soaking beans reduces chances of getting gas) is true.

    • Cait says...

      Same for everything! I don’t handle beans well but when I make them I do a good long overnight soak and then cook them til softer than most.

  47. sheila bernard says...

    I never prick potatoes either?

    • Susan says...

      One time was all it took for me. The mess is beyond description when they blow. I’ll bet people are still finding particles of potatoes in that oven and it’s been years and years. Takes seconds to avoid that fate.

  48. Kate says...

    Carrots just need a good scrubbing. Most of the nutrition is found in the skin and outer layers of the carrot, meaning those baby carrots you find in bags have very little nutrition to speak of.

    • Lisa says...

      Please don’t pay people to write articles on tips of “how to cook” when they clearly can’t. It’s useless and if anything unhelpful. This person doesn’t even seem to know how an oven works..

      Skipping the ratio for rice and not rinsing? It’s like those people who boil rice in a big pot and strain at the end HAHA!

      Also the oven preheating is blasting heat way higher than the temp you want to get to that temp. It’ll warm your food alright..

  49. jenn says...

    My secret kitchen tip. Keep ginger in the freezer and you can grate it with skin on. Saves time and mess.

    • Kamina says...

      I don’t keep ginger in the freezer and I always grate it with the skin on! The rough exterior skin doesn’t go through the grater as easily so it just comes away in big chunks as you grate. SELF-PEELING

    • Jo says...

      Me too! Such a game changer, now I always have ginger on hand and saves on throwing out leftover ginger that’s gone past it.

    • Ellie says...

      Even better, buy the ginger pureed in a jar and never deal with a knob of ginger again haha!

    • Rusty says...

      Ellie….the environment? The jar is recyclable…the lid is not.
      Energy to process the ginger….
      We all need to do little things and big things for our planet.
      Every, single choice we make, even ginger, makes a difference.
      There is no Planet B!

    • Claire says...

      Ooh Jenn such a good tip—I’m going to try this! Thank you!

    • Alice says...

      Did you know that you can peel ginger with a teaspoon? Game. Changer. Just scrape the spoon along the outer peel and it comes right off!

  50. Sasha L says...

    I agree with all!! Except peeling carrots. I didn’t peel them my whole life almost, had the exact same sentiment as expressed here. But then I started teaching home preschool and peeling carrots is a wonderful activity for the kids, and you know what? They actually taste better peeled. I was shocked. The peel is a little bitter, without it the carrots taste sweeter and just more carrot-y. 🤷 Leaving peel on won’t ruin anything for sure, but taste test it and I bet you’ll agree.

    • Jan says...

      Until you’ve cleaned up russet potatoes that have exploded in the oven you wouldn’t bother poking them beforehand. My gas oven never fails to explode unpoked potatoes.

    • Sasha L says...

      I rarely bake potatoes and I’ve never NOT pricked, and certainly will keep doing so after reading all these exploding comments!
      Yes ma’am!

  51. Midge says...

    My mom always cut the ends of the potatoes before baking them, so my sister and I always did, too. Then one day, well into my twenties, my friend said, “what on earth are you DOING?” and I thought, for the very first time, “huh, why DO we do this?” So I asked my mom, and she said that my grandma always did that. So we asked my grandma, who laughed SO HARD and said, “That’s the only way I could get the potatoes to fit in the oven with all the other stuff!”

    • Emily says...

      Ha! Made me laugh :)

    • Laura says...

      LOL! this is amazing!!

    • Katie says...

      LOVE this! Thanks for sharing! Family stories like this are so great.

    • Agnès says...

      Love that story!!

    • Jennie says...

      Classic family story ! Love it. Thanks for sharing.

  52. Erin Perkins says...

    Never ever peel potatoes and carrots. Seems wasteful to me.

    Adobo, tomato paste leftovers I dumpin a press n seal and seal it up then pop it in the freezer, break off a chunk when I need it. Any extra herbs, I chop up and throw extra in the freezer, you can store it with lime juice

  53. Jenn says...

    Hold on, you don’t have to poke holes in potatoes before you bake?! (Insert mind blown emoji.) I’ve been doing this ritualistically out of habit for more than 20 years!

    • Susan says...

      I have had a baked potato explode in my oven! After cleaning up the mess of potato bits from every surface of my oven I will ALWAYS pierce my potatoes.

  54. Clare says...

    MOST IMPORTANTLY you do NOT need to precook lasagna noodles (even the kind that claim otherwise).

    • Judy Barker Shappley says...

      I agree with all of these EXCEPT not piercing potatoes before baking. I forgot one time and heard a loud noise from the oven. When I checked, I was amazed to see that the potatoes had exploded and literally jumped out of their skins! 😂

    • Rachel Walters says...

      Ehhhh, unless you live at altitude. Then this trick definitely doesn’t work. Alot of these ‘things you don’t need to do ever’ drastically change 7000ft above sea level.

  55. Donna says...

    Where dried beans are concerned, a game-changer for me is to soak them, drain and Immediately freeze upon buying. Then, whenever I need beans I cook them for 10-12 min in my Instant Pot. They cook way faster and I don’t worry about having forgotten to soak them ahead of time because I always have presoaked beans in the freezer.

    • Michelle says...

      This is so clever! Thanks for sharing.

  56. Meredith MC says...

    I’ve exploded unpricked potatoes. It’s a bummer when you’re cooking the exact number you need. Plus it works out some angst to stab things.

    • Haha. I am with you on the angst part!

  57. Andrea says...

    A seasonal fave—make corn on the cob in the microwave. Use a whole ear of corn with husk and silk. Trim bottom to close to the ear, but then put the whole shebang in the microwave for 4-5 min. The husk steams the ear and the silk comes off very easily.

    No huge pot of boiling water.

    • Sarah says...

      I take it a step further— I don’t even bother cooking corn at all! lol. I think it tastes better raw!

    • Aimee says...

      I just started using this process this summer. We loooooove fresh corn but that boiling pot…ugh. I will say it’s miraculous how the ears just slide right out of the husks, but imo it doesn’t taste quite as good as boiled corn. A sacrifice I’m willing to make on occasion but I still prefer boiling.

    • LB says...

      Corn in husks, straight into the oven. ~20 mins later they are perfectly steamed.
      Do a s’mores style faux-grill over the gas range to finish if you’re feeling fancy.

  58. Sara says...

    But what about jacket potatoes?! which I learned about here btw. Besides the fact that the potatoes can explode, letting steam escape makes them fluffier. There are many good tips, shortcuts, etc out there but these ones are bologna!

    • Gabriella says...

      I agree about bologna!

  59. caitlin says...

    the tips are great. also love the children’s motrin bottle on the counter. this is a parents kitchen, indeed! <3

  60. meg says...

    I always think this about breaking eggs in to a separate bowl before putting them in to a recipe. I’ve never in all my life broken a bad egg in to a mixing bowl and had the recipe ruined – and even if I had, I don’t think one mishap would be worth a lifetime of extra dishes haha. And if a little shell falls in? Meh just pick it out!

    • Lauren says...

      The one time it’s super important is for meringues or angel food cake: the whites won’t whip properly if there’s even a little bit of yoke (or anything fatty) in them–learned this the hard way!

    • Abesha1 says...

      If you HAD ever broken a bad egg directly into your last cup of butter, you’d never skip that step…

    • Leslie says...

      This comes from the old days when eggs were brought straight from the henhouse to the kitchen. Those did indeed need to be washed! And they were often fertilized, so you broke them separately. You’re right, grocery store eggs will never give you a problem that way.

    • Sally says...

      Agreed!
      I read that about cracking an egg into a separate bowl “in case it’s a bad egg”, and thought “that sounds like a waste of time!”
      I’ve been cracking eggs into things for the better part of 20 years, and have never had a bad egg.

    • Lindsay says...

      I had a bad egg once and it was so gross I now am careful. I buy the best local eggs too! See I don’t get why people take such pride in skipping steps, do you feel superior or something? I think the best chefs are not rushing. Sure if you’ve made the recipe 100 times, Ok then you know.

  61. Stella says...

    My secret cooking tip comes courtesy of food writer and cookbook author, Priya Krisha (more specifically her dad)… and it’s to cook your rice in the microwave! I was dubious at first but it makes the most consistently fluffy perfect basmati rice. I have an electric stove in my apartment and it can be harder to control the error in rice-cooking than on a gas range, but the microwave trick solved my issue! Eternally grateful for the Krisha’s!!! (find the instructions in her book, Indian-ish!)

    • Marci says...

      how? Need to know!

    • Kamina says...

      Marci I do a 1/2 ratio of rice to water. My go-to is 2 cups rice, 4 cups water, 20 minutes in the microwave (obviously it will vary according to your microwave power). It’s done when all the liquid is absorbed and it’s fluffy with the grains standing up. I have been cooking rice this way my entire life – I don’t know any other way.

    • Hi Marci, we cook basmati rice in the microwave all the time. Rinse rice thoroughly, add 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups water in a covered glass bowl, set it to 14 mins (microwave times can vary) and forget about it. We often add peeled potatoes/carrots/butternut squash to it. Try the fluffy hot rice and veggies with melted butter/ghee and a dash of sea salt. Try a pinch of cayenne powder or a few slices of de-seeded serrano pepper if you are feeling particularly brave. Add a dollop of garlicky hummus or a soft boiled egg for protein, and voila, you have a complete meal! :)
      P.S. It’s a Bengali-Indian thing.

  62. Carole says...

    I live in a higher altitude (about 4700′) and have never had luck with beans that I don’t soak overnight. Every time I’ve followed a recipe that has assured me that soaking is absolutely not necessary, I find out too late that it in fact was. I have tried the quick soak/boil for 10 min method, and even after that they do not turn out well no matter how long they cook. To date, the only thing that is a constant for me in beans turning out well is a good old fashioned overnight soak!

    • Sarah says...

      Same here! I was really confused by that one. I’m at ~5000 feet and I’m realizing finally that so many recipes I’ve failed at were because I forgot to take elevation into account. (Why is dough always so dry? Why do things always take longer?!). I only attempt beans in the instant pot now because I was tired of soaking overnight, then cooking for like 3 hours and them STILL not being done. Admittedly I do not like any bite to my beans whatsoever.

    • Holly says...

      Oh! Is that why I can’t ever cook beans? LOL, I just thought it was me.

  63. Rebecca says...

    Interesting to hear this about pasta water, here in Italy this is not the case, it’s much better to boil pasta in as much water as possible to allow it to move and not stick together. The water is going to be starchy no matter what! Then again, maybe I’ve been boiling too much water all this time?!

    • katie says...

      If I’m roasting or grilling vegetables to add to an easy pasta, I’ll take out some of the pasta water before draining and add back in when I mix the vegetables and pasta together, along with a splash of wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, fresh herbs and of course parmesan. Lots of parmesan. Perfection.

      I make this a lot on Thursday’s when I’m using up all the vegetables.

    • Sarah says...

      My family always did the bare minimum of water, just about 2 inches covering. I always thought it was because we live in the desert and water conservation was always a part of life (mellow yellow, brown down anyone? Lol). But maybe it’s an American thing?

  64. Deb in Oklahoma says...

    I learned a lot from Julia Child and The French Chef series on PBS when I was a kid, even though I had no business in the kitchen. But I observed and learned–probably the greatest lesson was to paper-towel dry meat before dredging, frying, baking, whatever, with it. It browns better and doesn’t spatter in a hot pan. Never forgot that, and live by it. Also learned that if your baked item has a crack across the top when you take it from the oven, don’t sweat it. Just throw some ice cream or frosting or chocolate sauce on it and eat it. It’s not worth a meltdown. Julia was the best.

    • Sasha L says...

      She was ♥️ Thank you for the reminder of how wonderful she was.

  65. Emily says...

    For years I was following the package instruction for quinoa, which called for a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. But the quinoa always turned out a little gluey. Then I saw that America’s Test Kitchen uses a 1:1 ratio and now my quinoa turns out perfectly every time!

  66. Agnès says...

    Also, I discovered that you can turn off your oven before the end of the cooking time (like at half the time), and forget about your dish; it make sthe best lasagna, cakes, gratin, etc (I use a gaz stove, not sure if it works with electric stove). Anyway. That was my only tip.
    And also: carrots don’t have skin.

    • Julie says...

      I definitely notice the difference with a bay leaf. It adds depth and I can taste it for sure!

  67. Alexandra says...

    You forgot the most important one: skip the bay leaf! You know as well as I do they’re dry, have absolutely no flavor, and have never done anything to elevate a dish. Ever. It’s just Big Bay Leaf out to get your hard earned money by insisting upon its inclusion in every dish.

    https://www.theawl.com/2016/03/the-vast-bay-leaf-conspiracy/

    • Alx says...

      Woah strong words!!! I am an avid bay leaf defender. Use the bay!

    • Natalie says...

      The trick is to use high-quality bay leaves! The ones from Penzey’s Spices have a ton of flavor! I use them all the time in soups and for pickles.

    • Erin says...

      I’m with you, ALX! Team Bay Leaf all the way!

    • Liz says...

      I agree with commenter who said to make sure you have high quality bay! We have a bay tree and I use the fresh leaves in all everything brothy, basically anything I can pop a leaf into. It’s so delish!!

    • Lauren says...

      *sputter sputter* No flavor?Even dollar store bay leaves have always kept amazingly well for me; surely someone sold you autumn leaves instead of the bay–there just can’t be any other explanation! : )

    • Sara says...

      Big nope! Bay leaves are legit! I even used them before I realized that they grow in my region and that I can forage them- for free!

    • Sarah says...

      Bay leaf does too have flavor! I’m a fan

    • Julie says...

      I definitely notice the difference with a bay leaf. It adds depth and I can taste it!

    • Brianna, Seattle says...

      WOAH – maybe from something already strong-tasting like pasta or a casserole, it won’t be missed. But a bay leaf to plain jasmine rice is to flirt with perfection.

    • Genevieve says...

      Maybe for American white people food, but one of my favorite dishes is Filipino chicken adobo and bay leaves are the star. It really bothers me when people are like, oh I hate cilantro but are totally using it incorrectly or for the wrong dishes!

    • Amy says...

      With you all the way! I work at a community garden and have access to fresh organic bay leaves… and they still taste like nothing! The guy I’m dating is Italian and highly offended by this opinion but my household did a blind taste test and seriously… bay leaves are a hoax.

    • Rusty says...

      We grow our own bay leaves!
      Fresh is 200% better than dried!
      Also, a whole gaggle of us put the less desirable (critter-nibbled sprigs) in our pantries and….we have nevvvvvvver ever had cupboard moths since. Ever.

  68. Louisa says...

    I came to the comments to find my tribe – surely there would be die-hard sifters weighing in! WHERE ARE YOU ALL? (1) get the oxo sifter, since you can close off the bottom and… (2) put sifter on a scale and measure everything right into that and (3) sift right into the wet ingredients. Then (4) DO NOT WASH YOUR SIFTER! if you do it gets rusty :) It’s easier than whisking! Nothing to wash – no cups/measuring spoons/dry-ingredients bowl! It makes it all nicely distributed! No chunks of bitter leaveners! And it’s fun!

    You’re welcome!

    • Caroline says...

      Proud Team Sifter right here!
      I was appalled when I read the skip the sifting suggestions. I guess it depends on what your baking? But I mean, do you Want fluffy light cakes? Are you a barbarian? Weigh and Sift your dry ingredients people.

    • Sara says...

      I’m a sifter too! I just use a fine mesh sifter and don’t even bother to wash it hah!

    • Nicky says...

      sifter here too. when ever i havn’t sifted bsking was horrible

  69. Audrey says...

    Thanks for the tips! I do have to disagree on the beans though! From a cooking perspective, yes – you can skip this step. But soaking beans reduces/removes the lectins which cause a negative immune response and bloat!

    A tip I learned recently: You can eat the skin of a kiwi! No need to peel.

    • Cheryle Dunigan says...

      I always peel my kiwi or eat it with a spoon out of the skin. Don’t like the taste of skin. However, my son-in-law pops them in his mouth, skin and all. He says that is the only way to eat them!

  70. Linnea says...

    If you’ve ever had an unpricked potato suprise you by exploding in the oven, you will definitely prick your potatoes forevermore.

    • Tara says...

      YES to this. Two of my high school BFFs and I made ourselves a relatively fancy dinner at one’s house around my 16th birthday and we all nearly peed our pants when the three unpricked potatoes exploded! We had no idea you needed to pierce a potato’s skin before baking, but we all knew it very well afterwards!

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you for verifying. I’m terrified of any food exploding. I will now go on happily prick the crap out of every potato forever to avoid that.

  71. Beth Ann says...

    Okay the ONE time I didn’t prick potatoes they exploded, literally exploded, in the oven. This step is a must-do!

    • Mary says...

      Me too. 🥔 💥 messy to clean up too. I will continue to prick my potatoes thank you!

  72. Susan says...

    Yeah, I’ve tried not soaking twice lately and it took forever to cook. My power bill is high enough. Electric range and ovens use quite a bit of energy. So no to this. Also, soaking helps lots of those with gastro problems.

    Carrot skins can be bitter. It’s different if newly harvested.

    You’ve been lucky re exploding taters, Jenny!

    Otherwise, yes to these good tips.

    • Nicole says...

      Yes I had the same reaction where I disagreed with about half of these “tips”. Have def had a potato explode when I forgot to prick. I notice the bitterness when my husband doesn’t peel the carrots vs when I do, and had the same non-soak experience

  73. Jessica says...

    Thank you for the potato knowledge! I’ve been baking a lot of potatoes lately and pricking them is my least favourite part. I always feel like i’m going to accidentally stab myself, and yet I’ve been doing it anyways. Never again.

    • mb says...

      use a fork! they don’t have to be very deep punctures! or risk the BOOM!

    • Astrid says...

      After a gazillion years of not piercing a baking potato, one of them exploded in my oven! A hellatious sound and a huge mess. Believe me, I’m never cooking a baked potato again without poking it a few times.

  74. Clare says...

    Be careful on that don’t worry about preheating the oven advice! Whether or not you can put food into an oven that is still preheating fully depends on your oven. We have a very small electric oven with the heating coil at the bottom. If you put anything – anything – in the oven before it is preheated then the bottom comes out completely scorched.

  75. Mary says...

    Favorite earth-shattering-to-me cooking tips I’ve learned from this pandemic:
    1. Buy a whole “hand”/root of ginger, instead of just a knob/how much you need for a recipe. When you get home from the store, peel the ginger, cut into 1” chunks, and freeze. You’ll always have fresh ginger (even when all the stores have run out, as happened here early on!) and I find it’s slightly easier to mince or grate if it’s slightly frozen!
    2. If you are only using a couple of chiles from a can of chipotle in adobo, put the rest in a ziplock freezer bag and sort of flatten out so the remaining chiles are separated. They will keep in the freezer (ahem, better than putting the remains of the can in your fridge pretending like you’ll use it and then letting it fuzz over with mold like me…) and you’ll always have one when you need it!

    • Laura says...

      Brilliant, thank you!

  76. RS says...

    Potatoes explode if you don’t prick them before putting them in the oven. It really can happen, I feel like that’s common knowledge?

  77. Alex says...

    Save your ice cubes for drinks and use reusable freezer packs to cool down the water when blanching veggies, peeling tomatoes or peaches for canning, stopping just-cooked hardboiled eggs from over-cooking, etc etc. Not sure this saves much time but it makes me feel resourceful!

  78. Laura says...

    Pro tip from my acupuncturist: if you’re prone to bloating, soaking beans (dried and canned) reduces this significantly.

  79. K says...

    i prick potatoes cuz alton brown told me to.

    i recently wrote a list of amateur cooking tips i learned during quarantine….and yes i think most detail steps can be skipped because the difference is negligible for most dinners, but i do think somebody came up with them for a reason!

    I’ve read many a central european describe that they boil beans directly and don’t drain the soaking liquid, but for me, the beans seem to cook so much faster when I soak them overnight.

    Stuff I learned:
    1. “Old school” pans without non-stick coatings (like carbon steel or iron) are better than nonstick pans, they can get beaten up more, without getting beaten up.

    You can cook with them, scraping around with your spatula, at the highest temperature without worrying about damaging the pan coating.

    The old school iron and steel ones are essentially a hunk of solid metal, again, you don’t have to worry about any paint layers chipping off when you’re scrubbing the #$@! out of them.

    In order to get the non-stick effect on these old school pans, heat the pan until super hot, heat the oil in the pan until super hot, and whatever you cook should effectively sizzle upon contact with a nice caramelization and still be slippity-slide-y in the pan.

    2. Get a pan/pot with nice insulation, usually a thick heavy bottom, so that it heats and insulates evenly and avoids those situations where there’s easily scorched food/sauce at the bottom of the pan and the stuff near the top is still cold.

    3. If you use these hardy metal pans, then you can use hardy metal spatulas and ladles. Metal spatulas are thinner, stiffer, and stronger than those rubbery/plastic/silicone ones. This means they can more easily maneuver under stuff like eggs, pancake type things, giant frittatas because of their thin edge, without caving under the weight of said foods, or worrying about these soft foods falling apart mid-flip when one side is cooked and the other is still raw.

    Metal cooking tools also don’t melt from heat (at least not at this temperature)

    4. When preparing a dish, try to cook /parcook each element separately in the pan and then scoop them out into a “waiting bowl” so that each element can spend quality time against the hot pan for some caramelization. Combine all elements in the pan at the end for a final heating.

    When you’re making soups, maybe you don’t need to do this with every element, you can just drop some of the stuff straight in the soup to boil.

    5. Boil pasta noodles in as little water as possible to get that starchy water you can add to sauces, boil Asian noodles in as much water as possible to avoid that starchy slimy coating.

    6. Everyone talks about salting pasta water, just a friendly reminder rice water deserves the same treatment too.

    • Ann says...

      My favorite kitchen shortcut is for those long-simmering dishes like stews or spaghetti sauces. On my cooktop, they scorch. But put them in the oven at a low heat? They will simmer (covered) all afternoon without attention from me.

      It has been 20 years since I sifted baking powder and salt together with flour — I add them to the wet ingredients just before I mix in the flour. Never makes a difference and so much easier!

  80. Sara says...

    I thought baked potatoes exploding in the oven was a myth… until it happened to me!

    A boom/pop sound and SUCH A HUGE MESS. 😭

    • Beth Ann says...

      Yep! Same!! I can’t believe this is a top of something to skip.

  81. Jess says...

    Another time-saver I discovered during quarantine, you can roast vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, etc) straight from frozen. Just toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast a little longer than usual. Can’t tell the difference from fresh and I save myself the time chopping. Plus, even when the fridge is bare, we nearly always have a bag of frozen veggies languishing in the freezer.

    • Amy says...

      WHAT JESS?!?!? You just blew my mind!!!! Oh my goodness, this will be life changing over here. We roast Vegas all the time. Thank you!!

    • Sera says...

      Totally true, and I’d also add that when you boil them before, you take all the good nutrients out!

  82. Karina says...

    When I boil potatoes, once I pour out the water, I put the pot back on the stove and heat it for another minute. I then shake the pot before taking the potatoes out :) not sure this does anything but my grandma used to do that so I just stick to this religiously.
    I agree with not measuring the water for pasta, rice or any other grains and legumes though.

    • Bonnie says...

      Agree on returning the pot to the stove a bit. I also start mashing them in the hot pot back on the stove to get out the extra moisture before adding in milk/butter/s&p. Grandma rules stick, Karina! :)

      I do prick the potatoes with a corn holder, after an exploded potato years ago.

    • Ellen says...

      My Polish mother in law makes potatoes this way and hey are delish!

  83. NH observer says...

    A tip for plucking thyme: turn the sprig so the leaves face up, place between thumb and index finger, run your fingers down the spring — presto: thyme leaves removed in an instant.

  84. Kim says...

    Here’s my trick for sifting dry ingredients — I weigh out all of the dry ingredients into a small or medium-sized tupperware container. These Escali scales are super easy to use (https://escali.com/primo-digital-scale) and take all of the guesswork out of measuring flours. It’s a game-changer baking tool. Don’t be afraid! After adding the baking powder, soda, or salt, I simply snap the lid on tight and shake-shake-shake. As long as there is enough open space in the container, I find that all of the dry ingredients mix together quite well. It’s also easy to transfer the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet.

  85. Constance says...

    Dry chicken? I’ve started cooking mine until just barely still raw, I’m talking maybe 162 degrees F. A little pink is honestly fine and again much more tender/moist.

  86. Sarah says...

    What about rinsing rice before adding it to the pot? My basmati says I need to rinse it at least a few times but I never do…..
    Love this post!

    • mb says...

      if you’re using parboiled rice, you don’t need to rinse (in fact, that gets rid of the vitamins!)–but basmati gets rinsed to eliminate the starch. It won’t come out as gummy/mushy.

    • am says...

      eeep! as someone who lived in asia for quite some time, washing rice would be considered a must! when you rinse it, you notice each time how much clearer the water becomes after several rinses. that is because you are rinsing off the husk residue and dust and dirt that was a part of the rice-drying process before it made it to the factory. take their advice, and rinse your rice, pals!

    • Jeanne says...

      Many independent studies have found arsenic in rice in varying amounts (brown being the highest). They don’t know what it’s from though …water, pesticides, soil, fertilizer. However, they’ve found that rinsing the rice till the water runs clear (about 6 times) reduces the amount tremendously.

      https://foodrevolution.org/blog/arsenic-in-rice/

    • SR says...

      Rice is dirty, wash your rice people! Also, it takes off some of the starchiness so you don’t get a super globby mess when you cook it. Washing it makes it nice and fluffy.

    • Kiana says...

      I’m Iranian. You have to wash basmsti rice at least six times. Until the water runs clear. If you don’t, your rice will not be fluffy and the grains will clump. The ultimate disaster for any dish. (I’m being a little hyperbolic, but just a little)

    • Laura says...

      My Korean mother taught me to always rinse the rice until it runs clear. She also measures the correct amount of water by laying her hand flat over the rinsed rice in the pot and adding water to cover just to her knuckles!

  87. katie says...

    I use recipes as guides, not gospel, and I rarely measure ingredients like cheese, vegetables, beans, grains, pasta, meat, etc., etc. Oh, and I don’t think I ever measured out salt or pepper or lemon or lime juice or olive oil.

    This is why I used to loathe baking, but I’m coming around. Especially now.

  88. Elly says...

    If you have a good peeler I feel like it’s faster to just peel the carrots than to vigorously scrub them. I use a $3 peeler I got at Flying Tiger Copenhagen with a ceramic head and it’s perfection.

    My brother-in-law taught me the best way to make white rice. You rinse and rinse it until the water runs clear and then you cover the rice with water up to about a fingernail’s length. Then cook. Presto!

  89. celia says...

    It was my understanding that if you put things in the oven while it’s preheating, they could burn because the heating element or flame will be on constantly rather than intermittently (as it would be when it gets to the right temp). Am I living a lie?!

    • Ashley says...

      Yes! It’s all a lie! And I actually think things heat up more effectively from a cold oven because then the outside of whatever you’re heating doesn’t get 350 for a ton of time while you wait for the middle to get warm.

    • Erin says...

      This is definitely true for my oven too, Celia. Vegetables scorch, cookies over brown, etc. if they go in before the oven finishes preheating.

    • Megan says...

      My oven blasts the broiler during pre-heat. I use that to my advantage to throw in something I want toasted a bit early, but putting something in as soon as you turn on the oven would scorch a lot of food. It could be my oven or it may also be temperature dependent. I have noticed this specifically when heating to 400 degrees F.

    • E says...

      It depends on the oven and what you’re cooking/baking. If you’re warming something pre-cooked, it’s generally OK to put it in while the oven is heating up because you’re just adding warmth, but if you need something to actually cook or crisp up, you need to wait until it’s at least close to the desired temp to pop it in. If you are using a convection oven it’s typically less of an issue because the heat is circulated, but if you have a single coil it’s going to be harsher heat next to the coil in the preheating process.

  90. Chelsey says...

    my favorite tip for picking the dreaded tiny thyme leaves: pinch the top of the little branch tightly with your left hand, and with your right hand, do a loose pinch starting just below where your left hand is pinching- slide down the branch, and the leaves will come right off!

  91. cg says...

    As a kid, it was drilled into my consciousness that the stems of cilantro is where all the flavor really is. My grandma would roll if she ever saw anyone using only the leafy parts and discarding the stems.

  92. Michelle says...

    The best shortcut for rice isn’t to cook it like pasta–it’s a rice cooker! You still need to measure the rice-to-liquid ratio, but it clears up a burner for other purposes and most rice cookers have a “keep warm” setting that automatically turns on when the rice is done. You can start the rice when you start cooking and not think about it again until you open the rice cooker to serve.

  93. Amy says...

    The only way to get fluffy basmati rice is boiling it like pasta in salted water until cooked, draining it under cold water and then steaming it in a pot with the head of the pot wrapped in a kitchen towel to keep the moisture inside the pot.

  94. Jessica says...

    OK, I technically agree on the beans, but….
    I find that a salted soak leads to better texture, for one – an observation that was backed up by a semi-scientific comparison on Serious Eats that’s a fun article to read.

    Secondly, in my personal experience, soaking long enough to get a little funk (like the borderline of fermentation – 24 hours) leaves me, and more importantly my husband, with no gas/digestive issues. We started on a bean kick last year because he was feeling a bit overweight and felt that beans were the filling, low caloric density key to eating less overall – and, well, I paid the price for a while. Then I started giving beans a loooooooong soak and my nights got much less odiferous. Let’s just say I was a highly motivated researcher!

    So while you don’t *have to* soak your beans, there are benefits!

    • Katy says...

      This is soooo helpful!

    • Mags says...

      Yes, I’m a biochemist and there is absolutely a reason why most recipes have you soak beans (assuming you throw away the soaking water).

    • Greta Wesslen says...

      I always use pressed garlic when a recipe calls for minced . It is just so much easier! And I never peel the garlic cloves first…my garlic press is so powerful, it just pushes the clove right through the peel.

    • amy says...

      I only wanted to say that your comment made me smile today, and I really appreciated that. (the info is helpful, too, of course)

    • Elle says...

      I agree that skipping the overnight soak of beans isn’t a great tip. They’re much easier to digest when soaked. I also recommend adding epazote when cooking. This Mexican herb is another way to help with digestion.

      I hate to recommend lengthening the process instead of shortening it, but my chef tip is that beans taste much better the day after cooking. Add onion, garlic, herbs, or whatever flavoring ingredients you like to the water when cooking and then don’t drain the beans when done. Let them sit overnight in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid and they’ll be so much more flavorful!

      When I forget to soak the beans the night before, I bring them up to a boil, drain them and start them again with fresh water and add the flavoring ingredients at that point. Not as good as an overnight soak, but it helps.

  95. Andrea says...

    Once you bring water to boil, you don’t have to continue to boil it if you are cooking pasta, etc. You can just turn the burner off and take the pasta off after the given time for cooking.

    Mind. Blown.

    • Agnès says...

      absolutely! isn’t it amazing? Now THAT brings me joy.

  96. Lisa H says...

    I use a lot of cilantro. I saw a cooking show once, where the chef just grabbed the bunch midway, and twisted. The leaves and tender stems in one hand , the tougher ends in the other.
    Wow! Mind blowing after spending so much time plucking leaves. I even called my sister to tell her. We both make enormous batches of green chile every fall, and stock the freezer. We used to assign kids to the chore!

    And yes, loud boom from the oven, potato everywhere.

  97. Sharon says...

    A more important reason not to wash chicken…washing spreads bacteria. Also, the reason not to put food in an electric oven is because it can burn on the bottom…the coils will go off once the oven reaches temperature.

    And…I know Ina Garten agrees with you about not peeling carrots…I peel them anyway.

    • Jessica says...

      I peel older fall carrots and storage carrots, and don’t peel younger spring carrots – based on a little advice I remember from the Six Seasons cookbook.
      The older the carrot, the more likely the outside will be tough and just a little bitter.
      So, half and half?

    • Sharon says...

      Also…always prick potatoes before baking…they can explode.

  98. Maywyn says...

    Great post, thank you
    Potatoes will burst, and have in my oven when I forgot to pierce them for the steam to escape…think two crusted pie steam.
    Preheated oven is better for me because food sticks to the pan less, and the bottoms of tots and pizza don’t burn, as much.
    Raw carrots, I always peel. I have no idea what kind of wormor bug might have dropped something on that carrot that science will some day discover works better than super glue, can cause cancer or shorten life. If however, not peeling is discovered to cure coronaviruses, cancer, skin tags, high cholesterol, lenghten life by twenty years, I will not peel a carrot.

  99. Emily says...

    A few months ago I forgot to prick my baked potatoes before putting them in the oven and they exploded everywhere. Lesson learned, I will continue to prick them.

  100. Heidi says...

    Everyone says to crack eggs into a separate bowl before adding to a batter or a cookie dough, and I never, ever do. I guess the point is to make sure your egg looks okay before adding your dough and to avoid wrecking your recipe, but I haven’t had a bad egg once that I can remember! Maybe it’s to avoid shells in the dough, but I can pick those out just fine! Go rogue- crack that egg right in there.

    • Kristin says...

      I had my first bad egg this summer, and it smelled disgusting. It was my own fault, because it was WAY past the date on the carton which I always tend to consider a guideline. I had to throw away my muffin batter and start over. I am back to using custard cups for eggs just to be safe.

    • Elly says...

      Yeah, I’m sure it’s to make sure no teeny-tiny eggshell shards make it into the dough. I’m too lazy to crack into a separate bowl. Like you I pick out any big pieces of shell that make it in. If I’ve missed some infinitesimal speck of eggshell over the years, I’ve never tasted it!

    • Sharon says...

      I always crack eggs in a separate bowl. I have had many eggs with a blood spot…especially brown eggs. I buy white eggs because of that.

    • Julia Stone says...

      The point of this step is to ensure you don’t get bits of egg shell into your batter!

    • Karen says...

      If you EVER got a bad egg, you’d totally understand. Mine came at age 13 making scrambled eggs; had to throw out 1 dozen as I was making for a crowd. :-((

    • Andrea says...

      Sharon the blood spot has no impact on cooking or hygiene. Use it as any other egg.

    • Neela says...

      Seconding (thirding) Kristen and Karen- once cracked a rotten egg into a frying pan and was scarred for life. Will never trust an egg again.

    • Heidi says...

      Nine times out of ten, I can crack an egg without dropping a shell, and I go through eggs pretty quickly so they’re usually fresh. Blood spots in eggs are harmless. I’ll take my chances and save a dish to wash!

    • Thea says...

      Yes, crack that egg into a separate bowl. I recently came across a bad egg from a supermarket carton that was not past date. Fortunately, It’s a habit for me so my cake batter was saved.

  101. northerngirl says...

    I am all for not bothering with the oven pre-heating, but with one caveat: if you are putting a glass baking dish (think pyrex, etc.) in the oven do NOT put it in early. It needs to go directly from cold to hot (think fridge to pre-heated oven) or it can shatter. And yes, I have learned this one the hard way.

    • Elly says...

      I put room temperature Pyrex in my oven all the time…? Nary an explosion.

    • El says...

      So the extreme temp change is good for pyrex? You’re blowing my mind! I know when pyrex breaks it goes everywhere, so this is super helpful information.

      (Related, if anyone needs tips on what to do if your dog breaks and eats most of a pyrex dish, well, hit me up! My vet tech was extremely calm and helpful, and my sweet dog was fine in the end.)

    • Ashley says...

      Wait, I thought the opposite was true: that you *don’t* want extreme temperature changes for glass. Is Pyrex different??

    • Elizabeth says...

      No, extreme temperature changes are VERY VERY bad. Before 1998, Pyrex was made with borosilicate glass and therefore resistant to thermal shock. You could take a casserole from the freezer to the oven, no problem. But since 1998, Pyrex has been made with soda-lime glass (just like your drinking glasses). It is not resistant to thermal shock and will explode if subject to sudden heating or cooling. Do NOT place a Pyrex dish straight from the fridge or freezer into a preheated oven. It’s a recipe for disaster. Best practice is to let the container and contents come to room temp before putting them in the oven. Perhaps this is why the original poster prefers pre-heating. It gives the container time to warm-up on the counter before going in.

      https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/why-pyrex-bowls-explode/

    • Sarah says...

      Maybe for old, vintage Pyrex as explained below – but regular glass dishes cannot go from cold to hot. That will make them explode. Be careful giving out this advice lol

  102. Beans- who wants to wait *hours* for unsoaked beans to cook? Just toss them in a container, cover with water and let them sit in the fridge over night.
    I make hummus weekly – and man, if I didn’t pre-soak the beans they would never ever soften.

  103. Emily L says...

    I must wholeheartedly disagree about the beans! If I forget to soak them the night before then I skip that meal idea for the day because it takes forever and a day for them to cook. (yes, even with the boiling!).

  104. Andrea says...

    Also, don’t be too precious with ingredients in the recipe. If I have fennel and not celery, I use that. If I have 2 cups of spinach to use up and the recipe calls for 1 C, I have a more spinachy end product.

  105. Katie says...

    I’ve only ever pricked potatoes before microwaving them. I’ve never done it for baking. I always figured I don’t need to because I put potatoes in the oven when I turn it on. My logic is that the potato slowly heats up as the oven does. Plus, it always seemed like such a waste of perfectly good electricity to preheat the oven first. LOL. Starting in a cold oven is also the secret to perfectly rendered and crispy bacon.

  106. Amy says...

    I am an avid baker and never in my life have I combined dry ingredients before adding them to wet. It just seems like a massive waste of time plus another bowl to clean! Especially for things like cakes that get so thoroughly mixed, pre-mixing just seems so silly!

  107. Mel says...

    Great tips! (Though, reading the comments, I’ll probably still prick my potatoes :) )
    One of my favorite time-saving things I learned this year was regarding ginger. I HATE peeling ginger and after some googling I found an article over on Bon Appetit in which the writer argues against it. Since then, when I get a big knob of ginger, I throw it in the food processor until it’s finely minced, put it in a freezer bag, flatten it as much as I can, freeze it, and then I can just break off as much as I need for a recipe. Here’s the article I found–https://www.bonappetit.com/story/i-never-peel-my-ginger

    • Jill says...

      Oh I LOVE this tip! Thanks Mel!

    • AN says...

      Or even better, get the frozen ginger from Trader Joe’s, it comes in little teaspoon-sized cubes in a tray, three make a tablespoon, I cannot believe i used to peel/chop/grate ginger, thanks, TJ’s rad worker who suggested it one day when they were out of the root kind!

    • Annie says...

      ‘Or even better, get the frozen ginger from Trader Joe’s’:
      I agree, this is really time-saving and convenient. The trouble with it is though, it creates lots of packaging where fresh ginger is kind to the environment – relatively speaking.

    • Annie says...

      ‘Or even better, get the frozen ginger from Trader Joe’s’:
      I agree, this is really time-saving and convenient. The trouble with it is though, it creates lots of packaging whereas fresh ginger is kind to the environment – relatively speaking.

  108. nmr says...

    A small but helpful one: I never do the double boiler method to melt chocolate. Just microwave in short bursts, stir, repeat. It won’t burn if you keep an eye on it.

    • Cynthia says...

      I do the same thing.

    • Sarah says...

      Same! Never could bother with a double boiler haha

  109. Meg says...

    I hate mincing garlic and I use frozen Dorat chopped garlic cubes instead (bought at Trader Joe’s), I love them and haven’t minced real garlic in years. If it makes a difference (I doubt it does), I’m fine with it because of the time savings.

    I always wait for the oven to preheat and I’ve now heard from a few people that it’s not typically necessary so I’m going to start taking this shortcut :)

  110. Claire says...

    Yes – you are correct about the baked potatoes- I always prick a couple of small holes in the skin to let the steam escape during cooking and avoid explosions. I have had potatoes explode in the oven before- what a mess! Or I sometimes now do the jacket potato method that Joanna shared, where I slice an X in the skin. Also very good!
    My baking tip is this: For recipes where it says to beat softened (room temperature) butter and sugar together first, I slice the stick of butter right into the mixer bowl to let it soften and come to room temp, and I go ahead and throw the sugar in there too. Slicing it allows it to soften faster. This may not sound like much of a tip, but it does save me extra bowls to clean. When the butter is soft then I can just turn the mixer on and go.

    • Claire says...

      Also you do realize that bringing up the exploding potatoes here for discussion is going to cause you to now have your own experience of exploding potatoes? Sorry to have to tell you this (I don’t make the rules).

  111. Susannah says...

    Wait, what? Avacado and cucumber in a soup?! So curious about this recipe

  112. Colleen Moran says...

    Pricking potatoes for me comes from reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder in third grade. Almanzo’s unpricked potato exploded in the campfire and burned his face. It has become part of my collective unconscious.

  113. JT says...

    Yes, you have to prick the potatoes or they can potentially explode.

    Cilantro – you can use the roots too! They add a great flavor to marinades and soups (Thai recipes often call for the roots in cooking, leaves in garnish).

    Sifting Dry Ingredients – i don’t sift, i use the whisk method too – BUT, i add the baking soda/baking powder to the liquids to ensure its evenly distributed. When its with the dry, you can’t tell if you have clumps which can make your end result lopsided or have pockets of bitter baking soda.

    • Rachel Walters says...

      Unless it’s a chiffon…then you WILL sift….and sift again…..or you will probably NOT have a chiffon~

  114. Terra says...

    Eep, I’m not sure I could ever get behind skin-on carrots! I eat most all my root veg with the skin on—my grandma once told me “that’s where the nutrition is” and heck if science will ruin the lasting impact that had on me—but even after a good scrub my nose scrunches at the bitterness in carrot skin. Also: tuber explosion might be one reason to give potatoes a poking, but I (an amateur, to say the least) do it to help get the heat through and let them steam themselves a little in their foil fun pants. :)

  115. Meghan says...

    Shocking blanched vegetables in ice water to halt the cooking. Seriously, who has that much ice they can waste for vegetables…?!?! (I obviously don’t have a built-in ice maker in my fridge) If they continue to cook after you take them out of the blanching water, then just take them out earlier.

    • Andrea says...

      For some things, shocking makes a considerable difference. Like haricot verts for company, etc. The bright green color is amazing and the texture is great. You can also use blue packs that are clean in place of “real” ice–just let it stand in the water longer to get cold. That was a shortcut I’ve loved.

    • Isabelle says...

      I don’t have an ice maker either but I’ve found that I can fill a bowl with cold water and put it in the fridge before I start cooking, and then toss just a few ice cubes in right before the dunking. It seems to work just as well without needing to make a whole bunch of ice.

    • El says...

      Yes! I also use ice trays and refuse to waste all that ice! For blanching delitcate things like greens and broccolini and such, I just boil a kettle of water and pour it over the greens in a colander, then follow with cold tap water after a minute. Works well and saves me from having to scrub a pot (or make a ton of ice!).

  116. Ellen Anderman says...

    I’ve had unpricked russets explode on me – twice. (No fool to try for a third.) Makes an unholy mess of the oven ceiling and walls. Easy enough to stab a knife in a couple of times.

    • El says...

      Yeah, I was surprised by that one– potatoes will DEFINITELY explode. It must have something to do with how thick the skins are, but I think this author has just been lucky so far!

  117. Meg says...

    I took a cooking class in Mexico City in January during which the instructor said that the most flavorful part of cilantro is the stems. After, he stuffed the majority of a large bunch of cilantro into a blender with tomatillos, 1/2 onion, and a couple serranos to make a green salsa that has become a household staple.

  118. CEW says...

    You don’t have to prick potatoes with a fork…?! I thought for sure they explode otherwise. I stab them so much it’s like the Ides of March in my kitchen.

    • Lauren says...

      “Et tu, russet?”

    • Lauren says...

      …though that would be the reverse, I guess; it made sense in my head. Oh, quarantine brain. I also just tried to wash my clothes with dishwashing pods.

    • Jessica says...

      Lauren, thank you for making me laugh out loud in my kitchen this morning!

  119. Emily says...

    Great tips, except I always prick baking potatoes after my best friend shattered a microwave once by forgetting to do so (less explosion, more jumping potato).

  120. Meg says...

    I know it’s terrible, but I sometimes skip the mise en place. I skim the recipe and see which ingredients are needed first (and together) and where I have spots of downtime. Not sure how much time this saves me, but it makes me feel very efficient!

    • Elizabeth says...

      This is the only way I get a home cooked dinner on the table every night. If I prepped everything before I started cooking, every meal would take an 1hr+ to make. And then there would be all the dishes to clean after! I’d rather spend that time sitting at the table with my family.

    • Alex says...

      I thought I was the only one who does this! Chop veg while water is boiling, quick cleanup while meat roasts, etc. I can’t stand spending the time prepping all my mise….. and I was a professional cook for 15 years haha!

  121. Mary W says...

    I stopped worrying about what liquid I use to make skillet dishes. No dry white wine? I always have vermouth in the bar. No chicken broth? Water or (again) dry vermouth.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Yup!

    • Jessica says...

      Dry vermouth is the most under-sung pantry staple. It fills in for white wine in rissotto, a splash of broth for deglazing a pan, a little bit of steam for your sautéd broccoli. I think I first read about using it in the Silver Palate Cookbook (mmmmm mustardy chicken) and have never been without a bottle in 30 years since.

    • Jen says...

      Yes to vermouth! And Nigella Lawson is a big fan which is good enough for me…

  122. Lesley Porcelli says...

    I will explain!

    I have heard so much skepticism for pricking potatoes before baking but I have personally had one explode in the oven! It made a loud noise like a bomb had gone off, and then there were potato pieces all over the oven. Surprisingly, those pieces were pretty much the most delicious bits of baked potato I’ve ever eating, with crackly skin and fluffy flesh. It’s almost enough to make me want to explode a potato on purpose.

    • Lesley Porcelli says...

      *eaten*

    • Ellen Anderman says...

      …except for scraping the bits off the oven walls and ceiling!

    • Maggie says...

      This! Its a horrific experience and thus, reason enough to stab those russets until they’re dead.

  123. Lindsey says...

    If you microwave a potato without pricking it first, it will explode. Not sure what would happen in the oven, but I’m not willing to roll the dice.

    • Karen says...

      They don’t care where they explode, oven or microwave!!!!!

  124. Alyce says...

    I find carrot skins to be unpleasantly bitter, so I peel them for some recipes, and eating raw. But I save the peels in the freezer and throw them in with the next batch of veggie stock I make.

    • Ellen Anderman says...

      Also, I don’t like the brownish hue to cooked unpeeled carrots.

  125. Rae says...

    All good shortcuts. But I really want to know the recipe for the picture! It looks delicious and refreshing in this summer heat.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      It’s a wheat berry salad with tofu, pickled peppers, edamame. It will be in my next book!

    • Andrea says...

      Ditto! have been scrolling through the comments looking to see if anyone had asked!