These 99 food hacks will change how you cook


Fast track to kitchen success with our best-ever hacks for food storage, quick meals, baking, barbecuing and more. These tried and tested tips will have you cooking like a pro in no time.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Cooking an omelet in the microwave is quick and simple. Whisk two eggs, seasoning and some grated cheese or chopped ham, pour into a greased mug and microwave on high for one minute. Stir, then cook again on high for another minute.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.





Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.





Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Before you begin baking it’s important to have all your ingredients at room temperature. Weigh out the portion of butter you need then cut into small pieces and leave it for 15 minutes or so. It needs to be soft enough that when you’re creaming it with the sugar, it combines well and gives an airy finish.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


When it comes to making picture-perfect cinnamon rolls, if you can wait for the dough to chill, you will be rewarded. Chilling makes the dough firmer and easier to roll into tight coils.




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If soft and gooey chocolate cookies make you melt, you need to start removing them from the oven a couple of minutes early. Don’t worry if they don’t look ready yet, they will continue to cook and harden up once they’ve come out.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


You can get away with a slightly inaccurate oven for roasting and casseroles but for baking, precise temperatures are important. An oven thermometer, which you pop onto the top shelf of your oven, is worth the small investment. Ovens are regularly over or under the specified temperature.




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What’s more, one side of your oven is likely to be hotter than the other. There’s an easy way to find out whether yours is: lay slices of bread on the shelves and see which parts come out more brown. When making cakes, bake them in the center and be sure to rotate them.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Using parchment paper to line your cake tins serves two purposes. Firstly, it prevents the cake from sticking so it’s easier to get it out of the tin. Secondly, lining the sides of the tin prevents the cake from becoming too dark.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Grab a sieve and cover your shop-bought cake with a light dusting of powdered sugar. You could also use a stencil to create a fun design and add a scattering of fresh berries or edible flowers. It will give that homemade flourish to the cake.




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Start the day on a healthy note by adding veg into your breakfast smoothie first thing in the morning. We guarantee you won’t even notice spinach blended in with sweet fruit such as banana and apple.




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More blander-tasting beans like cannellini or butter beans are perfect in a smoothie, as they add protein and make it more filling. Try whizzing a small handful along with a banana and berries to make an energizing breakfast drink.




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If you’re trying to avoid butter or mayo, use a thin layer of puréed avocado in sandwiches instead. It goes particularly well with a tuna or chicken salad filling.




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Blanch hard veggies to tenderize them and lock in color, flavor and nutrients, instead of boiling them. After the veg is scalded in boiling water, remove and plunge into iced water to stop the cooking process.




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If you’re planning on eating raw kale in a salad, massage the greens beforehand. It may sound odd but it’ll tenderize the hardy leaves. First, remove the stem and add a glug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Then gently knead with your hands until the leaves start to wilt a little.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


You won’t get potatoes that are perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle just by cooking them in a microwave – but you can use one to save time. Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork and microwave them on high for 10 minutes. Then carefully transfer to a preheated hot oven to crisp up the skin for 10–20 minutes.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Swap half of the potatoes for blitzed cauliflower next time you make mashed spuds – you’ll not only be adding another portion of veg, you’ll be giving it a lovely, light velvety texture and sweetness.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


For stir-fries, cut vegetables roughly the same size so everything cooks evenly but if you’re including hard veg like carrots, add these slightly earlier. A common stir-fry mistake is to add veg at the same time, when some produce takes longer than others.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Instead of adding extra oil when stir-fry veg begin to stick or burn, add a splash of stock or water if oil is something you’re trying to cut down on.




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You don’t need lots of meat in stir-fries because a little goes a long way in flavoring the dish – leftovers or scraps are ideal. Cut pieces into strips so they cook quickly yet retain bags of flavor.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


A few moments drying chicken with a clean piece of paper towel is time well spent. Otherwise, residual surface moisture ends up steaming the meat when it cooks. Patting it dry will help brown and crisp up the skin.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.





Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Deglazing pans is a French technique which ensures no flavor is wasted. Remove sautéed veg or browned meat, then pour in cold wine, stock or water to create a cloud of steam and help move any caramelized pieces of food stuck to the bottom. This flavorful jus can be used for gravy or poured straight over your dish.




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If you’re cooking on a budget, lentils are a great way to make meals go further. Bulk out meat sauces, soups and salads with the legume for a filling dish. They’re also a great source of fiber and protein. A winner all round.




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When you fancy cannelloni but don’t have any tubes, make your own using lasagna sheets. Cook the flat pasta until flexible, spoon the filling on one end, roll them up and place in a baking dish seam-side-down. Cover in sauce and cheese, then bake until golden.




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Rather than drain pasta in a colander, lift it from the pot and mix it into the sauce on a low heat. While the flavors are mingling, add a ladle or so of the pasta water. It will give the sauce a rich, silky texture.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


The savory, slightly cheesy flavor of this vitamin-packed powdered yeast means it can substitute cheese in a variety of dishes, including pasta, veg and salads. Try it sprinkled on popcorn, added to scrambled eggs or to stuffing.




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Instead of adding a fishy flavor to dishes, anchovies add umami, a savory, salty taste. Always keep a tin to hand to marinate lamb, make a puttanesca sauce or whiz into a salad dressing.




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Toast nuts in a dry pan or in the oven for 5–10 minutes at 350–375°F (150–170°C) until golden in color. Once cooled they’ll be crisp and refreshed. Cook whole and ground spices in a dry pan to unlock their aroma but watch carefully they don’t burn.




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Some people say you shouldn’t season steak until after you’ve cooked it, but sprinkling salt onto meat helps with caramelization. This technique works wonders for not just for steak, but beef burgers and barbecued ribs too.




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Create a steak with a charred surface and tender interior by searing it on a cast iron griddle pan – they’re the best at retaining heat. Make sure the pan is roaring hot before you begin and don’t add butter first, this should go at the end.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


When it comes to melting cheese onto burgers, there’s a nifty trick to get the perfect melt. While the patty is still in the pan, add slices of cheese plus a dash of water to the pan, then cover it with a metal burger lid. The trapped steam melts the cheese onto the burger perfectly.




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Avoid eating meat with black, brittle bones by covering them with foil before they go on the barbecue. You can remove it towards the end to give them a little color.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


To get meat cooking quicker, you can try wrapping it in foil with a little water or apple juice. The steaming effect from the liquid speeds up the cooking process.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Nothing beats having a fully-stocked fridge but if you overcrowd it, it won’t be efficient at maintaining the right temperature as the cool air can’t circulate. Resist the temptation to overstuff the fridge and store some of its contents elsewhere if you can.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


A bag of salad leaves is always one of the first things to lose its freshness. Make it last longer by opening the bag as soon as you’re home from the shop and removing any soggy or wilted leaves. Pop a couple of clean paper towels in to absorb excess moisture, then clip the bag shut.




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These silicone food covers are perfect for covering half a lemon or avocado. They’re better than a plastic container as less air comes into contact with the surface of the fruit. It’s also much better for the environment than using plastic wrap or foil.




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Invest in glass storage containers that are also oven-safe. Not only can you cook food then handily store the leftovers in the same dish, but you can reheat a meal without creating more washing up too.




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Don’t be tempted to store bottles of beer on their side. When laid flat, more of the beer’s surface area is exposed to air (rather than just the part at the slim neck of the bottle). The more the beer becomes oxidized, the less time it will last, so make sure you stand bottles up straight.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Freezing fresh milk is a great hack if don’t manage to use the whole carton before its use by date. Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk can last for up to a month in the freezer. However, fat requires an extremely low temperature to freeze (lower than the average freezer), so this won’t work as well with whole, full-fat milk.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


While wine will last for a long time unopened, it will quickly turn once uncorked. There’s no real way of keeping open wine fresh for long – but you can save it for cooking. Fill up an ice cube tray with any leftovers, freeze and defrost as needed to use in sauces or stews.




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Avoid frozen clumps of fruit by freezing pieces in a single layer. Not only will you save space in your freezer drawer, but it’ll also be easier to take out a few pieces at a time if you don’t need the whole bag.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


It might be tempting to freeze a whole bag of chicken thighs in one go but it’s unlikely you’ll need to use all of them at the same time. Once they freeze together, it’s difficult to separate just one or two pieces without damaging the meat. Instead take the time to pack and freeze in usable portions.




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There’s nothing more annoying than freezer burn (when food becomes dried out from exposure to air). But most of the time it’s our own fault. Whether you’ve used freezer bags, kitchen foil or plastic wrap make sure you remove as much air from around the food as you possibly can. If you’re freezing in containers, be sure to fill them to the top.




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You can save a lot of space, especially in smaller freezers, if you freeze your sauces, stews and casseroles in bags rather than containers. Simply fill the bags with one or two portions and lay flat on the kitchen counter to get rid of the excess air. Then lay flat in the freezer, one on top of the other.




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You’ll not only avoid freezer burn but vacuum sealed bags will save as much space as possible. If you tend to use your freezer a lot, this will also make it easier to see what’s inside the bags.




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Many freezer foods, like ready-made pastry, come in a bulky cardboard box. Get rid of the box to save space and write the cooking instructions on the remaining packaging.




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Contrary to your fridge, where too much food can make your fridge warmer, your freezer will work better if it’s full. When you open the freezer door, the cold air escapes and the freezer has to work twice as hard to bring the air temperature back down. If your freezer is tightly packed, there’s less air to cool.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


More often than not our freezers are not working as efficiently as they could be. Check your freezer temperature is set correctly – ideally it should be 0ºF (-18ºC). Also don’t forget to defrost it once a year.




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If you’ve got a big freezer, it’s hard to keep track of food you have and how long it’s been in there. Start a document or a notebook with an inventory, outlining what you have, how much of it and when you need to use it by. This will save you from having to open your freezer unnecessarily.




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When deciding what to store in your fridge and what to leave out, consider the temperature of your kitchen. If it’s hot and humid, you might want to store things you’d usually leave out, like butter and certain fruit and veg, somewhere cooler to preserve them longer. Note, this will change between winter and summer.




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The worst way to store garlic is in a container in the fridge, where it will sprout and develop mold. Instead, place garlic somewhere dry and dark, and keep the bulb together for as long as possible. Once you’ve separated and peeled a clove, it can keep for up to a week in the fridge.




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If you want potatoes to keep for longer, start by storing them in a separate place to your onions. Both potatoes and onions produce ethylene which causes the other to spoil faster. Keeping them in two different brown paper bags in a cool, dark cupboard is a good option.




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Want to know the secret for making cut herbs last? Keep them upright in water as you would a bunch of flowers. Shelter them from direct sunlight and change the water regularly. They’re bound to stay fresher for longer.




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Invest in a banana hanger to stop your fruit from getting bruised and going bad too quickly. As long as it’s located somewhere that allows for free movement of air around the bananas, this handy contraption will slow down the ripening process.




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Fed up of your sugar turning clumpy and hard? It usually happens to brown sugar when it’s been exposed to the air too much and has dried out. For white sugar, it happens when there’s too much moisture. It’s best to store any sugar in an airtight container.




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If last night’s chicken stew or chili has stained your storage container and hot soapy water just won’t shift it, reach for the baking soda. Wipe the inside with a smooth water-and-soda paste and allow it to sit for a few hours. This should get rid of any stubborn marks for good.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Fancy a barista-style coffee in the comfort of your own home? For perfect froth, fill a jar halfway with milk, screw on the lid and shake. Once foamy, remove the lid and microwave on full power for 30 seconds. Your froth should double in size and provide the perfect topping for your coffee.




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Most coffee beans react best to hot water that’s not boiling (although some argue that boiled and slightly cooled water helps deal with hard water and other impurities). Boiling water poured straight over your coffee scorches the grounds, and will result in a mediocre brew. Trust us, you’ll notice the difference.




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Chopping boards can be a breeding ground for bacteria and over time they can also become a little whiffy. Be sure to wash them thoroughly with disinfectant first. But a going over with half a cut lemon can also help rid the odors of things like fish and garlic, plus it will impart a lovely citrus scent.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


You might already use the juices from roasted meat in gravy, but don’t forget about veggies. Add the water from boiled veg and any run-off from a roasting tin as well. It’ll make for a flavorful gravy packed with vitamins.




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Cutting down on waste isn’t just good sense from a financial and sustainability perspective, many of the things we regularly throw out can be used to create or enhance another dish. So start setting aside veg trimmings you’d usually throw out to use the next time you make stock.




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Sprinkle a few tablespoons of water over bread that’s a few days old, then stick it in a preheated hot oven for a few minutes. It’ll bring your stale loaf back to life. This trick works best on whole, unsliced loaves like baguettes, sourdough or ciabatta.




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To check if eggs are fresh, fill a bowl with cold water and try the ‘float test’. If the egg sinks to the bottom on its side, it means it’s very fresh. If your egg sinks to the bottom in an upright position, it means it’s not quite as fresh. If your egg floats, it means it has started producing gas and has likely gone bad.




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100/100 SLIDES