Kitchen Tricks and Tips From Our Expert Cooks

Whether it's mastering whipped cream or learning a cleaner way to crack an egg, here are 91 different ways you can feel more comfortable and confident in the heart of your home.

Illustration of a pan on the stove
Photo: Olivier Kugler

Simplifying strategies, tips, and techniques—from the Real Simple test kitchen to yours.

01 of 91

How to Prevent Food From Sticking

Illustration of a pan on the stove
Olivier Kugler

Love the sear of a stainless skillet but not the way peppers meld to the bottom midway through cooking? A little more oil should help, but don't just pour it over the top of the food or you'll end up with a greasy, soggy mess. Do it this way in three easy steps.

Step 1. Use a metal spatula to loosen the vegetables or meat, and then push them to one side of the skillet.

Step 2. Tilt the pan so the empty area is over the heat.

Step 3. Add the oil to the empty area (1 or 2 tablespoons should do) and let it get hot before moving the food back. Heated oil on a hot pan creates a slick, nonstick surface, guaranteeing a surefire sauté.

02 of 91

Reviving Crystallized Honey

Illustration of honey in a bowl of hot water
Olivier Kugler

Ever go to your pantry to find your bear-shaped honey bottle contains a solid unwieldy mass? Don't throw it away! Honey never goes bad, but it does crystalize in humid conditions.

To bring honey back to a luscious, drizzly state: Place the container in a bowl of hot water until the honey is smooth and runny (5 to 10 minutes). Alternatively: Remove the lid, and then microwave the jar in 30-second intervals, checking after each.

To prevent crystals from forming again, store the honey in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) and avoid introducing moisture. That is, no double-dipping once your spoon hits your tea.

03 of 91

Cutting Roly-Poly Vegetables Safely

Illustration of how to cut a potato
Olivier Kugler

To keep your fingers safe from nicks, use this technique on round, wobbly vegetables (like potatoes, squash, and beets).

Step 1. With a sharp knife, cut a thin slice along the length of the vegetable to create a flat side.

Step 2. Turn the veggie cut-side down on the cutting board. This ensures it is stable and won't roll away. Slice as desired, stopping when the veggie becomes unsteady and difficult to grip.

Step 3. Turn the veggie so the broad, flat side from which you made the last cut is facedown on the cutting board, and then continue to slice as desired.

04 of 91

How to Make Simple Syrup

Illustration of how to make symple syrup
Olivier Kugler

Want to sweeten your lemonade or iced tea? Instead of reaching for the sugar bowl, you'll get a better result—no sandy granules at the bottom of the glass—if you mix up a batch of simple syrup.

Step 1. Combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved (3 to 5 minutes).

Step 2. Let it cool and then add to beverages as needed.

Use 1½ teaspoons of simple syrup for every teaspoon of sugar you would usually use. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. We told you it was simple!

05 of 91

Keeping Crudités Fresh

Illustration of a woman wrapping a plate in plastic wrap
Olivier Kugler

Use this strategy to keep cut-up produce crisp and bright for up to 12 hours, because there's nothing inviting about a platter of limp broccoli florets and dried-out carrot sticks.

Cover everything with a layer of damp paper towels, and then wrap the platter in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the start of the party (aka crunch time).

06 of 91

How to Grill Corn

Illustration of steps to grilling corn
Olivier Kugler

It's hard to beat the smoky-sweet flavor of fresh corn cooked on a grill. Here's how to do it to perfection.

Step 1. Pull the husks back from the corn, but leave them attached at the stem. Remove and discard the silks.

Step 2. Pull the husks back up around the corn. Soak the ears in a roasting pan or large bowl full of water for 15 minutes. This prevents the husks from burning.

Step 3: Grill corn over medium heat, turning often, until the kernels are tender and husks are lightly charred (8 to 10 minutes).

07 of 91

Trimming Green Beans in a Snap

Illustration of woman trimming green beans
Olivier Kugler

Sitting with a bushel of beans and carefully pinching the ends off each one can be quite relaxing—if you're sitting on a porch swing on a lazy afternoon. But if you have a cluttered countertop and 15 minutes until dinner, try this technique instead.

Step 1. Line up the stems. The beans' tough, knobby ends need to go, but the other ends (the skinny, tapered tips) are tender and perfectly fine to eat.

Step 2. Arrange the beans so the stems all face one direction. Scoot a handful against your palm so they're even, and then use a chef's knife to cut off the knobby ends with one slice.

08 of 91

Making Stronger Iced Coffee and Tea

Illustration of iced coffee and tea steeping
Olivier Kugler

All too often, iced brews concocted at home are weak and watery—a total buzzkill. That's because simply mixing your regular coffee or tea with ice dilutes its intensity. But it's easy to give your drink more muscle: Make it double-strength.

For coffee, use ¼ cup ground beans for every cup of water. For tea, use 2 tea bags for every cup of water. Now you can chill, pour over ice, and get your day off the ground right with an iced beverage that stands up to the heat.

09 of 91

Mastering Whipped Cream

Illustration of how to make whipped cream
Olivier Kugler

Getting soft peaks—and not going too far (oops, butter!)—is easy if you adopt these three tips.

1. Start with the right ingredients. For fluffy, stable whipped cream; use cartons labeled "heavy cream," "whipping cream," or "heavy whipping cream." (Save the light cream for coffee.) For sweetness, add 2 tablespoons granulated sugar per cup of cream before beating.

2. Watch carefeully. In a chilled bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat chilled cream and sugar until the beaters leave visible lines when drawn across the cream. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low and continue to beat until soft peaks form. (When you hold up the beaters, the cream should stand up, and then flop over.)

3. If you do overwhip, don't panic. Add a splash of fresh, unwhipped cream to the curdled lumps and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Repeat as needed until the mixture smooths out.

10 of 91

A Cleaner Way to Crack an Egg

Illustration of cracking an egg
Olivier Kugler

When you tap an egg on the edge of a bowl, you don't break just the shell. The thin membrane surrounding the white and the yolk also ruptures, allowing tiny shell shards to mix with the liquid and add an unwelcome crunch to your finished dish. (Worst omelet ingredient ever.)

Instead, crack the egg on a flat surface, like a counter, to create one clean break. That way, the membrane stays intact, meaning no shell in your scramble.

Step 1: Hold the egg in one hand and tap it firmly on a hard surface.

Step 2: Check the break: You should see an indentation and one side-to-side crack, like an equator.

Step 3: Place your thumbs on either side of the crack and gently pull the shell apart. Any shards will stick to the membrane, not fall into the bowl.

11 of 91

Taking Your Oven's Temperature

Illustration of an oven thermometer
Olivier Kugler

Ovens lie. Yours may say 350 degrees F, but your last batch of brownies was squishy even though you followed the baking time. What gives? After a while, ovens may lose accuracy, running up to 25 degrees off the set temperature.

To test yours, place an oven-safe thermometer on the middle rack and heat the oven to 300 degrees F. When the oven indicates it has reached that temperature, check the thermometer: If it reads 275 degrees F, you know to set the temperature 25 degrees higher. Or seek a permanent fix by calling a repairman recommended by the manufacturer.

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How to Chop Garlic

Illustration of trimming, crushing, and chopping garlic
Olivier Kugler

No more struggling with sticky, paper-thin peels. With these three steps—trim, crush, chop—you can prep a clove in no time.

Step 1. Use the tip of a chef's knife to slice off the hard root of each clove. This makes the skin peel away more easily.

Step 2. Place a clove under the flat side of the knife, with the blade facing away from you. Press the heel of your palm or your fist down on the knife until you feel the clove give way. Slip off and discard the skin.

Step 3. Gather the peeled cloves, hold your knife by the handle, and place your other, nondominant hand on top of the blade. Rock the knife up and down through the cloves (with the tip staying on the cutting board). Chop until the garlic is the size you want.

13 of 91

Removing Salmon Bones

Illustration of a person removing salmon bones
Olivier Kugler

Before salmon fillets make it into the supermarket seafood case, a fishmonger has taken out the backbone and the ribs. But they don't always catch the thin, soft pin bones that "float" in the flesh. Here's a quick way to remove them at home.

Step 1. Run your index finger along the center seam of the fillet, going against the grain. If there are any pin bones, you'll feel them protruding at about half-inch intervals.

Step 2. With clean tweezers, grasp the tip of the bone and tug, pulling at a slight angle instead of up and out (pin bones grow slanted toward the fish's head). Repeat as necessary.

14 of 91

Prettier Slaws (Chop-Chop)

Illustration of orange food in a food processor
Olivier Kugler

Sure, your food processor is a whiz at grating vegetables…into short, stubby pieces. The next time you pull it out to make a slaw or a salad, try this trick for creating slender, elegant strands: Cut carrots, broccoli, or apples into pieces the same width as the feed tube (about 4 to 5 inches, usually). Then, instead of feeding them into the tube vertically, stack them on their sides.

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Multitasking Sheet Pans

Illustration of sheet pans
Olivier Kugler

Quarter-sheet pans—measuring 9 by 13 inches, sometimes called "small jelly-roll pans"—are handy for roasting foods with different cooking times. (Two sheets fit side-by-side in an oven.) Look at what else they're great for.

1. Corralling Recipe Ingredients. Want someone else to start dinner? Gather meat, vegetables, and other perishables the recipe calls for on a quarter-sheet pan in the refrigerator to make it easy on your kitchen assistant.

2. Catching Drips in the Oven. To hold the oozy overflow of mini potpies, baked pastas, French onion soup, and fruit crisps; cook them on a quarter-sheet pan. You'll keep the oven floor clean and leave space on the oven rack for the rest of the meal.

3. Making Deep-Dish Pizza. You don't need a special pan to cook a great Chicago-style pie. Lightly oil a quarter-sheet pan (sides, too), press the dough into the bottom and up the sides, and then pile on your favorite toppings.

4. Freezing Cookie Dough. The pan's slender size makes it ideal for freezing drop dough or berries. Just slide the pan directly on top of your ice cream cartons (no need to reorganize the freezer to make room). Transfer the items to a container once they are firm.

16 of 91

How to Season a Cast-Iron Pan

Illustration of how to season a cast-iron pan
Olivier Kugler

This affordable classic should be a staple in every kitchen. Cast iron distributes heat evenly and holds heat, so it's great for searing and frying. Its naturally nonstick surface—the product of "seasoning," a method used to seal and smooth the iron—makes it a good choice for delicate items, like breaded cutlets. Some pans come pre-seasoned. If yours isn't or if you have a pan that needs re-seasoning, here's how you can easily get it into shape.

Step 1. Wash the pan with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush; and then rinse and dry thoroughly. Use a folded paper towel to apply a thin, even coating of vegetable oil to the pan, inside and out.

Step 2. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom oven rack to catch drips, and then set the pan on the top rack at 350 degrees F for 1 hour; letting it cool in the oven.

17 of 91

How to Clean a Seasoned Cast-Iron Pan

Illustration of how to clean a seasoned pan
Olivier Kugler

Step 1: Very important—don't use soap or scouring powder on a seasoned pan. It will destroy the nonstick coating. Instead, sprinkle the pan with kosher salt and scrub it with a paper towel.

Step 2: Rinse the pan clean under hot water. Dry it immediately and thoroughly with paper towels, then apply a thin, even coating of vegetable oil. If you keep your cookware stacked, place a paper towel in the pan to protect its surface.

18 of 91

Prepping Hearty Greens

Illustration of prepping hearty greens
Olivier Kugler

Kale, chard, mustard greens, and collards make delicious sautés and are a tasty addition to soups, but first you have to remove their tough stems. Instead of cutting them out with a knife, simply "zip" the leaves off.

With one hand, hold a leaf at the bottom by the thickest part of the stem. With the other hand, gently pinch the leaf with your index finger and thumb and pull it up and off along the stem.

19 of 91

How to Soften Brown Sugar

Illustration of softening brown sugar
Olivier Kugler

Midway through the banana bread recipe, you realize that your brown sugar is one rock-hard mass. Solution: Place the block of sugar in a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of water, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave in 30-second intervals (checking between each) until soft. (This may take several minutes.)

To keep a new package fresh, place the entire bag of sugar in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag and store at room temperature.

20 of 91

Cutting Up a Pineapple

Illustration of cutting up a pineapple
Olivier Kugler

Supermarkets often charge twice as much for sliced pineapple as they do for the same amount of whole fruit. Here's an easy way to handle this prickly job yourself.

Step 1. With a serrated or chef's knife, cut off the top of the pineapple and a thick slice from the bottom.

Step 2. Stand the pineapple upright and, working from top to bottom, cut off the skin in strips, following the shape of the fruit. Use a small paring knife to remove any remaining eyes.

Step 3. Cut the pineapple lengthwise into wedges, and then cut out the piece of core from each wedge.

Step 4. Slice or cut the pieces into chunks as desired.

Cut-up pineapple will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

21 of 91

Easy Homemade Bread Crumbs

Illustration of homemade bread crumbs
Olivier Kugler

Make your own bread crumbs. It's a great way to use up the heels of old loaves and other stale bits, and then transform them to bread cutlets, make meatballs, or add crunch to casseroles. Crumbs keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Step 1. Stow bread pieces in a large plastic bag in the freezer.

Step 2. When the bag is full, cut the bread into large chunks and pulse them in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.

Step 3. Toast the crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350° F oven, tossing once, until dry (4 to 6 minutes).

22 of 91

Storing Leftover Tomato Paste

Illustration of storing leftover tomato paste
Olivier Kugler

Most recipes for pasta sauce and chili call for only a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste. If your paste comes in a tube, leftovers aren't a problem. But if it's in a can, don't toss the remainder or let it dry out in the refrigerator. Instead, freeze it in tablespoon-size portions in an ice-cube tray. Once they're solid, transfer the cubes to a plastic freezer bag. Later add them directly to recipes—no need to thaw. Try this with chipotles in adobo and pesto, too.

23 of 91

Slicing Brownies and Bars Neatly, Every Time

Illustration of how to slice brownies and bars neatly
Olivier Kugler

If you want perfect squares or rectangles, a spatula just won't cut it. Follow this easy step-by-step technique to guarantee treats that look as good as they taste. The secret ingredient: parchment paper.

Step 1. Before baking, prepare the baking pan: Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides of with softened butter.

Step 2. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides; pressing it down so it sticks. Brush with more butter and line with a second sheet of parchment, perpendicular to the first (also with an overhang). Brush with butter.

Step 3. Add batter to the pan; bake, and let cool as directed. Then, gripping the paper overhangs, lift the brownies or bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board.

Step 4. Using a large serrated knife, cut into squares or rectangles as desired, and then lift them off the parchment.

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Keeping Baked Goods Fresh

Illustration of how to keep goodies fresh
Olivier Kugler

Most holiday cookies and bars last for up to a week in a tightly sealed container. But what if you're planning to give them as a gift in a basic box? To maintain freshness until you drop them off to the lucky recipient, wrap the entire present in plastic wrap or, if size allows, slip it into a resealable plastic bag. Protected from the drying air, your sweet offerings will stay moist and chewy for days.

25 of 91

Softening Butter Quickly

Illustration of how to soften butter
Olivier Kugler

Forgot to take the sticks out of the refrigerator in advance? Here are two ways to speed the process along.

Fast: Cut the sticks into pieces and set out on a counter. In 10 to 15 minutes, you'll be good to go.

Faster: Microwave the pieces on low in 20-second intervals, checking in between. The butter is ready when it's malleable but not mushy.

26 of 91

Freezing and Toasting Nuts

Illustration of inside of freezer and nuts on a baking tray
Olivier Kugler

From storing to cooking, here's how to make the most of these tasty little gems.

Freeze shelled nuts to preserve their natural oils, which can turn rancid at room temperature. Stow each type of nut separately in an airtight, dated container. After a year, it's time to toss them.

Toast nuts to give them more flavor. (Don't be tempted to skip this step in a recipe—the little time it takes has a delicious payoff.) Simply spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and cook in a 350° F oven, tossing occasionally, until they're fragrant and their interiors are golden (5 to 10 minutes). Break a nut in half to check.

27 of 91

A Crisp Crust Every Time

Illustration of a pie baking in an oven
Olivier Kugler

There's no better way to ruin a perfectly good pie than with a soggy, underdone crust. For foolproof crusts—top and bottom—position your pie on the lowest rack, where most ovens tend to concentrate heat. As the heat rises, it will crisp the bottom crust before cooking the exposed top crust. Using a transparent Pyrex pie plate also helps: A quick peek shows you when the underside is golden (not pale and doughy looking), guaranteeing a rich, flaky dessert.

28 of 91

How to Take a Turkey's Temperature

Illustration of taking the temperature of a cooked turkey
Olivier Kugler

Using an instant-read thermometer is the best way to ensure a moist, juicy roast. But where do you put it? The most important thing to remember: Never place the probe too close to the bone or you'll get an inaccurate reading. "Bones conduct heat at a different rate than meat and can range in temperature, depending on where they are in the bird," says Simon Quellen Field, the author of Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking ($17, amazon.com).

The easiest method? Slide the thermometer into the thigh horizontally, just until it touches the bone, and then pull it out slightly. Once it registers 165° F in the thigh—the slowest-cooking part of the bird—you'll know that dinner is ready.

29 of 91

Breading Without the Mess

Illustration of hands breading a piece of chicken
Oliver Kugler

Coating ingredients in flour, egg, and bread crumbs is the surest path to an extra-crispy crust, but it can turn your hands into a sticky, clumpy disaster. Follow this neat technique to solve that problem.

Step 1. Arrange your ingredients from left to right in this order: the food you want to bread (such as chicken fillets), flour, egg, and bread crumbs. Using your left ("dry") hand, turn the chicken in the flour to coat both sides, and then drop it into the bowl of egg.

Step 2 (shown). Using your right ("wet") hand, lift the chicken from the egg, shake off the excess, and then drop it into the bread crumbs.

Step 3. Using your left ("dry") hand, turn the chicken in the bread crumbs to coat both sides. Tap off excess bread crumbs, and then transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

30 of 91

Choosing Shrimp—Fresh vs. Frozen

Illustration of rinsing shrimp
Oliver Kugler

Here's a fishmonger's secret: The shiny, plump shrimp on ice at the seafood counter are actually less fresh than those in bags in the freezer case. The reason? To preserve them during shipping, almost all shrimp are frozen soon after they're harvested. With the exception of most American Gulf and Georgia varieties, the majority of "fresh" shrimp are actually frozen shrimp that have been thawed. Once defrosted, shrimp are good for only 2 days.

The smarter option? Buy frozen shrimp and thaw them yourself just before cooking by running them under cold water for several minutes in a colander or strainer.

31 of 91

The Easiest Way to Core an Apple

Illustration of hands slicing an apple
Oliver Kugler

Skip the drawer-cluttering gadgets and try this no-fuss method.

Step 1. Hold the apple upright on a cutting board and cut off one side, as close to the core as possible. Place the apple cut-side down and cut off another side. Repeat with the two remaining sides.

Step 2. Discard the core and slice or dice the large apple quarters as desired.

32 of 91

Protecting a Piecrust From Overbrowning

Guide to making an aluminum foil ring to protect pie crust
Olivier Kugler

Pie recipes often instruct you to place foil around the edges of the crust to keep it from darkening too quickly—and you find yourself fumbling with long, straight strips. Next time, try this more sensible one-sheet trick.

Step 1. Fold a 12-inch-square piece of foil in half, forming a rectangle.

Step 2. Fold the foil in half again, forming a square.

Step 3. Use scissors to cut out a quarter-circle shape, starting about 3 to 4 inches from the folded corner of the square; and discard it.

Step 4. Unfold the foil and check if the opening is the correct size by holding it over the pie. The foil should cover just the rim of the crust. (If the hole is too small, refold the foil and cut out a larger circle.)

Step 5. Tuck the edge of the foil under the pie plate and continue baking the pie for the time instructed.

33 of 91

Summer Produce That Tastes Great Raw

Illustration of zucchini, green beans, and corn on the cob
Olivier Kugler

Keep your kitchen cool this summer by incorporating the following vegetables au naturel in salads and slaws.

Asparagus: Thinly slice or, if slender, use whole.

Beets: Shred on a box grater.

Broccoli: Cut into florets or finely chop.

Corn: Cut the kernels off the cob.

Green beans and sugar snap peas: Thinly slice or use whole.

Kale and chard: Discard the stems and thinly slice the leaves.

Turnips and kohlrabi: Thinly slice or cut into matchsticks.

Zucchini and summer squash: Thinly slice or use a vegetable peeler to cut into ribbons.

34 of 91

How to Slice an Ice Cream Cake

Illustration of slicing an ice cream cake
Olivier Kugler

Just out of the freezer, an ice cream cake is rock hard and can be impossible to cut. And who wants to wait for ice cream cake to soften? Try this next time.

Step 1. Run a chef's knife under very hot water just before slicing.

Step 2. The hot blade glides cleanly and easily through the cold layers. Rewarm the blade as necessary.

Try this technique on our astonishingly easy four-ingredient ice cream cake.

35 of 91

Slicing a Melon

Illustration of how to slice a melon
Olivier Kugler

It's not as daunting as slicing a butternut squash, but it's close. Follow this four-step process to quickly—and efficiently—cut up a cantaloupe or a honeydew.

Step 1. With a serrated knife or a sharp chef's knife, cut a slice off the top and bottom of the melon; and then stand the melon upright, wobble-free, on the cutting surface.

Step 2. Working from top to bottom and following the curve of the melon, cut off strips of the rind. Make sure you cut all the way down to the tender fruit, past the rind's tough middle layer.

Step 3. Slice the peeled melon in half from top to bottom, and then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.

Step 4. Slice or cube as desired.

Cut-up melon keeps in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.

36 of 91

Preparing a Salad in Advance

Illustration of a prepared salad in a salad bowl covered with plastic wrap
Olivier Kugler

Want to make a salad well before serving—without ending up with a limp mess? It's easy! Just layer the ingredients in one large bowl.

Step 1. Place the dressing at the bottom, and then add sturdy, wilt-resistant vegetables (such as cut-up peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and radishes); and top with greens.

Step 2. Cover it all with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Step 3. Right before mealtime, remove the towel, add any delicate items (like croutons), and toss.

37 of 91

Keeping Fried Food Crispy

Illustration of fried chicken on a cooling rack
Olivier Kugler

If you're frying shrimp or chicken, don't rest the cooked pieces directly on a plate—the residual heat becomes trapped under the food, creating steam and turning everything soggy.

Instead, use a cooling rack (set on a rimmed baking sheet to keep counters clean). With room for air to circulate, fried morsels maintain their satisfying crunch until dinner.

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Aluminum-Foil Master Class

Illustrations of uses for aluminum foil while grilling
Olivier Kugler

During grilling season, foil is a cook's secret weapon. Here are three ways to use this marvelous multitasker.

1. Make a packet for delicate foods. Prevent a whole fish or a fragile fillet from sticking to the grate by sealing it in a foil packet. (For flavor, add lemon and herbs.) Pierce the top of the packet several times before placing it on the grill. No flipping necessary.

2. Use as a makeshift grill brush. A clean grate prevents food from sticking. If you don't have a wire brush on hand, crumple a sheet of foil into a ball, hold it with tongs, and use it to scrape off any bits stuck to the grate. (Do this while the grill is hot, both before and after cooking.)

3. Create a tent for resting meat. Keep a resting steak warm by covering it loosely with foil for 5 to 10 minutes. (Why let steak rest? It briefly continues to cook and then cools down, allowing fibers to plump with juices that would otherwise spill onto your cutting board.)

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Baste Without Burning

Illustration of chicken being basted while on a grill pan
Olivier Kugler

Tomato-based barbecue sauces, teriyaki sauces, and honey glazes contain sugar, which burns easily. To avoid charring meat or poultry—and ensure it gets that rich, caramelized finish—wait to apply sweet sauces until the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. Your patience will be deliciously rewarded.

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Successful Skewering

Illustration of skewered shrimp
Olivier Kugler

Anyone who has tried to flip a skewer loaded with fish, meat, or vegetables knows how hard it is to prevent the individual pieces from spinning. The solution couldn't be simpler: Thread the pieces onto two parallel skewers, and turning them is a cinch.

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Making Your Own Chicken Cutlets

Illustration of hands making chicken cutlets
Oliver Kugler

Trim your food budget by turning boneless, skinless chicken breasts into cutlets. It's quick and easy, and it can save you up to $2 a pound. Here's how:

Step 1. Place a boneless, skinless chicken breast on a cutting board. Hold it down flat with the palm of one hand and, with a chef's knife in the other, carefully slice it in half horizontally (parallel to the cutting board).

Step 2. Open the breast like a book and, if necessary, make a cut to separate the two halves. Trim any ragged edges.

Step 3. Placing one hand over the other, use the heel of the bottom hand to press down and flatten each piece to a ⅜- to ½-inch thickness.

Voilà! Nice, quick-cooking cutlets worthy of our Baked chicken Parmesan.

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Shredding Semisoft Cheese

Illustration of hand shredding cheese with a cheese grater
Oliver Kugler

Grating mozzarella, fontina, Havarti, and other semisoft cheeses can be messy and cumbersome. Make the task simpler by freezing the cheese until firm (about 30 minutes) before subjecting it to a box grater. Frozen cheese is easy to drag over the holes, resulting in long, elegant shreds.

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Reviving Wilted Produce

Illustration of greens and other vegetables inside and outside of a glass bowl with water
Oliver Kugler

As vegetables lose moisture, their cell walls start to sag. That's what turns lettuce limp and carrots rubbery. Immersing them in water helps reverse the process. What to do: Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice, add vegetables, and let them soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Dry thoroughly before using. This method works with fresh herbs and all sorts of vegetables. (Slice veggies first for maximum water absorption).

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Removing Stuck-On Bits Without Scrubbing

Removing stuck-on bits without scrubbing illustration
Oliver Kugler

No steel wool? Try this effective, no-elbow-grease method.

Step 1. Fill the dirty pan almost to the rim with water and add about ¼ cup baking soda.

Step 2. Simmer the mixture until almost no liquid is left. A chalky film should coat the bottom and the sides.

Step 3. With a sponge, wipe the skillet clean, and then wash with soap and hot water.

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Holding a Cutting Board in Place

Holding a cutting board in place illustration
Oliver Kugler

A board that slides around the counter while you're chopping is an accident waiting to happen. Keep yours anchored with a cut-to-fit piece of rug pad or shelf liner. The added cushioning also helps stabilize a slightly warped board.

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Freezing (and Reheating) Cooked Rice

Freezing and reheating cooked rice illustration
Oliver Kugler

Don't have 55 minutes to prepare brown rice? Or even 20 minutes for white? No problem. Simply cook it in advance and freeze it for later. This works well with leftover rice, too. Here's what to do.

Pack it up. Make a batch of rice and let it cool. (Try one of these recipes.) Spoon meal-size portions into freezer-safe, microwave-safe containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

Reheat it. When you're ready to serve, remove the container's lid, sprinkle the frozen grains with 1 to 2 tablespoons water, cover the container with a dampened paper towel, and microwave on high for 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the portion size). Fluff gently and repeat as necessary. Let stand for 2 minutes before a final fluff and then serve.

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How to Seed a Pomegranate

Seeding a pomegranate illo
Olivier Kugler

Pomegranate seeds (fancy term: arils) are loaded with antioxidants and make a gorgeous addition to salads. Here's an easy, mess-free way to get out every last one.

Step 1. Cut off the pomegranate's crown. Score the skin into sections, cutting where the membrane is thickest (to minimize damage to the seeds).

Step 2. Submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of water and gently pry it open into sections. Still working underwater, remove the internal membranes and gently pull out the seeds. The seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl while the membranes float to the surface.

Step 3. Discard the pieces of skin and skim off floating membranes, leaving the seeds in the bowl.

Step 4. Lift the seeds out of the water and transfer them to a paper towel to dry. Refrigerate seeds in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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How to Skim Fat

Skimming fat illo
Olivier Kugler

Sure, you can remove fat from a soup (or stew or sauce) by gingerly and repeatedly skimming the soup as it simmers. But doing so requires constant attention and eliminates only some of the grease. The better way? Make the soup in advance and do the following.

Step 1. Transfer the soup to a container and cool it in the refrigerator for several hours. The fat will rise to the surface and solidify.

Step 2. Using a spoon, lift off and discard the fat (or save it for sautéing). Reheat the soup as desired.

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How to Steam (Without a Steamer Basket)

Steaming without a steamer basket
Olivier Kugler

Shopping for a steamer basket for veggies or fish? Save your money and valuable kitchen real estate by using what you already have: a small metal colander or heatproof plate.

For vegetables: Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with ½ inch water and set a small metal colander inside (the water should not come above the bottom of the colander). Bring to a simmer, place vegetables—green beans, carrots, or potatoes, say—in the colander, cover the pot, and then steam until tender.

For fish: Fill a large skillet with ½ inch water and set a heatproof plate inside (the water should not come above the rim of the plate). Bring to a simmer, place fish fillets on the plate, cover the skillet, and then steam until the fish is opaque throughout.

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How to Freeze Dough

Freezing dough
Olivier Kugler

Want a recipe for avoiding holiday-baking overload? Mix up and freeze dough ahead of time, and then bake when you need it. What works best: drop cookies, like chocolate chip, oatmeal, and gingersnap. Here's what to do.

Step 1. Scoop balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until just firm (15 to 20 minutes). A small, spring-loaded scoop gives you nice, equally sided rounds; but a measuring spoon works, too.)

Step 2. Transfer the frozen balls to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Step 3. Ready to bake? Place frozen dough balls on baking sheets (no need to thaw) and bake according to the instructions, adding 1 to 2 minutes to the total time.

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How to Cool Baking Sheets

Cooling baking sheets
Olivier Kugler

When you're making multiple batches of treats, it's tempting to reuse the sheets while they're still hot from the oven. But raw dough on a warm pan produces unevenly baked cookies that are thin and overly browned around the edges. Rather than waiting 4 to 5 minutes for the temperature of the sheets to drop, try this quick fix: Run the underside of the hot pan under cold water until it's cool. That way, you won't need to wipe it dry.

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How to Ice Cookies

Icing cookies
Olivier Kugler

Decorating cookies, Christmas or otherwise, with royal icing can take you from festive to frustrated at the drop of Santa's hat. Keep your spirits up using this easy technique.

Step 1. Using royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a small round tip, outline just inside the edges of the cookie, and then let the icing set slightly (20 to 30 minutes).

Step 2. Fill in—or "flood"—the center of the cookie with more icing. (If you're going for an ultra-sleek look, thin the icing with a few drops of water.)

Step 3. To fill in tight corners, use a toothpick to drag the icing outward. You can also use the toothpick to pop any air bubbles that form. Let the icing dry partially before adding sprinkles, and completely (at least 4 hours) before piping other colors on top.

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How to Keep Sliced Turkey Warm and Juicy

Drizzling chicken broth on turkey illo
Olivier Kugler

It happens every year: By the time you're done carving the bird, the first pieces on the platter have already begun to cool and dry out. Try this: Just before bringing the turkey to the table, drizzle the slices with a little hot chicken broth to warm and moisten the meat.

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How to Prevent Potatoes From Discoloring

Chopping potatoes
Olivier Kugler

Preparing potatoes in advance for gratins and mashes can be tricky: Once peeled and cut, spuds can turn an off-putting shade of gray. To maintain their creamy color, refrigerate the pieces in a container of cold water. Fully submerged, they'll keep up to a day before cooking.

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How to Make a Piecrust Without Rips and Tears

Rolling and making pie crust
Olivier Kugler

What's worse than pie with a soggy bottom? How about one with a gaping hole. Use this technique for crust that's easy as pie.

Step 1. On a piece of floured parchment or wax paper, roll out the dough to an even thickness, rotating the paper as you go. Occasionally lift the dough and flour the paper underneath to ensure the dough rolls freely. Dough too soft to roll? Place the paper and dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate just until firm.

Step 2. Run your hands under the dough to loosen it from the paper, and then position the paper (and dough) over the pie plate. Place one hand under the dough and use your other hand to pull the paper out. Gently fit the dough into the bottom and corners of the pie plate, and crimp the edge before filling.

In case you lost Grandma's, try our Genius, goof-proof pie crust recipe.

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How to Pit an Olive

Pitting an olive with knife
Olivier Kugler

If you have a recipe that calls for just a few olives, removing the stones yourself is worth the minimal effort required. (Store-bought pitted olives are sometimes soft and slightly mealy due to the inner meat's exposure to the salty brine.) To remove a pit easily, follow these steps.

Step 1. Place the olive on a cutting board and firmly press down on it with the side of a chef's knife. (Face the blade away from you.) If the olive doesn't immediately split apart, use the knife to apply a gentle rocking motion, rolling the olive back and forth once or twice on the cutting board until the olive breaks open and the pit is revealed.

Step 2. Pull out the pit. Chop or slice as needed.

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How to Make Fluffy Rice

Washing rice illo
Olivier Kugler

This dinnertime staple—whether it's Jasmine, basmati, or good-old long-grain white—can be challenging to get right. To remove the excess starch that causes stickiness and clumping, rinse uncooked rice in a sieve or a mesh colander until the water runs clear. Behold: separate (and delicious) grains every time.

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How to Achieve a Perfect Sear on Meat

Steak pan illo
Olivier Kugler

They're so expensive, want to get it right. Try this with your cut from the butcher.

Step 1. Thirty minutes before you plan to cook, take the meat out of the refrigerator so it can come to room temperature. Then pat it dry with a paper towel. (Don't rinse it or you'll risk spreading bacteria from the raw juices into your sink.)

Step 2. Get your skillet good and hot, so a drop of water sizzles on the surface. (Avoid nonstick pans, which don't brown adequately.) Add a splash of oil.

Step 3. Season the meat just before adding it to the pan; do it any sooner and the salt will pull juices from the meat.

Step 4. Cook the meat and wait until it releases easily from the pan—and a nice crust has formed—before turning it. Don't tug: If there is any resistance and the meat sticks to the pan, let it cook for an additional minute before checking again.

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The Best Way to Clean Leeks

Chop leeks illo
Olivier Kugler

This member of the onion family adds a deliciously pungent note to soups and sautés. Its downside? As the plant grows, gritty soil gets trapped between its layers. Here's how to get it out of every crevice.

Step 1. Cut off and discard the dark green leaves an inch or so above the white part of the stalk. (The greens are bitter and tough.) Trim and discard the roots, halve the remaining stalk lengthwise, and then cut into pieces as desired.

Step 2. Fill a bowl with cold water, add the cut leeks, and then swish them around a few times. With your hands loosely cupped, lift the leeks out of the bowl and place them on a plate or work surface. (The grit remains in the bowl.) Discard the water and grit. Fill the bowl with fresh water and repeat until the water is clear.

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Make Meatballs (Without the Mess)

Making meatballs illo
Olivier Kugler

Shaping ground beef, pork, lamb, or turkey into meatballs can be a sticky business. To keep meat from glomming on to your hands, wet your hands in cold water first (repeat as needed). The moisture creates a barrier between your skin and the meat. Try this method with burgers and meat loaf, too.

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Rescue Your Dinner From a Scorched Pan

Paper towel to clean pan illo
Olivier Kugler

Ever lost track of your stovetop masterpiece? We all have. Here's how to salvage your meal and your reputation.

Step 1. Remove the skillet from heat. Gently pull the food to one side of the skillet, being careful not to disrupt the burned bits on the bottom.

Step 2. Tip the pan in the opposite direction and add a few tablespoons of water. Scrape up the burned bits, pushing them into the water.

Step 3. Using a wad of paper towel (try holding it with tongs), sop up the water and the scraped-up bits, and then discard them. Repeat for other burned areas, if necessary, and continue cooking.

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How to Break Up Chocolate Without Making a Mess

Illustration of how to break up chocolate
Olivier Kugler

Chopping chocolate bars makes a mess, and no one wants chocolate bits on their countertop instead of in their dessert. Instead, start by putting the knife down. (Really!)

Leave the chocolate bar in its wrapper and whack it against the edge of the counter several times. Carefully open the wrapper and voilà! Neatly corralled pieces—and zero kitchen cleanup.

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Foolproof Cookie Cutting

Illustration of foolproof cookie cutting
Olivier Kugler

Want your stars and snowmen to cut an impressive figure? Ensure they retain their crisp, sharp edges by following these cool instructions:

Step 1. Roll out chilled dough on floured parchment paper, and then chill it again for at least 15 minutes before cutting out shapes. (If you're working with a big batch, refrigerate the sheets of dough in a stack with paper separating each layer.)

Step 2. Use a floured cookie cutter to punch out a clean shape, and reflour the cutter before every cut.

Step 3. Place the shapes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill once again, for at least 15 minutes, before baking.

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Use Your (Vanilla) Beans

Illustration of how to use your vanilla beans
Olivier Kugler

Holiday custards and sauces wouldn't be the same without these flavor-packed—and, yes, pricey—pods. Here's how to get your money's worth.

Step 1. Use a sharp paring knife to split the pod lengthwise, tip to tip.

Step 2: Run the dull side of the paring-knife blade down the length of each half, scraping up the seeds. Use as the recipe indicates.

Step 3: Put the empty, but still potent, pod halves in a jar of sugar to make a vanilla-scented sweetener for coffee and tea.

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How to Supercharge Spices

Illustration of spices going into a pot
Olivier Kugler

Think the key to three-alarm chili (or any other flavor-packed dish) is dumping in tons of spices? Not so. It's actually all about timing—and earlier is generally better. When spices are heated directly in oil at the beginning of the cooking process (while you sauté, say, onion and garlic), they "bloom," becoming toasty and richer tasting. If you wait to add the spices until just before the dish is done, they won't release their powerful flavors—meaning your chili will be bland or bitter, rather than full of fire.

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Avoiding Oven Messes

Illustration of a casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet
Olivier Kugler

There's nothing more delightful than a hot, bubbling casserole on a cold winter's night—unless you're the one left to clean up the overflow on the oven floor. This applies to juicy cobblers and pies, too.

Next time, place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet before putting it in the oven. The baking sheet catches spills and keeps pot holders sauce-free when you remove the finished dish. For even easier cleanup, line the baking sheet with foil.

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Shaping Pizza Dough

Illustration of shaping pizza dough
Olivier Kugler

When the moon hits your eye through the hole in your pie, you've probably stretched the dough too thin. For an even, intact crust (homemade or store-bought, we won't judge); follow these steps.

Step 1. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator, place on a well-floured surface, and dust lightly with flour. Let sit until the dough comes to room temperature (20 to 30 minutes). (Resting makes the dough more pliable.)

Step 2. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough from the center to the edges until the circle is about ½-inch thick.

Step 3. With both hands, hold one edge of the dough, allowing it to hang. Inch your hands around the edge, letting gravity gently stretch the dough to the desired size.

Step 4. Transfer to an oiled or cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and add the toppings of your choice.

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How to Check a Meat Thermometer for Accuracy

Testing the accuracy of a digital thermometer
Olivier Kugler

There's only one sure way to know if your bird is done: Take its temperature. It should register 165° F in the thickest part of a thigh. But if your instant-read thermometer is off, who's the turkey?

To check your thermometer's precision, submerge it in a glass of water with enough crushed ice to be slushy, ensuring the tip isn't touching the sides or the bottom of the glass. The dial should read 32° F after about 30 seconds. If it doesn't, the thermometer needs to be recalibrated. Here are two easy methods that work for most models.

For a digital thermometer: For models you can recalibrate, submerge the thermometer probe in the ice water and hold down the Reset (or Calibrate) button (if it has one), or the On-Off button for 6 to 8 seconds, until the display reads 32° F.

For a dial thermometer:
Submerge the thermometer probe in the ice water and, using pliers or a wrench, turn the nut just under the dial until the dial points to 32° F.

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Measurement Cheat Sheet

Illustration of how to make symple syrup
Olivier Kugler

Tripling a recipe for your holiday crowd? Use this handy list of equivalents and you'll never have to measure out 12 teaspoons (and lose count!) again.

1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 1/2 fluid ounce

1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons = 2 fluid ounces

1/3 cup = 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 3 fluid ounces

1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons = 4 fluid ounces

1 cup = 16 tablespoons = 1/2 pint = 8 fluid ounces

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How to Truss a Turkey

How to truss a turkey
Olivier Kugler

Tying a turkey makes it look pretty and prevents the wing tips from burning. Here's how to do it without getting all tangled up.

Step 1. Tie the legs together using kitchen twine, looping it around the legs several times so they're secure, and then finish with a knot.

Step 2. Twist each wing so its tip tucks under the neck cavity of the bird. (You may need to use a bit of force.) The weight of the bird and the tension of the wing should keep it in place.

Step 3. Season and prepare the bird according to the recipe directions.

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Stock, Broth, Bouillon: What's the Difference?

Illustration of the difference between stock, broth, and bouillon
Olivier Kugler

Produced by simmering vegetables, aromatics (think herbs and peppercorns), bones, and often meat scraps, stock is the gold standard uses as a base for soups, stews, and sauces. Despite having little or no salt, it adds complex, robust flavor to any recipe it touches. Unfortunately, you probably have to make it yourself, as it's rarely found in grocery stores.

Not up for the two-hour time commitment that making stock requires? Opt for store-bought broth instead. Usually just stock with salt added, use this ingredient the same ways as homemade stock. The only downside: It's a bit less rich and complex.

Last—and least desirable—is bouillon: dehydrated stock formed into cubes or granules. Yes, it's convenient, but it's typically processed with MSG, large amounts of sodium, or other additives. Thus the liquid it produces is fairly weak and one-note, despite being intensely salty. Use it only in a pinch.

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Substituting Dried Herbs for Fresh

Illustration of substituting dried herbs for fresh
Olivier Kugler

Your recipe calls for a few sprigs of fresh herbs, but you don't want to spring for a whole bunch. No problem. In most cases, you can use dried herbs instead. Follow this simple formula: 1 teaspoon of dried equals 1 tablespoon of fresh.

Since dried herbs tend to have a strong, concentrated flavor; the substitution works best for hearty varieties—like oregano, thyme, and sage; which are added early in a recipe and mellow with cooking. Stick with fresh versions of herbs like basil, mint, and parsley; which have a more delicate flavor and are added just before serving.

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The Best Way to Segment an Orange

Illustration of the best way to segment an orange
Olivier Kugler

Don't let the pith leave you bitter about using oranges or other citrus in salads and desserts. This easy removal technique makes it much more appealing.

Step 1. With a sharp chef's knife or serrated knife, cut a slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Stand it upright on one of the cut ends.

Step 2. Working from top to bottom and following the curve of the orange, remove strips of the peel (including the white pith) to reveal the orange flesh.

Step 3. Working over a bowl, hold the orange in one hand. Make a cut on both sides of each segment along the membrane. Release the segment into the bowl and repeat, working your way around the fruit.

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Canned Tomatoes: A Buyer's Guide

Can of tomatoes
Olivier Kugler

Ever felt dumbstruck standing in the supermarket canned-tomato aisle? Why so many choices? Aren't they all alike? In short, no—and the quality of your dish depends on which tomatoes you choose. Here's what to look for.

In most cases, go for whole peeled tomatoes. They're frequently handled more carefully than those destined to be chopped or blended. For a chunky ragù, crush whole tomatoes with your hands. For a smooth puree, toss them in the blender or, if you have an immersion blender, whiz them directly in the pot.

Opt for tomatoes in their juices over those in puree. Juice has a brighter flavor and, unlike puree (which often contains tomato paste), is less processed; so you can better control the outcome of your dish.

Ignore that fancy "San Marzano" label. That Italian region was once famous for its meaty tomatoes but today, the San Marzano variety is also grown in America. So don't worry about the place of origin. Case in point: Real Simple's taste-test winner—Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value Organic whole peeled tomatoes—hails from California.

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The Secret to Velvety Cream Sauces

Person ladling hot water into bowl
Olivier Kugler

When a creamy pasta sauce hits a cold serving dish, it can thicken and clump up faster than you can say, "fettuccine Alfredo." Here's a foolproof way to keep sauces lump-free.

As the pasta cooks, fill each bowl with a ladleful of hot water from the pot. Just before serving, dump out the water and give the bowls a quick wipe. (Alternatively, you could warm plates, but this is easier.) Add your noodles and sauce and presto! A silky and delicious dinner.

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3 Steps to Knockout Noodles

Pot of boiling water
Olivier Kugler

Yes, you know to cook pasta in a big pot, and to get the water to a rolling boil. But you may not know these three cooking tricks, which guarantee a better bowl of pasta every time.

Step 1. Add a lot of salt to the water—and by "a lot," we mean about 2 tablespoons. Fear not: 75 percent of it will wash away with the pasta water. What remains seasons the noodles, so even a simple spaghetti tossed with olive oil and Parmesan turns out full of flavor.

Step 2. Stir to avoid sticking. Don't add olive oil to the pot, because it makes the noodles too slick to absorb the sauce. Instead, grab a wooden spoon. Give the pasta a good spin right after you add it to the pot, and then once again when the water comes back to a boil to get the noodles swimming.

Step 3. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. This starchy, seasoned liquid is great for loosening up cheesy, creamy, or tomato-based sauces.

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Make a Galette in 3 Steps

Illustration of how to make a galette
Brown Bird Design

What's a galette? According to Emma Wartzman, a contributor to Bon Appetit magazine, "If a crusty cake and pie had a baby, it'd be our favorite freeform dough creation: the galette," Essentially, she says that "galette" is just a fancy word for "a pie that's practically impossible to mess up." Still you don't want to mess up the unmessable, so follow these simple steps.

1. Shape. Roll the dough on a clean, dry, lightly floured surface. To prevent sticking, frequently slide your hands under the dough and turn clockwise.

2. Form. Spoon the fruit mixture in the center and tuck the dough into 2½-inch folds. Patch only the cracks from which juices might seep out, and embrace the others for a rustic look.

3. Chill. Rest the dough in the refrigerator before baking to create a flakier crust.

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Keep Your Cutting Board Looking Sharp

Illustration of a cutting board, mineral oil, and a lemon
Olivier Kugler

The good news: Wooden cutting boards are resistant to most stains, made from a renewable resource, and gentle on knife blades. The bad news: Without proper care, your trusty go-to can start to smell like your famous garlic chicken—permanently. Alas, you can't just stick a wooden board in the dishwasher; it could warp and crack. Here are the best ways to keep it in business for life:

1. Rub down a new board with food-grade mineral oil to condition the wood. Do this weekly for a month, and then once a month going forward.

2. After general use; wash well with hot soapy water, rinse, and pat dry.

3. Deep-clean after a particularly messy job (like peeling beets): Sprinkle the board with coarse salt (such as kosher); massage the salt in with the cut side of half a lemon. (The salt acts as an abrasive, sloughing off bits of food and small stains; while the acid in the juice disinfects and deodorizes.) Rinse the board with hot water, towel-dry, and set it upright to dry completely.

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Shake Up Your Salad Routine With Homemade Dressing

Illustration of a batch of homemade dressing
Olivier Kugler

In less than 5 minutes, you can whip up a big, delicious batch that lasts in the refrigerator for up to a week. (If it solidifies, just leave it out for 20 minutes before serving.) This one makes 16 servings.

Step 1. Add 1 chopped small shallot and 1 tablespoon each honey and Dijon mustard to a 16-ounce glass jar. (Reuse an old peanut butter or pickle jar.)

Step 2. Pour in 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil and ½ cup vinegar or lemon juice, and then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Step 3. Shake vigorously and serve.

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How to Make Scrambled Eggs

Illustration of a person cooking scrambled eggs
Olivier Kugler

For soft, fluffy eggs every time, check out this easy step-by-step method, and then get cracking.

Step 1. Whisk the eggs (2 per person) in a large bowl to break up the yolks.

Step 2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add eggs and cook (don't touch!) until just set around the edges (about 1 minute). Push the eggs toward the center of the pan with a heat-safe rubber spatula. Tilt the pan so any uncooked egg flows back across the pan's bottom.

Step 3. Keep pushing the eggs across the pan until still slightly runny and then transfer to a plate. (They continue to cook off the heat.) Season with salt and pepper.

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How to Blanch Vegetables

Illustration of how to blanch vegetables
Olivier Kugler

Want to preserve the bright color, crunchy texture, and nutrients of your vegetables without eating them raw? The answer is blanching—a cooking technique where food is briefly immersed in boiling water, followed by an ice bath to rapidly stop the cooking process. It's fast and easy, and here's how to do it:

Step 1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a vigorous boil.

Step 2. Set a bowl of ice water next to the sink.

Step 3. Add vegetables to the boiling water and cook (or "blanch") until crisp-tender (about 45 seconds for small vegetables—green beans, snap peas, or peas—and about 2 minutes for bigger ones—carrots, cauliflower, or broccoli.

Step 4. Drain, transfer the vegetables to the ice waterbath to stop them from cooking (called "shocking"), and let them cool completely.

Step 5. Drain, pat dry, and enjoy as crudités or in salads; or place in freezer-safe bags or containers to use later.

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The Easiest Way to Prep Artichokes

Illustration of the easiest way to prep artichokes
Olivier Kugler

From their tough exterior to their tender heart, artichokes are appealingly delicious (and entirely dippable). Here's how to prep them for whatever you want to do with them.

Step 1. Remove the top inch of the artichoke with a serrated knife, which will deftly saw through the tough outer leaves.

Step 2. Trim the stem and peel off any blackened portions.

Step 3. Snap off the small outer leaves around the bottom, and use kitchen shears to trim the pointy tips from the remaining leaves.

Step 4: Before steaming (say, if you're stuffing the artichoke), remove the choke—the inner prickly or hairy portion— by prying open the artichoke and then using a melon baller to scoop out the choke. (If serving whole, leave the choke intact.) When steamed, it pulls away easily once exposed.

Learn how to make steamed artichokes, and then how to eat an artichoke to enjoy this spring thistle.

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3 Ways to Pit a Cherry Without a Fancy Tool

Illustrations - 3 ways to pit a cherry without a fancy tool
Brown Bird Design

Considering purchasing a cherry pitter? Stop contemplating a handheld or countertop model, because you may well have a cherry pitter in your kitchen drawer. Try one of these multipurpose (and space-saving) alternatives.

Chef's knife. Place the cherry on a cutting surface and, with the flat side of the knife, press down until the fruit splits. Pry apart and remove the pit with your fingers.

Paring knife. Holding the cherry with your thumb and index finger, place the knife blade against the pit, and then run the knife around the circumference of the cherry. Twist the 2 cut halves apart and remove the pit with your fingers.

Chopstick. Push the skinny end of a chopstick through the stem end of the cherry. When you make contact with the pit; turn the chopstick around, insert the thick end, and push until the pit pops out.

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3 Foods You Never Thought You Could Grill

Illustration of cheese, doughnut, pineapple
Olivier Kugler

Sure, meat is king when it comes to grilling; but consider these alternatives for your next cookout.

Cheese. Firm, salty cheeses—like halloumi (a Mediterranean-style cheese)—can go right on the grill over medium heat until blistered. For cheeses that are prone to crumbling (such as Feta) and soft, melting cheeses (like Brie), wrap them in foil and heat until warmed through.

Sweets. Halve doughnuts and toss them on the grill for a few minutes until toasted, and any glaze or frosting is melted. Try spreading butter on slices of pound cake, grill until toasted, and serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Fruit. Of course, you can grill stone fruits (like peaches), but that's not all. Slice pineapple into spears and grill over direct heat until caramelized. Or halve bananas lengthwise (in their peels), grill cut-side down until soft; and then use them to build a truly bananas banana split.

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Charcoal Briquettes vs. Lump Charcoal

Illustration - charcoal briquettes vs. lump charcoal
Olivier Kugler

Come summer, we're all looking for an edge to get that perfect grill. Look no further than your supermarket's seasonal aisle or hardware store, and you'll find charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal a plenty. But what's the difference?

Charcoal briquettes are the pillow-shaped nuggets you see at most backyard barbecues. Made by combining coal dust with wood scraps and binders, and then stamped into uniform pieces that burn consistently hot for about an hour; briquettes are reliable and easy to use.

Lump charcoal is formed by burning trees, logs, or chunks of wood to eliminate the water inside them. Since it's made of pure wood, it's the next best thing to an open campfire, and it lends a pure grilled flavor to food. The downside is that it burns unevenly—hot at first and then cooler—so it needs to be replenished every 30 minutes or so during cooking.

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Getting Into the Zone

Illustration of grill showing different heat zones
Olivier Kugler

Your grill can do so much more than churn out burgers. It can cook an entire meal—say, steak, vegetables, and even bread—all at the same time. The key is to divide the grill into three zones: a direct, high-heat area for searing and fast grilling; an indirect, medium-heat area for big pieces and long-cooking items; and a low-heat safe zone, where you can move food if there's a flare-up. It's simple enough with a gas grill, but just as easy with a charcoal one. Just follow these five steps.

Step 1. Light the coals and let them burn for at least 10 minutes. They are ready when they are glowing and covered with light gray ash.

Step 2. Spread about two-thirds of the lit coals in a double layer over a third of the bottom grill grate. This is your hot zone, for direct-heat grilling.

Step 3. Spread the remaining coals in a single layer over the center third of the grill grate. This is your medium-heat zone, for indirect grilling.

Step 4. Leave a third of the grill grate coal-free. This is your safe zone, where you can move juicy burgers and skin-on chicken pieces that are flaring or foods that need to be kept warm.

Step 5. Attach the top grate and get grilling.

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Easy Homemade Ice Pops

Illustration, homemade ice pops
Olivier Kugler

Who needs special molds? If you have spare ice-cube trays, plastic drink cups, yogurt containers, or small canning jars, you can enjoy DIY frozen treats all summer long. Check out these popsicle recipes and follow these simple steps.

Step 1. Place one or more ice pop containers on a baking sheet that can easily slide in and out of your freezer.

Step 2. Add the ice-pop mixture to each container and then freeze for about 1 hour, or until the pops are set enough for an ice-pop stick to stand up straight on its own.

Step 3. Insert a stick into the center of each pop, and then chill the pops until completely frozen.

Finally, pull out the baking sheet and allow the pops to defrost slightly before serving (about 5 minutes), or dip each container halfway into a shallow pan of warm water. The pops will slide out easily.

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How to Pit a Stone Fruit

Illustration: How to pit stone fruit
Olivier Kugler

Removing the pit from a peach, plum, or apricot can be, well, the pits. Here's the simplest way.

Step 1. Insert the edge of a sharp knife into the fruit right at its seam. With your knife in contact with the pit, twist the fruit to cut along its midpoint, creating 2 equal halves. (Imaging the fruit is the Earth, cut from the North Pole to the South Pole and back up again.)

Step 2. Twist the 2 halves of the fruit in opposite directions with your hands until you feel the flesh give way from the pit.

Step 3: Pop out the pit with your thumb. If the flesh clings, use the tip of a small knife to cut around the pit, and then pry it out.

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How to Freeze Herbs

Illustration of frozen herb cubes
Olivier Kugler

Want to give your weeknight dishes (pastas, stews, and sauces) an instant hit of deliciousness? Pop in an herb ice cube. You can preserve leftover hearty herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, and sage) by freezing them in olive oil or melted butter, which protects them from freezer burn and browning.

Fill ice-cube trays two-thirds full with chopped herbs, and then cover with oil or melted butter. Freeze until completely solid (about 1 day), and then transfer the cubes to a zippered plastic bag to store for up to 1 month.

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What Is Harissa?

Illustration of harissa
Olivier Kugler

A spicy, subtly sweet chili sauce, originally from North Africa; harissa lends heat and body to soups, stews, beans, tacos, and more. Typically it's made from a mixture of chilies, other spices (like coriander and caraway), garlic, and olive or vegetable oil. Sold in jars, cans, or tubes; you'll find it in specialty grocers or the supermarket's international aisle. Stir it into plain yogurt for a spicy dip for vegetables; or use it as a marinade for chicken, fish, or steak.

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Gravy Flavor Boosters

Illo: herbs, mustard, paprika
The Ellaphant in the Room

Gravy is already the icing on the cake of Thanksgiving dinner, but try one of these simple additions to make it extra indulgent.

Herbs. For a subtle, fragrant note; toss a hearty herb—like thyme or rosemary—in with the broth.

Mustard. Give your gravy bite by whisking in a dollop of Dijon or whole-grain mustard at the end.

Paprika. Add ½ teaspoon smoked, spicy, or sweet paprika to the thickening flour for rich flavor and color.

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