Share Your Cooking Tips

Friday, December 20, 2013

Throughout our Food Fridays series, we’ve had experts and chefs share their tips and shortcuts. Now it’s your turn! Christopher Kimball from Cook’s Illustrated and host of America’s Test Kitchen joins us to offer his cooking tips and to hear what you’ve learned from your years in the kitchen.

Do you have a tip or shortcut or words of wisdom to share? Leave a comment!


Christopher Kimball

Comments [45]

Jean |

I'll have to try some of the onion-chopping tricks mentioned here! In the meantime, I put on my onion goggles every time I so much as peel an onion, or else I cry buckets! They are fabulous!

Dec. 20 2013 01:31 PM
bob from farmingdale, l.i. from farmiongdale, ny

1st what may seem like a 'silly' comment - - make SURE you have all ingredients for what you're making. having to run out to the store in the middle, can ruin what you're making.

and a question . . . since my favorite knife sharpener has retired to florida, can you recommend someone that 'knows what they're doing' or a place to teach me exactly how to sharpen a knife properly ??

Dec. 20 2013 01:15 PM
Brendan from Hudson Valley

My favorite microwave tip is for reheating meals. Don't want food to get dried out? Wet a paper towel and ring out most of the water. Lay the paper towel over the dish and heat as usual. Works great for reheating pasta. Also use this tip to prevent tomato sauce splatter. I just heated up some leftover pasta from last night's dinner. If your leftovers don't have sauce mixed in already, put the sauce on the bottom, pasta in the middle and a paper towel on top. No splatter. No mess. No dry pasta.

Dec. 20 2013 01:07 PM
Leonid Citer from North Jeraey

regarding turkey: The day before roasting I remove the back, make a stock with it along w the neck and use this broath to hydrate a stuffing. You do not have to roast the backless turkey flat--with a good rack, the turkey can be re-shaped. I dry rub the bird w a mixture herbs and a little salt and pepper mixture. Add root veggies and onion along w water to the pan, Cover the roast pan w enough foil to leave space away from the skin and roast at 350 til you can smell the bird (about an hour for a 12lbs bird, uncover and allow to brown for about 45 min more--check w termometer at leat 165 degrees F. Strain the pan juices, de-fat and add to your gravy recipe.
(private Chef)

Dec. 20 2013 12:54 PM
Potoro from Monmouth County

I cook/steam kale with about 1/3 water 2/3 chicken stock (if you don't have a steamer, cover the washed kale about a third to a half with liquid). Add cayenne, salt/soy sauce to taste. When kale is reduced and cooked, serve and save the liquid, which will now be a dark greenish yellow. Enjoy a healthy kale broth soup for lunch the next day!

Second tip:
Since tomatoes aren't great in the winter, I slice Roma tomatoes, spray with a touch of olive oil and a couple of spritzes of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (vegetable protein from soybeans and purified water). Roast at 450 or broil until done. Tomatoes are caramelized and very tasty!

Dec. 20 2013 12:44 PM
paul from harlem

great guest

Dec. 20 2013 12:44 PM
Cynthia Lamb from Sunset Park

My mom's Le Creuset dutch oven did not have a metal knob. With no time to get one and the overnight no-knead bread ready to go, I unscrewed the plastic knob (after confirming online that it was not oven-safe at 475-500 degrees) and just placed/floated the screw back in the hole to plug it. While not airtight, It still worked fine! I carefully removed the lid with two oven mitts.

Dec. 20 2013 12:43 PM
Anne from New York

I use a lot of onions in making soups, stews and sauces, which I make in large batches and freeze in portion-sized containers. I cut an onion or two a day and freeze them. When it's time to cook, I sometimes run them through the food processor while still frozen and get something that has some chunks and some finer onions that resemble snow. It retains the onion flavor without causing tears.

Dec. 20 2013 12:43 PM
Jane Dorsey

Question- what's the difference between baking and roasting? why roast beef but bake ham. roast potatoes or bake potoato

Dec. 20 2013 12:42 PM

Onion Juice chemically combines with water. If the water in your eye is the closest, that is what it will combine with. Put a cup of water next to the onions and it will alleviate the irritation.


Here is a more scientific explanation of the phenomenon from a reputable source

Dec. 20 2013 12:41 PM
Drew from Tarrytown

Though it obviously is not so practical for many, the perfect onion-eye protection is to wear soft contact lenses. It surprised me when I realized that what I had thought was my personal toughness, turned out to be the merely some quality of my lenses.

Dec. 20 2013 12:41 PM
Tracy from NJ

My engineer husband gets credit for this tip related to onion chopping. Place your cutting board on the surface of the stove and turn on the vent. Works every time.

My favorite Cook's Mag. tip is to use microwaveable heating pads (normally used for muscle pain) to facilitate the rising of bread dough.

Dec. 20 2013 12:40 PM

It's impossible to make a real Christmas Pudding without suet, apparently, and suet is impossible to find. Is there any suitable substitute? Or do you have a source for suet that you can recommend?

Dec. 20 2013 12:40 PM
Judy from Greenpoint Brooklyn

I heard the comment on freezing things with water. So should I not freeze soup or chili?

Dec. 20 2013 12:39 PM
theresa nicholas

I use mascarpone, better than cream cheese.
Also, it's really not hard to mince garlic, just cut off top and cut horizontally then vertically. Garlic press squeezes out oil and gives a more bitter taste.

Dec. 20 2013 12:39 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Um, I meant a knife *or* tongs.

Dec. 20 2013 12:38 PM
Joe from Union City, NJ

Use scissors if you are not handy with a knife on all kinds of things... chopping herbs, lettuce. I've even crudely chopped garlic cloves directly into the pan when in a hurry.

Dec. 20 2013 12:38 PM
Kisa from Islip

Is the wax on cucumbers and other fruits harmful? How can I remove it?

Dec. 20 2013 12:37 PM
Jaime from Ellenville. NY

campari tomatoes are the only ones that have flover in the winter months

asaian fish sauces rather than salt can make many dishes better. All nations and regions have something different

Dec. 20 2013 12:36 PM

Onion Juice chemically combines with water. If the water in your eye is the closest, that is what it will combine with. Put a cup of water next to the onions and it will alleviate the irritation.


Dec. 20 2013 12:36 PM
Colin from Brooklyn

In chocolate chip cookie dough, swap a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of bacon grease. Smoky, salty goodness.

Dec. 20 2013 12:35 PM
Susan from Manhattan

re: intelligent onion droplets?

You only need a bread about the size of a business card.
He used to use a pita triangle.
I swear, the droplets are NOT smart enough to avoid the bread.

But, this was 18 years ago, so it's possible the droplets have wised up! : )

Dec. 20 2013 12:35 PM
Yin from Rockland


I just heard the remark about watermelons. That is the same method that I use. You would want to listen for a solid sound - indicating juiciness. It is easier when you try it out on several melons and choose the one that sounds the most solid. Hollow sound would mean a dry or over mature fruit.

Dec. 20 2013 12:34 PM
oscar from ny

To the meat lovers.. Govto supermarket and buy Laurie's 1.99$ seasoning, every market has this one price on the item...get black pepper buy beef chuck meat or skirt meat.
Heat pan really hot temperature really hot pour some oil on pan ..hear sizzle spread Laurie seasoning and black pepper onto meat soak it for a minute, put seasoned meat on hot pan settle it there for 2 or 3 minutes..turn Chinese white rice for two dollars you get a lot and tadaaa you have a delicious Latin plate..if your good it can take you 6 to 10 minutes..

Dec. 20 2013 12:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

If you use a flattened paper towel tube to carry a knife of tongs in, better clip or staple 1 end closed!

On tapping produce, rutabagas are best when they're very hard. Knocking on them should sound like knocking on a door. I'm talking about fresh rutabagas, w/no wax.

Dec. 20 2013 12:32 PM
Lisa from MANhattan


Dec. 20 2013 12:27 PM
karen swaine from highland park nj

try breathing only thru your mouth while slicing, etc onions!

Dec. 20 2013 12:27 PM
Jenny from Jersey City

I wear my contacts when chopping onions, no tears! Now with glasses.....

Dec. 20 2013 12:23 PM
Susan from Manhattan

re: Onion Fumes

The prep cook in the restaurant I used to work in used to put a little piece of bread hanging out of his mouth when he chopped onions. He used to use pita or french bread - anything rigid enough to kind of stick out.

It works! The spray from the onions goes into the bread instead of into your eyes.

Dec. 20 2013 12:22 PM

Chew gum when chopping onions. no tears no crying period.

Dec. 20 2013 12:21 PM
barbara Neibart from rockaway, nj

For a savory breakfast: Ris-oat-O:
Grate some Reggiano, sprinkle a little salt, grind some fresh pepper over McCann's 5 minute (not rolled) oats
- in the summer, add a little fresh basil!
My friends wince when I mention this, but I think it's pretty tasty!

Dec. 20 2013 12:21 PM

Ask Chris what his tips are for avoiding "China Cat Syndrome" this is a Grateful Dead reference and he's a huge Dead fan. He'll chuckle.

Dec. 20 2013 12:13 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

I've often heard tv chefs say you can use a spoon to scrape the peel off ginger. Don't dirty a spoon. Just use the dull side of the knife.

A tip I got from Rachel Ray. To cut cherry or grape tomatoes, use two tops from plastic deli containers. Fill one with the tomatoes and cover with the other. Use a long sharp knife to slice between the two. Voila: halved tomatoes.

Dec. 20 2013 12:13 PM
Vanessa from Point Lookout, NY

My Mom (don't roll your eyes)-- is very particular about cooking but refuses to document
how or what she does. This video captures some essence, Cooking with MEV: via @youtube

Dec. 20 2013 12:11 PM
nick from laurel md

In a pinch you can cut a beer/soda can improvise a vegitable steamer with a beer/soda can and an upside down plate. Cut the can in half (carefully) and place it in rhe bottom of a stock pot or large sauce pan. Then place an upside down plate on top. Fill the pan with about a half inch or so with water and your goid to go.

Dec. 20 2013 10:10 AM
Maura from Hastings on Hudson, NY

Responding to Violet Frasier:

Thanks for the great tip on making an easy garlic paste! You can also sprinkle kosher or sea salt over the garlic clove before mincing. It simplifies chopping, and the garlic doesn't stick to the knife.

To peel a garlic clove, lay a chef's knife flat against it. Press gently to loosen the skin.

Dec. 20 2013 10:09 AM

POLENTA: I grew up eating polenta, but never have the time or patience to stand over a copper pot stirring it for an hour. Instant and premade just don't do it for me. Then, I found this shortcut that produces excellent polenta without the work.

*2 cups coarse cut cornmeal
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 tablespoon salt
*6 cups boiling water
*1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place cornmeal, butter, and salt in electric slow cooker that has been coated with cooking spray. Gradually add 6 cups boiling water, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Cover with lid; cook on low heat setting for 3 hours. Stir before serving.

Dec. 20 2013 08:25 AM

America's Test Kitchen has a lot of cookbooks on the market. What about a cookbook devoted to hors d'oeuvres?

Dec. 19 2013 03:47 PM
DickeyFuller from DC

Cook's published a recipe for Shrimp fra Diavolo within the past 18 months. It calls for sauteeing the shrimp, pouring brandy over it and flaming it. It creates the *most* delicious flavor in both the shrimp and the dish. The recipe also calls for white wine in the sauce.

My point is that, having never really used alcohol in cooking, I am truly impressed by how much it can add. Of course the alcohol burns off, but the scent that the nose receives while tasting the food is sublime.

I highly recommend this recipe.

Dec. 19 2013 12:56 PM
Caroline Schimmel from Greenwich, CT

MASHED POTATOES: when you've an hour to spare, buy the big bag of russet potatoes, cut them in 1/3rds (no need to peel), boil them gently until tender, squeeze through potato masher (pluck out skins periodically from bowl). This freezes beautifully--1 cup container is a portion--for microwave defrosting, then adding butter or olive or garlic* oil, leftover veg, etc. *Mince an entire head of garlic on a sheet of NYTimes (easy cleanup); microwave in 1 c. olive oil at half power until lightly brown, ca 5 min. This potion keeps for a month or more in the fridge--use oil or garlic bits or both, depending on the dish.

Dec. 19 2013 12:56 PM
Hal from Crown Heights.

I've never found a recipe for brussels sprouts comparable to the way I do them:

1. Cut them in half at the stem so the halves stay intact.
2. Saute cut side down in olive oil on medium high a few minutes until they begin to brown.
3. Add a little broth or stock, vegetable or chicken, and steam covered a few more minutes.
4. Remove cover to reduce a little. Salt to taste.

Dec. 19 2013 11:57 AM
KMR from NJ from New Jersey

For bread bakers--After decades of bread-baking, I just discovered that cider that has gone from sweet to undrinkably hard makes great liquid for no-knead bread. It lends an unexpected subtle sweetness to the bread. ( If there isn't enough hard cider to fit the bread recipe, rinse out the dregs from the bottle and use that for the rest of the liquid.)

Thanks for all the Food Fridays!

KMR from NJ, WNYC sustaining member

Dec. 17 2013 03:32 PM
Violet Frasier from Upstate New York

Great tip for using garlic, either for cooked or uncooked dishes or dressings:

1. Chop raw garlic clove fine.
2. Douse with salt (at your discretion).
3. Take the side of a butter knife and press down on the garlic repeatedly; you'll find the salt breaks down the garlic to a lovely paste that can be used any way you choose. I use a fork and vigorously blend it with olive oil and lemon for a lovely salad dressing that's also great on steamed greens and vegetables.

Dec. 17 2013 09:17 AM
A listener

What I love is how humble ingredients can be healthy and are used in cuisines around the world. Cabbage is right up there on the list, useful in everything from stir fry Asian dishes to a cole slaw (jacked up with a few hits of Sriracha) that tops off my shrimp tacos. And of course, cabbage, carrot and celery is the classic base for so many dishes. I was happy when I learned that...simplified a lot of things. Do it, it works.

I really try to add color when I'm cooking and especially try to get red, white and green into a dish...peppers, tomatoes, onions, leeks, fennel, bok choy, broccoli, snow peas, etc.

Another thing is discovering those little ingredients that unlock vast new areas. How did I go so long in life without knowing about chipotle peppers in adobo sauce!?!

Along those lines....most sauces and dressings are incredibly easy to make and should not be bought in a bottle.

Dec. 13 2013 05:26 AM
PJ From NJ from New Jersey

Cooking, like any skill, requires practice. I was an avid home cook and even taught (with a friend) a cooking class for adults at a local high school.

My daughter was born 16 months ago, my wife and I work full-time, and I'm studying for the LSAT, so nowadays I haven't had time to cook any serious dishes. I can barely find time to make boring, simple meals.

My point? Cooking is not like riding a bike! In order to be a good cook you must actually COOK on a regular basis. Otherwise your timing, as well as all your other senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste), become a little rusty.

Dec. 12 2013 01:04 PM

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