When it comes to feeding a crew of hungry kids, we’ve never met a shortcut we didn’t like. Which is why, it being summer and all, we want to give you as many cooking hacks (scooped from resourceful parents everywhere) as possible. From meal-prep advice to the easiest way to get an egg that peels with ease, scroll down to see 37 clever food and cooking shortcuts you need to try today.
Use Lemon Slices as a Base for Grilled Fish
Your filet of salmon will stay intact much easier if you line it on slices of lemon. Plus, the juices will seep up, making a flavorful dinner. See one of our favorite recipes here.
Steam Eggs Instead of Boiling Them
Boiled eggs can be a challenge to peel, but if you steam them over boiled water for 10-15 minutes, the shell will come off in no time.
Add an Ice Cube to Sautéing Onions to Avoid Burning
If your onions are on the verge of burning, throw an ice cube into the pan. It'll evaporate quickly, but also give the veggies a hint of moisture to avoid being over cooked.
Store Partially Chopped Veggies in The Freezer
Have you ever just chopped half a stalk of celery or bulb of cauliflower, and had to put it back in the fridge where it immediately starts to wilt? If you want to keep your partially chopped veggies fresh, we recommend putting them right in the freezer. This locks in the freshness, and they’ll be ready to jump into the frying pan after a little defrosting time.
Shred Chicken in Your Kitchen Aid
From tacos to salads, casseroles and beyond, shredded chicken is a staple for family meals. But, shredding it all by hand or with a pair of forks can take forever! Amazingly, there’s a quick fix for that—just toss boiled or baked chicken breasts in your mixer, and you’ll have expertly shredded chicken in seconds.
Put Water in Your Microwave to Preserve the Moisture
Whether it’s leftovers or meal prepped treats, your microwave is a powerful tool. But, you’re always at risk of drying out your food when you use it. We’ve got a simple way to avoid that. Toss a glass of water into the microwave with your food to give it a little extra moisture.
We’re all about making cooking easier. With this cool cooking hack, you’ll be able to create perfectly portioned sauces days or weeks in advance and use them whenever you want. Just mix up your favorite sauces, put the liquid in your ice trays and freeze. Keep these flavorful cubes in the freezer until you're ready to get cookin’.
Boil Potatoes for an Easy Peel
From fries to mashed potatoes and chips, everybody LOVES potatoes. But, for a lot of recipes, peeling the potatoes is a must, and using a potato peeler or knife can be time-consuming and difficult. We have an easy fix! Boil the potatoes, let them cool, and the skin will peel off in seconds.
Try Silicone Baking Sheets
Do you hate cleaning cookie sheets? Silicone baking sheets are here to save the day! We know that cleaning cookie sheets can be difficult because the grease and grime are baked onto them. Using a silicone baking sheet, which makes removing all of your tasty morsels as easy as pie, will change your life.
Peeling a Mango
The skin of a mango is pretty thick, and the peeling process usually involves some careful knife skills. We found another way to get that pesky skin off with ease. All you need to do is slice the mango in half and grab a tall glass. Using the rim of the glass, get between the skin and fruit at the bottom of the slice. Push down, and the skin will slide right off. Voila! You've got a perfectly peeled mango.
Put Marshmallows in Your Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is a baking necessity for cookies, cupcakes and pies, but unlike white sugar, brown sugar can dry out very quickly, which means you’ll be stuck breaking up hard blobs of sugar when you want to use it. But, there’s an easy fix for this. All you need to do is throw a few marshmallows into the airtight container with your brown sugar to conserve the moisture and make it easy to scoop.
Separating Strawberry Tops
Strawberries are a summer treat that’s healthy and delicious. But, chopping all of those green tuffs off the top of every piece of fruit just takes so long! Use this fun little trick to get those green bits off without a knife: Just take a straw and push it from the bottom of the fruit to top in one swift motion. It'll pop those little green leaves right off.
Pizza Cutter for Herbs
Having fresh herbs in the house is nice for creating marinades, dressings and more. Finely chopping those herbs can be difficult, but there’s a way to make the process easy. Place the herbs on a cutting board and roll a pizza cutter through them. Don't worry about cutting in perfect lines, just roll through as many times as you want.
Flatten Ground Meat
No matter how hard you try, it seems like there’s never enough freezer space. But, we have a fun way to help you create extra room in there. Try taking your ground beef out of its package, putting it in a Ziploc bag, flattening it and putting it back in the freezer. You'll be amazed by all the new space you have. You can also write the expiration dates on the bags to make sure your meat is always fresh.
Cut Corn Over Your Bundt Cake Tin
Let’s face it, chopping fresh corn is kinda a pain, mostly because those little kernels get all over your counter. But, there’s a cool way to make sure that never happens again. Grab your bundt cake tin, flip it upside down, stand the corn up in the middle of the tin and slice the kernels off, and they’ll fall perfectly into that round tin. The clean up is an absolute breeze!
Stabilize Your Cutting Board
Slicing and dicing is a big part of cooking, which means you’re always reaching for the cutting board. But, it’s important to make sure that it isn’t slipping and sliding all over the place. We recommend keeping your cutting board stable by putting a damp dish towel underneath it. That'll keep it in place and make clean up even easier.
Cupcake Liner Catches Popsicle Drips
Popsicles are a childhood fave, but they can turn into a bit of a sticky mess. Prevent all of that dripping by slipping cupcake liners onto the bottom of your kids' popsicles. Slide the liner up so that it cups the bottom of the popsicle to make sure it catches all of those little drips.
Cut Cheesecake with Dental Floss
Cheesecake is a dessert kids and parents love, but cutting it equally can be difficult. Well, we've got an easy way to slice it perfectly every time. Try using dental floss. Just make sure the dental floss is unscented, so you don’t get a minty surprise with your dessert.
Grate Your Butter
Softened butter is a staple for all bakers out there, but putting solid butter in the microwave isn’t always the best way to get that soft consistency you're looking for. Try grating it, instead. Grab a cheese grater and you’ll be on your way to having soft butter you can mix in a snap.
Use White Bread on Your Birthday Cake
Birthday cake is yummy, but when the party’s over, you're left with half a cake that'll be stale by tomorrow. What if there was a way to preserve this delectable sugar overload? Try putting slices of white bread on the interior sections of the cake where you cut into it—the bread locks in the moisture.
Use Cookie Molds for Fun Food
No matter what time of year it is, you can always use festive cookie cutters. But, they can be used for so much more than just cookies. You can also use them to create pancakes or eggs with designs like funky flowers, cartoon characters and more.
Binder Clips in The Fridge
Need an easy way to keep all of our favorite munchies fresh in the fridge? Just reach for your handy dandy binder clips. Yes, you read that right. Grab your binder clips, and clip all of your bags of food directly onto the rungs of each shelf. This saves space and keeps everything nice and fresh.
Make Oatmeal in Your Rice Cooker
Oatmeal is a warm alternative to cold cereal, but it does take a little more time to make in the morning. Try using your rice cooker to make the oatmeal instead. This way, you don’t need to worry about watching, stirring or remembering to turn off the stove. Just put everything inside, and within minutes you’ve got scrumptious oatmeal.
Capri Sun Popsicles
If you're looking for an easy way to create popsicles for your kiddos to munch on this summer, just stick your Capri Suns in the freezer. When you take them out, rip them open from the top or bottom for that traditional popsicle effect.
Use an Apple Corer to Make French Fries
An apple corer/slicer can instantly transform a plain potato into everyone's favorite side. That's right, you can make homemade fries in a snap with a utensil you may already have in your kitchen drawer. Grandma's Brief has all the delicious details.
Freeze Herbs in Ice Trays
Want fresh basil, thyme, rosemary ... all year long? No problem. This easy food hack is Martha Stewart worthy, sans the effort. Just put fresh herbs in ice trays, add oil and freeze. Freezing the herbs in oil also prevents them from turning brown or getting that dreaded freezer burn.
Rubber Band Apples
Sure, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But, how do you keep away the brown part after slicing it? Easy, just grab a rubber band. Cut the apple and then bind it back together like it's never been touched. Your kid will think he's munching on a freshly cut piece of fruit, even if it's three hours later.
Wedges are so 2014. No, not the ones you wear on your feet; those are still fabulous. We're talking about watermelon wedges. Instead of slicing the melon into wide wedges that inevitably get juice all over everyone's face and chin, cut the fruit in half, then slice it in a grid. You'll get evenly sized slices that each has just enough rind on the bottom for little hands to grab.
Cut Pancakes with a Pizza Cutter
The trusted pizza slicer really is a mom's best friend. From sandwiches to pancakes, you can use this snazzy slicer to save time and messes.
Cook Eggs in the Oven
It is a literal Egg McMuffin. Nick of Macheesmo shows us how to make a breakfast sandwich even more amazing by simply baking the eggs in a muffin tin. Best part? You can add other ingredients to the eggs (think spinach, ham, cheese) and then freeze the whole thing for busy on-the-go mornings. Find the original recipe here and the updated version here.
Frozen Grapes Taste Great
Pop grapes into the freezer for a sweet and crunchy treat that tastes like candy. A refreshing snack any time of the year, this is also a great way to make sure you always have fruit on hand.
Use Magnets to Keep Water Cups Handy
Talk about having a “why didn’t I think of that” moment. If your kids are anything like ours, then you probably go through a few water cups every day. Cut down on needless dishes with this awesome cup hack from Dana over at Made Everyday.
Cut Up Noodles
Use your noodle: Cut up spaghetti, linguine and ramen with scissors. Smaller bites and shorter bits will ease frustration at the dinner table and make after-dinner clean up easier.
You like the idea of making PB&J (or some "other butter" and jelly) ahead of time, but don't really know how to make a good freezer version. Good news! One Good Thing by Jillee explains the how-to here, and shows you how to seal that sandwich—no fancy gear needed.
Coffee Filters as Snack Containers
A brilliantly simple idea from The Nourishing Gourmet, swap out plastic baggies or even bulky reusables in favor of a biodegradable coffee filter. Psst! If you’ve gone Keurig, we’re betting you’ve got a box of these collecting dust somewhere in your kitchen.
Yogurt Containers as Popsicles
The kids are dying for a popsicle, but all you have is yogurt. Time for a hack. Just push a stick straight through the top of your family's favorite yogurt and pop it in the freezer for an insta-pop! For more ways to make popsicles without a mold "pop" over to The Kitchn.
Ice Cube Trays as Snack Holders
Having a stash of snacks is a must for every parent. But, having a bunch of different canisters, bags and boxes on hand are difficult for travel and storage. Well, we’ve got the perfect hack for you! Try using silicone ice cube trays as snack trays for at home or on car trips.
—Natasha Davis & Aimee Della Bitta
featured image: iStock