Thursday, February 28, 2013

baking powder vs baking soda – and “the science of good cooking” giveaway!

Thanks for this, @testkitchen! Already found an answer to a long-burning question on baking soda vs powder!

Hi, friends. Today we’re going to geek out a bit. Sometimes you come here and there are stories or ramblings, but today, think of today as a mini science class. We’re going to talk about amino acids and browning and alkaline dough. I bet you can’t wait to get started.

For awhile now, I’ve been wondering about leaveners and the difference between the two. Why would you ever use baking powder instead of baking soda, and, more importantly, why would you ever use both? I’ve asked many folks this question, and gotten somewhat satisfying answers, but nothing that really made sense. I needed to delved deeper; I needed a super-geeky answer.

Enter a book to do just that, answer all my science-driven kitchen questions – Cooks’ Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking. Just the mere word “science” made me excited. The book was on my shortlist of cookbooks to purchase, but the generous (and lovely) folks over at America’s Test Kitchen, some of whom I met at the Cookbook Conference a few weeks ago, sent me a copy. And the first chapter to catch my eye, Concept 42, was appropriately titled “Two Leaveners Are Often Better than One”.

After reading through the book and thoroughly geeking out, I thought that you, readers, might benefit from a book like this on your shelves. Everyone, I think, could benefit from this book on their shelves. So I asked if they’d be willing to partner up on a giveaway, and much to my delight, they said yes!

But before we talk giveaway rules, let’s talk leaveners! Here’s how this works: Quickbreads, cakes, muffins, and biscuits (as well as some cookies) need a leavener to rise. This leavener comes in the form of baking soda and/or baking powder. And here’s where we get geeky.

Baking soda is alkaline (meaning on the acidity scale, it’s the opposite) and relies on acid on the recipe. The acid is often provided by buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, molasses, honey (which happens to be a “volatile” aka acidic ingredient), beer, etc. When baking soda meets an acid, it instantly starts to produce carbon dioxide (CO2), which forms bubbles in the batter/dough. Use too little, and the batter doesn’t risel use too much – and you end up with bubbles that are too large, which might cause your baked good to collapse, and you’re back at a sunken, flat result. And the added disadvantage of too much baking soda is that metallic taste that lingers on your palate. Not good for anyone.

Baking powder, however, is a blend of baking soda, an acid (usually cream of tartar), and double-dried cornstarch. You can use a 2:1:1 ratio and make your own if you’re ever in a pinch and have run out of supermarket baking powder. The cornstarch is a drying agent and keeps the baking soda (alkaline) from cream of tartar (acid) from getting together and forming a reaction. Usually, all that baking powder needs to start doing its thing, is a liquid, any liquid, really. Baking powder is useful when there is no natural acidity in the batter.

Aluminum free AND double-acting. Today on the blog there's gonna be MAJOR geeking out. #nofilter

If you make your baking powder at home, then you wind up with a single-acting baking powder, which reacts only when liquid is added. Double-acting baking powder is sold at supermarkets and usually relies on another acid in addition to the cream of tartar. Oftentimes it’s sodium aluminum sulfate, which I personally dislike, because I can taste that odd metallic taste in my baked goods. So I guy aluminum-free one (like the one in the picture), which has monocalcium phosphate (another acid) and bypasses the yucky aluminum one all together. Why would you want double-acting baking powder? Well, because it has a double-acting feature, the second one that actives after the oven temperatures has climbed above 120 degrees. With double-acting baking powder, your baked goods will rise higher, since most of the rise with baking happens at oven temperatures, so a double-acting baking powder is essential. Single-acting baking powder shouldn’t be used in doughs that doesn’t have much liquid: like scones and muffins, and using is in cakes, might not be as effective. So just be mindful of that next time you mix up a batch of your own baking powder. That is unless you have monocalcium phosphate lying around.

So, now the real questions arises: Why use both in a recipe? Here’s what the book has to say: The combination of the two leaveners, gives you better control over how fast fast is release as well as the alkalinity of the dough. Some recipes have so much acid, that bakind soda is added to ensure that the baking powder isn’t neutralized and thus deactivated by all the acid. And since baking soda needs acid from other ingredients, it tends to result in more alkaline doughs than those made with only baking powder.

Now, here’s where it gets super geeky (as if that above wasn’t geeky enough) – you still with me? Awake? Okay, here we go. So if we add baking soda to our dough, the dough is then more alkaline. More alkaline doughs brown faster and have weaker gluten which results in a more tender, porous crumb. But why does alkaline doughs brown better? Well, that has to do with amino acids which are found in proteins of flour. Amino acid molecule has an amino end and an acid end. As you probably suspect the acid end is acidic; but do you also suspect that the amino end is alkaline? No? Well, it is. And it’s the alkaline end that reacts with sugar molecules and produces that sexy thing we call the Maillard reaction. Whereas acidic environments deactivate the alkaline ends are deactivated, in an alkaline one, facilitated by baking soda, the amin ends do rather well and will thus react with sugar and create browning, which in turn, will give you better flavor.

Still with me? Well, that’s the end of today’s lesson, and now, with The Science of Good Cooking (where my friend Molly Birnbaum was project editor – and did one hell of a job), I can, if ever asked at a cocktail party, explain not just the difference, but why use both and what happens, chemically, when these leaveners are added to doughs and batters. Oh, and lastly, David Lebovitz had an excellent tip on how to tell if your baking powder (which goes bad) is still good. Drop a spoon into a pot of boiling water, and if the water boils more vigorously, the baking powder is still good. If not – chuck it, and get a new container, or make your own, depending on what you’re baking.

GIVEAWAY RULES:
Leave a comment with the following: What is the your favorite cooking tip, trick, or technique? When leaving a comment, be sure to leave your email address, so I can contact you in case you win. Comments up until 11:59pm on March 3, will be considered for the giveaway. I’ll pick the winner at random, and get in touch with him or her about the prize, which America’s Test Kitchen will ship to the winner. Good luck to you all, and I’m very curious about your favorite tips/tricks/techniques.

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262 Comments

  • 1
    Cary said:

    I’d say my favorite secret weapon is making my own chicken stock. Nothing is as good and it is recycling/repurposing/reusing at its best!

    February 28, 2013 11:01 am
  • 2
    Sara said:

    I love making my own stock too, for all the same reasons. I like baking muffins at 375 instead of 350 too–prettier finished product! Great giveaway!

    February 28, 2013 11:05 am
  • 3
    Gabriela said:

    One of my favorite tricks is to use the freezer for everything. People get freaked out by the freezer, but to upscale bakers and chefs everywhere, its a necessity! I use it for keeping baked goods fresh, storing doughs and batters, rapid cooling to keep cakes and such moist, and more.

    February 28, 2013 11:05 am
  • 4
    Adrienne said:

    Oooh, what a great post! I remembered what the two acts of double-acting are but I didn’t know the amino acid bit – fascinating. One of my favorite kitchen tricks is actually to do with baking soda, too. I occasionally add a pinch to a quick tomato sauce to neutralize some of the acidic flavor and make it taste like it’s been cooking longer. Super useful if you’re in a hurry or you find yourself with some not-awesome tomatoes. Plus it’s fun to stir a vat of hissing tomato sauce!

    February 28, 2013 11:05 am
  • 5
    Elina said:

    My grandma always poured boiling water over diced onions to reduce the onion-y punch that can overpower other flavors. She did this only if she wasn’t planning on further cooking the onions. As an adult I think it definitely makes raw onions more palatable, but also reduces the likelihood you’ll get heartburn from raw onions.

    February 28, 2013 11:11 am
  • 6

    For any cake topping that is a crumble….melt the butter. Produced crisper finish!

    February 28, 2013 11:12 am
  • 7
    Erin said:

    When I make pie crusts or biscuits, I freeze the butter and/or lard and then grate it on a box grater. Sure, it’s one extra thing to clean at the end of the meal, but the uber-flaky dough is totally worth it.

    February 28, 2013 11:18 am
  • 8
    Michelle Leimbach said:

    Melting the butter into cookies instead of creaming with the sugar! Thanks ATK for that info! :)

    February 28, 2013 11:19 am
  • 9
    Kate said:

    The day I learned to leave cakes in the freezer for 15 minutes before frosting them was maybe the best day of my so-called baking career. No more crumby frosting!

    February 28, 2013 11:20 am
  • 10
    StephanieR said:

    When I bake, I make sure everything going into whatever I’m making is room temperature — unless otherwise specified, of course. Warm eggs and butter can make such a difference!

    February 28, 2013 11:20 am
  • 11
    Janel said:

    One of my favorite tricks with otherwise flat, one-note vegetarian dishes is the addition of Spanish pimentón de la vera. It adds a beautiful smoky umami flavor, and the brilliant red color looks lovely dusted atop just about anything.

    February 28, 2013 11:20 am
  • 12
    Heather said:

    If you’re out of buttermilk, you can make your own in less time than it takes to drive to the store!
    1 cup milk (Whole milk works best) + 1 Tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice
    Just stir and let sit for 5 minutes

    February 28, 2013 11:21 am
  • 13
    johnnie patronis said:

    Grating ripe tomatoes and onions on a box grater to make tomato sauce, an old Greek trick.

    February 28, 2013 11:22 am
  • 14
    Melanie Rago said:

    Learning that bacon is best cooked in the stove is tied with ‘velvetting’ chicken for stir fry for my find of the past year!

    February 28, 2013 11:22 am
  • 15
    DeWitte said:

    A neat trick I just learned was from Martha Stewart on the radio last week. If you take a head of garlic and place it into a metal bowl and put another bowl on top of it so that the rims are together (forming a kind of ball) and you shake this vigorously for a few minutes, you will completely separate AND peel the skins off of the garlic cloves. I tried it and couldn’t believe how easy it was.

    February 28, 2013 11:22 am
  • 16

    If you mince raw garlic too early, the flavor becomes more and more acrid: so don’t chop garlic that you are going to use raw in a recipe too far in advance.

    Also: serve dinner late. When your guests are famished, the food tastes magnificent. :-D

    February 28, 2013 11:22 am
  • 17
    Julia said:

    This is so fascinating! My best kitchen tip (other than using my ironing board when I run out of counter space) is to clean EVERYTHING with baking soda and vinegar. I’ve never had a cleaner stove than when I started to do this.

    February 28, 2013 11:23 am
  • 18
    Christine said:

    Sectioning oranges is so easy and the result is so much prettier in salads and other dishes.

    February 28, 2013 11:24 am
  • 19

    So many secrets, but the one that comes to mind right now (because I just used it) is onion goggles. delightfulrepast at aol dot com Chopping onions has always been downright painful. Onion goggles make all the difference in the world!

    February 28, 2013 11:24 am
  • 20
    Jennifer Murtaugh said:

    When I make my marinade, after I sweat all my veggies together, I add my fresh garlic, dried herbs and a big dollop of tomato paste, I wait until it is cooked down to a deep brown, then add my tomatoes and chicken stock, it creates a roasted tomato flavor, yummy :)

    February 28, 2013 11:24 am
  • 21
    Sherena smith said:

    My favorite cooking too is that you can make your own self rising flit at home by adding 1/2 t salt and 1 1/2 t baking powdery I each cup of all purpose flour you need!

    February 28, 2013 11:26 am
  • 22
    Lea said:

    My favorite new kitchen secret is using eggs from my backyard flock or six hens. Nothing looks prettier nor tastes better than an over easy egg straight from the nest box!!

    February 28, 2013 11:27 am
  • 23
    deb said:

    My favorite tip: Keep lots of ice cube trays on hand. I use them to freeze pesto, leftover chicken stock, even fresh herbs (in olive oil) and leftover coffee to use in iced coffee. Once they’re sufficiently frozen, I pop out the cubes and put ‘em in a plastic bag.

    February 28, 2013 11:27 am
  • 24
    sherrie said:

    I love to roast my garlic and onions in foil before I make my tomato sauce .It give the sauce a sweeter taste with out adding more sugar to it .

    February 28, 2013 11:27 am
  • 25
    Stew said:

    Always heat your pan first, then add cold/room temp oil/butter and foods won’t stick to the pan.

    February 28, 2013 11:28 am
  • 26
    Deda said:

    I make perfect fluffy rice by taking it off the stove at the end and covering the lidded pot with a few pillows. This steams it into perfect individual grains without stickiness or burning.

    February 28, 2013 11:28 am
  • 27
    A Warner said:

    Always chop onions under cold water to prevent crying.

    February 28, 2013 11:29 am
  • 28
    jackie said:

    this is kindof a boring one, but it works perfectly every time- for perfect roasted chicken thighs or breasts, rub the pieces with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper and cook @ 375 for 30 minutes for thighs, 40 minutes for breasts. let rest 5ish minutes and enjoy. juicy and tasty and a great add in to salads/wraps/soups/sandwiches!

    February 28, 2013 11:30 am
  • 29
    Sheryl said:

    Have so many favorite tips, it’s difficult to choose. But one that has fostered dramatic change in the quality of some dishes: Always be sure raw meat and poultry are patted dry before seasoning. So simple yet so important. Thanks for your blog! Thoroughly irrelevant note: My mom’s name is Olga :).

    February 28, 2013 11:30 am
  • 30
    Margaret M. said:

    My family loves a big breakfast on Saturday mornings. Since I want everyone to be able to eat together I turn on my oven to about 170 and keep everything warm (pancakes, waffles, bacon, etc) until we’re ALL ready to sit down to eat.

    February 28, 2013 11:30 am
  • 31
    Akiko said:

    The difference between baking soda and baking powder was one of the first things I geeked out about as there were many recipes that used baking soda with an acid, which left the cake, cookie, muffin tasting really baking-soda-y. No bueno. My favorite trick is adding 1tsp of baking soda into a recipe and adding 1tbsp of apple cider vinegar right at the end for lots of airiness in my baked goods. I do this for my pancakes and I get the fluffiest, yummiest pancakes!

    February 28, 2013 11:30 am
  • 32
    Gina said:

    My favorite tip was in the slow cooker bbq to put foil loaf pan upside down keeps the meat from getting too moist

    February 28, 2013 11:31 am
  • 33
    Janet Farrell said:

    When making homemade stock, freeze it in ice cube trays so you can easily defrost as much as you need and never need to waste any of it. :) And also using parmesan rinds in your simmering soup can make all the difference.

    February 28, 2013 11:32 am
  • 34
    Akiko said:

    Oops! I meant *without* acid!

    February 28, 2013 11:32 am
  • 35
    Henry said:

    Soft blue cheese goes with many more foods, e.g. fried eggs, than you’d probably guess.

    February 28, 2013 11:32 am
  • 36
    Chelsea Mortensen said:

    I love cookies but don’t always have the time. Here’s something quick and easy.
    1 box of cake mix
    1 box of 4 serving pudding
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup oil
    1 cup choc chips
    Hearty splash of vanilla
    Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes. My fav combo is french vanilla cake with pistaccio pudding and butterscotch chips.

    February 28, 2013 11:32 am
  • 37
    Rosemary Bliss said:

    Favorite cooking tip is to learn techniques and then experiment.
    Favorite baking tip is learn the science – what makes it work – and experiment!

    February 28, 2013 11:33 am
  • 38
    Joy Parker said:

    What is my favorite cooking tip, trick, or technique? It is to study and if necessary, research a recipe the first time I use it. I follow it faithfully, making notes and taking pictures as I go. Then once the finished project is consumed, I go back and tweak, eventually making it my own! I especially appreciate ATK saving me this step from time to time! ;)

    February 28, 2013 11:33 am
  • 39
    Carrie said:

    Rolling a garlic clove in one of those sticky jar opener thingies. Peels it in a jiffy!

    February 28, 2013 11:33 am
  • 40

    Best tip/trick I learned was to “make” my own buttermilk by adding a little white vinegar to regular milk. So handy when you only need a little buttermilk!

    February 28, 2013 11:35 am
  • 41
    martha gurvich said:

    one of my favorite cooking tips is that you can replace the butter (or oil) in most baked goods with levkar AKA prrune butter, found at the grocery store in with the jams and jellies. it makes wonderful and low fat (if not fat free) cookies, brownies, etc.

    February 28, 2013 11:37 am
  • 42
    Patty said:

    My favorite tip is to bake cake layers at a reduced temperature to reduce/eliminate doming, and make stacking and frosting easier.
    (Thanks for the detailed science lesson!)

    February 28, 2013 11:37 am
  • 43
    courtney said:

    i feared bread making for a loooong time but have since overcome the fear. one of the best tricks was that if the dough wasn’t behaving, let it rest on the counter for 5 or 10 minutes. works every time!

    February 28, 2013 11:38 am
  • 44
    Regina said:

    I just love cooking and baking. My only advice is to take your time and relish every moment from start to finish (eating). Maybe not the cleanup though!

    February 28, 2013 11:38 am
  • 45
    David said:

    When making biscuits, I grate cold (nearly frozen) butter into the flour… Makes nice little bits and a very flaky, light biscuit.

    February 28, 2013 11:38 am
  • 46
    Madzik said:

    I follow my grandmother’s favorite trick when making doughnuts – I add a little bit of vodka to the dough so that it stays light and fluffy and doesn’t not absorb so much grease during the frying proccess.

    February 28, 2013 11:39 am
  • 47
    Vicki Ho said:

    My all time favourite tip is one I learned from America’s Test Kitchen, which is, brine your meat. Everyone raves about my turkey and pork. That’s my secret!

    February 28, 2013 11:39 am
  • 48
    Susan Hoover said:

    Don’t heat up your oven to create a warm place to raise bread. Instead, keep an ice cream bucket with lid. Oil inside well, put dough inside and lid on. Set bucket in sink of warm water to rise. If it floats put something on top to keep down in water. If water cools or dough isnt rising well, warm up the water. Gets a great rise every single time!

    February 28, 2013 11:41 am
  • 49
    Kristy said:

    My favorite tip is to use buttermilk in pancakes. The acid makes them so light and fluffy! They are so much better than the boxed biscuit-mix kind, and they are worth the extra effort.

    February 28, 2013 11:41 am
  • 50
    Dave said:

    My favorite tip is to get your kids into the kitchen and cooking with you. I pull up a step stool so my son and daughter can work right alongside of me. I’ve found that they’re more likely to try a variety of things if they’ve helped make them.

    February 28, 2013 11:42 am
  • 51
    Rosalind said:

    On of my favorite cooking tips is to wipe mushrooms off (rather than rinse them) and then to cook them on high heat in olive oil and butter, without touching them at all for at least a minute, so they don’t release a lot of liquid. This results in deliciously caramelized mushrooms, which are especially tasty when you add some minced garlic toward the end (so you don’t burn the garlic).

    February 28, 2013 11:42 am
  • 52
    misha mombrinie said:

    my favorite cooking tip is taking extra herbs, coarsely grinding and mixing with olive oil and pouring them into ice cube trays to use later in recipes. works great in soups, stews, etc.
    can’t wait to see this book!

    February 28, 2013 11:43 am
  • 53

    My favorite tip is to go to any of your cookbooks whenever I want to cook something. I do not cook anything s often I that recall exactly what to do and I know your cook books tell you without fail exactly what to do to have the best cooking result. I can simply trust what you say to do and in the process it makes a lot of sense as well. I am a better cook for having followed what you say to do! So that is my tip.

    February 28, 2013 11:43 am
  • 54

    Soaking onion halves in cold water for 15 minutes before chopping or dicing helps remove some of the vapors that irritate your eyes .

    February 28, 2013 11:43 am
  • 55
    Megan J said:

    When I make sheet cakes, I love to put a layer of frosting on before the cake has cooled– it melts into the cake and makes it super moist and delicious! You can put a second layer of frosting on after it has cooled to give it a nice finished look too.

    February 28, 2013 11:46 am
  • 56
    Randall said:

    We make a ton of broccoli and cheese soup around here now that we’ve learned to use 1/4 tsp. baking soda when steaming broccoli. It takes some of the sulphur out of the broccoli and makes for a nuttier taste. Thanks to ATK for helping us eat more vegetables around here!

    February 28, 2013 11:47 am
  • 57
    Serena S. said:

    My favorite baking tip is to always bake cookies with parchment. The only exception to this may possibly be Spritz cookies as they don’t release from your spritz gun if you do.

    February 28, 2013 11:48 am
  • 58
    Kristin D. said:

    My best baking tip came from a grandmotherly woman I worked with: she said you can count on baked goods being ready (or nearly ready) to come out of the oven when you start to smell them.

    February 28, 2013 11:54 am
  • 59
    Amy Nebb said:

    Who doesn’t like well-prepared, pinky-medium leg of lamb? My secret to a tum-yummy “LoL” is to cut small slivers into the LoL and tuck in fresh garlic. Then I slather it in ketchup (yes, ketchup!), and salt and pepper it up. I put it in the oven, with a meat thermometer and…..the kicker….I baste it in a “regular” cup of coffee (milk and sugar added to the coffee). The ketchup and coffee minimize the gaminess, and it has never failed to delight my guests…..even those that say they never eat lamb. :-D

    February 28, 2013 11:54 am
  • 60
    Geralyn O'Marra said:

    “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” Thanks to Julia Child my sauteed mushrooms are way better then they used to be.

    February 28, 2013 11:55 am
  • 61
    Dorota said:

    My favorite was learning that you can make bacon in the oven! Not only does it take way less time, it is so much cleaner and no one gets spattered with grease!

    February 28, 2013 11:55 am
  • 62
    scott b. said:

    adding corn starch to flour for cinnamon rolls is single handedly the best ingredient i have discovered thanks to ATK. i make the dough, pinch it into small balls. roll those balls in melted butter then into a cinnamon sugar mix. place the small balls into an angel food pan. after one layer, i sprinkle mini chocolate chips and chopped pecans, then repeat with another layer, repeating the chips and nuts. cover with saran wrap, let rise again. bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or golden brown. ( an aluminum foil ring might be needed to stop overflow of rising dough.) invert and enjoy BIG time! thanks!

    February 28, 2013 11:56 am
  • 63
    Robin said:

    Adding Gelatin to your meatloaf mix makes your meatloaf moist. This replicates what adding veal to the mix does for meatloaf, therefore eliminating the extra expense and bother of adding veal.

    February 28, 2013 11:58 am
  • 64
    Julie Kastl said:

    My favorite trick, and one I discovered on my own, is to put a small amount of onion & celery in the water underneath the basket when pressure cooking plain, unseasoned bone in chicken in my pressure cooker. When the chicken is done I not only have cooked my chicken, but now I have a cup or two of chicken stock to put in the freezer for future use!!!

    February 28, 2013 11:59 am
  • 65
    Sara Denbo said:

    My favorite tip is for when I am baking my family-famous yellow cake with chocolate icing. For the cake, I combine the 1 tsp of baking soda, with the 1 cup of sour cream, stir it and wait 5 minutes. Make sure you put it in a larger than 1 cup to double in size! Add that to the batter and get a great lift!

    February 28, 2013 11:59 am
  • 66
    Peter C said:

    My brother taught me the importance of letting meat rest for enough time before digging in. Tastes so much better with all the juices redistributed.

    February 28, 2013 12:02 pm
  • 67
    Tori said:

    I’m not sure this is a tip, but I love pan roasting a chicken in an enamel pot at low heat in order to have chicken for recipes/leftovers. I try and do it 2-3 times a month and it makes delicious moist chicken I can use in everything. It makes my life so much easier.

    February 28, 2013 12:03 pm
  • 68
    Katie Ottaviano said:

    My favorite trick (and one that I need to remember to do ALL the time) is mise en place. It makes cooking or baking so much easier if you have everything already chopped and/or measured out ahead of time so you aren’t rushing to chop the garlic while the onions are doing their thing. Unfortunately, I often forget to do this, or I run out of room in my tiny kitchen, and end up with burnt onions :-) kjkillian at gmail dot com

    February 28, 2013 12:04 pm
  • 69
    Stacia Boston said:

    I like to put my chicken & beef for stir fries in the freezer for 20 min before I slice it. This way you can get super thin slices.

    February 28, 2013 12:04 pm
  • 70
    Mary B said:

    Another tip for letting dough rise is to put your dough in your oven and just turn on the light. It’s warm enough and out of your way. My new favorite trick is to cut unbaked cinnamon rolls or other rolls with plain waxed (not mint) dental floss instead of a knife. This keeps them from smooshing and my three year old loves to help which he couldn’t do when I used a sharp knife.

    February 28, 2013 12:05 pm
  • 71
    Dana said:

    One of my favorite baking tips was learning that I could just hit garlic, papery peel still on, with the flat side of a knife and the papery peel comes right off with no struggling. Then you can chop it, mince it, or further crush it as needed. :)

    February 28, 2013 12:08 pm
  • 72
    Katie Sullivan said:

    My advice…follow the recipe directions, especially the Cook’s Illustrated recipes – they have already done all the hard work!

    February 28, 2013 12:08 pm
  • 73
    Bryan L. said:

    My favorite baking tip is to use a 50/50 mix of cold water and cold vodka for pie crusts. It makes them unbelievably flaky.

    February 28, 2013 12:08 pm
  • 74
    Chris said:

    Whenever I baste chicken with a vinegarette-type of liquid, I’ll whisk an egg into it. Not only does it hold it together as an emulsifier.. but more importantly it helps the bast to stick to the chicken, and the egg seems to setup a little when it cooks.. leaving a thicker layer of the marinade on the surface of the bird.. but no eggy taste is detectable.

    February 28, 2013 12:10 pm
  • 75
    Kate said:

    My favorite trick, and I think it came from the Test Kitchen, is pealing a whole head of garlic by first smashing it whole and then shaking it between two metal mixing bowls for one minute. Then magic, open the bowls and you have all the separate garlic cloves peeled and ready to go. So easy!

    February 28, 2013 12:11 pm
  • 76
    Mary V said:

    One technique that I learned from ATK is to use buttermilk and cornstarch as a binding agent for breaded meat. I definitely prefer this to eggs and flour. Thanks, ATK!

    February 28, 2013 12:13 pm
  • 77
    Liz said:

    I loved reading through all the tips! These are so much more useful than anything I can come up with, but here are a couple. Parchment paper is your best friend when baking cookies. And don’t put citrus fruit in the refrigerator.

    February 28, 2013 12:14 pm
  • 78
    tina lewis said:

    I luv adding soour cream to my cakes it makes them so moist.
    I like the idea on how to test the baking powder in boiling water.

    February 28, 2013 12:14 pm
  • 79
    Sara said:

    Your expert lesson on leaveners made me think of my favorite chocolate cake recipe, from Moosewood (http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/2011/10/vegan-chocolate-cake/). It calls for baking soda (no baking powder) and the last minute addition of cider vinegar, althought I use white vinegar and cannot detect a difference (remember that volcano experiment you did in grade school?) The cake is vegan, amazingly delicious (this coming from a butter and egg loving baker) and super speedy. My toddler son loves to help make it. Moosewood suggests a simple chocolate glaze, but I think it goes great with a richer fudgy chocolate icing (adding corn syrup to your frosting is another great tip for getting a nice glossy sheen and smooth texture) or lightly sweetened whipped cream. Mmm.

    February 28, 2013 12:17 pm
  • 80
    Penny said:

    Oh how I love cooking and science! I need this book! I have been messing around with leaveners in my cakes lately since I’m high-alititude, so this was sooo interesting to me.
    So, my favorite cooking tip is to wear onion goggles when slicing onions. Bright pink ones are even better! I never cry anymore when I dice an onion, and that’s a good thing :)

    February 28, 2013 12:19 pm
  • 81
    janet said:

    I make enough pizza dough for 4 pizzas. divide the dough into 4 packages and freeze. when i want to make pizza. i take the zip lock bag out of the freezer in the morning, and when i get home from work,
    it is ready to go. I use the whole wheat recipe from King Arthur Flour.
    Also, Argo makes a aluminum free baking powder. I found it in my supermarket.

    February 28, 2013 12:20 pm
  • 82
    Laura said:

    So much to learn, both from the post and the comments. I agree with Dorota, bacon in the oven is fabulous! But my favorite is making homemade salad dressing. I mince a little shallot, add some fresh time and marinate in lemon juice or sherry vinegar to mellow them out a bit while I make the salad, then add my olive oil and I’m ready to go.

    February 28, 2013 12:21 pm
  • 83
    Splotch Felinie said:

    The best tip I’ve ever gotten and and ALWAYS use? Pat your meat dry before you cook it!

    February 28, 2013 12:23 pm
  • 84
    TimmyG said:

    The absolute most important thing I’ve learned as a young baker is to scrape, scrape scrape the bowl and mix thoroughly before adding any flour, for a cohesive, emulsifyed final product. My email is Tjg9696@aol.com

    February 28, 2013 12:24 pm
  • 85
    Ferne said:

    Just last week I was making cookies calling for Cream of Tartar of which I was out so thanks to the internet I learned I could use Baking Powder instead and now I know why! I also hate the taste of most Baking Powders so I am going to get the non aluminum one you mentioned next time I am at Trader Joe’s. Thanks!

    February 28, 2013 12:25 pm
  • 86
    Lisa F said:

    My favorite trick is to grate my own garlic on a microplaner. This way it is fresh and you never get a large piece of garlic. Learned this from watching Rachel Ray, but it has become my very favorite!

    February 28, 2013 12:26 pm
  • 87
    Alessandra said:

    One of my fav tips is to moist a paper towel and put it under your plastic or silicone cut board. The wet paper holds the board in place, making chopping much more safe.

    February 28, 2013 12:28 pm
  • 88
    Barbara Britton said:

    Take cookies out of the oven when slightly underdone and leave them on the baking sheet. No more hard overbaked cookies. My best tip is to avoid working with food when I am angry. It ruins the food for everyone.

    February 28, 2013 12:29 pm
  • 89
    Amy said:

    My favorite tip is testing yourbaking soda – if it’s still good. My baking soda is always old and now I can tell if I need to but a new box just by dropping some in boiling water. Good tip!

    February 28, 2013 12:30 pm
  • 90
    Elizabeth Canova said:

    My favorite technique is to make my own brown sugar for recipes. The final product always turns out with a richer flavor when the brown sugar is freshly made with molasses and granulated sugar. Even though making homemade brown sugar takes more time than opening a bag of store bought brown sugar, it’s worth it in the end for the flavor.

    February 28, 2013 12:32 pm
  • 91
    Melissa Watters said:

    I learned when sautéing mushrooms not to add salt until they start to brown so as not to draw out the water too soon. Looove me some sauteed mushrooms!

    February 28, 2013 12:33 pm
  • 92
    lm h said:

    my favorite tip is from ATK videos and it’s to brine your beans before cooking them..

    February 28, 2013 12:38 pm
  • 93
    Denise said:

    Two of my fave tips: making “buttermilk” with regular milk and a little vinegar (quick and easy, works great, and I don’t always have buttermilk on hand when I want to use it), and always WRITING DOWN my recipe tweaks/additions/subtractions ON the recipe right away. If I don’t, the next time I go to make it I can’t remember exactly what I did to make it taste so amazing and kick myself. Lol!

    February 28, 2013 12:39 pm
  • 94
    Pattie said:

    It’s hard to think of something to add to this wonderful list, so I’ll just say that America’s Test Kitchen has changed my culinary life. My favorite thing: make sure that pan is HOT before you put the food in it!

    February 28, 2013 12:42 pm
  • 95
    Jeff said:

    I like the tip about the freshness of baking powder and the boiling water! I used to add lemon juice to see how we’ll it reacted. It is the chemist in me.

    February 28, 2013 12:44 pm
  • 96
    Emily said:

    So many great tips here!! I love to use balsamic glaze (instead of regular balsamic vinegar) in my homemade dressings. It creates a rich & thick dressing.

    February 28, 2013 12:45 pm
  • 97
    James G said:

    My favorite tip in the kitchen is to replace about 20% of
    the flour called for in cooks country pancake recipe with
    coconut flour and then cook the pancakes on a griddle
    lightly oiled with coconut oil. It adds a nice coconut
    undertone.

    February 28, 2013 12:46 pm
  • 98
    Erin said:

    My favorite cooking tip is more of a shopping tip–don’t buy anything that has ingredients. You buy ingredients, then you make your food from scratch, and there are many benefits–you know exactly what’s in what you’re making, and in what quantities; you can control the quality of the ingredients; you can make everything as fair-trade, organic, and as local as you’d like; and food just tastes better if you’ve worked hard to make it. I do most things at home, from churning my own butter to making my own yogurt, granola, and crackers. Haven’t looked back.

    February 28, 2013 12:47 pm
  • 99
    Chrissy M said:

    I use brown butter when making chocolate chip cookies. It gives them a more nutty buttery flavor.

    February 28, 2013 12:48 pm
  • 100
    Anne said:

    I’m not sure if this is a tip, a trick, or a technique, but I have recently learned how to smash a garlic clove with the side of the knife (which makes the skin easy to remove), then make a paste of the garlic by adding salt and mashing it together, again with the side of the knife. I’ve seen Jacques Pepin do this on his TV shows, and I saw it on Food52, too. It really works.

    February 28, 2013 12:48 pm
  • 101

    My favorite trick – to allow breads to rise in a warm place (especially living in the cold Northeast), as I’m kneading the dough, I place 3/4 cup of water in the microwave and zap on high for around 4 minutes to create steam, and then place the dough in there and allow to rise. It will be warm and moist, just what the dough needs.

    February 28, 2013 12:49 pm
  • 102
    Heather quinne said:

    Before ATK, I never used to brown my meat and veggies before putting them in sauces, soups, stews, ect. It makes such a difference!

    February 28, 2013 12:50 pm
  • 103
    Jessica said:

    After chopping onions and/or garlic (or even after eating a meal like tacos) rub your hand on a stainless steel bowl to get the smell off of your hands! You can also rub the cut side of half of a lemon on your palms but be careful if you have any little nicks or cuts on your hands (ouch!).

    February 28, 2013 12:53 pm
  • 104
    Sandy Harrisson said:

    Among my favorite tricks is to add some applesauce to ground meat when making meatloaf, meatballs, etc. The applesauce keeps the meat moist when cooking and will add to the carmalization on the exterior but you will never taste it in the finished product.

    February 28, 2013 12:55 pm
  • 105
    Zoe said:

    My favorite kitchen trick is to save old spice jars for making vinaigrette. They’re the perfect size–not too big–and you can just shake to emulsify the whole thing. Then, if you have leftover dressing, just screw on the lid to the jar and pop it in the fridge!

    February 28, 2013 12:56 pm
  • 106
    Stephanie said:

    My favorite tip is to make extra of just about everything and freeze what you don’t need right away. When I make cookies, I make a big batch and bake a dozen. The rest of the dough goes into the freezer so I can bake two or two dozen next time with little effort. Same goes for pie dough, casseroles, soups (not cream-based), stews, chili, pot roast,… I could on forever. I always have dinner or dessert ready in my freezer when I don’t feel like cooking!

    February 28, 2013 1:02 pm
  • 107
    Marjorie Williamson said:

    Because I am allergic to all dairy products and eggs I am always experimenting with recipes. I use Coconut milk in a carton in place of milk. It is thicker than soy or rice milk and doesn’t change the flavor of what I am making.

    February 28, 2013 1:03 pm
  • 108
    Faith said:

    If you don’t have buttermilk for a recipe, you can substitute regular milk with white vinegar mixed in. This has saved me in numerous pinches when I never seem to have buttermilk around.

    February 28, 2013 1:08 pm
  • 109
    Sarah S said:

    My favorite trick is storing green onions in a glass of water on the counter. Green onions can thrive hydroponically, so as long as the bulb is intact, you have endless green onions that never rot before you need to use them! If you harvest correctly (no closer than approx. one inch from the bulb) they will re-grow in just a few days and you literally have endless green onions.

    February 28, 2013 1:13 pm
  • 110
    Robin said:

    I use a grater to grate my chilled butter into my dry ingredients. This speeds up the process and works great! (Pun intended)

    February 28, 2013 1:14 pm
  • 111
    alicia said:

    my fav cooking tip is use a little butter to grease the pan or griddle to make pancakes. it makes a world of difference and the pancakes are delicious!

    February 28, 2013 1:15 pm
  • 112
    Amanda said:

    My favorite trick when baking sweets is to add a pinch of cardamom. It adds such a warmth and a flavor that people always ask about.

    February 28, 2013 1:25 pm
  • 113
    David Oliver said:

    use a remote thermometer to monitor your bain-marie so you don’t get bubbles in your custard

    February 28, 2013 1:26 pm
  • 114
    Naomi said:

    I always forget to leave the butter out to soften before needing it for baking. Microwave method gives me half melted butter, which is not what I want. The tip that saves me every time is to cut the butter into super small pieces to speed up the softening.

    February 28, 2013 1:27 pm
  • 115
    Margaret Kunz said:

    Using mayo instead of eggs and milk when breading, adheres like a dream, tastes great, easier to use

    February 28, 2013 1:29 pm
  • 116

    When I am baking and make dough for sugar cookies, I separate the dough in half and cover with plastic wrap. I leave the dough in the fridge for about an hour so it is not sticky. I put flour on my rolling pin and counter surface I am using. I dip cookie cutters in flour as well. When baking use cool cookie sheets and before reusing make sure they cool completely or the cookies will spread and lose their shape .

    February 28, 2013 1:43 pm
  • 117
    Ashley said:

    Love the science lesson! And I love this book! My aunt gifted it to me for Christmas and I, a huge science nerd, have been obsessing over it and spouting facts off to no one who particularly cares. I’m glad you’re loving it too!

    February 28, 2013 1:46 pm
  • 118

    I keep a spare plastic bucket nearby where I store newspapers that I will use in the chimney to light the coals. Grilling tip: After wiping down the grill with veg oil soaked paper towel, toss them into the bucket with the newspaper. The extra oil soaks into the newpapers and, when you need to light the charcoal next, it stays lit longer and hotter = quicker hot coals.

    February 28, 2013 1:47 pm
  • 119
    Elizabeth C said:

    Dusting add-ins (chocolate chips, blueberries..etc) with flour before adding to batter so they wont sink to bottom of cakes and muffins.

    February 28, 2013 1:47 pm
  • 120
    Alex said:

    A tip I use is freezing measured portions of red wine to save for cooking. That way you can always cooking wine available instead of opening a whole bottle for a recipe.

    February 28, 2013 1:48 pm
  • 121
    Leo Guinan said:

    My favorite cooking tip is to explore flavors. I rarely use recipes, but when I do, I almost always experiment with the flavor patterns. The more I do this, the better understanding I have of the interactions between the different flavors.

    February 28, 2013 1:50 pm
  • 122
    Karen said:

    What is my favorite cooking tip,trick, or technique is doubling recipes that can be frozen, eat one now, freeze one for later. This has been a lifesaver and money saver many times! LOVE ATK and have learned many wonderful techniques and tricks from them too!

    February 28, 2013 1:50 pm
  • 123

    My best sanity-saving tip is to roll out pie dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. No mess + pie dough keeps it shape more. TA DA! I would LOVE a copy of this book. I already have it on my library queue, but I know I’m going to want it in my kitchen full time.

    February 28, 2013 1:52 pm
  • 124

    Thanks for the great lesson! I am always a bit confused by the difference between baking powder and baking soda. I like to add malt powder to my pancakes. It makes a huge difference in the flavor.

    February 28, 2013 1:55 pm
  • 125
    Beth said:

    One of my favorite tips is for measuring sticky things like molasses or honey: rub a little oil in the measuring cup first and whatever you’re measuring will slide out super easily!

    February 28, 2013 1:58 pm
  • 126
    Faith said:

    I’d love to enter! My favorite trick is cooking with cashew creme – I love me dairy, but sometimes the thick, creamy vegan sauce is exactly what I want to lighten a dish up!

    February 28, 2013 2:04 pm
  • 127
    William S. said:

    Not only is Baking soda a good leavener and fridge defunker. But is also an excellent cleaner. Use as a paste to scour. Polish silver. Dissolved as a degreaser. Sprinkle in tupperware to deodorize.

    February 28, 2013 2:06 pm
  • 128
    Joan said:

    I love all things America’s Test Kitchen. However, the one thing that I make that differs rom the way they prepare it is bacon. I always bake my bacon in a 400 degree oven on a wire rack over a rimmed cookie sheet. It come out perfect everytime and with less grease and no mess on my stove top. Thank you for this nic e article.

    February 28, 2013 2:09 pm
  • 129
    Tami said:

    My favorite tip is grating fresh mozzarella cheese. I put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes so I can grate it easily into shredded pieces.

    February 28, 2013 2:18 pm
  • 130
    Michelle said:

    When making pie dough, freeze the stick of butter for a few minutes, then use a box grater to grate the butter into the flour, rather than having to cut it into the flour. Such a great trick!

    February 28, 2013 2:18 pm
  • 131
    Matthew Marsee said:

    My favorite tip/trick will be boring to everyone who reads it, but it has changed how I bake everything: parchment paper. Anyone still baking cookies, cakes, really anything without parchment paper is doing WAY more work than they should. Easy cleanup, ease of removal, it’s perfect!

    February 28, 2013 2:23 pm
  • 132
    Kira said:

    My favorite tip that I discovered by accident is to keep your brown sugar in the fridge! I buy mine in the bulk section from Sprouts Farmers Market. When I get home, I put the B. sugar in a gallon ziplock bag and put it in the fridge. I have never had any troubles of it hardening! Yeah! I also bring it to room temp before use. And, I try to measure all my ingredients by weight instead of volume. It’s more accurate that way.

    February 28, 2013 2:25 pm
  • 133
    grace said:

    the best tip i’ve picked up recently is to toast oatmeal before adding to your other ingredients when making oatmeal cookies–it makes them much more delicious!

    February 28, 2013 2:26 pm
  • 134
    Bri said:

    I love foil slings! It is such a simple trick but makes getting the brownies out so much easier. Sounds like this book is awesome I’m a total nerd at heart.

    February 28, 2013 2:27 pm
  • 135

    I would so benefit from this book – last weekend i subbed in baking powder for baking soda…and my biscuits came out disgusting – such a horrible taste! Wish I knew beforehand that was a big no-no.

    My favorite cooking technique is when I make “creamy” soups, I use a can of white beans and puree them into the soup. It’s creamy, thick and rich tasting without all the added fat of heavy creamy!

    February 28, 2013 2:46 pm
  • 136
    Hope Palmquist said:

    I use the corn starch on the meat for a mice crust.

    February 28, 2013 2:49 pm
  • 137
    Linda K Ross said:

    Stock, sour dough proofing in fridge for fresh baked bread, pressure cooking beans and freeze in poritions for 2 peopple or to add to soups. Challenge of cooking healthy for 2 people.

    February 28, 2013 2:52 pm
  • 138
    Michelle said:

    My favorite trick is storing fresh ginger in the freezer! Frozen ginger grates beautifully. I would always end up losing at least half the ginger I grated because it got stuck in the grater’s holes — but grated frozen ginger falls to the counter in fluffy crystals. And no squirting juice!

    February 28, 2013 2:53 pm
  • 139
    Jennifer Castro said:

    My secrete to a moist scone is grading frozen butter. No one ever guess how my scones end up so perfect!

    February 28, 2013 2:53 pm
  • 140
    Bethany Kocher said:

    So many great tips already listed… I won’t say this is my greatest, but one of my favorites. I add one to two tablespoons of unsalted butter to homemade non-meat based tomato sauces. It adds body and reduces the acidity just a bit.

    bethanykocher at hotmail dot com

    February 28, 2013 3:05 pm
  • 141
    RayB said:

    I always add a touch of oil when cooking with butter (e.g. to make an omelette), so it increases the smoking point and prevents it from burning too quickly :)

    February 28, 2013 3:06 pm
  • 142
    Dave said:

    I use parchment paper whenever I can it saves so much time and money. Cleanup is a cinch.

    February 28, 2013 3:21 pm
  • 143
    Andrea M said:

    My secret weapon is Crisco. Shhh!

    February 28, 2013 3:23 pm
  • 144
    Stacy Gross said:

    A useful tip that was a revelation to me was to freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays instead of dumping it out. That way you won’t need to open a whole new bottle just for sauces in recipes. I have quite an assortment built up. Ha!

    February 28, 2013 3:29 pm
  • 145

    When frying eggs, spray Pam or your favorite spray in your pan, add the eggs; and when just cooked, add one tablespoon of water and put the lid on the pan. The steam will cook the top of the egg in seconds and you won’t risk breaking the yolk since you won’t need to flip them. It also saves you in fat calories by not using so much oil.

    Another tip: for left over whipped cream, pipe pretty designs on wax paper, freeze, remove individual flowers or whatever and put in a freezer bag for later use–great for hot chocolate. (You don’t have to pipe it; you can use a tablespoon.). If I have any left over cream in the carton that I bought for baking or cooking and know I won’t be using it again anytime soon, I’ll whip it and do the same thing–great for coffee without sugar.

    February 28, 2013 3:34 pm
  • 146
    Rachel said:

    I zest every lemon that comes through my kitchen and stash the zest in the freezer. I always have zest on hand, and nothing goes to waste!

    February 28, 2013 3:36 pm
  • 147
    Sarah A said:

    Heating up a lemon, makes it so easy to get all the juice out!

    February 28, 2013 3:38 pm
  • 148
    Iris said:

    What is the your favorite cooking tip, trick, or technique?
    A cooking tip: microwave a citrus fruit (lemon, lime, etc.) for about 10 to 15 seconds, then roll it with the palm of your hand or hard surface before squeezing it and you would get most of the juice out

    February 28, 2013 3:43 pm
  • 149

    When cooking beans in a pressure cooker add a little oil so it won’t foam. Also when making jelly, add a teaspoon of butter to your batch, and it won’t foam as badly–any foam that might develop can be put aside for toast, etc. Don’t let any foam get in your canning jars–foam contains air.

    February 28, 2013 3:51 pm
  • 150
    Brian M said:

    I use every single part of a chicken. If you buy a whole chicken and throw any part of it away, you’re doing it all wrong. I use the bones for stock, and I save all the extra fat in a freezer bag until I have enough to render in my pressure cooker. I use the rendered chicken fat to make fried chicken and it’s delicious.

    February 28, 2013 3:54 pm
  • 151
    katy said:

    A favorite cooking tip of mine is quite basic, so basic, in fact, that it’s barely a tip: it’s the secret of not being afraid to add condiments/extras: herbs, lemon juice/zest, hot sauce, anything preserved (especially preserved lemons, which will make any meal sing)….

    kms2003@gmail.com

    February 28, 2013 3:56 pm
  • 152
    Meredith G. said:

    I thank my grandmother for inspiring me to be quite the chef in my home. My kids brag about my food. Their friends rave about my dishes. I love to cook. I don’t hardly ever go exactly by a recipe…I tend to modify here & there. The one thing I use often is Apple Cider Vinegar. It tends to add a little “kick” to the dishes I prepare. It’s my secret ingredient that has my family guessing.

    February 28, 2013 4:02 pm
  • 153
    Teresa said:

    The addition of parchment paper into my life still seems like a miraculous day…though lately I’ve been enamored of the experimentation I’ve been going through to get British flour to behave more like USA flour (and when I’m trying to get a cake flour-now that’s experimentation!)

    February 28, 2013 4:08 pm
  • 154
    Sarah said:

    It’s not an unusual habit but I keep a little pinch pot of kosher salt next to my salt and pepper grinder on the stove. It’s convenient, and it’s easy to get exactly the amount you want!

    February 28, 2013 4:10 pm
  • 155
    danielle said:

    for me it has to be mise en place – i have a habit of *thinking* something is in the cupboard, and it’s much easier to discover this at the beginning as opposed to halfway through a recipe. i’ve also modified it a bit – i do a ‘backwards’ mise en plce as i go, putting away ingredients after they are added. this way, if something is still hanging around, i know i need to do something with it. (or, the one time when five minutes after i put the banana bread in the oven i see the baking powder sitting on the counter…. at least i knew why it didn’t turn out!)

    February 28, 2013 4:15 pm
  • 156
    Ms. Morgan Leigh said:

    I adore Cook’s Illustrated. It’s my favorite magazine.

    My favorite tip/ trick/ technique is putting a wet rag or paper towel underneath my cutting board to prevent slipping and thus losing limbs.

    February 28, 2013 4:22 pm
  • 157
    prin said:

    I don’t put any fat/oil in pancake batter so I can use more oil or butter in the pan and make them crispier.

    February 28, 2013 4:31 pm
  • 158
    Katrina Langenderfer said:

    Best Gluten-free Tip: Keep you hands and spatula moist with will water when dealing with GF dough. It prevents a sticky mess!

    February 28, 2013 4:58 pm
  • 159
    Leah said:

    I love re-growing scallions…it’s so easy and all I do is stick the ends in a small glass of water.

    February 28, 2013 5:07 pm
  • 160
    Joyce Amell said:

    My favorite tip? I mix. the nuts, raisins or other add-ins for quck breads or muffins in to the dry ingredients. That way they don’t al sink to the bottom, but stay ditirbuted evenly thoughout.

    February 28, 2013 5:09 pm
  • 161
    Lisa Hill said:

    Mise en place!

    February 28, 2013 5:21 pm
  • 162
    John Croteau said:

    Old eggs float, before you boil them. So toss the floating one’s.

    February 28, 2013 5:23 pm
  • 163
    Rachael B said:

    The best trick I ever learned was rolling fruit before juicing. Might seem so simple, but so many people don’t know it. Same with microwaving an ovacado for 3-5 seconds to make scooping it out easier. I know so many tricks for picking out ripe fruit (knocking on a cantelope for a specific sound) that most people don’t even know. It’s good to have grandparents who pass down secrets!

    February 28, 2013 5:25 pm
  • 164
    Jean said:

    awesome post! love the geekiness! ;-)

    favorite tip – use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients, especially when baking!

    February 28, 2013 5:28 pm
  • 165
    Lori said:

    I never seems to have any buttermilk around when I need it, so putting lemon juice in whole milk is probably my favorite trick.

    February 28, 2013 5:39 pm
  • 166
    R Lin said:

    quick boil whole tomatoes. the skin comes off easily.

    February 28, 2013 6:45 pm
  • 167
    Laura G. said:

    I’ve been obsessed with Cooks Illustrated recently! My trick is browning butter in my baked goods. It makes everything taste over the top good!

    February 28, 2013 6:51 pm
  • 168
    Karen G said:

    My favorite cooking technique is making spaghetti sauce and meatballs in my slow cooker. No more splatters or burnt bottoms from cooking on the stove. Just put everything in the slow cooker and forget it!

    February 28, 2013 6:57 pm
  • 169
    Anne V said:

    Did you know that when you wear hard contact lenses, your eyes don’t water when you slice onions? If you don’t have hard lenses, find a friend who does. I am totally immune :-)

    February 28, 2013 7:00 pm
  • 170
    arugulove said:

    Marinate chicken in some greek yogurt before cooking. Makes the chicken very tender and juicy. Bonus — you can flavor the yogurt with herbs, spices, garlic, etc and braise the chicken right in that if you want.

    February 28, 2013 7:16 pm
  • 171
    Jessica said:

    My favorite tips are: 1) use marscapone to make a quick and delicious cream sauce for ravioli, and 2) microwave your eggs in the morning to save time and dirty dishes so you can get some protein in before work.

    February 28, 2013 8:15 pm
  • 172

    If you like your Toll House Cookies a bit less flat, add 1/4 cup flour to the recipe. Or leave out one egg white. Works well with many scoop cookie recipes.

    February 28, 2013 8:31 pm
  • 173
    Courtney said:

    Peeling ginger with a spoon! Gets into all the nooks and crannies much better than a peeler or paring knife.

    February 28, 2013 8:53 pm
  • 174
    Julie said:

    When I make layer cake or sheet cake I always brush each layer with a small amount of simple syrup before frosting. Keeps cake moist longer. If there are no kids eating the cake, I use spiked simple syrup or just vodka straight. Amazing!

    February 28, 2013 9:17 pm
  • 175

    First thing my gramma taught me when in the kitchen, clean as you go! Sounds simple,try getting a 14 year old to do it!

    February 28, 2013 9:44 pm
  • 176
    Brian Q said:

    When making a pie crust, do not overly mix the butter into the flour. Leave it in small chunks, add ice cold water to it, and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Leaving the butter in chunks gives you a much flakier pie crust.

    February 28, 2013 9:46 pm
  • 177
    Daniel said:

    My favorite trick is one of the simplest- thickening any delicious sauce with a slurry of cornstarch/water.

    February 28, 2013 10:09 pm
  • 178
    Britta said:

    I use a wine bottle wrapped in plastic wrap as a rolling pin…because apparently I’m more likely to always have a bottle of wine than to finally get a rolling pin!

    February 28, 2013 10:34 pm
  • 179
    Jill said:

    When I pit cherries, I put them over a beer bottle and then use a (clean!) Phillips head screwdriver tip to push the pits inside. It makes cherry pitting that much easier.

    Also, I also deseed pomegranates in a bowl of water (lukewarm so my hands don’t freeze!).

    February 28, 2013 11:08 pm
  • 180
    Carrie L said:

    After years of watching “Martha”, I find myself never letting a speck of batter or morsel of vegetable go to unused by using a spatula to scrape the bowl clean of batter or back of knife to scrape the cutting board of all the chopped veggies. I would always laugh when I saw her do this on tv but I along the way picked up the habit.

    February 28, 2013 11:22 pm
  • 181
    Justine said:

    A few of my favorites: refrigerate cookie dough overnight. It makes the cookies SO much better!

    When you’re rolling out cookies, use powdered sugar instead of flour for white cookies, and cocoa powder instead of flour for chocolate cookies.

    Vodka in pie dough. I think this CAME from the CI people. :)

    February 28, 2013 11:27 pm
  • 182
    ATL said:

    My favorite cooking tip is to subscribe to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast. Always a fount of good information.

    February 28, 2013 11:35 pm
  • 183
    Jessica Berger said:

    I put onions in the fridge so when chopping them, the gases aren’t so bad and I avoid crying.

    February 28, 2013 11:49 pm
  • 184
    Meghan Finley said:

    I make pancakes with an empty squeeze bottle. Cheaper than a fancy dispenser and makes use of an old ketchup bottle etc

    March 1, 2013 1:23 am
  • 185
    lisa said:

    when i bake cookies… i always make cookie dough a day ahead and keep it in the fridge for 24 hours. they ALWAYS taste way better then baking them right away! :)

    March 1, 2013 1:40 am
  • 186
    tk said:

    using parchment paper to line baking pans and make little pouches of meat and veggies!

    March 1, 2013 1:59 am
  • 187
    Margot C said:

    We’ve been nuts for scallops lately and my first efforts were a bit disappointing (read: soggy and not browned nicely). I figured out that drying them on paper towels was a necessity; then I read somewhere that the lightest dusting of flour top and bottom will create that nice brown look. I’ve been cooking them in coconut oil (which is very good) and making a peanut sauce.

    March 1, 2013 2:01 am
  • 188
    Erin from Long Island said:

    I use powdered sugar to dust inside my baking pans instead of flour

    March 1, 2013 4:27 am
  • 189
    Avital said:

    Soaking and freezing dry beans – to shorten cooking time

    March 1, 2013 4:30 am
  • 190
    Anne Araullo said:

    Use a piece of raw spaghetti to test cakes & muffins. Raw spaghetti also can be used instead of toothpicks to keep plastic wrap off the frosting on baked goods.

    March 1, 2013 5:52 am
  • 191
    Zo @ Two Spoons said:

    For beany stews or chilli, crush some of the beans so they absorb the sauce better. Great for thickening the mixture a bit too.

    March 1, 2013 6:53 am
  • 192
    Mary S said:

    I always make my own stock. Any time I have bones, fresh herbs, celery, onion skins etc I throw them into my “bone bag” in the freezer, and when it’s full I make a batch of stock. So much better than any store bought stock.

    March 1, 2013 7:10 am
  • 193
    Letty K said:

    I have read so many tips that I use: peeling ginger with a spoon, rolling citrus before juicing, using a knife to smash unpeeled garlic cloves to get the peel off, using parchment to line cookie sheets, etc. I wanted to share something different: it’s not cooking per se, but I love to preheat my coffee cup. Coffee seems to taste better in a hot cup! Especially at 4 am!

    March 1, 2013 7:19 am
  • 194
    lia said:

    easily cutting grapes and grape tomatoes by putting them between the lids of take out soup containers. fill up a lid of a take out soup container and then place another one (top side with the rim toward the food) and then slice in between the two lids. tub of cherry tomatoes done in less than a minute!

    March 1, 2013 7:21 am
  • 195
    Jess said:

    I use the food processor for everything. That’s all there is to it. If I can’t use the food processor, the recipe goes on the back burner. I love chopping me some onions but shredding carrots is way more fun!

    March 1, 2013 7:31 am
  • 196
    Geri said:

    My favorite baking tip might sound odd – I set 2 baking timers – one for five minutes before it has to come out and one for the actual time. This way when the first one goes off it gives me time to get ready for the next step and the second reason because it has saved me many an overbaked item.

    March 1, 2013 7:46 am
  • 197
    Amy said:

    Best tips: read the recipe through from start to finish at least once! and everything ready to go before you start! Boring, but sure makes a difference!

    Thanks for the opportunity to enter and win – love all you share and do :)

    March 1, 2013 7:47 am
  • 198
    jess said:

    put leftover soup in a muffin tin and freeze it – then store in a ziplock bag. makes dethaw process easier – no more huge blocks of huge frozen Tupperware soup! not to mention that you can thaw out just as much as you need!

    March 1, 2013 7:48 am
  • 199
    Emily Wells said:

    I like to chop onions in bulk and keep them in the freezer. Whenever you have a recipe that calls for chopped onions, just take whatever you need out of the Ziploc bag.

    March 1, 2013 8:29 am
  • 200
    Nancy Lyon said:

    to add umami (richness and depth of flavor) to something like soups, parmesean rind dropped in the pot works wonders….mmmmm.

    March 1, 2013 8:35 am
  • 201
    Ian C said:

    My mom stores her fresh peeled ginger submerged in a jar of sherry. The flavor of the ginger isn’t altered at all, and it lasts months in the fridge without drying out!

    March 1, 2013 9:04 am
  • 202

    [...] « baking powder vs baking soda – and “the science of good cooking” giveaway! Friday, March 1, 2013 [...]

    March 1, 2013 9:08 am
  • 203
    Lisa T said:

    Add a splash of vinegar to the water when hard boiling eggs, it makes the eggs easier to peel.

    March 1, 2013 9:20 am
  • 204
    Gail said:

    Grating frozen butter in making scones

    March 1, 2013 9:28 am
  • 205
    Meghan said:

    Wow! So many great freezer tips. If only I had the room…
    My favorite “trick” is a silly one. I’ve only recently mastered getting the seeds out a pomegranate by breaking it in half and then whacking the skin side with the back of a knife. I love that if you’re careful with the first step (score, then pull apart), you lose almost nothing.

    March 1, 2013 9:32 am
  • 206
    glenda said:

    I like to squeeze and freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays and use them as needed!

    March 1, 2013 9:33 am
  • 207
    Liliane said:

    To hard boil eggs….I steam them for about 20 minutes, then gently shake the steamed hot eggs in the steamer to crack them all…. plunge into ice water for a few minutes…..they almost peel themselves…..easy peasy!

    March 1, 2013 9:47 am
  • 208
    Colleen said:

    Simple “trick” but oh-so-useful: spray the inside of your spoon (or measuring cup etc) with a quick shot of baking no-stick “oil” spray before measuring sticky ingredients such as honey etc. Helps your ingredients to slide right out, in the accurate measured amount, with no scraping or loss of product.

    March 1, 2013 9:54 am
  • 209
    Liane said:

    Being fairly new to cooking, I learned about using a panade for my hamburgers to keep them moist and juicy.

    March 1, 2013 10:10 am
  • 210
    Aria said:

    I like to refrigerate onions before chopping them. Cold, they’re a lot less irritating than at room temperature.

    March 1, 2013 10:31 am
  • 211
    Karen Brack said:

    Forget it when pie crust recipes tell you to process the cold fat and flour until it “resembles course meal” and then start adding the liquid. You want chunks of fat in various sizes up to about pea size. But if you process the dough to that point and THEN start working in the liquid, you will over-process the dough. When the fat-flour mix looks like it needs 5 -6 more pulses to be done, that’s when you start adding water. When the water is mixed in, the dough should look crumbly but hold together when you pinch some together.

    March 1, 2013 10:33 am
  • 212
    Jennifer Gilliland said:

    I have a bit of foodie anxiety when it comes to cooking. Not that what I make won’t turn out but that I’ll miss out on making something great. I have about 5 go to dishes I’ll make if I’m short on time but in general I rarely make the same thing twice. I try to stick with techniques to master them but the same recipe is almost never made.

    March 1, 2013 10:36 am
  • 213
    Jennifer Bowen said:

    My favorite tip is to double recipes when they’re freezer friendly – one for tonight and one for a night when you have no time to cook! It also allows you to benefit from sale prices on ingredients.

    tbowen1 @ nc.rr.com

    March 1, 2013 10:49 am
  • 214

    Such great tips!!

    March 1, 2013 11:10 am
  • 215
    Lisa Rawlinson said:

    I picked up this nifty habit of slicing my green onions in half down the center before chopping to keep the little round scallion wheels from rolling off the cutting board.

    March 1, 2013 11:46 am
  • 216
    Craig B said:

    Don’t overload the sautee pan or skillet. Take the extra time to cook in multiple batches.

    March 1, 2013 12:31 pm
  • 217
    Susan said:

    I use a cheese grater to grate my boiled eggs when a recipe calls for chopped boiled eggs. It’s easy and I don’t have to worry about tasting a hunk of egg in my dish.

    March 1, 2013 12:33 pm
  • 218
    Alice Epstein said:

    My favorite new trick is cooking roast beef at really high temp (500) for the first 20 min or so and then reducing to 250 and letting it sit for up to two hours. Super moist with a wonderful crust.

    March 1, 2013 12:35 pm
  • 219
    Laura Vaught said:

    My latest favorite technique is grating onion whenever I plan on combining it with meat (meatloaf, meatballs, burgers, etc.). It adds so much moisture and flavor and the texture is amazing.

    Thank you for this post!

    March 1, 2013 12:35 pm
  • 220
    Philby said:

    Dip your measuring spoon in hot-to-boiling water to measure sticky ingredients i.e. honey, peanut butter, molasses, etc.

    March 1, 2013 12:44 pm
  • 221
    Kira said:

    My favorite trick lately is to add some smoked applewood salt to dishes I’m making (like gnocchi and rice with veggies). Much easier than trying to grill everything :)

    March 1, 2013 12:49 pm
  • 222
    Janae said:

    Great post! I love reading informative things like this, and when I originally heard about this book I put it on my to-buy list. My favorite (only?) tip is that even though you can’t really see it, garlic, like apples and avocados, oxidizes – so cloves should only be chopped right when ready to use.

    March 1, 2013 12:53 pm
  • 223
    Maia said:

    There is a lot of homebrewing in my household. To reuse the beer gain I split it up into 2c bags and throw in the freezer. Whenever I’m using a recipe that calls for oatmeal, I just replace it with the spent grain.

    March 1, 2013 1:08 pm
  • 224
    Jo said:

    When I only need half an onion for a recipe, I dice the whole thing and put in my onion bag in the freezer. Then, when I’m sauteeing veggies and just need a little bit of onion, I can get it from the freezer pre-chopped instead of pulling out the cutting board.

    March 1, 2013 1:23 pm
  • 225
    Madeleine said:

    Can’t wait to read this book!
    My favorite tip. . .hmm. . . I like CI’s new recipe for steaming eggs to get the perfect soft-boiled egg, or browning butter for chocolate chip cookies!

    March 1, 2013 1:40 pm
  • 226
    Kelly said:

    Add a pinch of baking soda to sweet tea. It neutralizes some of the acid, giving you a clear, crisp taste of sweetness…very refreshing.. Also, I love wrapping chicken in bacon when I bake it. It keeps the chicken extra juicy.

    March 1, 2013 2:30 pm
  • 227
    Heather said:

    I have been including a lot of citrus in meals and baking lately and I now use the medium size of my grater for zesting my oranges and lemons since I can do an entire piece of fruit in less than a minute.

    March 1, 2013 2:36 pm
  • 228
    Kelly said:

    One more thing I forgot to add: onions, when cut, release sulfur into the air. This sulfur can react with the moisture in your eyes, causing sulfuric acid to form. Your eyes start to burn and water in order to flush out the acid. So, when you cut onions, you should really wear goggles.

    March 1, 2013 2:39 pm
  • 229
    Jess said:

    Cook bacon in the oven! Evenly cooked and crispy with no flipping.

    March 1, 2013 2:41 pm
  • 230
    Melissa Daniel said:

    Growing a garden and then cooking from it has really changed the way I eat in the spring-fall, and I miss my garden so much in the winter. So, even if you have just a balcony, consider growing something you want to eat. Start with herbs- they are easy and you can really taste the different in recipes.

    March 1, 2013 3:43 pm
  • 231
    rose said:

    victory garden fresh
    “any dish can only be as good as its ingredients”

    March 1, 2013 3:56 pm
  • 232
    Terri Sue said:

    I always keep Buttermilk on hand. It lasts much longer than the experation date. My trick is that I use it instead of water in my pie crusts. The difference is very special.
    lovebirdmom at gmail dot com

    March 1, 2013 5:42 pm
  • 233
    Erin said:

    Use the edge of a spoon to peel ginger.

    March 1, 2013 6:12 pm
  • 234
    Barbara kohn said:

    Over the years I’ve learned a ton of kitchen tricks from the ATK! Far too many to list all the science I’ve lived by in my kitchen, but I’m currently intrigued with my sourdough starter that is going into all my carbohydrates–breads, waffles, pizza crusts, pretzels,etc….the stuff is amazing! Most batches are cooled and frozen, and single portions defrost countertop before going in to work with me in the morning=always taste fresh. Would love to get my floury hands on a copy of this book!

    March 1, 2013 8:27 pm
  • 235
    Sharon Gregerson said:

    Perfect rice; every time.
    Always heat butter or olive oil first and add dry rice to slightly toast. This is quick; you will know when it’s just right by the nutty aroma. After toasting add cooking liquid and you will have perfect rice every time. I’m always asked “why does your rice always turn out perfectly and taste so great”?

    March 1, 2013 11:29 pm
  • 236
    Alison Richards said:

    Here is another buttermilk substitute: use yogurt thinned with milk or water

    March 1, 2013 11:38 pm
  • 237
    Dorothea said:

    My favorite tip is to keep your fresh ginger in the freezer – that way it stays fresh, and it’s easy to grate frozen.

    March 2, 2013 1:29 am
  • 238
    Amanda said:

    Flash freezing balls of cookie dough and then storing in freezer bags or other container in the freezer. I love having homemade cookies available at all times!

    March 2, 2013 8:43 am
  • 239
    Deb said:

    My favorite tip is to store my powdered sugar in the freezer. NO lumps ever!
    I have enjoyed reading all the comments and learning several new tips!

    March 2, 2013 11:40 am
  • 240
    Merideth said:

    Actually my favorite trick was always making baking powder at home when I run out and don’t want to go to the store… I guess my favorite tip would have to be using all of the egg. When you have a recipe that only calls for half (like mayo) make something that uses the rest (like meringue) even if it means I have to clean more, I feel ok about it because we have more yummy homemade food.

    March 2, 2013 11:55 am
  • 241
    Kim Adie said:

    My tip is in relation to your article. I can’t get self raising flour where I live, so I make my own with 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda to 1 cup of flour.

    March 2, 2013 2:10 pm
  • 242
    gail said:

    To save money, I buy dried beans and re-hydrate them. For the price of one can of beans I get the equivalent of three to four cans.

    March 2, 2013 3:05 pm
  • 243
    Rhonda said:

    I love dry brining not only meat, but even vegetables, per “The Zuni Café Cookbook” by Judy Rodgers.

    March 2, 2013 3:41 pm
  • 244
    Meg said:

    I have been a fan of putting butter in tomato sauce ever since I read that Marcella Hazan recipe (you know the one). Adds a nice richness and silkiness but doesn’t change the flavor.

    March 2, 2013 4:00 pm
  • 245
    Nicholas said:

    I am a Sophomore in high school and a devoted food scientist, molecular gastronomist, and foodie. I have become such an expertise in my passion that I have been given the opportunity to teach an entirely accredited food science course for my local summer science program, and to my own high school next year.
    I am a true advocate of serving/matching aroma with taste, since 70-75% of our taste comes from smell, and we can pick-up hundreds of different smells, but only a few distinct tastes. I suggest serving commonly known scents that send the eater to a happier place, like something that will make them reminisce in past events relative to that smell.
    For example, singe a couple maple leaves near any dessert with marshmallow any people will immediately think/taste smores and campfire. Doing this can also mask any bad flavors or completely save a dish, if need be.

    March 2, 2013 5:10 pm
  • 246
    BYC said:

    As a busy medical student who also loves to cook, my favorite tip is to utilize my rice cooker. I can throw in the ingredients, walk away, and get delicious food in under an hour. In addition to cooking up a variety of rice, I also like to make the following with my rice cooker
    – garlic-y black beans (they end up so creamy even without any oil)
    – soup of all varieties
    – quinoa
    – lentils

    March 2, 2013 5:12 pm
  • 247
    Eric said:

    My favorite trick for cooking the juciest turkey breast meat is to cook the bird breast side down. This will not yield the perfectly browned skin that table slicers desire, but for absolute taste ( and kitchen carving) it wins hands down every time.

    March 2, 2013 6:45 pm
  • 248
    Jeffrey said:

    When cooking meat, wether poultry, beef or fowl, make sure it’s a uniform thickness so it cooks evenly. I hate having a piece of meat that’s overcooked but I despise one that is overcooked, undercooked and raw!

    March 2, 2013 6:45 pm
  • 249
    Karen said:

    I love using onion and garlic when cooking and let the chopped onion and garlic set for 10 minutes before cooking to maximize health benefits.

    March 2, 2013 7:14 pm
  • 250
    PJ said:

    To make flavorful vegetable soup, add an entire bunch of parsley at the as you finish sautéing the onions. I chop it in the food processor and add it in. It disappears while the soup cooks, but adds a wonderful depth of flavor that doesn’t shout parsley (and with that dark green color it has to be full of nutrients as well, doesn’t it?). Another soup tip is to add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to bean soups as you’re serving them. It brightens the flavor. For chili, I add lime juice.

    March 2, 2013 8:40 pm
  • 251

    I read Ruhlman’s Twenty and learned about the balance of acid to other flavors. 1 part acid 3 parts fat is an almost flawless way to create an awesome dressing, marinade, etc and a great guide to other flavors in food!

    March 2, 2013 9:32 pm
  • 252
    Gina Dalquest said:

    My favorite tip is to smash garlic with a cleaver before chopping. This works especially well with fresh garlic.

    March 2, 2013 9:46 pm
  • 253
    Michelle said:

    I use seltzer water instead of tap water in my matzo balls and it makes them fluffier!

    March 2, 2013 11:05 pm
  • 254
    JoAnn L said:

    My grandmother always told me to place onions in the freezer for about ten minutes before chopping to keep my eyes from watering. It works great!

    March 2, 2013 11:40 pm
  • 255
    Andrea Zeng said:

    My favorite tip has to be, using a spoon to peel ginger! It makes life so much easier, you get more ginger and less waste.

    March 3, 2013 11:35 am
  • 256
    Sherlonya said:

    I like to spray my spoons/cups with oil before measuring things like honey or molasses. It is a small thing, but has increased my quality of kitchen life.

    March 3, 2013 1:28 pm
  • 257
    Michael Cozine said:

    A great low-fat substitute to a traditional roux for thickening soups: Lightly toast a slice of hearty white bread to dry it out. Cut off crust and slice into 1/4″ cubes. Add to soup and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Whisk in to incorporate into the remaining liquid.

    March 3, 2013 5:10 pm
  • 258
    Kristen said:

    not to put gold colored dish liquid in a bottle that could be mistaken for olive oil.

    March 3, 2013 5:47 pm
  • 259
    TJ said:

    My favorite kitchen tip is to place a rubber band on the lids of jars or glass containers to make the lid easier to twist off.

    March 3, 2013 6:26 pm
  • 260
    Dee said:

    I like making fresh ricotta with rich, organic milk.

    March 3, 2013 7:36 pm
  • 261
    Amanda Thompson said:

    Read the recipe all the way through and make sure you have all of the ingredients on hand before you get started!

    March 3, 2013 8:46 pm
  • 262
    Allison said:

    My favorite tip is to “dry fry” tofu. Press the tofu between paper towels to get rid of the water, and then cook over medium-low heat in a well-seasoned cast iron pan, flipping when one side is crispy. It takes a little while, but the tofu comes out perfectly cooked every time with no added fat.

    March 3, 2013 11:28 pm