Culinary Confessions: Our Kitchen Tips & Tricks

”Culinary Confessions” is a series that opens the books on our eating habits and shares our shopping, cooking, dining and diet strategies with you.

We cook a lot. And we mean A LOT.

Some people seem to think that because we often post about restaurants all over the South that it means we dine out all the time. We really don’t eat more than one or two sit-down meals at restaurants each week. That means we’re cooking the rest of the time.

All that practice may not make perfect, as the old saying goes, but it has yielded plenty of tips and tricks we’ve tried and come to trust. Below we share some of those many methods with you to help you in your kitchen.

Over time, we’ll add to these tricks as we remember and find additional ideas for cooking. Bookmark this post and check it often for insights. Let us know if we’re missing something that works for you. We always want new ideas for better and easier ways to make food!

BACON: Use kitchen shears (scissors) to cut bacon strips into smaller pieces for cooking. Shears cut bacon much easier than even a sharp knife, and smaller pieces fit onto your cooking dish more easily. We’ve also found that smaller pieces cook up better and fit biscuits and sandwiches better.

BISCUITS: For the fat in your recipe, use half butter and half shortening. You’ll get the benefits of better flavor from the butter and softer texture from the shortening.

BURGERS: Do not crowd burgers on a grill, in a pan or on a tray. Space will help burgers cook better and quicker. Additionally, if we’re not grilling, we prefer cooking burgers in the oven on a tray covered with a thick layer of foil. The burgers are juicier that way. If you prefer a crust on your meat, however, you’ll want to pan-fry your burgers.

CHEESE, GRATED: Stick a box grater straight up into a mixing bowl for grating cheese. When you’re done grating, shake the box grater down, and all of your cheese will be in the bowl.

COFFEE: Struggle with bitterness of coffee? Try adding a quarter teaspoon of salt to your cup to cut the bitterness. Add more or less as needed.

EGGS, SCRAMBLED: Whisk about a tablespoon of water, not milk, per egg when scrambling. Water makes eggs even fluffier than milk!

GARLIC: We buy jarred minced garlic because it saves so much time on peeling, smashing and mincing fresh cloves, and it still offers quite a flavor punch! We use about a teaspoon for every clove recommended in a recipe.

GREEN BEANS: Use one beef bouillon cube per can of green beans. Cook on low as long as you can. The beans will be much more flavorful and tender, and you may not know they came from a can!

MERINGUE: We make many pies, including Chocolate Pudding and Lemon with meringue toppings. A stand mixer makes beating meringue so much easier than any other method. When we cook meringue, we bake it at the same temperature as the pie instead of broiling, which is a common method. This keeps the meringue from burning and blackening during cooking.

POTATOES: When cooking potatoes of any kind, plan to boil or bake them as long as you can. The more you cook a potato the softer it will get. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can pre-cook the potatoes in the microwave to get a head start on softening them up!

RANCH DRESSING: We’re not snobs with most food, but we just can’t do bottled ranch dressing anymore. Mix one cup of Duke’s mayo and one cup of milk with a ranch seasoning packet. Whisk all ingredients well, chill a few hours and then whisk again before using. It’s far superior to the bottle, in our opinion anyways.

SHORTENING: We don’t like how sticky shortening makes our measuring cup! Place the cup in a small plastic sandwich bag to scoop into the shortening. Then just throw away the bag. The measuring cup won’t be sticky and can easily be rinsed off.

Have a tip for us to try that we don’t list or don’t know? Comment on this post, or share with us on our Facebook page!

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