More from Paul Kita, the Guy's Gourmet
Good food doesn't have to cost you. Most chefs don't wield $500 Japanese knives, saute in tri-ply copper pans, or invest in high-end induction burners. They eat and drink better than we do, by improvising. Follow their lead at home. Here are 21 ways to get the job done.
Jumpstart Your Oven
Stop waiting for the preheat to beep. Instead, turn on your broiler for a few minutes and then switch to the baking temperature you want. (Pro tip: This works better if your broiler unit is in your oven, not in a separate compartment.)
—Joe Yonan, author of Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook
Speed Up Spuds
For faster baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, start them in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Then transfer them to a preheated oven. You'll cut the time in half while maintaining the fluffy texture that only baking can provide.
Cook and Clean with a Cordless Drill
Here are three reasons to keep this power tool handy.
For extra fluffy scrambled eggs, insert a whisk attachment into the drill and start beating.
Unscrew the knob from the top of a pepper mill, exposing the drive shaft, and tighten the shaft into your drill. Turn on the drill to grind a pile of pepper in seconds. (Pro tip: If not enough of the drive shaft is exposed, remove the pepper mill's head.)
Drill a quarter-inch hole into the top of a large binder clip. Insert a quarter-inch-wide, one-inch-long bolt through the hole so the threads stick out the top, and tighten a quarter-inch nut onto the bolt. Now clamp a sponge into the clip, insert the bolt into the drill, and turn on the drill to attack those pots. (Just don't scratch them with the clip!)
—Jason Poel Smith, creator of diyhacksandhowtos.com
Thaw Food Faster
Don't place that frozen T-bone on the counter to thaw—that's how bacteria multiply. Instead, seal meat in a zip-top bag and drop it into a bowl of cold water in the sink. Change the water every half hour until the meat thaws (2-3 hours for a 3-4 pound package).
—USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
Crisp Plate-Popping Parsley
Anyone can sprinkle herbs on a plate. For crunch (and prestige factor), make flash-fried parsley.
How to Make It: In a bowl, toss a small handful of parsley leaves with 1 tsp of canola oil. Arrange the leaves 3-4 inches apart on a paper-towel-lined plate. Microwave at 75 percent power until crispy (3-4 minutes). Let cool. Decorate your plate.
—Adapted from Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine
Cook Quick-Peel Eggs
The more fresh your eggs, the harder they'll be to peel. Make hard-boiled eggs easy by adding a bit of baking soda to the water before you turn on the heat. The baking soda penetrates the eggs, preventing the albumin in the whites from sticking to the shells.
—Marcel Vigneron, CEO of Modern Global Tasting
These takeout standbys rock at scrambling eggs, flipping bacon, and fishing food out of jars.
Pick Your Needle-Nose Pliers
A (clean) pair can extract fish bones fast. Drag your finger along the bones to expose them, and then use the pliers to pull them toward the head.
—Bryan Calvert, executive chef and owner of James in Brooklyn, NY
Go All Cheesy
Cheese is good. Melted cheese is even better. Cheese that's been sizzled to a crisp, cracker-like texture? Money.
How to Make It: Spread 2-3 tbsp of grated parmesan on a microwave-safe plate to form a 4-inch round. Microwave on 50 percent power until crispy, 60-90 seconds, and peel it off when it's cool enough to handle.
—Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, chef of Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO
Hit the Bar
Stir-frying happens quickly, but the prep work can be a slog. For any recipe that requires lots of sliced vegetables, raid your supermarket salad bar. Not only are the ingredients precut, but you can also buy the exact amount you need.
—Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks
Harvest Olive "Salt"
Intensify the inky color and briny kick of kalamata olives by speed-drying pitted ones in your microwave.
How to Make It: Pop a few on a plate and nuke them on high for 2-minute intervals until you can crush them between your fingers. Use the robust seasoning as a stand-in for sea salt on steak, roasted vegetables, or fish.
—Levon Wallace, executive chef of Proof on Main, Louisville, KY
Rock the 5-in-1 Tool
Next time you're hungry, dig this multi-use painting gear out of your toolbox.
Use it to clean grill grates. Its angles reach places a large grill brush can't.
Use it to pop a small hole on the top of a metal olive oil jug so pouring goes more easily.
Call on the Colander
To fry bacon without the splatter, position an inverted metal colander over the pan as it cooks.
Clean Up with Salt
When your exuberant buddy spills red wine (or red sauce) on your shirt, it's time to take action. Remove the shirt, lay it flat, and pour salt on the stain. Wait 2 or 3 minutes so the salt has a chance to pull out the stain. Next, suck up the salt with a handheld vacuum and throw the shirt in the laundry. Oh, and then make your friend buy you another bottle of wine. (Make it a white.)
—Fabrizio Cercatore, pizzaiolo and co-owner of Hot Italian in Sacramento and Emeryville, CA
Aerating wine opens up the vino's aroma. Oenophiles do this by pouring it into a decanter, but you can aerate with horsepower instead! Pour the wine into a blender and process it on high for 30-60 seconds. Wait for the foam to subside, and serve.
—Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine
Chill Beer Fast
Warm beer sucks. And your fridge sucks at chilling beer fast. Instead, add 1 tbsp of salt to a large bowl of ice water and drop in your bottles. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of the water, creating a more arctic environment for your brew.
—Jarrid Masse, cofounder of the Poor Porker in Lakeland, FL
Recycle a Champagne Bottle
The sturdy base of an empty bottle makes a great meat mallet for creating thin cutlets. Just pound them flat between sheets of plastic wrap.
"Cook" Food with Salt
Baking certain foods—like skin-on chicken, whole potatoes, and whole fish—in salt keeps them moist. In a large bowl, whisk 12 egg whites until foamy, and then stir in 2 1/2 pounds of kosher salt. (Halve this recipe if you're baking a small amount.) Spread a half-inch layer of salt mixture onto a baking sheet, add the food, and cover with another half-inch layer of salt mixture. Bake the food as usual; then let it rest 5 minutes. Crack the salt crust, brush away the excess salt, and serve.
—Technique by Chris Jaeckle, chef at All'Onda in NYC
Make Your Own House Salt Blend
Skip the expensive flavored salts and make your own house seasoning: Take a large, flaky salt, such as Maldon, and pulse it in a food processor with your choice of minced garlic, grated lemon peel, chopped herbs, or hot sauce—whatever flavorings you love. Then let the mixture dry on a paper towel for 12 hours. Store it in a zip-top bag or re-sealable jar and use it to season eggs, marinate chicken or pork, or finish seared steak.
—Marc Forgione, executive chef of American Cut in Atlantic City
Sip Bar-Worthy Whiskey on the Rocks
Make ice with water from the tap and you'll end up with cloudy cubes. For crystal-clear ice, boil the water first to eliminate the dissolved gases, and let the water cool before pouring it into trays.
—Marcel Vigneron, CEO of Modern Global Tasting
Stage a Rescue Operation
If the wine cork breaks, fear not. Push the cork all the way into the bottle using the butt end of a butter knife. Then double-knot one end of a 12-inch length of twine and drop that end into the bottle. Tilting the bottle, use the knotted end to fish the cork toward the bottle's neck and then up and out.