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Kitchen hacks to save time, get organized, and stay sane

So maybe you think you’ve got it all figured out. You’re the MacGyver of the kitchen — spatula in one hand two eggs in the other. Crack, separate, and plop goes the egg in the bowl… with a bit of shell. The horror! So what do you do? Hint: using a spoon or your fingers isn’t the answer. Thankfully, we have a solution to your egg quandary (number 11) plus quick fixes to tons of other food prepping, cooking, and baking predicaments — from pitting a nectarine to softening butter the easy way.We’ve hacked your kitchen — prepare to have your mind blown (even if just a little bit).

(Note: Excerpts from this article are below; go to Greatist.com for the full list of 73 kitchen tips.)

Food Storage

1. Speed up ripening.
Be a total magician and morph a banana from green to yellow or a peach from crunchy to juicy all with the help of a paper bag. When fruit is tossed into the bag, concentrated ethylene gas helps it  ripen faster .

2. Slow down rotting.
Store tomatoes  stem end down to keep them from rotting as quickly. This prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting the scar where the tomato once attached to the vine. Storing them at room temperature rather than in the fridge also makes them last longer. 

3. Give bananas a longer life.
Keep bananas fresher, longer by wrapping the end of the bunch with plastic wrap . Better yet, separate each banana. The plastic wrap blocks ethylene gases from releasing out of the stem, consequently ripening the fruit too fast (see number 8). 

4. Keep potatoes white.  
Cover  shredded or diced potatoes with cold water before cooking to prevent the spuds from turning that gross grayish/brown caused by the release of a starch that makes them  oxidize .

For more food storage tips, go to Greatist.com.

Peeling, Pitting, and Removing

10. Easily scoop out squash seeds.
Scoop seeds  from vegetables such as squash and pumpkin with an ice cream scoop. Because the edge of the scoop is sharp, it cuts through the fibery, gooey stuff inside the squash easier than your hand or a regular spoon.

11. Never wrestle eggshell pieces again.
Scoop up bits of broken eggshell from a batter or bowl of cracked eggs ready from scrambling with an already cracked egg. Gently ladle out the piece of shell with half of an eggshell.  The shell  acts as a magnet to draw up shell pieces without wasting too much egg.

12. Skim the fat.
Remove excess fat  from stocks, stews, and sauces by skimming a few ice cubes (wrapped in a paper towel or cheese cloth) along the surface of the liquid. The ice helps the fat solidify, making it easier to remove with a spoon or a  piece of toast .

13. Separate yolks from whites.
Separate eggs  by gently squeezing a plastic water bottle over a cracked egg. When the bottle re-inflates with air, it will scoop the yolk right up. (Disclaimer: This method may take a little practice.)

14. Pit cherries with ease.
Place cherries on top of an empty beer bottle, one at a time, and use a chopstick to  push the pit  into the bottle.

15. Pit stone fruits with a twist. 
Pit stone fruits, such as plums and nectarines, by cutting them into two equal halves and twisting the halves in opposite directions. Use your thumb to  pop out the pit  (if your thumb doesn’t do the job, gently pry it out with a butter knife, or cut into quarters for easier separating). 

For more peeling, pitting, and removing tips, go to Greatist.com.

Food Prep

29. Measure sticky stuff without the mess.
Coat a measuring cup or spoon with hot water or a dab of cooking oil (or spray) before measuring sticky substances such as molasses or honey. The heat or oil will help it slide right off and into a mixing bowl without leaving any behind.

30. Deal with hard-to-open jars.
To open a stuck jar lid,  wrap the lid  with a rubber band and give it another try. The band will provide extra traction. If that’s still not enough (or your hands hurt too much), cover the rubberbanded top with a dishtowel, and try again.

31. Soften butter in a flash.
Keeping butter out on the counter for an hour isn’t exactly ideal for a tight schedule. To speed up the process,  grate it with a cheese grater or flatten it with a rolling pin  (but put it in a plastic bag first) for spreadable, mixable butter in a pinch.

32. Soften butter faster (without a grater or rolling pin).
If you’d rather not use one of the tips mentioned above,  cut a stick of butter  into about eight pieces. More surface area will allow the stick to soften more rapidly. 

33. Make your own buttermilk.
To make buttermilk  when there’s none of the real stuff in the fridge, add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk. The mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will help create fluffy pancakes and quick breads just the same.

34. Cut cherry tomatoes in half all at once.
Cut cherry or grape  tomatoes  in half with ease by placing them between two lids. Gently  slice  horizontally through the bunch of tomatoes while pressing down the top lid for perfectly halved tomatoes. What kind of lids, you ask? Anything works! Large yogurt container lids or Tupperware tops are two good options.

35. Stop onions from making you weep.
To  stop onion-induced tears  freeze the onion before chopping. (Note: this trick only works if you’re planning to cook the onions later — otherwise, after the onion thaws out, the raw pieces will be a bit soggy!) Or if you want to look absolutely crazy when your housemate walks in, put a  slice of bread  in your mouth (partially sticking out) to absorb the irritant gas before it reaches the eyes.

For more food prep tips, go to Greatist.com.

Cooking/Baking

40. Make a perfect poached egg.
To  poach an egg  that’s both tasty and aesthetically pleasing, use a metal mesh strainer to get rid of excess egg white. The strainer is also a great tool for gently lowering the egg into the water.

41. Prevent pots from boiling over.
Prevent over boiling  by placing a wooden spoon across a pot. Because wood is not a good material for conducting heat, the hot water strays away from the handle. 

42. Cook a whole bird evenly.
When cooking a whole turkey or chicken, ice the breast of the bird for even cooking. Since the dark thigh meat needs more time to cook than the white breast meat, chilling the breasts will promote even cooking. (Check out these  other tips  for making the perfect turkey.)  

43. Don’t waste your time flipping.
Now don’t flip out on us, but you don’t always have to  flip your food . When roasting items such as French fries and veggies, pre-heating your cookie sheet eliminates the need to flip halfway through. This method isn’t suggested for baked goods like cookies (they wouldn’t look so pretty). 

44. Cut brownies without the crumbs.
There’s nothing worse than pulling out a pan of perfect-smelling brownies only to destroy the entire pan when it comes time to slice. For perfectly square,  clean-cut brownies  (or other bars) grease a baking pan, line it with two strips of parchment (one from left to right, one from front to back), and grease the parchment paper, too. Once cooked, let sit until cool to the touch. Once cooled, use the parchment paper edges to lift the brownies from the pan.  Then  slice with a serrated knife.

45. Use parchment paper if you’ve run out of muffin tin liners.
No muffin liners? No problem! When you’ve run out of foil or paper muffin tin liners, use 5-inch squares of  parchment paper  instead. To help the paper stick better, spray the each well first. Then press the squares into each hole, folding the sides as needed to create flat walls. Plus, the makeshift liners look pretty darn fancy with those popped collars.  

For more cooking and baking tips, go to Greatist.com.

Reheating/Leftovers

48. Give leftovers new life.
Save the rice, pizza toppings, and grilled chicken. Instead of tossing leftovers in the trash,  repurpose  them into other meals like casseroles and frittatas. 

49. Reheat pizza and other baked goods without drying them out.
When  reheating pizza or baked goods , place a cup of water in the microwave with it to add moisture to the air (therefore keeping the food from drying out).

50. Keep birthday cake fresh for days.
Dug into a cake and didn’t finish the whole thing? Save cut-into cake from drying out by securing a  slice of bread  to the exposed portions with toothpicks. The bread holds in the cake’s moisture.

51. Reheat pasta in the microwave the right way.
Reheating a giant blob of sauced spaghetti can get tricky — sizzling around the perimeter, ice cold in the middle. For  even warming , shape leftover pasta into a donut (with a hole in the middle) on a plate.

52. Reheat bread in the microwave without producing hockey pucks.
Much like number 49, the key to reheating already cooked foods is to add some moisture. When it comes to  bread , set the microwave to a low power setting, and drape the rolls or buns with a moist paper towel. 

Freezing

53. Chill wine and cocktails without diluting.
Cool down a fresh glass of wine  or a fancy cocktail by plopping a few frozen grapes in your glass.

54. Save fresh herbs for later use.
Use an ice-cube tray or muffin tin to  freeze fresh chopped herbs  in water, olive oil, or stock for later use as a seasoning agent.

55. Steer clear of ice cream freezer burn.
Place a piece of wax paper over ice cream before putting it back in the freezer. The barrier will help  prevent freezer burn !

56. Easily cut meat into thin slices for stir-fries.
Does your stir-fry ever  really­  look the same as when you ordered take out? While the veggie part is easy, it’s tricky to produce thinly sliced chicken or beef. For a recipe that calls for thin slices,  partially freeze meat  before cutting it.

57. Extend nuts’ shelf life.
Freeze shelled nuts  to preserve their natural oils (which may go rancid at room temperature over time).

58. Cool down coffee without diluting it.
Fill an ice cube tray with leftover coffee (cooled down to room temp) and let the cubes set in the freezer. The  coffee cubes  will keep an iced cup of Joe from becoming diluted. You can even customize the cubes by adding your favorite milk and sweetener.

For tips on cleaning, kitchen organization and safety and to see all 73 tips in one place, go to Greatist.com.

xx

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