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Cooking tips gleaned from Chowhound

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I shall have to spend an evening reading through every thread to find out who supplied the tip of storing ginger in the freezer and then micro-planing it (fess up if it was you!) But whoever, it was invaluable to me.

What is the best cooking tip you learned here?

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  1. Off the top of my head (I've learned SO much here)....not really pertaining to cooking as much as organizing for a big meal. I was hosting my first Thanksgiving and I read here that someone laid out all their serving dishes and put post-it notes in them to indicate what food went in which dish. Prevents the issue of having a last minute emergency of running out of serving dishes. I did this and it really helped me out a lot... one less thing to worry about on the day of.

    2 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      that's a great tip. Of course, half the time I wind up putting a pot on the table! Martha Stewart, I ain't!

      1. re: juliejulez

        I do this all the time. It definitely keeps me organized

      2. think that might be me:) glad it was of use.

        5 Replies
        1. re: wonderwoman

          I bow down to you! No more last minute trips to the Safeway!

          1. re: rccola

            lol!

            i keep the ginger in a glass jar. in fact, i store almost all of my herbs and veggies in glass jars -- mostly empties with screw tops. but i've found fennel keeps the longest (a few weeks) in jars with clamp lids.

            1. re: wonderwoman

              How long does the ginger keep when you store it that way? I've been freezing my ginger for a long time, but I'm starting to get annoyed by the watery mess I get sometimes.

              1. re: Kontxesi

                i buy relatively small amounts of ginger, so it's never in there for more than a couple of weeks and i've not noticed the loss in flavor, as others have.

                1. re: Kontxesi

                  Have kept ginger frozen for about a year. Used mostly for juicing so the texture doesn't matter. I don't freeze ginger as much for the reason you stated. Here's a tip that helps. Let thaw for about an hour or so at room temp. Then peel, mince, or whatever while it's still firm. Makes a big difference in handling.

          2. Too many to count. If I do say so myself I have become quite skillful in the kitchen over the past few years and now me and SO prefer to stay in and cook food which is infinitely more delicious and filling than most restaurant meals in our area. I have turned to Chowhound for any and everything and have learned more than I can imagine which I feel is primarily responsible for all the great meals that now come out of my kitchen - not only food tips but plating, storing, etc.

            5 Replies
            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Name a few tips! I probably missed and can use them!

              I feel that way for a while and then something snaps and we head out for food I haven't really learned to do or find difficult to manage because of need for fresh spices, like Indian or Indonesian.

              1. re: rccola

                How to freeze and thaw yellow fin tuna
                How to roast garlic
                How to remove cloves from a head of garlic quickly
                How to not overcook salmon
                How to cook the best turkey I've ever had!!
                How to butter popcorn without sog

                The list goes on and on but whenever I have a food question, I turn to Chowhound and it's answered very thoroughly within a few hours.

                They might seem simple but have been very helpful in planning dinners and slowly perfecting the craft if you will.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  I nick the salmon over so I don't overcook it--how do you do it?

                  1. re: rccola

                    Nothing too fancy - I usually do the foil packet oven method and just pay close attention so as to remove it from the oven when the outside is just opaque and the inside is still a bit translucent.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Oh. I always saute it in oil and butter as the family likes it that way, with a sear on the outside.

            2. I learned about:

              cooking stock in a crockpot

              pineapple goes very well with pork

              making pulled pork in a crockpot

              warming plates just before a meal

              Making a task sheet with start times when preparing a complex meal to insure all finishes at the same time.

              1. How to pit cherries using a paperclip.

                3 Replies
                1. re: 512window

                  How?!

                  Just bought a whole bag of cherries... $2.99/lb!

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9pMWL...

                    1. re: tcamp

                      Thanks!

                2. Many but sadly I have a crappy memory. The one that pops to mind is using cream in corned beef hash (or really any potato/meat hash). And also, melting anchovies in a pan before incorporating into a dish.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    mmmm, anchovies. melted into homemade spaghetti sauce. instant umami

                  2. A few years back I had a crew of folks helping me make homemade pastrami. I made 4 of them and they were terrific. Could not and would not have done it without the chowhounds.

                    1. Storing strawberries (or any berries) in large glass jars keeps them fresh much longer.

                      Making pulled pork in a crockpot makes it so easy it can be done while you're at work.

                      I'm sure there are many more, but I just can't remember them right now.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        You just put the strawberries from the plastic container into a glass jar? I imagine a mason jar would work?

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          Yes. Works great with all berries.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            Yup. You do NOT wash them ahead of time.

                            Go to a dollar store and get one of the large glass storage jars with a twist-on or clamp-on lid (like for flour or sugar) and you can use one of them. Tests have them keeping fresh for upwards of a week or more longer.

                          2. re: LindaWhit

                            With that glass jar tip plus the C.I. tip to wash berries in a vinegar/water solution before drying and storing them, I have not had a berry go moldy in ages.

                          3. That bananas can be frozen in their skin. Would never thought they could be frozen at all, much less in their skin.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: masha

                              You can also use them from frozen to make banana "ice cream"

                              1. re: masha

                                Frozen when past eating state makes for great banana bread. They melt into a kind of banana liquor (non-alcoholic, of course!)

                                1. re: masha

                                  And they make fabulous additions to smoothies!

                                2. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper before roasting veggies (or anything) - makes cleanup sooooo much easier!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Westminstress

                                    Yes!! I usually use aluminum foil but same idea. It feels so good to fold it up after baking and just put the baking sheet away

                                  2. How could I have neglected to mention using the cheese grater to grate butter that you've forgotten to soften before baking? Just had to use that tip again this morning.

                                    Also, the whole concept of flour frosting. Delicious and easy!

                                    And using the crockpot to keep mashed potatoes warm as well as to make baked potatoes (all day in a low crock) for weeknight meals.

                                    1. Developing a balanced interesting menu. Making sure that with something rich like short ribs and risotto, you have a fresh salad. A lot of tips on baking fresh, especially the no-knead method.

                                      1. Tip (from HillJ?) to use food dye in spritz cookie dough to get green Christmas trees, etc.

                                        1. Loved the shake-shake-shake to peel garlic, but a question: how do you keep the peeled garlic? I've bought pre-peeled, in oil, and didn't like the texture or flavor. Can you freeze pre-peeled garlic & maintain texture/flavor? Other ideas?

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: pine time

                                            I always just mince all my garlic and store it in double the volume of corn oil (don't use olive oil because it becomes cloudy, thick and does not ensure just a pure garlic flavor; no salt) in a glass jar and keep in the refrigerator. Putting the garlic in oil has the extra bonus of removing the bitterness that you find with fresh garlic. Minced garlic in oil can last for over 1 year, but of course I try to use it before.

                                            I found out that I use the garlic oil part of it more than I use the minced garlic pieces, especially when I don't want any garlic pieces to burn. In general, I don't add any garlic pieces to the food until about a couple of minutes right before the dish is done cooking.

                                            I have seen Asian supermarkets sell shallots in oil too, which seems to be a popular way to store it. I'm assuming that you can use my similar technique for accomplishing this for shallots. Shallots don't seem to dry out as quickly as garlic so I have not had the need to store shallots long term using this method.

                                            I would never trust the prepared minced garlic or shallots in oil from the stores. I think that they put some other preservatives or water it down (cheaper than 100% oil) which cause loss of flavor. Always make your own like I do to ensure that you know exactly what goes into it.

                                            1. re: amateurcook2

                                              Thanks. I, too, thought the store-jarred garlic (even whole cloves) tasted weak and probably used cheap oil. I'll chop a head today!

                                              1. re: amateurcook2

                                                You are running the risk of botulism poisoning by storing your garlic in this manner.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  I told my mother about this method too (I've also seen Hispanics and Asians use this method). We have been using it for 20 years now without an illness. Most of the times, I use this garlic for cooking, which would kill any microbes. However, I have also used it for cold dipping sauces without cooking and have not had any adverse effects. I think that the oil inhibits growth of microbes and the 4 degrees Celsius temperature of the refrigerator retards microbial growth too.

                                                  I don't have time or patience to cut up garlic every time I need to use it. This has been a wonderful way to get fresh tasting garlic any time without the extra work and clean-up each time. The garlic-flavored oil is the best part for flavoring food, e.g. vegetables, meats, sauces, soups, etc.

                                                  1. re: amateurcook2

                                                    I like to cook whole cloves of garlic in olive oil, then keep in a jar in the frig. I'll try the raw, minced in veg. oil method, thanks. You always have great advice!

                                            2. I had many an instruction from my old pal Sam Fujisaka. May his lovely, opinionated soul be resting in peace.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                Amen. Learned a lot from Sam.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  I'm still learning a lot from Sam. His posts come up in my CH searches frequently and his posts are always helpful.

                                              2. Here are just a few that I have found to be very helpful.

                                                Use "Better than Bouillon" chicken, turkey, vegetable and beef bases to replace bouillon cubes or granules. The BtB enhances the flavor of broths for soups and sauces.

                                                Keep evaporated milk in the pantry for when you find out during meal preparation that you are out of milk for sauces and gravies.

                                                Taste your pasta water while adding salt. It should be like adding salt to a soup.

                                                To keep celery fresh for more than a month, do not wash it. Wrap unwashed celery tightly in foil with no openings. It only takes a moment to wipe or wash when you go to use it.

                                                If you use non-stick frying pans, never use Pam type sprays on them. The propellent eats into the coatings and ruins them. Instead add a drop of oil and use a brush to spread it around.

                                                You can get workshop cotton towels from Home Depot. They are 12" x 12". They are very cheap, long lasting, not bad looking, and very absorbent. I bought 50 of them. I have them in a cabinet. They don’t take up much room. It is so convenient in the kitchen to have plenty of clean towels/pot holders to use. When they get a little soiled, rinse and microwave to dry and sanitize. When they get greasy, wash them the next time you do the laundry. Paper towels are very expensive.

                                                When grating semi soft cheeses (like Colby) spritz the box grater or food processor blade with cooking spray. It helps to keep the grater from loading up cheese & makes clean-up easier.

                                                Keep a can of OJ concentrate in the freezer in a Ziploc bag once opened just for small additions to various foods. It doesn't get really hard so it is easy to scoop out a little to add to whatever needs it.

                                                When you make salad, store it in a glass bowl or 9 x 13 pan. The cold glass keeps your salad crisp and lasts 3 times longer. Cover tightly.

                                                The secret to having mushrooms "brown" is not adding salt while cooking them. When you add salt the mushrooms give off water and don't brown, so hold off on adding salt until you finish the dish.

                                                Microwave sliced fresh mushrooms on paper towels just until they give up their water then squeeze them just a little and then fry them up in butter and they brown nicely and quickly without that moisture you always get in the frying pan.

                                                Iceberg lettuce is so appropriate in so many circumstances, don't be snobby about it.

                                                After buttering the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches, press the buttered side into some grated parmigiano or pecorino before grilling. It totally adds to the texture and flavor. Crispy cheesy salty bread.

                                                A really good way to do citrus with a plain old microplane is to flip the grater over so the underside faces up, and run it over the citrus, keeping it parallel to the floor, instead of running the citrus over the microplane. That way, all the zest sits up on the underside of the grater (which is facing up toward you), which means both that it doesn't fly around and that you can see exactly how much you've grated so far.

                                                Store fresh lemons in a glass jar in the fridge. They keep really well. Put whole lemons in the jar with a little piece of paper toweling at the bottom to collect moisture. Usually two will fit in the glass jar I use and maybe a piece of cut up lemon. Any combination that will fit. It's surprising how long they last. Much longer than the crisper in a bag.

                                                Remember to keep poppy seeds refrigerated, as they go rancid quickly. Always smell for off odors before adding poppy seeds to anything.

                                                1. My heart used to sink when I was in the mood to make cookies or cakes, only to read in the recipe 'use soft butter left out overnight'.
                                                  No more ! I use this tip all the time. Cut butter into large chunks and fill bowl with lukewarm water. Let butter sit in water for about 1/2 hour. Et voila, no more waiting until tomorrow to make cake, perfect room temp butter.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Mila

                                                    I have found that 12 seconds in the microwave at 30% power then flip it and do 12 more seconds on 30% is just about perfect.... no melting just barely soft.

                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      Or grate on the large holes of a box grater & let stand briefly.

                                                  2. Cooling a large pot of soup in a sink ice bath using plastic water bottles stored in the freezer. My sister thinks I am a genius - but it's Chowhounds!

                                                    1. I've felt misled by all the tips on the internet to store ginger in the refrigerator or freezer.

                                                      Now I just leave it out at cool room temp (preferably away from light I guess, but may not matter) not wrapped in plastic or container. The ginger will last for at least 1 month. You just cut off pieces as I need it and keep the remainder at room temp. The cut end will just dry and seal up by itself.

                                                      From what I can tell, the goal is to keep it dry to prevent spoilage. This is why the refrigerator causes it to spoil faster in my opinion. Freezing makes the texture awful and causes lost of flavor. Less is more when it comes to storing ginger. Place it on a wicker basket and use as needed.

                                                      If the ginger ever dries out completely, you can grate it and make fine ginger powder for cooking or baking.

                                                      13 Replies
                                                      1. re: amateurcook2

                                                        I agree. I also read that tip on many food sites and started doing it as we only use it at max probably once a week but I noticed that while it was easier to grate, the flavor was nearly non-existent.

                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                          Which is why I store grated ginger in a jar in the fridge with dry sherry poured over it. When you need to use it, pack the spoon with the grated ginger, squeeze it to remove the liquid, and you're good to go.

                                                          And when the jar is empty, you have ginger-flavored sherry to use in stir-frys. :-)

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            I just tried a modified/lazy version of your sherry tip on a large piece of fresh ginger that I won't have time to use for a while. I used a paring knife to poke a lot of slits into the whole ginger, then put it into a glass jar and filled it up with sherry (I always buy sherry from the liquor store (Fairbanks brand), never the supermarket brands which I heard contain salt, etc.). It is being stored in the refrigerator, although I do wonder if I could get away with leaving it at room temperature to save space. This feels almost like I'm embalming a root.

                                                            I hope this works because I wanted to avoid the time and mess of grating it. I figured that there would be a lot of ginger juice getting all over the place. However, if placing it whole into the sherry is not effective in letting the alcohol diffuse thoroughly through the ginger, then I will try grating.

                                                            1. re: amateurcook2

                                                              Yes, I do mean the dry sherry from the liquor store, and *not* "cooking sherry". (That stuff should be banned, as its sodium content is abominably high!)

                                                              And I grate mine in a mini food processor, so the ginger juice gets captured and poured into the glass jar (or the small Glad/Ziploc container if just the grated ginger is going directly into the freezer for use later on).

                                                              As to storing it on the counter vs. the fridge, I can't help you there.

                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                              For me, ginger in sherry is too limited in its re-use. I use higher proof alcohols to store ginger. My ginger infused rum simply rocks on the rocks and the eensy, ever-so-slight taste of rum goes wonderfully in my garlicky, gingery barbecue sauce.

                                                              1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                I am very partial to Chinese food which calls for dry sherry which works out perfectly for storing the ginger.

                                                                However, I do like to try new things so if you can tell me the type and brand of rum, hopefully it is cheap, I will test it out too for storing ginger.

                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                I have done this for years, it's a great tip! I actually don't grate it, I just stuff the unpeeled root in a jar, cover with sherry and let it hang out in the frig. until needed. You can grate it without peeling when needed. And, honestly, how many recipes that want grated ginger will be wrecked by a little sherry (LOL)? Seriously, don't y'all go crazy on me, I keep knobs in the freezer as well.

                                                                1. re: blaireso

                                                                  I broke off a piece of the whole ginger that I put slits, then placed in sherry last week, for use in a Chinese recipe below. It tasted great in my eggplant with pork and garlic sauce (don't forget to add chopped cilantro for serving). I never bother to remove the outer peel of ginger or carrots anymore when I discovered that it is just extra work for nothing.

                                                                  eggplant with pork and garlic sauce
                                                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVz78S...

                                                                  Thanks LindaWhit!

                                                            3. re: amateurcook2

                                                              I don't like freezing it either. I just started ripping off as much ginger as I need for a recipe from the big hunks of it at the store.

                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                If I have too much, I grate it and then freeze it in small containers...when defrosted, it goes into the jar of sherry I noted just above. I don't find it loses strength that way.

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                  I am gonna do that.

                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                    I wonder if your sherry tip would work for lemongrass too?

                                                                    When the lemongrass dries out completely, I put it into an electric spice grinder when I'm ready to use it and store any unused powder in a jar.

                                                                    In the Asian supermarkets, they sell grounded lemongrass in the frozen section. You break off a small chunk of it as needed.

                                                                    1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                      worth an experiment, don't you think? This is one of my pet peeves, that we all like enough variety that we tend to accumulate dozens of ingredients that are used so seldom that we throw them out. Why not chop or grind your lemongrass and freeze it in small cubes of water, or even just rough chop and store in a jar of sherry?

                                                              2. How to sauce pasta - saved my mushy pasta dishes

                                                                1. I learned the existence of carbon steel pans. I was using cast iron. Now I love the smooth finish and lighter heft of my deBuyer pan over the Lodge skillet. Still use the cast iron for some things. The carbon steel is my every day pan.

                                                                  1. steaming eggs instead of boiling them for hard "boiled" eggs. They peel like a breeze. Every. Single. Time. and it makes no difference if they are new, old, any size, whatever.

                                                                    I got so frustrated trying to make deviled eggs and they wouldn't peel. No other method worked for me. This method has been perfect and it's so easy!

                                                                    Have learned lots of other stuff too but that was the one that jumped to mind when I saw your topic. :)

                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Scirocco

                                                                      S...I too got that tip, steaming the eggs! it really works...

                                                                      How to make Pepper corn sauce on a NY strip, nice and rare!

                                                                      1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                        Please share the NY strip steak with peppercorn sauce recipe & tips. I used to love it at Raoul's & JS Vandam... decades ago! Now I live in CA and am ready to try making it myself!

                                                                      2. re: Scirocco

                                                                        I missed that tip. Just steam in a regular steamer basket? For how long?

                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                          No, you put them in a saucepan with a lid , cover with water, over medium-high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off heat, leave eggs in pan with lid on and allow to sit for about 15 minutes. The eggs will cook in the steam that is trapped in the pot. Don't peak or the steam will escape.

                                                                          1. re: masha

                                                                            Thanks!

                                                                            1. re: masha

                                                                              Wow I never knew that this was novel, it's how I always make my eggs and just considered it boiling but since you highlighted it I guess when I think about it it's not boiling at all. I always do the same - boil water, lid, sit 10 minutes, run under cold water.

                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                Not only does it make for easy to peel eggs, but you avoid any of the eggshells cracking while they cook, from the eggs bumping as they roll in the boiling water -- so no unsightly egg surfaces from where the whites leaked out of the cracked shells while they cooked.

                                                                              2. re: masha

                                                                                No masha, am talking about actually STEAMING them, not boiling. you put a steamer basket in the pan with a little water. Add as many eggs as you want, put the lid on, once boiling, cook for as long as it takes for hard-boiled. for me, it's about 12 mins maybe a little more - will depend on your stove. take them off, cool under running water and peel.

                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777314

                                                                                1. re: Scirocco

                                                                                  Sorry, for the misinformation. Never tried it that way. My method is also steaming them, but without the basket (and turning off the heat once they come to a boil).

                                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                                    but aren't you covering them with water in your method?

                                                                                    1. re: Scirocco

                                                                                      Point taken.

                                                                                2. re: masha

                                                                                  I put them in my rice steamer for 20 minutes. No water. No boiling. Shells peel right off.

                                                                                  1. re: AngelaID

                                                                                    Interesting...

                                                                            2. This tag line from a local radio station sums up Chowhound perfectly:

                                                                              "you learn more here by accident than elsewhere by design"

                                                                              My thanks to everyone here for a lifetime's worth of knowledge.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Pwmfan

                                                                                +1 well said, my thanks as well

                                                                                1. re: Pwmfan

                                                                                  That's the reason for my avatar.

                                                                                2. There's no one tip I can point to but many have been helpful. I've been encouraged to get over my guilt of using bacon fat. I've been encouraged to make more things from scratch than rely on store-bought prepared items. My almost Depression-Era phobia of waste has been affirmed.

                                                                                  But most of all it's the aggregated support I get. So many Chowhounds have encouraged me to keep things simple and take it easy and not take myself so seriously. The above-mentioned late, great Sam was superb at doing that in a very kindly fashion. I'd like to mention other great Chowhounds but I can't 'cause I know I'll forget at least one or two and don't wanna hurt any feelings.

                                                                                  I've been away for awhile and I'm glad to be back and interact with the great old gang -- and several wonderful new Chowhounds!

                                                                                  1. One or two people posted exactly how to heat an iron skillet first, test the hot surface with a drop of cold water and know when the water balls on the surface, then you put your cooking oil in and begin your saute.

                                                                                    I learned a lot about old cast iron skillets, and I bought 4 of them.

                                                                                    I asked for help in choosing stainless flatware, and received a lot of advice, including to buy from Silver Superstore online. I did and I am glad.

                                                                                    Some kind soul posted how to poach an egg in the microwave.

                                                                                    There have been so many other things! I believe I started posting here about 10 years ago. I am eternally grateful to everyone who posted good tips and advice.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                      Yes! How to season and use a cast iron! I would be lost without this site and now my cast iron is in the daily rotation as it's no longer a pain to use and deal with.

                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                        4, wow. You jump right in with both feet!!

                                                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                          I bow to you regarding your posts on seasoning CI skillets! After reading your posts, I got the courage to strip one of mine and go for it. Thanks so much.

                                                                                        2. It probably wasn't me, but that's what I do, too! Great tip.

                                                                                          1. How to cook an outstanding rib roast--thanks Fourunder!

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: blaireso

                                                                                              Fourunder's posts on rib roasts are how I found (and got hooked on) Chowhound!

                                                                                            2. I have especially appreciated being able to consult, al instante, with cooking professionals who can explain to me the theory and chemistry of what I am attempting. For example, my ginger syrup was going to sugar in the refrigerator. I was using too high a proportion of sugar to water. Problem solved.

                                                                                              1. There are several. What comes to mind bec I use on a regular basis is how to make croissants (Thanks Ralph at Adagio!) and homemade vanilla. This is why I love Chowhound!