Six Handy Kitchen Hacks
I am not a professional cook. Unlike Seema and Sophie, I’m not on the MOB Kitchen payroll because of my astonishing culinary skills or my brilliant presence in front of the camera. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why I’m on the MOB Kitchen payroll, to be honest, but if you won’t tell, I won’t either.
One of the symptoms of being an amateur cook surrounded by much more talented people is that I’m always looking for ways to cut corners and save myself time and faff in the kitchen. I may not be a better cook than your average Joe, but I can damn well try and make a meal quicker than they can and use a lot less brainpower while doing so. That’s why I’m perennially excited by the idea of kitchen hacks and ways to improve my cooking with a few simple and quick fixes. I thought I’d share a few of the handy kitchen hacks I’ve learned over the years with you, too. Because we could all use a little help, right?
Tip #1 – Add Baking Soda To Your Roast Potatoes
This genius technique has come to be known as the "López-Alt method" due to the fact that it’s been widely popularised by recipe man and all-around kitchen wizard, J. Kenji Lopez Alt. Kenji's recipe for the best roast potatoes ever is a classic but the biggest takeaway from it is how Kengi recommends you boil your potatoes in baking soda-laced water. Doing that helps to break down the outer layer of the potatoes and provides you with a lot more surface area to make them all crisp and craggy when you roast them. Not only is this kitchen hack super easy and affordable but it’s super rewarding, too. I mean, who doesn’t love crispy roast potatoes?
Tip #2 – Add Anchovies Or Fish Sauce To Your Bolognese
A good spag bolly is a deceptively difficult dish to master and everyone’s got their own special tips and tricks when it comes to making the perfect ragù. Adding whole milk is a great way to add some richness and body to your sauce but my own personal hack is this: add a tin of anchovies or a splash of fish sauce to your sauce. Don’t worry, this won’t make your bolognese taste like the deep blue sea, it’ll simply add an umami and savoury edge to your sauce that’ll have people asking “so what was the recipe for this, again?” throughout the entire meal.
Tip #3 – Cook Your Rice And Pasta In Stock
I’m not joking when I say that pasta and rice helped get me through university better than all of my personal tutors combined. Having a bag of either on hand means you’re never far from a satisfying meal but I'll be the first to admit that something rice and pasta tend to lack is excitement and flavour. Especially when they’re on their own. One of the ways to remedy this, and add some instant punch to your tagliatelle or Tilda, is by cooking them in stock. Doing that allows your carbohydrate to soak up some of that salty, stocky goodness and means you’re left with a far more flavourful plate of food. Even if you’re going to be pairing your rice with a homemade curry, cooking it in stock beforehand just makes it… better. Give it a whirl and report back to me ASAP. It’s a game-changer.
Tip #4 – Cut Your Food With Scissors
If you’re already using a pair of scissors to cut up everything from a roast chicken to a cheesy quesadilla: fantastic, keep up the good work. If you’re not already manning a pair of scissors in the kitchen like you’re Edward Scissorhands: why not? Scissors are an excellent tool for cutting through a variety of different foods and can make tasks like cutting spring onions over in a snip. Pun intended. Just don’t go using any arts and crafts-type scissors or anything like that. These OXO Good Grips won’t cost you the world and you’ll more than get your money’s worth out of them. Fun kitchen hack fact: while a pizza cutter works best for segmenting a pizza (that’s sort of why they were invented) a humble pair of scissors does a far better job than a knife.
Tip #5 – Save Your Parmesan Rinds
Getting intimate with your freezer is an excellent way to help save on food waste and fix yourself a quick meal when you’re pushed for time. One of the surprising kitchen hacks that I’ve found myself turning to recently is freezing my leftover parmesan rinds. I know that makes me sound like I’m some sort of dairy product hoarder but a parmesan rind bunged in a sauce is an instant way to add an extra dimension of umami to a dish; it can turn a soup or sauce into something special if you let it simmer in there for a while. The next time you’re thinking of chucking that rind out, consider putting it in a Ziploc bag and chucking it in your freezer instead. You’ll never know when it might come in handy.
Tip #6 – Microwave Your Potatoes
I started off this list of simple kitchen hacks with a potato hack and I’ll damn well finish this list of simple kitchen hacks with a potato hack. The microwave is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated cooking devices out there (seriously) and it’s excellent at efficiently cooking potatoes. All you've got to do is stab a potato ruthlessly – like it just slept with your fiancé – and give it a 15-minute treatment in the microwave before you bake it to pretty much halve your overall cooking time and guarantee yourself perfect baked potatoes each and every time. Dave Chang even makes mashed potatoes in the microwave. And if it’s good enough for Dave Chang, it’s good enough for you, buddy.