22 Brutally Honest "Cooking Secrets" That People Would Love To Keep Hidden

We all have our fair share of secrets, and if you like to cook, chances are you have a few "I'll never tell" tricks you rely upon in the kitchen. So, redditor u/itszacharyy asked: "What's your dirty [cooking] secret you'll take to your grave?" Here's what people said:

1."I worked at a family Italian restaurant long ago, and they had a mac and cheese on the menu for kids. But people liked it so much they (adults) were ordering off the kid's menu, subbing it in as a side, etc. So they just went ahead and put a 'baked' version on the main menu and sold it for about triple the price. It was just a bit of reduced heavy cream and a slice of American cheese melted with penne pasta. The baked version had sprinkled breadcrumbs over the top and briefly went into the pizza oven."

A close-up view of cooked penne pasta in a pot
Nenov / Getty Images

2."I did the catering for a close friend's wedding. She asked for a mashed potato bar, amongst other things, so fast-forward to the wedding day, and I am so far behind it's not even funny. I admit that it was poor time management. At this point, I had no choice. I used the industrial-size box of potato flakes and doctored it up. At the reception, the bride and her mother came up and thanked me for going through all the trouble of making homemade mashed potatoes, just like grandma used to make. They loved them. So, for some reason, I said it was my grandma's recipe that she passed down to me. They still talk about my magical potatoes."


3."My mom's cousin makes great fudge every holiday season. During the pandemic, when we were apart, I asked for the recipe. I was stunned when she told me the recipe was on the Kraft marshmallow jar."

Two pieces of chocolate brownie in a clear plastic container, with a shiny chocolate glaze on top
Penpak Ngamsathain / Getty Images

4."I use smoked cheese in place of bacon in my pasta. I'm vegetarian, but my husband isn't. He asks me if I've added bacon when all I use is smoked Gouda."


5."The secret to my beloved gravy is that it’s just heavy cream and browning with a bit of salt and pepper."

A partially filled blue pot on a stove with a fork stirring a light brown gravy or sauce
Jeff R Clow / Getty Images

6."I've read all the advice on cleaning, using, storing, maintaining, and re-seasoning my cast iron pans. I ignore it all. I'm not doing anything I should be doing, but they somehow keep working."


7."I used to work at a fancy white tablecloth restaurant that charged $16 for a bowl of soup. Guests would brag about how our soup of the day was always the most incredible and that our chef was some kind of soup genius. It was always some variant of Campbell's with some herbs and spices thrown into it. Throw some dried fennel and cream in some Campbell's tomato soup, and people will lose their minds."

A bowl of tomato soup garnished with chopped fresh herbs

8."I make a killer banana pudding. It’s the one dessert that I am asked to make over and over again, and it always gets rave reviews. It’s the recipe from the Nilla wafer box."


9."I made 'chocolate mousse' for a work thing for my husband when we were young and broke. It was pudding with whipped cream folded into it. It's what we used to put out on the KFC buffet when I worked there way back when."

A close-up view of a glass cup filled with rich, creamy chocolate ice cream, placed on a wooden table, with a spoon dipped into the ice cream
T Sableaux / Getty Images

10."My coconut lime cupcakes are a staple at summer parties, and they're one of my most frequently requested desserts. I'm typically an 'everything from scratch' type of cook, but these cupcakes are just boxed vanilla cake mix; I only use fresh lime juice in place of the water. I do make the coconut frosting myself, though."


11."Everyone asks for my 'homemade' chicken noodle soup when they're sick, but it's literally just a bag of Voila! skillet garlic chicken from the freezer section thrown into some boiling boxed pho stock with a chunk of good butter."

Spoonful of chicken noodle soup with carrots and celery, held over a bowl of soup in the background
Jena Ardell / Getty Images

12."I use two large packs of ranch powder mix in my pot roast and a heavy dose of Dijon mustard. When people say my pot roast is soooo flavorful and ask me how I do it, I just respond and tell them it's 'just my special recipe.'"


13."Everyone raved about my grandma’s mac 'n' cheese. One day, she asked me if I wanted to know where she got the recipe from. Turns out, it was from the back of the elbow macaroni box."

A plate of mac and cheese with a breadcrumb topping, sitting on a wooden table beside a fork and napkin
Ezumeimages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

14."When I make a boxed mix, I use half oil and half butter. The oil makes a moister cake, and the butter imparts a better flavor. I also add two tablespoons of whole milk powder. Together, it's like MSG for sweets."


15."I use vanilla or plain full-fat yogurt in my bathing mixture for French toast instead of milk. It turns out perfectly every time."

Close-up of three slices of French toast on a plate, with a pat of butter on top. The toast appears golden and crispy
Hiroyuki Nakai / Getty Images

16."That fish sauce on my counter that you said 'eeeewwwwww' to gets added to far more dishes than you'd think, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner."


17."My mom made cheesecake for a cookout once that everyone absolutely raved about. When someone asked for the recipe, she told them it was a family secret. Except it wasn’t. It was a tub of Philadelphia cheesecake filling and a store-bought crust she hid in a nice pie pan."

A partially eaten slice of creamy, baked cheesecake with a crumbly crust, showcasing its smooth texture and rich layers
Eduardo R / Getty Images

18."We asked my grandma for her pumpkin pie recipe during COVID so we could replicate it, to which she replied, 'It's the one on the can. It's always the one from the can or the box for my stuff. That way, once I'm dead and gone, you all can keep enjoying my food.' That woman is a damn genius."


19."One restaurant I worked in is famous for its chicken salad. The only thing that made it different from what you'd make at home was the absolutely obscene amount of Duke’s mayo and a required resting period of at least six hours."

Close-up of a toasted sandwich with a creamy filling containing visible pieces of vegetables
Little Hand Images / Getty Images

20."My catering dirty secret. I used melted French vanilla ice cream when plating up 80 servings of chocolate torte for a banquet. The crème anglaise had a whoopsie when we were setting up. It happens."


21."My spinach dip is made with leek mix. It's still a Knorr's packet at the end of the day, but the flavor has much more depth than just spinach or a vegetable dip packet."

A bowl of spinach and artichoke dip is placed next to a plate of tortilla chips
Sarah Heinitz / Getty Images

22."I work at a pizza joint, and people rave about our ranch dressing. It's a Hidden Valley packet mixed with buttermilk and mayo."


So, what's your dirty little kitchen secret that you'd be hesitant to admit to anyone about your cooking? Tell us in the comments or add it to this anonymous form.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.