One of the best things about cooking is that whether you're a novice or a seasoned chef, there are always new techniques and tricks to learn. So redditor u/MysteriousNeck asked, "What's your weird but life-changing cooking hack?" Here's what people said.
1."I melt butter in my homemade tomato sauce. Even if a recipe doesn't call for it, a bit of butter leaves your sauce with a lovely, extra creamy flavor and texture."
2."I add an extra egg and substitute melted butter for the oil when making cake from boxed mix. It's a long-time hack used by cake decorators and produces really amazing baked goods from cheap boxed mix."
3."When I cook ground beef (or any ground meat) in a skillet I use a potato masher to break it up in the skillet. It cooks perfectly and evenly in about 10 seconds."
4."I use lemon zest in so many recipes to give it a vibrant zing. I'll grate a little over salads, pastas, even sandwiches."
5."Using baking soda to make a quick marinade. A small amount of baking soda does some amazing things to meat...just make sure not to overdo it. Also, if you soak cheap cuts of beef in baking soda and water for about 30 minutes before marinating they will become so tender."
6."Using a chicken stock cube (Knorr if I’m feeling fancy, but usually those cheap $1 boxes) in my pasta water while the pasta cooks. It has two benefits: First it flavors the pasta water and adds umami when you use that starchy water for your sauce. It also makes your pasta itself taste extra delicious."
7."Whenever you're making breadcrumbs from scratch, toast the crumbs in a pan along with a small amount of oil and chopped garlic and herbs. Then use those garlic and herb-infused breadcrumbs to cook whatever it is you're making from chicken cutlets to meatballs."
8."Using a waffle maker to make a bunch of foods that aren't waffles. Think: hash browns mixed with avocado and cheese, paninis, cinnamon rolls from a can, and more. I’m certainly not the first to discover the many uses of a waffle iron, but I’ve tried making many things in it."
9."If you're ready to bake and realize your butter is too cold, grate it using a microplane or cheese grater. It almost immediately thaws."
10."When I make a boxed chocolate cake or brownies I substitute cool brewed coffee for the water. I find it makes the flavor so much richer."
11."I keep knobs of ginger in the freezer and use a microplane or grater to shred the frozen ginger into sauces, fried rice, and more."
12."When you're making a melt or panini, toast the bread first. Toasted bread stays much crisper and doesn't get soggy when you add tuna, condiments, or other ingredients."
13."It may seem counterintuitive, but adding a little extra salt in desserts like cookies, brownies, pies, and even cakes brings out the sweetness while simultaneously prevents it from tasting cloyingly sweet."
14."Elevate your simple buttered noodles with a little white miso paste and a fresh parmesan. Egg noodles in particular taste especially delicious when prepared this way."
15."Everyone knows that toasted bread crumbs on mac 'n' cheese are great, but here's a trick you maybe haven't tried: Bake the bread crumbs separately from the mac 'n' cheese (just enough to get them nice and toasty). Then you can sprinkle it on top of the noodles. You get more coverage on your mac 'n' cheese and the bread crumbs achieve peak crispiness."
16."Substitute some of the liquid in Belgian waffles with seltzer or some other carbonated beverage like ginger ale. The result: super airy, fluffy waffles."
17."I make roux with melted butter and flour in a mug in the microwave when I need something for last-minute thickening. It usually takes just a minute to get golden and works like a charm."
18."When making burgers or meatloaf, combine a slice of bread with milk to make a sludge. Then mix it into your meat and cook. It makes the beef taste incredibly tender."
19."Pop a ball of mozzarella in the freezer for an hour or two before you need it. It makes it so much easier to shred (and doesn't clog up your grater) when making pasta, pizza, lasagna, and more."
20."If you’re making a dish that relies heavily on spices for seasoning, toast the spices before adding them to the recipe to bloom them. You only need to cook them in a pan until fragrant (which takes about 30 seconds to a minute). This quick step vastly improves their taste and amplifies the flavor so you can use less."
21."I use olive, caper, or pickle brine to add flavor to a lot of savory dishes like casserole, tuna salad, soup/stew, vinaigrette, and more. Just a small amount adds a nice depth of flavor."
22."I mix miso and butter into a paste and put it onto pretty much any vegetables before roasting them. It takes plain old veggies to the next level."
23."If you’re making sushi rice (aka sticky rice), it’s usually better to not rinse the rice all the way through (or sometimes even at all). Cooked this way and combined with rice vinegar, it will be much stickier and more like the sushi rice you’re used to eating at restaurants."
24."You can shred chicken so easily using a stand mixer. I buy rotisserie chicken from Costco each week and shred it in a stand mixer. Then I use it for soups, salads, and fried rice throughout the week."
25."Whenever I bake I grease my pans, but instead of using flour to coat it I use granulated sugar. It makes the edges sweet and crunchy, and saves me from needing to use icing or frosting."
26."I mix some soy sauce into beaten eggs when I'm making scrambled eggs and it adds good flavor. If you add some toasted sesame oil and a dash of smoked paprika, scrambled eggs begin to taste almost like bacon."
27."Most people soak seeds or nuts before roasting them because it softens the shells and allows them to get crispier. My trick: Soak nuts and seeds in tea. Of course, there is a huge variety of different teas so you can get creative. The tea enhances the flavor of the seeds/nuts and makes them even tastier."
28."I use kitchen scissors instead of a knife whenever possible. This is is a common trick in Korean households. When we first started dating, my now-husband was blown away by how much easier it is to cut things like pizza, chicken, and fresh herbs with shears."
29."Whenever I'm making a cheese sauce I add a piece of processed cheese like Kraft singles. It basically turns it into Velveeta. It’s revolutionized my homemade mac 'n' cheese game.
30."Add a splash of orange juice to tomato soup. The acidity really brightens the flavors. I learned this trick at a restaurant where they made tomato soup this way and it was so delicious."
31."I add a splash of vinegar to the water I'm using to boil potatoes for potato salad. Or I'll add baking soda to the water to boil potatoes before roasting them."
32.And finally, "For the best fried rice, use pre-cooked rice that's been sitting in the fridge overnight. Leftover rice doesn't stick together in the skillet or wok when you fry it, and the final result tastes more like takeout."
What are your most unexpected cooking tips — a surprising ingredient or technique that makes a big difference in your home cooking? Tell us in the comments.
Some of these submissions have been edited for length and clarity.