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Kitchen Hacks


smokinjoe
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I am not a natural cook.  I’m not a foody.  I grilled steaks so poorly for so long that I don’t even know why I eat steak now.  I’ve learned a lot over the years about food, cooking, smoking, etc, through friends, associates, and y’all here on these boards, and I’ve gotten better.  Perhaps, more can be learned  here.  So, I thought it would be a good thread to share:

 

What is is your favorite kitchen hack you have?  Kitchen, grilling, smoking, prep, utensils, anything.  
 

I’ll submit this:  I admit that this was given to me from BigRich, but I have used it so successfully and have shared it so many times, it’s like it’s my own!  😂

 

The Hack:  Particularly useful during a big event like Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., when making a large batch of mashed potatoes is very difficult when so many other things are going on, and you can’t keep them moist and soft for much time.   Solution is to cook, mash and whip the taters in the morning (hours before the kitchen gets crazy), and then put them in a crock pot on warm.  They’ll stay perfectly good, soft, moist, and delicious, for 4,5,6+ hours, and be great like just made when the meal is finally ready to be served.  Throw in a big hunk (full stick for us 😋) on top too, if you like.  Best hack I know.  
 

Whadda you got?

Edited by smokinjoe
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From my own experiences, I really can’t offer much.  But, there are two things I swear on in my food making.  Both, are either Costco or Sam’s Club staples.  I see many of you using them, BTW.  I keep a steady and full supply of foil boats on hand.  The club stores sell them in multi packs.  About 8X10X5 for most, and only my Sam’s carries the 4X10X5.  These are good for smaller stuff.  Both are cheap and good utensils for food prep, cooking, temporary food storage, marinating, and all kinds of things in the kitchen.  

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Need to give this some thought. May have a better tip later. 
 

Right now, best I can come up with is proper seasoning. Whether it be S&P, S,P,&G, or some other combination of seasoning. What to season, when to season, how much to season. When to wet brine, dry brine,, how long, etc.

 

if I have time and room in fridge, I wet brine whole Turkey or whole chicken for at least 24 hrs. Chicken pieces and other meats I dry brine at least 12 hrs and up to 36 hrs.

 

Proper brining and proper seasoning makes a big difference.

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Whenever I make chili or anything with beans, I always start with dried beans, never canned beans anymore.

Most of the time I use the crockpot.  Mine has a removable ceramic pot (another good tip).

Rinse and soak the beans in cold water overnight.  In the morning drain and add fresh water.  Turn on the heat.  I prefer high for the first hour or so to get it started, then turn it down.  When I start the beans, I add a pinch of salt.  After about six hours on low, check a bean for doneness.  When they are soft enough, you can start adding the other ingredients.

 

One thing you must never do is add tomato (or other acidic ingredient) before the beans are soft in texture.

 

Also, I've found it very handy to keep a supply of frozen bell peppers and onions for various recipes handy.

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1 hour ago, PaulO said:

Whenever I make chili or anything with beans, I always start with dried beans, never canned beans anymore.

Most of the time I use the crockpot.  Mine has a removable ceramic pot (another good tip).

Rinse and soak the beans in cold water overnight.  In the morning drain and add fresh water.  Turn on the heat.  I prefer high for the first hour or so to get it started, then turn it down.  When I start the beans, I add a pinch of salt.  After about six hours on low, check a bean for doneness.  When they are soft enough, you can start adding the other ingredients.

 

One thing you must never do is add tomato (or other acidic ingredient) before the beans are soft in texture.

 

Also, I've found it very handy to keep a supply of frozen bell peppers and onions for various recipes handy.

Cool topic and I’ll have to think more, but I have a hack on this hack. If you have an instant pot you can do the dried beans without even soaking overnight! I generally google for recommend times then subtract a minute or two as I prefer the beans a bit “al dente”

 

Did a batch of chick peas last week. 42 min on high and 10 min pressure release. Came out perfect. 

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True, I've heard about and tried the same day cook the dried beans/other legumes.  It is possible.  I'm kind of set in my ways with the overnight soak the dried beans in water.  My exceptions are for the smaller seeds like lentils or split peas.

 

Stuff that is canned typically has a lot of salt added.  That's just one reason to cook from scratch.  No doubt taste and texture will be better too.

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8 hours ago, PaulO said:

True, I've heard about and tried the same day cook the dried beans/other legumes.  It is possible.  I'm kind of set in my ways with the overnight soak the dried beans in water.  My exceptions are for the smaller seeds like lentils or split peas.

 

Stuff that is canned typically has a lot of salt added.  That's just one reason to cook from scratch.  No doubt taste and texture will be better too.

I'm from that same school about beans soaking over night, and I grew up in navy bean country.

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This is the A#1 top tip/advice that I can give you.

 

COOK TO TEMP!

 

 Buy a high quality instant-read thermometer, (I own a Thermapen Mark IV and a Thermapen One)* and cook to temp.  With rare exceptions, always cook to temp.  You will never overcook, or undercook, anything again with high quality thermometers.   I've gifted thermometers to friends and family and it's kicked up their cooking games.

A quality remote thermometer with leave-in probes is also essential.

 

Another tip....Faux Cambro.  Google it.    In a nutshell, you can hold cooked meat, safely, for hours in a cooler full of towels.   This can be a lifesaver when cooking for a crowd.  As you know, when smoking meat, it can take a looooooooooooooong time.     I usually start them way before I think that they'll be done and hold them in the cambro.    The meat stays piping hot for hours and as long as the food temp is in the safe zone, (140 degrees or higher), you're good to go.     A bonus is that it gives you all the time you need to the the sides, so you can time everything to be served together.

 

*pricy, but worth every penny.   The amount of money that you save by not ruining expensive cuts of meat, by overcooking will pay for itself.

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When making stuffed mushrooms. Cook them resting on a muffin tray. They will sink into the tray forming cups instead of flattening. Added bonus is the moisture is better retained. Which lends itself to a better texture.

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5 hours ago, Skinsfan1311 said:

This is the A#1 top tip/advice that I can give you.

 

COOK TO TEMP!

 

 Buy a high quality instant-read thermometer, (I own a Thermapen Mark IV and a Thermapen One)* and cook to temp.  With rare exceptions, always cook to temp.  You will never overcook, or undercook, anything again with high quality thermometers.   I've gifted thermometers to friends and family and it's kicked up their cooking games.

A quality remote thermometer with leave-in probes is also essential.

 

Another tip....Faux Cambro.  Google it.    In a nutshell, you can hold cooked meat, safely, for hours in a cooler full of towels.   This can be a lifesaver when cooking for a crowd.  As you know, when smoking meat, it can take a looooooooooooooong time.     I usually start them way before I think that they'll be done and hold them in the cambro.    The meat stays piping hot for hours and as long as the food temp is in the safe zone, (140 degrees or higher), you're good to go.     A bonus is that it gives you all the time you need to the the sides, so you can time everything to be served together.

 

*pricy, but worth every penny.   The amount of money that you save by not ruining expensive cuts of meat, by overcooking will pay for itself.

Nice recommendation.  Definitely, my must challenging part of doing a meal when we’re just not doing Grab & Growl, is getting the timing right.  I tend to get all testy, which leads to yelling and high anxiety, which leads to drinking more bourbon, which leads….never mind, I’m good…🤣

No seriously, that Cambro idea sounds like a winner!

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16 hours ago, smokinjoe said:

Nice recommendation.  Definitely, my must challenging part of doing a meal when we’re just not doing Grab & Growl, is getting the timing right.  I tend to get all testy, which leads to yelling and high anxiety, which leads to drinking more bourbon, which leads….never mind, I’m good…🤣

No seriously, that Cambro idea sounds like a winner!

The Cambro does relieve the timing anxiety. 

 

BBQ is an, (somewhat), inexact science.  There's a comfort level knowing that everything will be ready to serve at the same time.  That's huge, especially for holiday gatherings and timing those birds or large hunks of meat.   

 

As far as temps go, I cannot overemphasize the need to have at least two high-quality thermometers.  One digital leave-in and one instant-read.     Once you have a good instant-read, you'll find yourself using it all the time and wonder how you've gotten by without it.   Every person that I've gifted one to, including the best cook in the world, (Mom😊), has echoed that sentiment.  

 

My ultimate goal, (other than making and serving great food), is to keep everything simple enough that I can do it while drinking as much bourbon as I'd like,(without screwing it up).  The Cambro and thermometers help me achieve that goal 😉

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Thought of a good one.
 

If you’re looking to make Philly cheese steaks or something similar go shop at the Asian grocery for the meat. Almost all of them sell presliced rib-eye in nice uniform deli meat type slices at a reasonable price so all you have to do is salt/season then get on the hot griddle. 

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Speaking of steak, not really sure it's a hack but grilling them first on cast iron to get a nice crush then finish cooking them internally in the oven.

 

I swear, it's like Ruth's Chris every time, makes even shoe leather steaks taste unbelievable.

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On 6/15/2022 at 6:23 PM, PhantomLamb said:

Speaking of steak, not really sure it's a hack but grilling them first on cast iron to get a nice crush then finish cooking them internally in the oven.

 

I swear, it's like Ruth's Chris every time, makes even shoe leather steaks taste unbelievable.

Sounds interesting.  So how long and what oven temperture do you go with?

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20 minutes ago, TunnelTiger said:

Sounds interesting.  So how long and what oven temperture do you go with?

It’s been a while, and I think it depends on the cut. I have to look up what the internal temp is supposed to get up, I think the last time was 350 degrees until internal temp was prime for rare/medium-rare. YMMV.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My fastidiousness in regards to careful and clean food prep, particularly meats, borders on full bore total analness…😁 I used to use the vinyl or nitrile gloves, but I may run through 7-8-10 pairs during a cook, like today’s brisket.  Problem with the vinyl/nitrile gloves is that they can be a bitch to get on and off, as well as costly.   Sam’s Club carries the food service gloves in 3 box packages of 500 each.  They are big and loose fitting, so I can whip them on and off quickly, and they’re so cheap, I don’t mind ripping through a dozen, if needed.  

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The crock pot/slow cooker is your friend.
 

In the morning, throw something in, and when you get home from work supper is ready. Even though we’re retired, my wife still uses our crock pot(s) regularly. Last week, my wife put a pork loin roll in the crock pot in the morning. She added a little water, and covered the pork loin roll in Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce. We did some running around, then came home and did some yard work. We got cleaned up, relaxed a bit, and supper was ready. 😁 FWIW, the left over sauce in the crock pot can be used to make a gravy that is great on mashed potatoes. 😋 

 

Todays menu: My wife used our small crock pot for a batch of Buffalo Chicken Dip made with sweet chili hot sauce. Chips and dip at a small family get together. 😎 Happy 4th everyone! 
 

Biba! Joe

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We've even used a crock pot to "do" pulled pork when the weather outside won't cooperate.  Beef short ribs aren't bad, either.  Like you, Joe, we have a LARGE crock pot and a small one, and the small one is perfect for doing dips when more than two people will be dipping OR when cooktop burner space is at a premium.

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In the crock pot today: Small pork chops simmering in teriyaki marinade sauce. :P

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  • 4 weeks later...

Cook corn on the cob in the microwave with shuck still on. Four mins on high. Cut the stalk end off when it's done and the cob slides right out leaving all the silk behind. I shucked and cleaned it, then boiled or roasted corn for years and it would take so much time and didn't taste as good.

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I do this with corn on the cob.  Don't remove the leaves.  Put the whole thing on a grill or in a hot oven.  Turn it at least once.  That vent on top of the oven is the perfect place to put a coffee cup or small bowl with some butter to melt.  When the corn seems done, take it out and pull the leaves back.  It's just like being at the fair.

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  • 2 months later...

How many of y’all sometimes have a little trouble opening bags of chips, snack mix, pretzels, etc? It can sometimes be a pain in the wazoo can’t it? It used to be kind of a running gag to be careful around me when I opened a bag of chips or snack mix because many a time the bag ripped and some of it’s contents spewed out. One time I discovered something completely by accident. I’d grabbed a bag of my favorite snack, Chex Mix, and as I got ready to open it, my wife backed away a little as usual. Surprisingly, it opened quickly and easily with no mess, no fuss, no tear down one side, and no spillage. We looked at each other, then at the bag. It turns out I’d opened the bottom of the bag. We both had a good laugh. The next time I went to open a bag of Chex Mix, my wife told me to hold on a sec. She didn’t say a word. She just came over, took the bag out of my hands, turned it upside down, handed it back to me  and told me to go for it. Bingo! 🥳 Easy peezy. We now open all our bags of chips, snacks and such from the bottom. Works great for us! 😁 Give it a try some time and see what happens. 😉

 

Biba! Joe

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How to cut a bell pepper without the seeds going everywhere and making the most of the flesh...

 

With a sharp knife, cut through the flesh a few millimetres down from the stalk, cutting through the stalk itself, and pop it out of the delicious veggie donut.

 

Cut the small end of the pepper off, and stand it upright.

 

Then slice the sides off, leaving the pith and the seeds in tact. Then plant that in the garden and watch it grow.

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OUTSTANDING!!!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐️ 

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On 7/31/2022 at 10:48 PM, Clueby said:

Cook corn on the cob in the microwave with shuck still on. Four mins on high. Cut the stalk end off when it's done and the cob slides right out leaving all the silk behind. I shucked and cleaned it, then boiled or roasted corn for years and it would take so much time and didn't taste as good.

Just saw this.  AND copied it to print out.  THX!  We have some end of season we can try this on.

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