From Z to A: My Top 10 Kitchen Hacks

I know I share plenty of recipes here, but this month I really wanted to help you in the kitchen without actually having to be there. The best way to do that is share my top time- and money-saving tips and hacks for the kitchen. So without further ado, here are my favorite tips and tricks for the kitchen.

  1. Heating pad: Did you know that sometimes I cheat when I’m making my homemade doughs? I’ll do anything to cut down on waiting around time. I learned this trick a long time ago from a friend who was perfecting his pizza dough. He was having to run through recipes pretty quickly, so he’d use a heating pad under the bowl while the dough was rising to heat it up. Use this fun little tip next time you need to rush your dough. Use the lowest setting and place your covered bowl directly on top.

  2. Stand mixer: The stand mixer is such a powerful tool for all my baking needs, but did you know I use it on the regular for shredding cooked, boneless chicken? You just place the cooked chicken (and it can be hot, too, since that’s usually when it’s the hardest to handle), then use your paddle attachment and shred away! Just keep an eye on it because too much power will turn your chicken to mush, which is totally fine if you’re using it for chicken salad or a dumpling filling.

  3. Egg cartons: Did you know you can save bacon grease? Yeah, you probably knew that. But, did you know that if you pour your cooled bacon grease in the styrofoam egg carton pockets, you can store them in your freezer for later? For this tip, after you pour the cooled bacon grease into the little egg compartments, place the entire carton in the fridge until the grease hardens. Then pop them out and place them in a large Ziploc bag for the freezer for later use.

  4. Boiled bacon: Speaking of bacon grease, you probably have to cook some bacon first to get the grease. The best way to cook bacon is on a sheet pan in your oven so the splatters don’t get you. But, did you know if you boil your bacon a little before it cooks, it’ll yield crispier bacon? To try this tip, line a baking sheet with all your bacon slices, then pour in a little water — enough to barely come up to the bacon — and then cook at 375 degrees until nice and crispy.

  5. Cheese grater: I often grate my own cheese, but it took me entirely too long to learn that I should be spraying the cheese grater with a cooking oil before grating (especially softer cheeses) to prevent the cheese from sticking to it! This tip has saved me a lot of time and agony.

  6. Green onions: One thing I almost never need a full bunch of, yet have to buy, is a bunch of green onions. I try to regrow them myself when possible, but sometimes I buy the bunch, use half of it and have to throw out the rest because it went bad. But after this tip, I’m able to chop the entire bunch, funnel it into an empty water bottle (or another container of your choosing) and save it in the freezer for later use.

  7. Tasting spoon: This might seem like the most common sense and “duh” moment, but you’d be shocked at how many people don’t think to do this. If you’ve ever made a dish and felt like it was lacking something to pull it all together, but don’t want to ruin the entire batch, take out a large spoonful of your dish and add what you think the missing ingredient is to just the spoonful and taste it. If it’s the taste you’re looking for, then go ahead and add it to the rest of the batch. If not, you just saved your entire dish.

  8. Onions: They make us cry, but are so very necessary in cooking — well, at least my cooking. Popping onions in the fridge the night before using them really helps lower the intensity of the fumes that make you cry. If you forgot to put it in the fridge the night before, you can still use the freezer for a few minutes to help even just a little. Speaking of the freezer, if I’m cutting onions, I like to go ahead and chop up a bigger batch than I need and put them in a Ziploc bag for easier use the next time I need them.

  9. Soups and stews: If there is anything you need to thicken, sometimes our brains automatically go to adding flour or cornstarch. However, in certain soups and stews (that won’t be affected by the addition of this ingredient), adding in instant mashed potatoes usually does the trick. I like to keep a box of instant mashed potatoes on hand for this trick as well as using it to coat chicken cutlets before frying.

  10. Meat books: I love storing bulk meat like books on a shelf. However, you can’t just do that when the meat is still in the styrofoam package and in the fridge. To help me save time later, I divide bulk ground beef into large freezer-safe Ziploc bags and roll them flat. Then I place them in a stack on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once they’re frozen, I line them standing up in a magazine organizer. This may seem so time consuming, but I promise you this is the one huge hack that has saved me so much time and money. I don’t have to defrost three pounds of meat when I need only one pound, and because the packets are so thin, they thaw out in minutes and I can get to cooking.

Happy cooking friends! I really hope these tips and tricks help you be the best you can be in your kitchen. And, if you want to see some of these tips in action, plus lots of recipes, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Tiktok.


From Z to A with Zara Abbasi

Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit and on Tiktok at @happiestfoodonearth.

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