57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now

Photo by David Cicconi, food styling by Kemp Minifie, prop styling by Brian Heiser

13. Buy parchment paper.

What else are you going to roast your vegetables on? How else are you going to make quick dinners of fish en papillote?

14. Stock up on super-cheap, random cuts of meat.

A freezer full of roasted turkey necks and bony beef cuts will ensure you always have what you need to make broth.

15. Keep your parmesan rinds and freeze them for later.

Remember that thing about super-cheap cuts of meat? Think of rinds as cheese bones.

16. Buy a new kitchen sponge.

Existential question time. If your sponge is filthy and smells, how can you expect it get your dishes clean?

17. Put the lid on the pot to make your water boil faster.

Seems obvious, but if you don’t know, now you know.

18. Dry your salad greens using a kitchen towel.

Salad spinners? So bulky and annoying. Instead, pile your just-washed greens into a clean dish towel, gather it by the ends, and swing that sucker around until your salad is dry (or your arm is tired).

19. Save the schmaltz.

Chicken fat is amazing stuff, whether you’re frying onions in it, sautéing greens in it or spreading it on toast. So after eating your roast chicken dinner, drain the now-cooled liquid fat into a plastic container and store it in your freezer. (Pro tip: This also holds true for bacon fat.)

20. Use a garbage bowl.

Hat tip to Rachael Ray. Buy a large bowl and keep it at the ready to fill up with egg shells and other trash generated while cooking.

Photo by Charles Masters, food styling by Suzanne Lenzer

21. Buy a new Y peeler.

Like anecdotes about high school football games, peelers get dull, especially after a couple years. We recommend the Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler, which is just seven bucks.

22. Find the biggest mixing bowl you can and buy it.

You cannot toss a salad or mix cookies or make meatballs in a tiny cereal bowl. All you can do is make a bigger mess.

23. Avoid evil glass cutting boards.

And they’re all evil. Glass cutting boards send shivers down your spine when you use them. They dull your knives. They’re slippery. And they’re hard to use. Use wood, bamboo or plastic instead.

24. Buy two loaves of that awesome bread and freeze one.

Bread keeps really well in the freezer. And there are always plenty of uses for it. Just remember: Air is the enemy! Wrap that loaf in foil (sliced or unsliced) and put it in a freezer bag before stashing.

25. Stop crowding your pans.

Food that’s crowded into a cast-iron skillet or sheet tray gets steamed—and soggy—instead of crisp.

26. Toast your spices…

A quick stint in a dry skillet over medium heat wakes dry spices up and releases their oils, which means your paprika will taste a lot more paprika-y. Use whole spices, watch the pan like a hawk, and stir constantly until the spices are fragrant, then transfer to a plate to cool before using.

27. …and your nuts.

“These nuts are too crunchy,” said nobody ever.

28. …and also your grains.

It’s the first step to building roasty, warm flavor. (Using quinoa? Toast it before you rinse it.)

29. Season (some of) your vegetables with sugar.

Carrots, squash, tomatoes—these vegetables have a natural sweetness that’s enhanced by a dash (just a dash!) of sugar.

30. Don’t be afraid to set off the smoke alarm.

Especially when cooking meat. Smoke equals char, and char is delicious.

31. Put a damp paper or kitchen towel under your cutting board.

That way, your board won’t slip around as you chop.

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