The kitchen can be a super scary place for a beginner cook, but the truth is, once you know some handy kitchen hacks and have your basics covered, it’s actually pretty easy to be churning out delicious meal after delicious meal.
These handy tips and kitchen hacks will not only help you save time and money in the kitchen, but they will boost your confidence when it comes to knowing a few extra tricks that perhaps even your mother-in-law hadn’t thought about. You’re welcome!
Kitchen hacks every beginner (and every other cook) should know
1. Onions, onions, onions!
They’re used in so many recipes, and they’re a pain to chop. So buy a big bag, slice or dice them up, then pop them in the freezer on a lined baking tray. When they’re frozen, transfer them to a bag (this way they won’t all freeze into a big impossible to separate lump), ready for when you need them.
This saves time on a busy day, and also means you’ll only have one lot of streaming eyes! If you have a food processor, even better! Use that to chop them and feel extremely smug about how efficient you are.
2. Ensure you’re never without eggs.
Crack one (or a few) into a bowl, give it a little whisk, then pour into a freezer bag, date and seal. Freeze and use within six months; just be sure to write down the number of eggs in each bag.
You can also freeze leftover egg whites and yolks in this way (which is very handy after you’ve been making meringues or custard).
3. Slow cookers are a real lifesaver.
Either throw everything in before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning. Eight hours later, you can smile with satisfaction as you dish up your beautifully cooked meal. They’re brilliant for stews and casseroles, but you can also use them for making chilli, flavoursome soup and even lasagne!
4. Be tomato savvy.
If you grow tomatoes or see them on offer in the shops, then buy them in bulk. Just blanche them in simmering water for a few moments before fishing them out with a slotted spoon. Prick them, then carefully peel away the skins before dicing. Bag up and freeze. You can then make pasta sauces or pizza toppings in minutes with your frozen tomatoes.
Or go one step further and make homemade tomato sauce for freezing. Future you will be so grateful you did!
5. Plan ahead.
Writing a weekly menu helps to cut down on food wastage, and saves you time. List all the meals you’ll be cooking for the upcoming 7 days, then the ingredients you need to buy, and stick to it.
Not only will you be sorted for the week, but it’s a great opportunity to try out new recipes and look through old cookbooks. Use our basic shopping list as your starting point.
6. Love your leftovers.
Unwanted mashed potato can be used for fish cakes, while leftover mince can be made into sausage rolls or meatballs. Stir peas or other green vegetables into a risotto.
7. Cook in batches.
Making big batches of things like bolognese sauce is a life saver; just double your batch and separate into three portions. You could make spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and cottage pie with only one lot of chopping and stirring!
8. Get blending.
Got a food processor or blender gathering dust in your cupboard? Wipe it down and put it to good use. Tedious vegetable chopping, cheese grating and even breadcrumb making should take mere seconds.
Read more: The easiest way to make shortcrust pastry — use your food processor
9. Buy cheap.
Kidney beans will last forever and are great for bulking out a meal, as are lentils and oats (but be sure to keep them in an airtight container). Buy the biggest bag of dried pasta or rice you can find; it will last for ages and you’ll save money.
10. Freeze it.
Did you know you can freeze cheese? Just grate and pop it into a freezer bag. Bananas, too; stick them in the freezer as soon as you get them home, then use them for making smoothies or banana bread.
11. Forget shop-bought chips.
Making your own potato wedges takes almost the same amount of time as cooking frozen oven chips and they’re much tastier, and generally work out cheaper, too. Slice up some potatoes into thick wedges with the skins left on, season with oil and spices and cook on a baking tray for 20 to 25 min at 200°C.