Photo Credit: Deborah Jaffe/FoodPix/Getty Images
You don't expect food bloggers to fess up to rookie mistakes in the kitchen, but even the pros have a learning curve. We asked 12 of our favorite food bloggers to share their best cooking tips -- including some that they learned the hard way -- so you can be more confident in the kitchen.
Measure Once, Measure Right
"There's a difference between liquid and dry measuring cups," says frequent baker and blogger Christina Lane of the blog Dessert for Two. Liquid measuring cups (the ones with the pour spouts, often made of clear plastic or Pyrex) hold a different amount of volume than measuring cups for dry goods (the ones made of metal or plastic, able to be scooped and scraped). "Without this bit of knowledge, my recipes turned out a little wonky!"
Bake your Bacon
Forget frying: Make bacon in the oven, instead. "It produces nice, evenly cooked strips that bake off while we're taking care of the rest of the food or life or whatever else is thrown our way," Food for My Family blogger Shaina Olmanson says.
Learn the Trick for Perfectly Round Slice-and-Bake Cookies
Don't toss -- or recycle -- that paper towel roll; it's got a higher purpose. Store your plastic-wrapped logs of slice-and-bake cookie dough in the cardboard tube to keep them perfectly round while chilling. "It'll keep the dough from getting smashed," says Debbie Koenig of Parents Need to Eat Too, "and more importantly, it'll keep the bottom of the log from flattening out as it sits."
Find a New Use for Your Cheese Grater
When a baking recipe calls for incorporating small chunks of chilled butter into dough, use the wide side of your box grater to grate frozen butter into the flour mixture instead! Author and What's Gaby Cooking blogger Gaby Dalkin uses this technique to ensure the butter is evenly distributed throughout to get buttery goodness in each and every bite.
Melt Butter in the Microwave Safely
The Messy Baker Charmain Christie, who's turned her numerous kitchen disasters into a handy app, has a no-fail tip for re-melting butter in the microwave: break up the hardened fat layer first so the water has an escape route before zapping it again. Otherwise, she says, you could end up with a "butter bomb."
Skip the Canning Bath: Make a Quick Pickle
You don't need to set up a complex water bath canning station to make pickles, says Art & Lemons writer and photographer Nikki Gardner. Her small-batch quick-pickle recipe works just as well on asparagus, fennel, and beets as it does on carrots and cucumbers.
Discover This New Use for Cooking Spray
Sick of leaving half your honey or molasses in your measuring cups instead of your mixing bowl? Try this tip from Sassy Radish's Olga Massov and lightly coat them with cooking spray before measuring out your goopy liquids. "You’ll be amazed how clean your spoons will look (read: no sticky residue) once you try to empty it."
Learn How to Break Down a Whole Chicken
"Before I learned to break down a whole chicken, I thought it involved actually cutting through bones with some sort of giant bone-sawing knife," Autumn Giles of Autumn Makes & Does admits. Once she learned that a chef's knife works just dandy for cutting through the skin and exposing the joints, she saved big bucks by buying chickens whole and cutting them herself.
Make Perfect Cupcakes Every Time
My Baking Addiction's Jamie Lothridge, whose swoon-worthy cupcakes are picture perfect, credits their uniform appearance to a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. "No more fumbling around with piping bags, spoons, or pouring batter! With one simple scoop you’ll have perfectly measured batter every single time -- and as a result, consistently sized cupcakes and muffins."
Boost the Flavor of Dried Beans
When simmering dried beans, throw an extra onion, celery, or carrot into the pot to add multi-dimensional taste. "Much like adding meat, simply saute the veggies in the pot prior to adding the beans to soften them up a bit and develop the flavor," Jen Schall of My Kitchen Addiction says.
Start with Mise en Place
"In culinary school we learned how absolutely crucial it is to set up your mise en place before embarking on any cooking or baking adventure," says Handle the Heat's Tessa Arias, a recently graduated culinary student and cookbook author. "Mise en place is the idea that everything should be organized and in its place, like ingredients and utensils, before starting any cooking. This really makes cooking so much more relaxing and fun."
"Cut yourself some slack and never apologize for your food," says Marisa McLellan, who's had her share of jams that turned into sauces while testing for her cookbook, Food in Jars. "If it doesn't turn out exactly as you'd hoped, rename it and don't breathe a word that you'd intended it to be any different."