Cooking may be an art, but in many ways it’s a science, too. That’s why so many amateur chefs rely on tips and tricks they’ve picked up along the way to help them solve some of the most common kitchen problems.
However, these so-called food hacks don’t always improve our cooking experiences at all. Sometimes they can actually be doing more harm than good! Learning the reality behind these myths will change the way you cook forever.
1. Myth: Milk makes scrambled eggs softer. If you’re a passionate fan of cooking your own breakfast, then you’ve probably heard this more than once. A little bit of cream or milk poured into your scrambled eggs is supposed to make them more fluffy.
Fact: The truth of the matter is that, while it might make you feel like a culinary wizard, adding milk or cream to your eggs does nothing good for them! Extra dairy can actually thin out your eggs, making them easy to overcook.
2. Myth: Only flip your steak once. If there’s one thing men take seriously, it’s grilling. Ask any grill master, and he’ll be pleased to tell you just how much you can ruin a steak by flipping it over more than once.
Fact: A current movement of multiple flips is gaining traction in the grilling world to make sure that your meat is perfectly and evenly cooked. It turns out that you aren’t going to hurt the flavor or the texture of the meat with flipping.
3. Myth: Use oil in your pasta water to keep it from sticking. Is there anything worse than sticky pasta? Heck no. That’s why people in the know make sure to add some oil to keep their strands of spaghetti from clumping together.
Fact: Adding oil might keep the pasta from sticking to itself, but it also keeps it from sticking to anything else… like delicious, tasty sauces! If you want to keep the noodles from sticking together, simply stir your pasta constantly as it cooks.
4. Myth: Remove pepper seeds if you want to cut back on spiciness of a dish. Everyone thinks that when you’re working with peppers, removing their seeds is supposed to cut back on the heat—but is it really true?
Fact: It’s actually not true at all! While the seeds of peppers can be spicy, they actually don’t hold as much spice as any other single part of the plant. It’s actually the membrane, or pith, that holds the most heat in the average pepper.
5. Myth: Steel cut oatmeal is better for you than rolled oats. Lately, a food trend has everyone believing that the only way to make real oatmeal is to use steel cut oats, which much be slow-cooked in order to be served.
Fact: It really doesn’t matter what kind of oats you eat as long as you’re eating oats! Both will help you lower your cholesterol. While steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index, they aren’t that different from rolled oats at all.
6. Myth: You can easily soften butter by microwaving it. Got frozen butter but your recipe requires it be softened? Go ahead and just pop it in the microwave! There’s no harm in that game and you’ll have soft butter in no time.
Fact: If you overheat butter you can break the emulsion and ruin a potential recipe in the process. While butter might seem simple, its composition is important when it comes to the way it is used in recipes. If you need to soften it quickly, trying grating it instead.
7. Myth: You don’t actually have to sear stew meat. Many people skip this step when it comes time to prepare stew, thinking that the low and slow cooking time will impart all of the flavor that you could ever need.
Fact: Searing is a critical step of the cooking process that adds loads of flavor to your meat! Sure, you can skip this step and still make a meal that is palatable, but if you don’t sear it, you are losing out on imparting serious flavor.
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8. Myth: Using fresh bread is fine when you’re making French toast. After all, the only bread most people have lying around is sandwich bread, and surely your bread doesn’t really need to be stale for a perfect brunch.
Mike McCune / Flickr
Fact: The whole point of French toast is to use stale or dried out bread so that it better holds the eggy solution that you’ll be dipping it in without creating a sloppy mess. Even if you don’t have stale bread, you can dry it out in the oven for 10 minutes for a better result.
9. Myth: It’s totally fine for you to make guacamole ahead of time. All of the ingredients that you will be adding to the avocado will work together to keep it fresh. Thank goodness for the power of citrus, right?
Fact: Nope, nope, and nope. Make your guacamole fresh or don’t make it at all. Day-old guacamole will be brown and taste just not right. You really shouldn’t ever make it ahead, but if you have to, you’d better make sure you have an airtight container.
10. Myth: Marinades tenderize meat. Chefs everywhere use different custom marinades on their meat believing that it doesn’t just enhance the flavor of what they are cooking, it also can soften up tougher cuts of meat.
Fact: Marinades only add flavor—they do nothing for the texture of your meat unless you are adding yogurt or papaya to the marinades which contain a bunch of enzymes that will easily help break down the meat itself.
11. Myth: Cooked pasta should always be rinsed with water after you are done boiling it. You can do this to stop it from cooking or you can do this to quickly cool down pasta that you intend to use in a cold pasta dish.
Fact: When you rinse down your pasta, you’re actually removing the outermost layer of starch from the noodles, making it more difficult to coat with stuff like sauces. Let’s be honest: who wants to eat a pasta—no matter how well-cooked—if it ain’t drenched in that sauce?
Russell James Smith / Flickr
12. Myth: Cooking food at all reduces its nutritional value, particularly if the food in question is vegetables. If you want to get the full nutrition from a veggie, you ought to eat it flash-cooked or not cooked at all!
Fact: While some produce loses nutrients when it is cooked, other foods actually gain health benefits that makes eating them while cooked much more advantageous. Tomatoes contain a higher vitamin C count after they are cooked, for example.
13. Despite all these myths, there are handy food tricks that many people don’t know! For example, prevent your taco fillings from falling out and making a mess when by folding the entire thing in a lettuce leaf. Plus, this is a great excuse to eat some extra veggies!
14. Sick of your burgers constantly falling apart every time you bite into them? Here’s a radical idea: try eating them upside-down! This avoids a messy burger (since the top bun is usually thicker and more absorbent), and you’ll look like a real rebel while you’re at it!
Annie Wu / Twitter
15. Whether you prefer to eat toast with jelly, butter, or avocados, you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you eat it upside down, too. Pro tip: you’ll also get so much more flavor directly onto your tastebuds that way!
Acabashi / Wikimedia Commons
16. Did you know that your Chinese takeout containers can turn into plates when you unfold them? It’s true, as long as you remember to remove the thin metal handles first. Try this neat hack the next time you plan a lazy night in with some Netflix and lo mein.
NJ_Nmaster / Twitter
17. We all agree that soft, gooey cookies are undeniably better than hard, crumbly ones. Luckily, you can keep them that way by storing them in a plastic bag along with an ordinary slice of bread. Go ahead and try it!
J_Rod03 / Twitter
18. If you need to reheat a leftover slice of pizza, don’t bother putting it in the microwave or the oven. Instead, use a frying pan or a skillet! This perfectly melts your toppings while keeping the crust nice and crispy.
Mr. Evan Phoenix / Twitter
19. You can neatly and quickly slice whole mushrooms with an egg slicer. Doing so any other way can be difficult, but not this way! So if you have an egg slicer, it turns out to have been a good investment.
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20. The natural oils in your peanut butter probably settle on the top when the jar is sitting on the shelf. Assuming your peanut butter is organic, your best bet is to keep it upside down. That way it’s easier to spread.
21. You know how fizzy soda bubbles tend to make your straw move up out of the can? No more! You can use soda tabs to hold your straws in place. So the next time you’re about to drink some soda out of a can, be careful not to break off the tab!
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22. Instead of repeatedly smacking the bottom of a glass bottle of Heinz ketchup, try tapping on the number “57” instead. This is the sweet spot—it works faster and allows for the ketchup to pour out more steadily.
Keviniho79 / Twitter
23. Try pouring your orange juice from the opposite direction. This allows the juice to flow out in a steadier stream. This gif demonstrates just what a huge difference this technique can make.
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24. Pistachios are delicious and healthy, but every once in a while you get one in a shell that is utterly sealed shut. Luckily, you can use the shell of a previous pistachio to open those stubborn ones.
Jake Albaugh / Twitter
25. It’s always annoying when you pour yourself a nice cup of hot coffee just for it to become lukewarm moments later. To keep your hot drinks warmer for longer, fill your mug with boiling water in order to heat up the mug. Then empty your mug before pouring in the actual drink.
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26. About 15 minutes before you eat an orange, put it in the freezer. If you time it correctly, not only will the fruit become easier to peel, but the white stuff called the pith will stick to the peel rather than the fleshy part of the fruit.
Yari Aquino / Twitter
27. It’s always frustrating when a piece of an egg shell falls into your bowl of eggs. What are you supposed to do, fish it out with your hands? Nope! Just use a bigger, sturdier piece of a shell to scoop it out.
RealDuncanHines / Twitter
28. Instead of cutting your watermelon into triangular slices, try making long pieces in the middle of the melon. It may seem radical, but you’ll be glad you did it once you’re able to eat the fruit without getting juice all over your face!
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29. Alternatively, you can also scoop out the edible bits of a watermelon using an ordinary ice cream scoop. Some people might not find it as fun as eating watermelon with their hands, but eating it like ice cream is cool, too!
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30. Whether you’re making lemonade or using it in a recipe, maximize the amount of juice you’re able to get out of the fruit by using a pair of tongs to squeeze out as much as possible. This method works just as well for limes, too!
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31. It can be extremely difficult to peel real ginger without losing large chunks of it in the process. Using a teaspoon, however, makes it much easier. Plus, you’d be a fool to throw out those pieces when you can use them for tea!
Anjula Devi / Twitter
32. It can be awfully frustrating when an apple starts browning just moments after you cut or bite into it. That’s why, before you serve or eat it, you should slice it, assemble it back together, and hold it all in place with a rubber band.
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