Food

23 Tips for Summer Cooks

Fresh ideas to help make your cooking easier, safer and cleaner.

 

As a recipe editor, I cook a lot, eat a lot and am always talking about food. But it never occurred to me that there's a way to remove kernels from a fresh ear of corn, without having them fly all over the place, until I watched our food stylist at our last recipe photo shoot. Here's what I learned: 

Slice the ear of corn in half so that you have two shorter pieces with flat ends. Stand one piece, cut side down, in a shallow bowl and slice the rows of corn off lengthwise into the dish.

Amazing, not a single corn kernel on the floor. Seems obvious now but it wasn't until I saw it for myself. Here are 22 additional cooking and kitchen prep tips to help make your summer cooking—and cleanup—a breeze.

Grilling

  1. When making kebabs, consider threading two skewers through your food to make flipping easier and prevent any food from falling through the grill rack.
  2. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before use to prevent them from catching fire on the grill.
  3. Coat your grill rack with cooking spray while your grill is off. Never spray cooking spray onto an open flame or you can singe yourself.
  4. When grilling burgers, keep them juicy by only flipping them once. And don't press down on them with a spatula or you'll dry them out by squeezing out the juice.
  5. Meat continues to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the grill, so take it off a few minutes before you think it's done and let it "rest." Doing this will also redistribute some of the juices, giving you a juicier piece of meat.

Prepping

  1. Place a wet paper towel under your cutting board to prevent the board from slipping.
  2. Make sure to wash the outside of fruits and vegetables before cutting them, even if you don't eat the skins. This will prevent bacteria and dirt from getting into the flesh when you slice them.
  3. Wash berries (and other fruit) only when you're ready to eat them. Washing hastens the spoiling process.
  4. Slice a small, flat piece off the bottoms of whole melons and pineapple so they sit flat when you're working with them.
  5. To cube a mango, first slice about 1/2-inch off the top and bottom. Using a sturdy vegetable peeler, peel off the skin. Stand the mango upright on one of the flat ends. Place your knife parallel to the pit and slice downward, cutting off one side of the mango flesh. Repeat on the other side. The two mango halves are now ready to slice or cube. Cut the remaining flesh off the pit with your knife and slice or cube that as well.
  6. Use frozen fruit in place of ice for smoothies. Your drinks will be colder and thicker, and they won't get watered down from the ice.
  7. Use a serrated knife to slice tomatoes. It cuts through the skin much easier than a chef's knife.
  8. Stack five or six fresh basil leaves on top of each other and then roll them up to easily slice them into slivers, a technique known as a chiffonade. You can use this technique with leafy greens as well.
  9. Refresh wilted herbs by letting them sit, stems down, in a glass of water for a while. Works for limp carrots and celery, too.

Kitchen Tool Tricks

  1. Keep your hand on top of the blender lid to prevent any ingredients from splattering all over your kitchen.
  2. Make sure your immersion blender is on the bottom of your pot before pureeing to, again, prevent any ingredients from splattering all over your walls— or ceiling.
  3. Spin your salad dry using a salad spinner, not by blotting the lettuce with paper towels. It's inexpensive and makes a great storage container for leftovers.

Storage and Serving

  1. Don't mix cut tomatoes, cucumbers and other juicy vegetables–or fruits–with your salad ingredients until you're ready to eat. This helps keep lettuce crisp. Or, place those "wet" ingredients on the bottom of a serving bowl and layer everything else on top; toss before serving.
  2. Ditto for waiting to toss your salad with dressing.
  3. Don't put unripe stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, plums, etc.) in the fridge. Either let them ripen on the counter or place them in a loosely sealed paper bag for a few days.
  4. Never store whole tomatoes in the refrigerator. Keep them at room temperature for optimal flavour and texture.
  5. Jazz up cut melon by tossing it with a little fresh lime zest and lime juice, sugar and fresh chopped mint. The citrus will enhance flavour and prevent some fruits from browning.