"You Can't Tell The Difference": People Are Sharing The Cooking "Hacks" They Hated (Until They Tried Them)
"I should've never believed in the baseless and senseless stigma against MSG."
How many times have you tried a kitchen "hack" only to find that it is totally useless or, even worse, doesn't work at all?
1. "When I started cooking, I was vehemently against spice blends, and I don't really remember why. I don't know where it came from, but I had this idea that it wasn't real cooking and that it was lazy to use spice mixes, either from a sachet or a bottle. I have to assume one of the YouTube channels I watched said, 'There is no reason to buy taco seasoning — make your own!' and I just ran with it. Anyway, I swear by spice blends now (the chili con carne sachets are so easy!)."
2. "Using frozen fruits and vegetables instead of fresh. For certain veggies, I can't tell the difference, and some fruits even taste better frozen, depending on the time of year."
3. "Slurry versus roux. I went to culinary school. I worked in restaurants for years. I am lazy and will throw stock and flour in a jar and shake to mix and then toss it in my pan with whatever else is needed to make a gravy or thick sauce. Is one objectively better? Yes (roux). Is one objectively faster and easier? Yes (slurry). Lazy wins — I don't care."
4. "I used to think the Instant Pot was gimmicky but just bought one after being diagnosed with high cholesterol to cook beans and wild rice. I love it — it's so dang handy."
5. "I used to look down on 'just add water' pancake mix until I brought some camping. Now I use it at home too. I know how to make them from scratch, but the extra effort isn't really worth it when you just want warm syrup disks in the morning."
6. "Better than Bouillon. I ain’t got time to make broth and deal with the mess. My kitchen is small. I can thicken it with gelatin or xanthan gum. I can add herbs, vegetables, or MSG to give it fresh and deep flavors. Is it as good as fresh broth? No. Is it 80% as good for 5% of the work? Yeah. I used to make broth from scratch every time I made soup or pot pie. My cooking got slightly worse with the switch but took half the time. Fair trade, unless I’m cooking to impress. Low-sodium versions are preferred, so I can add more base for the same salt."
7. "Immersion blender mayonnaise. I always used to whisk it up to do the 'add it slowly' thing. From a cracked egg to ready to use in under three minutes, and it lasts two weeks in the fridge. I'm never EVER buying it again. 1 egg, 1T dijon, 1T vinegar or lemon juice (I used white wine vinegar), and 1 cup oil. Wazz that up and done."
8. "Because of Anthony Bourdain, the garlic press felt like sin in the kitchen. My time in culinary school taught me that mincing ounces of garlic with a knife was a waste of time, and now, I use a Microplane or garlic press to get the job done."
9. "When I first started really cooking (for quality as opposed to just sustenance), I thought things like garlic and onion powder were just cheats for those who didn’t want to deal with prepping the real thing. Years later, I discovered that using a little of them in addition to fresh garlic or onion helps create even more flavor, especially in things like soups."
10. "Cooking the perfect soft-boiled egg in my electric kettle. (Put egg in kettle carefully, fill it with plenty of water, turn the kettle on, let it switch off, wait for exactly five minutes, et voila!)"
11. "Mine is the air fryer. At first, I was like, 'This is just a gimmicky gadget' and now I use it every day, way more than my oven. It’s great for reheating leftovers or quickly preparing frozen food without having to wait to preheat the oven and then waste all the energy getting the oven hot for something that won’t be in there very long."
12. "I used to laugh when I saw people ignore the measurements for chocolate chips and just dump the whole bag in...but now…"
13. "Back when I was a dumb kid, I used to give my Asian mom shit every time I saw her cook with MSG. I should've never believed in the baseless and senseless stigma against MSG because I later came to find out that it can be a total game changer for certain recipes."
14. "Cutting the cheeks off of a lemon/lime to squeeze. There are absolutely bucket loads more juice from a stalk to tip cut cheek than a quarter or halves, etc."
15. "Microwaves. They have more uses than frozen burritos and are really good at some tasks. They are really just a tool and can be good at their tasks when used properly."
16. "I was always a mortar and pestle guy or dice/mince by hand... I just got a Ninja Express Chop as a gift, and it dices an onion in about three seconds. No sharpening my knives every use and hand washing! Some shortcuts are allowed in life."
17. "Buying pre-washed and cut vegetables. To be clear, I mean like prepped collard greens, green beans, etc. I think a lot of it was because of the additional markup cost, and I used to always be going to the farmers market/food co-op. But these days, I would like only be eating yogurt and berries if I didn't rely on prepared veggies 30%–40% of the time. It also allows me to still have a very healthy diet no matter the day."
"Prepped collards and other greens mean I eat WAY more greens than I did before I found them."
18. "Instant mashed potatoes. If you doctor them up like you would homemade mashed potatoes, you can't tell the difference."
19. "Microwaveable rice. Since I've been dealing with a chronic illness, it's a lifesaver. I might make chili or a stew, but then I'm not getting an extra pot dirty that needs washing and replacing. Eating leftovers is also super easy — just microwave everything."
20. "Mayonnaise to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I was team butter for the longest time, and then I tried mayo and have never looked back."
21. "I thought salad spinners were gimmicky until a few chefs I respected actually recommended using them in their books. Caved and bought one and I haven’t looked back — I almost never prep greens without it!"
22. "One-pot mac and cheese. I always made the roux separately to make the sauce. Recently tried a recipe that just has you dump everything in a pot, and it was surprisingly good!"
23. "I have a pretty popular mac and cheese in my social circle. I will never tell them that the 'secret' to making it so smooth… is Velveeta, with all of its glorious industrial emulsifiers. I regret nothing."
24. "Using cast iron pans. I always thought it was gross/unsanitary that you didn’t have to use soap to wash it. Also, the word 'seasoning' makes it sound like all the old oils on the pan are supposed to add its own rancid unique flavor. I got one almost a year ago and followed all the rules, and I am so thoroughly impressed. We’ve been trying to reinvent the wheel with all these stupid copper/nonstick pans when cast iron has been around for centuries and is the easiest for me to cook on and clean. All the food just glides over the top while cooking, and as long as you have some water pressure and a good seasoning built up, the pan only takes about 15 seconds of rinsing to look spotless."
25. "Jar sauce. I grew up in an Italian family with homemade sauce (which I love making, almost ritualistically). So when I started cooking for myself and my husband, I only made food from scratch, right down to the sauce and bread. Now I will use jar sauce as a base and season it/add to it until it’s to my liking while saving a fraction of the time but still making good-quality sauce for a tasty meal."
Do you have a cooking hack that weirdly works? Tell me about it in the comments!
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.