I’m so old, I remember when “hack” was a bad thing. Or a taxi.
These days, of course, “hack” means a work-around, an alternative and easier way to perform some minor task.
So I was intrigued when I stumbled upon yet another internet listicle, “45 kitchen hacks to help make even a novice chef feel like a total foodie.” I clicked, and I’m not ashamed.
Published on the cringingly named morehackz.com, the suggestions are aimed — as the title indicates — at people who are relatively new to cooking. In particular, it is aimed at young people. But some of the ideas are worth noting even for those of us who have been cooking for decades.
For instance, one hack addresses the issue of overly hot coffee. If you drink coffee, you know the problem: You’re on the go and it is still too hot to drink before you have to dash out the door.
The solution is easy. Pour cooled coffee into ice cube trays, save the cubes of coffee ice in a bag and plop one into your coffee to cool it down without diluting it. You can also use coffee ice cubes with the same effect in iced coffee, or tea ice cubes to turn your just-brewed tea into iced tea.
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Another coffee-related hack: Fans of cappuccino can froth their own milk without having to shell out hundreds of bucks for some fancy cappuccino machine. All you have to do is pour milk into a small jar, close it tightly and shake it vigorously until the milk froths itself. Then the froth can be quickly heated in a microwave before adding to the coffee.
I tried this. It works, but it does take a lot of shaking.
If you cook winter squash, you know it can be difficult to remove the seeds. This article suggests using an ice cream scoop, which is sturdier than ordinary spoons and often has a slightly sharper edge.
The article also has a universal solution to a universal cake conundrum: After you have cut a cake, its exposed sides quickly become stale and dry. To stop this from happening, simply attach a slice of bread to each open side with toothpicks; the bread will keep the cake nice and fresh.
If you’ve ever gradually whisked a liquid into a bowl with dry ingredients, you’ll know the experience of desperately wanting three hands — one to pour the liquid, one to whisk and one to hold the bowl to keep it from spinning. The hack for this is familiar, but effective. Simply place a damp towel underneath the bowl to keep it stationary.
Another familiar-but-helpful hack is my favorite way of opening tight jars. Just place a rubber band around the lid; you can double it if it is too large. The rubber band provides the friction you need to twist off the lid.
If you’re boiling something and it threatens to boil up and spill out of of your pot, place a wooden spoon across the top. That should keep the liquid where it belongs and make your cleanup easier.
Honey moves at its own pace, and there is nothing slower than when you are trying to pour it out of a measuring cup. To speed up the process considerably, simply spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray before adding the honey. The honey slides right out.
To be honest, not all of the article’s hacks are helpful or even accurate. One says that to soften butter instantly, place cubes of it inside an upside-down drinking glass. “The heat trapped inside the glass instantly softens the butter,” it says.
Nonsense. The temperature inside the glass is the same as the temperature outside the glass. I tested my hypothesis with butter and a glass, and the butter did not soften any faster than it would have without a glass.
The article also suggests placing an ice cube on top of a hamburger as it cooks to keep it from getting dry. That’s not how meat works. Then the article halfheartedly mentions that butter or other fat would achieve the same effect, which is how meat works, but at the cost of additional calories.
And the article even offers a hack for cooking grilled cheese sandwiches, which it says “is harder to perfect than one might think.” Instead of griddling grilled cheese sandwiches in a pan with butter, it suggests putting them on a greased baking sheet and cooking them in the oven.
That’s the problem with these listicles. Some of their hacks are just hackneyed.