8 Surprising Food Hacks That Made Us Better Cooks in 2021

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Even if spending time in the kitchen isn't your favorite part of the day, you have to admit: Making something from start to finish (even if that just means popping it in the microwave) comes with a certain level of satisfaction. Studies show that baking and cooking help relieve stress and stoke your creative fires. So this year, the Well+Good team decided to round up the best cooking hacks we can't wait to bring into 2022.

Ready yourself, because you're about to learn why you should squeeze lemon juice into your eggs (yes, really), put your sweet potatoes in the freezer, and reach for a certain cooking oil to protect your heart health. Keep reading for the quirkiest, most game-changing cooking tips around (and some great fodder for the "did you know" portion of the dinner conversation.

Experts In This Article

The 8 best cooking hacks we learned this year

1. Make your potatoes last forever (okay, a few months) by storing them in a dark, cool place

When your potatoes start to feel squishy or sprout nodes, it's time to toss them in the trash or compost pile. But the good news is that you can expand their lifetime by months (and reduce food waste) with one simple trick: "Ideally, you want to store potatoes in a dark, cool place," food safety expert, Jeff Nelken, previously told Well+Good. This keeps them from being exposed to ultraviolet light, which makes them go bad more quickly.

Are potatoes good for you? A dietitian answers:

2. Cook with olive oil to protect your heart health

There's a whole wide world of cooking oils, but according to the American Heart Association (AHA), olive oil is the best for your ticker. Why? Olive oil has a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids, a healthy type of fat that may help lower the risk of heart disease. "Aside from being heart-healthy, extra-virgin olive oil provides antioxidants that fight inflammation caused by normal daily stressors, dietary habits, and environmental exposures," added Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CEO of NY Nutrition Group and author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan. "Excess inflammation can impair the immune system, digestive system, hormonal harmony, and metabolism."

Learn more about the benefits of olive oil:

3. Everyone should have at least three knives: a pairing knife, a chef's knife, and a bread knife

It's hard to cook healthy, satisfying meals if you're equipment isn't up to par. That's why chef and culinary consultant Adriana Urbina, three-time winner of the Food Network's Chopped, says you need the trifecta of knives: a pairing knife (for dicing and mincing small ingredients, such as garlic), a classic chef's knife (for dicing veggies, cutting meat, or chopping herbs), and a bread knife. "Despite its name, this type of knife can actually be used for so much more than just slicing crusty loaves of bread, and it will give a break to you chef's knife," Urbina previously told Well+Good. "You can slice tomatoes, citrus, cakes, and much more!"

4. Air frying your eggs is the new frontier

So you want a batch of soft-boiled eggs, and you want them now? No problem. If you have an air fryer, simply preheat it to 270 degrees, add a few eggs to the tray, and cook them for 10 to 14 minutes (depending on how runny you want that yolk to be). Make sure you have an ice bath ready for them when the timer goes off (it's the polite thing to do).

5. Microwave your citrus to squeeze out every last drop of juice

Squeezing limes and lemons is a hand, wrist, and forearm workout, as far as I'm concerned. But if you feeling like the, ahem, fruits of your labor just aren't paying off in an ample amount of juice, just pop your citrus in the microwave, seriously. "Microwaving softens the fibrous membranes in the citrus, making it easier to release the liquid from them,"  Kelly Jones, RD, previously told Well+Good. If you don't have a microwave, try rolling your citrus around on the countertop before slicing it open to achieve the same effect.

6. Freeze your sweet potatoes to make them fluffier

"Freezing sweet potatoes before baking them results in a nice and charred exterior and the most fluffy inside, because freezing the potatoes allows their flesh to macerate from the inside out," celebrity chef and cookbook author Katie Chin shared with us this yeae. "Because the skin of the potato isn't punctured, the high roasting temperature caramelizes the sugars, but the skin protects the sugars from burning. As the potatoes bake, caramelized sugars will seep from them, and the trapped steam will naturally separate the skin from the flesh." I think we can all agree that caramelized sweet potatoes sound like a dinner dream come true.

7. Don't start cooking your garlic immediately after you chop it

I know, I know: After you've diced your garlic you're ready to throw it in the pan and move on with your evening. However, there's a food science reason why you should give your garlic 10 minutes to relax first. According to an Instagram post by gastroenterologist and Fiber Fueled author Will Bulsiewicz, MD, garlic contains alliinase that converts alliin (a sulfoxide in fresh garlic) to a compound called allicin, which has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. When you leave your garlic out for that 10-minute period, you give it plenty of time to go through this process (and reap the most benefits when it's time to eat).

8. Make the fluffiest scrambled eggs ever using lemon juice

You probably though the food science portion of this article was over, but you, my friend, were mistaken. According to Makenzie Bryson Jackson, MS, a food scientist, squeezing lemon into your eggs as you whip them up creates a cloud-like consistency for two reasons. "Whipping the eggs beforehand with some acid such as lemon juice can create a stiffer structure that holds air bubbles," she says. Those bubbles create that yummier, satisfyingly fluffy texture for your eggs. In addition, the lemon makes the eggs cook slower. "The water in the juice dilutes those egg proteins, so they aren’t as quick to coagulate," Jackson explains. "They cook more slowly because there is more water to evaporate, and the water creates steam as it cooks, creating a softer, fluffier texture."

What a dietitian wants you to know about eggs:

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