The 9 Most Unexpected Cooking Secrets We Learned This Year

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Sometimes you learn a cooking secret that totally changes the game. Whether it helps you prepare an impressive dinner in record time or ups the flavor of one of your favorite dishes, finding good cooking hacks is like winning the lottery. And this year, we won a lot.

From learning a healthy low-sodium way to season pasta water without salt to cooking Trader Joe's famous cauliflower gnocchi like a boss, these are the secrets you should start using immediately.

The best cooking hacks we learned this year

1. seasoning pasta water with seaweed

Pasta tastes so much better when you salt it. The only problem? You're really loading up on the sodium. For the same great flavor minus the sodium, simply grab some seaweed. "If you’re looking to reduce your sodium intake, you can add other types of seasoning to the water to help infuse your pasta," says Whitney English, RD. "Bragg makes an awesome organic, vegan sea kelp blend that’s salt-free, yet provides that umami flavor thanks to the sea vegetables."

2. ignoring the instructions on Gnocchi

Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi stole everyone's hearts this year. While it's undeniably delicious, the instructions on the bag don't do it justice. Instead, food blogger Nicole Cogan shared a alternative cooking method with the world: Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet, then add the gnocchi and sauté it from frozen to fresh.

3.Chopping a salad with scissors

There's a true art to chopping the perfect kale salad. You don't need a chef's knife, though. All that's required is a sharp pair of kitchen shears. "I pull the ribs away—I don’t care for the tough texture—rip it into big pieces into the mixing bowl, then go after it with scissors," says Sara Forte, the blogger behind Sprouted Kitchen. "This spares me the cutting board and knife, and also greens flying all over the counter."

4. Toasting oats for oatmeal

There's a super simple way to up the flavor of your oats before making oatmeal: toasting them. A Redditor said toasting rolled oats over medium-high heat until they're brown instantly adds more depth to the flavor. You can also use them in parfaits, smoothies, and more... all while making your home smell like fresh-out-of-the-oven oatmeal cookies. Yum, much?

5. Roasting vegetables for sweetness

If you're still trying to get yourself to enjoy eating veggies, you're not alone. One simple way to make them tastier is to up the sweetness, and you can do that naturally by setting your oven to "roast," which makes them crispy, caramelized, and delicious.

6. Cooking sweet potatoes in an Instant Pot

Sweet potatoes can take forever to soften. Well, unless you have an Instant Pot. One Redditor said cooking them in the Instant Pot instead of the oven is a great way to cut down on time. Just cut the potato in half, place it on top of a rack or inside a steamer basket, add a little water to the bottom, and cover. Then select the "Steam" option on the "Less" setting and cook it for seven minutes.

7. Avoiding the use of oil

Slathering veggies in olive oil before cooking them makes them so much tastier. But since one tablespoon contains 120 calories, it can be easy to get carried away. Luckily, Dana Shultz, the plant-based food blogger behind Minimalist Baker, has a method that gives you all the crispiness sans the oil. "Steam your starchy vegetables first until just tender, and then finish roasting them in the oven," she says. "And for non-starchy vegetables, throw them straight into the oven with just the seasonings—no steaming necessary."

8. Peeling garlic quickly

Fresh garlic adds flavor to every dish, but it's not fun to cook with because it's so time-consuming to peel. Instead of using a knife or fancy gadget, the quickest way to peel garlic is using a silicone sleeve. They're $15 on Amazon and get the job done in seconds.

9. Making rice without a rice cooker

There's no need to buy a rice cooker when you have an Instant Pot. By using an even ratio of water to rice, a little oil, and some salt, you'll have fluffier—and tastier!—rice than you'll get with any other kitchen gadget.

Here's how to hack your Chipotle order to make it healthier:

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