Five Kitchen Tips

By | April 4, 2021

Here are 5 quick kitchen tips. There is no theme to these, and they are in no particular order.

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Pastry Blender

If you ever make biscuits (the American kind) or scones or crumb topping or anything that involves cutting cold butter into some mix of dry ingredients, get a pastry blender. Most of the recipes for these things tell you to “use a pastry blender or 2 forks…” If you are planning to make something like this and you haven’t before, get a pastry blender, but try it with 2 forks first. After a few minutes, switch to the pastry blender and thank me for the advice. I’m pretty sure the forks thing is just a cruel joke. I only use a pastry blender a few times a year, but I’m happy about it every time. You can probably find one at your grocery store, but also here:

Flatten ground meat before freezing

I like to store surplus ground beef in the freezer and I don’t like to have to wait for it to thaw before cooking. To facilitate this, I like to divide the ground meat into meal or recipe-sized portions and flatten them as much as possible before freezing. Normally I put 1/2 lb or 1 lb in a quart plastic zipper bag. Then I flatten the meat in the bag so it fills most of the bag (making sure it will still fit in whichever pan or pot I will likely cook it in). When I’m ready to cook, I can just drop the frozen meat in the pan. It’ll cook through very quickly.

Quarter sheet pans

I have a half sheet baking pan I have been using for years. Or maybe it’s a jelly roll pan. I always forget, but it’s about that size. It’s steel with a nonstick coating. I mostly use it for cooking bacon (I cook bacon in the oven, see the next tip), but also sometimes for vegetables or cookies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in the dishwasher and it’s a real pain to wash in the sink because it’s big and hard to rinse without sloshing water where I don’t want water sloshed. Consequently, it usually ends up sitting on top of the microwave or toaster oven for a week or 2 after I use it because…well, because washing it is a pain. Also, I’m usually don’t cook a large amount of food at one time, so for some things the pan is unnecessarily large. Recently I had the genius idea to…you’ll never believe this…get smaller pans. I wanted them to have the same basic form as my large pan which is flat and with sides. I wanted them to be small enough to fit in the dishwasher and be dishwasher safe (so no aluminum). I wanted to be able to fit 2 side by side in the oven (probably automatic if they fit in the dishwasher). I ended up with 2 stainless steel quarter sheet pans. The pans I got are surprisingly heavy duty. They have the nice touch of a heavy metal rod under the rim to keep them from warping in the oven (which my big pan sometimes does). They can be found at

Cook bacon in the oven

Cooking bacon on the stove makes a greasy mess. I don’t like doing things that make greasy messes because then I have to clean up greasy messes. As much as I like bacon, I would usually rather not have bacon if it means cleaning up a greasy mess. So, I cook my bacon in the oven. I just lay it out on a baking pan with sides and cook at 400F for around 30 minutes (I think…better set your timer for 15 minutes and check…that’s what I usually do but it’s never ready at 15). You want the pan to have sides so the grease doesn’t spill out. I can usually get a whole pound of thick sliced bacon on a large baking pan (although now I use 2 stainless steel quarter sheet pans which is an even better fit). Line the pan(s) with foil for easier cleanup.

Take temperature of baked potatoes

I really like baked potatoes. The main problem I have had with baked potatoes is that I’m never quite sure when to take them out of the oven (or fire or whatever…except microwave…microwaved potatoes aren’t baked potatoes). Then one day I learned that you can tell when a baked potato is done by taking its temperature. Bake your potato at 400F. After about an hour, jab one of those instant read thermometers in there. The potato is done at 210F. I learned this from Dr Potato (link Dr Potato is not a real doctor, but knows how to bake a potato. I use this thermometer

That’s all 5. I hope you liked it. Thanks for stopping by.