As some of you know, I have been on a mission to eat clean this year, which also means I have been spending some major QT with my kitchen and all its accoutrements (like the oven). Over this time, I have discovered a few hacks that have helped me speed up cooking and have reduced the amount I have to clean. Without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):
- When measuring, disregard the order of the ingredients in the recipe. Measure out the dry ingredients first. Doing so allows you to minimize the number of measuring cups and spoons you have to wash. Remember, you can always pour vanilla into a teaspoon that was previously used for salt and get all the vanilla out of the teaspoon. But if you do it the other way around, you’ll have a teaspoon that looks and smells like the rim of a vanilla margarita.
- When a cake or loaf recipe calls for mixing dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients in the pan you plan on using to bake it in. I’ve noticed a ton of recipes tell us to butter the baking pan first. Why? There really is no reason to have a pan sitting unused on the counter for 15 minutes while we make the batter. So, let’s put it to good use. Instead of buttering the pan, use it to hold all the dry ingredients you need to mix together. Use a whisk to mix said ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl like you normally would. Then, add the dry ingredients from the baking pan to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl. Now your baking pan is empty again, and just in time for baking! Butter the pan, pour your batter into it, and throw it into the oven. Voila! Minus one bowl you have to clean.
- Measure ingredients out over a baking sheet. Let’s say you’re going to bake cornbread (or anything for that matter) from scratch. You’re going to need to measure out and pour/dump at least 5 different powdery substances (no, not that kind of powdery substance) into a bowl. Chances are, some of the flour/sugar/whatever is going to end up on the counter, which isn’t so bad. But it is annoying because now you have to clean it up else it will turn into mud on the counter or fall onto the floor where you’ll get to step on it and track it all over. NoThankYouVeryMuch.
So, place the mixing bowl or pan (per previous tip) on top of a baking/cookie sheet. Dole out dry ingredients to your heart’s content. Your baking sheet will catch all the runaway ingredients and you can dump them into the compost or the sink, easy peasy. You could also do this over the sink, but that would require a sink that is free of dishes…which mine is not *ahem*.
- Use mason jars as stand in measuring cups. I heart mason jars. I can use them for almost anything (drinking glasses, storage containers, mini flower vases, etc.) and now I can use them as measuring cups. If you have 8 ounce mason jars that have the ounce markers on the side, you can very easily measure out ingredients by the quarter cup (2 oz = 1/4 cup). Larger Quart sized mason jars will allow you to measure by the cup (1 = 1 cup, 2 = two cups, and so on).
- Use clean kids medicine cups to measure out spices and/or salt. If you’ve got kids at home, you probably have at least a handful of those cheap medicine cups that come with kids Tylenol or Advil (You can also acquire them new at a pharmacy or drugstore). You can use a clean spare one to measure out ingredients from 1/2 tsp to 4 tsp. The bonus of this approach is that these stable little cups allow you to use just one hand at a time. So instead of holding the spice jar with one hand and putting a spoon in it with the other, you can just pour the spice into the little measuring cup. No second hand needed! This is a great save if you are carrying a child (for example) or are taking a selfie to prove that you do indeed bake. This hack also has the added benefit of saving space in your kitchen – just one little cup instead of several measuring spoons. Just make sure you do not use a medicine cup that has medicine residue in it. Tylenol (or any other medicine for that matter) is not a cooking ingredient (and for good reason).
And there ya have it. Happy Baking!