There are few things that thrill a Dinner Lady more than a great kitchen hack… All those clever little hints and tips that our grandparents seemed to know. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so anything that saves culinary time and energy gets our undivided attention. And, if you’ve got any personal favourites, send them in to us, please!
If you can’t open a difficult jar, put a flat rubber band around the lid and try again. You can also use wide flat rubber bands as labels for jars – write the name of the jam or sauce on the rubber band and it does double duty as a label and to help you open it easily.
Did you know that microwaving your lemons or limes for about 10 seconds makes them easier to juice? Get them out of the microwave and roll them on the work surface a little before cutting.
And if you only need a squeeze of lemon juice, don’t waste the whole fruit. Pierce it with a skewer or knitting needle, squeeze out a little juice, then keep the lemon in the fridge until you need to use it again.
Don’t waste half your garlic clove. When you’re using a garlic press, put a small piece of carrot in there on top of the garlic. When you squeeze, the whole of the garlic goes through the press and the carrot is left behind.
HIDE THE AVOCADO
To ripen one of those annoyingly too-firm avocado, put it in a brown paper bag with a banana for a day or two. Store at room temperature out of direct sun.
When you’re making gravy from roast chicken or meat and you want to get rid of the fat, lift out the chicken and then empty a tray of ice cubes into the roasting tin. The fat will instantly stick to the ice cubes and you can just lift them out with a holey spoon, leaving the gravy juices behind. Magic!
Here are some more favourite hacks from the clever DL team:
TOO MANY HERBS? DON’T WASTE THEM!
If you grow your own or just have bought too many herbs, chop them finely, or blend, and freeze them in ice cube trays with a little water, melted butter or olive oil. You can drop them straight from the freezer into soup, gravy, sauces, frittatas – anywhere herbs are called for. This also works well with leftover glasses of wine. Freeze in ice cube trays and then drop into your next casserole or bolognese.
Lucy, Food stylist
MAKE CLEVER USE OF YOUR FREEZER
If you freeze fresh ginger it is much easier to grate and stays fresh for longer. You can do the same with chillies – keep them in the freezer and just grate them on a microplane or with a fine grater, as needed. And if you peel then freeze onions, you can chop them without tears. Let them thaw a little first, so you can get the knife through safely.
Soft cheeses, such as mozzarella and fontina, that usually clag up your grater, are much easier to grate if you freeze them for 30 minutes first.
Iona, Marketing Coordinator
NOTHING TO COOK ON?
If you’re ever stuck somewhere without an oven or stovetop, or are renovating, you can use a sandwich press to fry bacon, eggs or hamburgers.
Sarah, Menu Director
A STEEL WOOL SECRET!
I keep steel wool in a little zip-lock bag in the freezer. I only use it periodically for very nasty jobs and it used to sit rusting sadly next to the sink until I couldn’t stand it any more and chucked it away. In the freezer, the same steel wool pad lasts forever!
Katherine, Dinner Ladies founder
MAKE YOUR OWN CARVING BOARD
If you find yourself carving a roast without a good carving board that has a runnel to catch the juices and mess, put an ordinary chopping board inside a large baking tray. It does the same job.
Sophie, Dinner Ladies founder
NO MORE MESS
If you’re baking and need to cut soft butter, cut a piece of baking paper and fold it in half to cover your kitchen knife. The baking paper will stay inside the butter, and you can cut it to the right size without it all becoming messy.
Shen Wei, Operations Manager
Put a glass of water with your food in the microwave when you want to steam something. This is super-handy for quick dumplings!
Nathan, Software Developer
CLEANING WITH LEMONS
I use my electric kettle a lot for making tea, and limescale forms inside the kettle from time to time. I put a piece of lemon in the kettle and bring it to the boil – it removes the limescale and leaves the kettle clean.
Sanjana, Quality Assurance
The ultimate time-saving kitchen hack? Order the Dinner Ladies – explore the menu here