You’d think by now all the tricks to faster, easier and ultimately better food preparation would have been discovered.
Not so, if social media can be believed. My Facebook feed is punctuated on a regular basis by “awesome,” “amazing” and “mind-blowing” cooking hacks accompanied by a video, before-and-after photos and usually plenty of capital letters and exclamation marks. (You MUST try this!!)
Inspired by both curiosity and skepticism, I decided to put a new batch of these hacks to the test.
Keeping avocados from browning. The trick? Store a cut avocado in an airtight container with a few onion slices. Supposedly, sulfur compounds from the onion will oxidize and keep the green surface from browning.
I did this, parked it in the refrigerator and kind of forgot about it for 24 hours. And wow, it was still pretty green. The avocado smelled faintly of onion but didn’t taste onion-y.
The next day, it was still primarily green. I packed a mixed-greens salad for lunch that morning, topped with chunks of avocado, and then threw a few onion slices on top. At lunch, the avocado was as green as when I’d chopped it.
Speed-ripening bananas. When you want banana bread, you can never find overripe bananas, am I right?
So here’s what you do. Bake your underripe bananas (even tinged with green, as mine were) in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
I baked mine 7 minutes, during which time the peel turned mostly black (upon cooling, they were fully black). I peeled them and, voila – they were indeed banana-bread ready.
Speed-ripening avocados. Wrap the avocado in aluminum foil, place in a 200-degree oven until soft, and then cool in the fridge.
The directions said 10 minutes but added that it could take up to 1 hour, depending on how hard the avocado was. My avocado was large and rock hard, so I left it in the oven for an hour. It never felt soft to the squeeze, but I placed it in the refrigerator as instructed to let it cool.
To my surprise, when I cut into it later, it was soft – though it still had that “green” taste to it, not that rich taste of a counter-ripened fruit.
Silk-free corn shucking. You really want to spend all that time picking silks out of a dozen ears of fresh corn? Didn’t think so.
Instead of trying to shuck off husk and silks all at once, peel away all the outer husks a layer at a time until you’re left with pretty much only the silky tassel. Then get a good grip on the tassel and pull it off with one tug. Success – my ears had just one or two silks left behind.
Faster pasta cooking. Soak pasta in a bowl of water for an hour, and then just drop it in boiling water for 60 seconds, and it’s ready to eat.
My elbow macaroni soaked for exactly 1 hour, but it took 2 minutes in boiling water to be properly al dente. Still, that’s faster than the 7 to 8 minutes the box tells you, for little effort.
Easier refrigerator cleaning. It sounds good in theory: Cover refrigerator shelves with Press ‘n' Seal wrap, then peel off and replace the wrap when the shelf needs cleaning.
A, the wrap wasn’t wide enough to cover my clear plastic slide-out shelves. And B, it didn’t stick! At all!
The real hassle of cleaning the refrigerator isn’t the wipe-down. It’s clearing out of all the food and containers, which you would still have to do.