10 Cooking Tips from the Pollan Family


From left: Dana, Tracy, Lori, and Corky Pollan. Photo: John Kernick

In the years we’ve spent at the stove, we’ve learned shortcuts, tips, and tricks. Some are simple and some surprising—all will help make cooking easier and speedier, and your meals even more scrumptious. 

* When roasting a whole chicken, position the legs to the back of the oven. Legs take longer than breasts to cook, and the back of the oven is the hottest spot.

* Always leave the pot lid ajar when boiling food. This simple trick will eliminate nasty foam spillovers onto your burners.

* Green vegetables, carrots, beets, and cauliflower should be added to water that’s already boiling so that they cook more quickly and preserve both vitamins and color. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and butternut squash should be started in cold water that’s gradually brought to a boil—this helps prevent the vegetables from breaking apart while the pieces cook through.

* Add a small piece of Parmesan cheese rind to stews and soups for added flavor. Our trick: Save the rind when you’ve used up the cheese and store it in the freezer.

* Cook pasta 1 minute less than suggested in the directions on the package. After draining the pasta add it to the pan with the sauce and cook a few minutes longer to combine the flavors.

* Tired of discarding barely used fresh ginger? Wrap it tightly in plastic and store it in the freezer. You can slice or grate it while still frozen, and it will keep in the freezer for months.

* If a soup or sauce you’re cooking looks fatty or greasy, just add a few ice cubes to the pot. The fat will cling to the ice, making it easy to scoop out.

* When mincing garlic, sprinkle it with a little salt and the garlic won’t stick to the knife.

* When a recipe calls for “1 cup sifted flour,” sift the flour before measured it. If a recipe calls for “1 cup flour, sifted,” sift the flour after measuring it.

* No need to run to the store if you need buttermilk for pancakes or another recipe. Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 scant cup (7 ounces) whole or 2% milk and let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes.

Excerpted from THE POLLAN FAMILY TABLE by Corky, Lori, Dana, and Tracy Pollan. Copyright © 2014 by Old Harvest Way, LLC.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

More from the Pollans:
Maple-Balsamic Root Vegetable Fries
Crispy Crunchy Apple Crumble
Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week: The Pollan Family Table

What’s your best kitchen hack everyone should know?