Everyone has their own groove in the kitchen—the ingredients they reach for constantly, their methods for prepping dinner, the tools that get more use than their televisions (okay, maybe not that but, you get the idea). Having your own groove is good, because to each their own and all that. But there are some non-negotiables we live by when cooking. From how we toast our nuts and clean our greens, to the absolutely necessary gadgets, here are 14 tried-and-true kitchen rules we couldn’t cook without.
1. How we measure flour
Use a large spoon to fill cup measure with flour, then use a flat edge (the top edge of a chef’s knife works), flush against the rim, to scrape excess cleanly off the top.
2. Three things you should always have in the freezer
Unsalted butter: It won’t take on fridge odors, and you’ll always need backup.
3. To chill or not to chill?
Refrigerate: Citrus, apples, corn
Don’t refrigerate: Tomatoes, garlic, stone fruit
4. The three cooking oils you need
Finishing: Fancy, robust, nuanced olive oil (buy in smaller bottles) for drizzling and never heating.
5. Vinaigrette ratio redux
Most of us grew up eating salads dressed with Julia Child’s classic French vinaigrette, which feels a bit heavy and oily on the tongue these days. Our current go-to has a lot more puckery acidity.
Then: 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar
Now: 2 parts oil, 1 part vinegar
(Hint: Combine and shake in a near-empty mustard jar to emulsify.)
6. How to revive stale bread
For crusty boules, sturdy sourdoughs, and other artisanal loaves, run the day- or two-day-old bread under running water for a few seconds, then reheat in 350° oven until heated through and crisp on the outside.
7. Five other uses for chopsticks
Tester: Check doneness of a big braising cut (such as pork shoulder or leg of lamb) by pushing chopstick into it in several places, wiggling it around, and assessing if the meat is yielding all the way to the bone.
Peeler: Use wide end to scrape the peel off a piece of ginger; the rounded edges allow you to get into the little corners and dimples.
Turner: Turn things over while they’re deep-frying, like doughnuts.
Grabber: Pluck tea bags out of a pot of tea.
8. How to boil a (large) egg
Hard-boiled: Lower into gently boiling water and cook 10 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath and let cool. This is how you make perfect hard-boiled eggs!
Jammy: Lower into gently boiling water and cook 6½ minutes. Transfer to an ice bath and let cool. Read about our jammy egg math here.
Poached: Crack and slip into simmering water. Cook, occasionally stirring gently, 3 minutes. It looks harder than it is—we’ve got you though.
9. It’s ripe when…
Artichoke: fresh at cut end; heavy for size; tight leaves
Avocado: firm with just a hint of yielding when pressed
Eggplant: shiny, taut skin; no visible bruises or blemishes
Melons: should be fragrant; a bit of give when pressed at stem
Pineapple: yellow, fragrant; leaf can be plucked out easily
Tear or cut leaves from ribs, submerge in a deep bowl of very cold water, and swish to release sandy bits. Lift out (lift—don’t dump!) and place in a colander. Rub leaves between fingers and feel for grit; repeat with fresh cold water if necessary. Spin-dry and transfer to a ziptop bag. Press out air, seal bag, and store in the crisper drawer.
11. How to check a steak for doneness
Why take any chances? Get a digital thermometer. Insert probe horizontally from an outside edge rather than straight down from the shallow surface.
Very rare: 115°
Dry and chewy: 145°
12. How to toast nuts
Spread nuts—walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts—on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350° until evenly golden brown and fragrant, 8–10 minutes. (Set a timer; nuts are pricey.) Read more here!
13. Always and forever reach for
Extra virgin olive oil
Pure maple syrup
Pure vanilla extract
14. Gadgets that aren’t actually gadgets. They are kitchen essentials
ThermoWorks Digital Thermometer: Hands down superb. Fast, accurate digital readout with a long, sharp probe to reach the thickest part of any cut of meat or roast.