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2014’s Craziest — and Most Useful — Cooking Hacks

2014’s Craziest — and Most Useful — Cooking Hacks

Remember that episode of MacGyver in which some seriously bad guys put a hit out on the protagonist? And how MacGyver cleverly used a toaster oven to melt some ice, causing a cascade of pots and pans to clatter to the floor, effectively creating a disruption that lured the bad guys into the kitchen? And how when said bad guys ran into the kitchen, they slid all over the place because, haha! MacGyver had drenched the floor in cooking oil. And, to add insult to injury, the bad guys tripped over a garden hose that was stretched tautly across the exit as MacGyver made his escape. Crazy, right!?

Well, kitchen hacks are kind of like that — they can bring out the MacGyver in you (minus the assassins trying to murder you, we hope). Knowing these creative tricks can make you a resourceful cook. Some are downright obvious (like, duh? why didn’t I think of that!?) and other are just plain awesome in their creativity.

Click here to see the 2014’s Craziest Cooking Hacks (Slideshow)

Even if you like cooking, menial tasks (like having to cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half) can put a damper on what would otherwise be an enjoyable time spent in the kitchen. Why, oh why isn’t there an easier way to dissect these teeny tiny tomatoes? Oh wait, there is! Sandwich those little guys carefully between two plates and cut ‘em all at once with the horizontal swipe of a blade. Boom, MacGyvered!

Not having the right cooking equipment can suck the fun out of cooking, too. Especially when you want to make a recipe that seems dependent upon a certain tool or gadget. Fortunately, channeling the MacGyver spirit and the untapped potential of your existing tools and appliances (think grilled cheese cooked on the coffee maker burner) can help resolve your hunger-induced quandary.

These crazy cooking hacks from the past year will teach you how to be a more resourceful and creative cook. Some of them are so crazy smart, in fact, that we think even the king of resourcefulness himself would be proud to employ them in his own kitchen.

(Credit: Shutterstock)
Ironing can be a real chore. While the iron is hot, treat yourself to a snack and cook yourself up some bacon. Tightly wrap a few slices of bacon in aluminum foil, iron it until thoroughly cooked, and munch away. Just don’t forget to make sure there’s not any grease on the iron before you use it for your clothes again!

(Credit: Thinkstock)
Place an unbaked cinnamon roll in your waffle maker, close the lid, and you’ll have a cinnamon waffle ready in mere minutes. Added bonus: The “waffle” squares catch the frosting, creating delicious pools of sweetness.

The Top 10 Most Useful Kitchen Gadgets

We got you talking about the ten most useless kitchen gadgets last week, and now it’s time to weigh in on the 10 most useful gadgets. Here are our picks what would you choose?

As we thought through useless kitchen gadgets (and perused nearly 100 comments on that post!) we saw a pattern. Many useless tools seem to be trying to compensate for a lack of knife skills. Onion choppers and avocado slicers are no match for a good knife and some skill. They are also attempts to make cooking tasks quicker. If we had to slice 100 avocados for a catered lunch, we might also opt in the end for that otherwise useless tool, but we don’t do it enough on a day-to-day basis to warrant an entire tool devoted to it.

So as we looked for the most useful kitchen gadgets, we looked for things that really do the job better than you ever could with a chef’s knife and all the skill in the world. A mandoline, for instance, just slices better and faster than all but the most battle-hardened chef.

25 Practical And Unexpected Uses For Essential Oils


1. Curb Cravings: Hold cinnamon oil near your nose and inhale deeply to help curb food cravings.

2. Improve Focus: Inhaling the scent of peppermint essential oil or spearmint oil can help boost concentration when your mind is wandering.

3. Stay Alert: Need a pick-me-up to stay alert? Inhale the scent of rosemary essential oil to promote alertness.

4. Sleep Restfully: Essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties like peppermint oil can help you get more restful sleep. Learn how to use peppermint oil to make my homemade sleep salve here.

5. Refresh Fabrics: Essential oils can help refresh musty and dusty fabrics. Learn how to use essential oils to make your own “Febreeze”-like fabric refresher spray here.

Cleaning & Disinfecting

6. Deodorize Trash: Put a few drops of lemon essential oil onto a cotton ball and drop it into the bottom of your trash can before you put in a new trash bag. The lemon oil will help neutralize odor from your garbage!

7. Clean Produce: Add a few drops of lemon oil to a large bowl of water. Swish your fresh fruits and veggies around in the lemon water to wash them!

8. Dissolve Gunk: You can use lemon essential oil to help dissolve many kinds of stubborn messes. It works on wax, chewing gum, glue, and even permanent marker.

9. Microwave Cleaner: Lemon oil will not only clean your microwave, it will leave it sparkling! Read more about cleaning your microwave with lemon oil here.

10. Freshen Toilets: I use essential oils to make my own fizzy toilet bombs that keep my toilet smelling fresh! Learn how to make them here.

Health Remedies

11. Relax Muscles: Marjoram essential oil has a warming effect that’s perfect for soothing sore muscles. Add a drop or two of marjoram oil to a tablespoon or so of favorite carrier oil and rub it onto sore muscles for soothing relief.

12. Soothe Feet: A foot soak is a great way to soothe sore feet. Add a handful of Epsom salt and a few drops of peppermint oil to a bucket of water and soak your feet to ease the pain.

13. Erase Headaches: Lavender and peppermint essential oils can provide quick relief from a troublesome headache. Put a couple of teaspoons of fractionated coconut oil into a small roller bottle, then add a few drops each of both lavender and peppermint oil. Give it a shake, then roll it over your forehead, temples, and neck.

14. UTI Relief: Essential oils can help relieve the pain and discomfort of mild urinary tract infections. For more information, check out my post about tackling UTIs here.

15. Yeast Infections: Essential oils can also provide some relief from yeast infection pain. Learn more about remedies for yeast infections here.

Beauty & Skincare

16. Tighten Skin: Add one or two drops of geranium oil to your favorite face cream to promote tighter, firmer skin. Geranium oil can also helps slough off dead skin cells for brighter skin.

17. Hair Growth: Use rosemary essential oil to help promote healthy hair growth. Add a few drops of rosemary oil to a teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil, then apply the mixture to your scalp after shampooing. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse.

18. Hair Brightener: Fill a small spray bottle with water and a few drops of lemon oil. Apply the spray to your hair before going out in the sun to lighten and brighten the color of your hair!

19. Anti-Aging Serum: Use essential oils to make an effective anti-aging serum for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought ones! Read this post to learn how to make it.

20. Eyelash Serum: For longer, healthier lashes, plus more moisturized skin around your eyes, try my simple homemade eyelash serum! Learn how to make it here.

Scents & Smells

21. Scent Letters: You can use essential oils to scent your letters or cards for an extra special touch! Add a few drops of your essential oil of choice to a small spray bottle of water, and lightly mist your paper or envelope.

22. Fragrant Faux Flowers: Use a floral essential oil to add a floral scent to silk flowers. Add a few drops of a floral oil to a small spray bottle of water, and apply to silk flowers. Spray as needed to refresh the scent.

23. Neutralize Paint Odors: Help control paint odors and fumes with peppermint essential oil. Some say that adding 10ml of peppermint oil to a gallon of fresh paint will do the trick!

24. Wax Melts: You can make your own affordable wax melts using natural essential oils. Then just place them in a wax warmer to fill your home with a lovely scent! Learn how to make your own wax melts here.

25. Bathroom Spray: Essential oils are the key ingredient in my homemade “Number 2 Spray.” This spray helps keep your toilet and the whole bathroom smelling fresh! Learn how to make it here.

I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I've been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

6.) Making homemade Instant Pot yogurt is a game changer!

I recently tried using this popular cold start method to create easy 3 ingredient yogurt, and it worked brilliantly! The key is to buy ultra-pasteurized milk like Fairlife and then you just need a sweetener of choice and a little bit of prepared yogurt as a starter. There is a yogurt function on the Instant Pot, and I cooked mine overnight for 8 hours, then chilled it for a few hours in my fridge.

The result is thick Greek-style yogurt that&rsquos creamy and can be served with fruit or preserves. This is such a good money-saving idea because compiling yogurt cups from this homemade yogurt is much less than buying from the store! I&rsquom thinking of buying these cute glass yogurt jars to prep yogurt in my fridge.

76 Kitchen Hacks to Save Time, Get Organized, and Stay Calm

So maybe you think you’ve got it all figured out. You’re the MacGyver of the kitchen — spatula in one hand, two eggs in the other.

Crack, separate, and plop goes the egg in the bowl… with a bit of shell. The horror! What do you do? Hint: Fishing around with a spoon isn’t the answer.

Thankfully, we have a solution to your egg quandary (see tip number 10), plus quick fixes to tons of other food prep, cooking, and baking predicaments, from pitting a nectarine to softening butter the easy way.

We’ve hacked your kitchen — prepare to save money, save time, and never cry from cutting onions again.

1. Keep potatoes white

Cover shredded or diced potatoes with cold water before cooking to prevent the spuds from turning that gross grayish/brown caused by the release of a starch that makes them oxidize.

2. Slow down rotting

Store tomatoes stem end down to keep them from spoiling as quickly. This prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting the scar where the tomato once attached to the vine.

Oh, and the advice to never store a tomato in the fridge? Debunked! Recent research revealed that the method of storage (fridge versus countertop) didn’t significantly affect taste or juiciness of tomatoes. Kanski L, et al. (2020). Flavor-related quality attributes of ripe tomatoes are not significantly affected under two common household conditions. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00472

3. Give bananas a longer life

Keep bananas fresh for longer by wrapping the end of the bunch with plastic wrap. Better yet, separate each banana. Both tactics block ethylene gases from releasing out of the stem, thereby ripening the fruit too fast.

4. Speed up ripening

Be a total magician and morph a banana from green to yellow (or a peach from crunchy to juicy) with the help of a paper bag. When fruit is tossed into the bag, concentrated ethylene gas helps it ripen faster.

5. Save cut fruit from browning

You’ve probably heard that a little squeeze of lemon juice can keep apple slices from looking unappetizing. A mixture of 1 part honey to 2 parts water works much the same way to keep fruit from browning.

Ever wonder why this works? The citric acid and vitamin C in lemon juice and a peptide in honey slow down the oxidation process that causes discoloration.

6. Prevent brown sugar from hardening

Ugh, the worst: You go make cookies, only to find your brown sugar hardened into crusty nuggets (or a single rock-hard candy mountain). Help brown sugar stay soft and scoopable by tossing an orange peel or a slice of apple along with the sugar into an airtight container.

Or, for a quick fix, microwave brown sugar next to a small glass of water. The moisture the water released into the microwave will help break up the block of sugar.

7. Avoid plastic wrap disasters

Had enough of wrangling plastic wrap? Store the roll in the fridge to cover leftovers with less of a hassle. Chilling the wrap temporarily reduces its stickiness.

8. Get creative with covering food

They’re known for hair hackery, but shower caps’ usefulness isn’t limited to keeping your lovely tresses dry. Cover leftovers with a clean cap (right in their dishes) to prevent air particles from turning food stale.

Not only are shower caps reusable, they’re a heckuva lot easier than repeatedly removing and replacing plastic wrap or tin foil. And they just might make you giggle when you see them in your fridge.

9. Check if eggs are still (incredibly) edible

Your nose alone won’t always tell you if eggs have gone bad. To find out, gently place uncooked eggs in a bowl of cold water. If an egg sinks to the bottom, it’s A-OK. If it floats, it’s seen better days.

Over time, the liquid inside eggs evaporates through the porous shell, leaving a gas bubble inside. The floatier it is, the older it is.

10. Never wrestle eggshell pieces again

No one likes crunchy pieces in their cake or brownies. But grabbing a bit of eggshell that’s fallen into batter can turn into a wild goose chase, as it seems to squirm out of your reach like a wily tadpole.

We’ve got two solutions. For one, just wet your fingers and reach right in. (Simple, but it really works!)

For a cleaner alternative, scoop up bits of broken eggshell with half of your already-cracked egg. The shell acts as a magnet to draw up shell pieces without wasting too much egg.

11. Easily scoop out squash seeds

Remove seeds from vegetables like squash and pumpkin with an ice cream scoop. Because the edge of the scoop is sharp, it cuts through the fibrous, gooey stuff inside the squash better than your hand or a regular spoon.

12. Skim the fat

Spoon out excess fat from stocks, stews, and sauces by skimming a few ice cubes (wrapped in a paper towel or cheese cloth) along the surface of the liquid. The ice helps the fat solidify, making it easier to remove with a spoon (or even a piece of toast).

13. Separate yolks from whites

This hack is borderline wizardry!

Crack an egg into a bowl, then invert an empty water bottle above the yolk, squeezing in the sides of the bottle. As the mouth of the bottle makes contact with the yolk, release the pressure on the bottle.

Schloooop! The change in air pressure sucks the yolk directly into the bottle, leaving the white behind.

Need a tutorial? Check out this video.

14. Pit cherries with ease

Place cherries on top of an empty beer bottle, one at a time, and use a chopstick to push the pit into the bottle.

15. Flip that banana upside down

Ever had issues prying into a banana? You’re not alone. Instead of wasting precious fruit by hacking into the stem end with a knife, gently press the bottom together and peel the banana from the bottom up.

16. Peel that papery skin from ginger

No need to pry off ginger’s knobby skin with a peeler. Ginger root skin is actually quite delicate and can be scraped off with a teaspoon.

17. Peel garlic the fuss-free way

Remove all cloves from the bulb, then whack each clove with the side of a chef’s knife. The skin will fall right off.

18. Peel citrus fruits without the mess

There’s only one downside to eating an orange: the tedious task of peeling it. To avoid the mess and frustration, roll citrus fruits and/or microwave them for a minute for easy peeling. (Just be careful to not burn yourself!)

19. Peel potatoes without a peeler

Time to ditch the peeler again! Peel a potato in a snap by boiling it for a few minutes, then giving it an ice bath — a method known as blanching. The skin will separate from the potatoey center so you can pick it right off.

20. Pit stone fruits with a twist

Cut stone fruits, such as plums and nectarines, into two equal halves, then twist the halves in opposite directions. Use your thumb to pop out the pit.

If your thumb doesn’t do the job, gently pry it out with a butter knife, or cut the fruit into quarters for easier separating.

21. Peel boiled eggs in a big batch

Time to put all your eggs in one basket — or, uh, one pot or other crockery.

Peel multiple hard-boiled eggs at a time by shaking them in any lidded container. Smash, bang, boom! Shells are cracked and ready to shake right off.

The eggs won’t be pretty, but they will be ready for an egg salad much quicker than traditional methods.

22. Make eggshell removal even easier

The fresher your eggs, the harder it is to remove their shells when hard-boiled. Solve this predicament by adding baking soda or vinegar to water when boiling eggs.

Both substances permeate the eggshells and help the albumen (that’s fancy speak for egg whites) separate from the shell.

23. Pit and peel an avocado with just one utensil

Cut an avocado into quarters lengthwise to break the fruit from the pit. (Once it’s down to the last section, you can just pop the pit right off.) Run a knife under the tip of skin on each section, then peel it off like a banana.

24. Hull strawberries

Though you technically can eat strawberries whole, most of us would rather not.

Press a straw through the bottom of a strawberry until it breaks through the top and takes the hull — the white part of the center of the berry — with it. Remove any remaining leaves with your fingers.

25. Make citrus fruits even juicier

To get the most juice out of a lemon, refrigerate, then microwave it for 15 to 20 seconds.

Bonus tips: Roll citrus fruits before squeezing, cut them lengthwise, and/or use a pair of tongs to squeeze instead of your own two hands.

26. Keep seeds from falling into citrus juice

When juicing citrus, wrap the fruits in cheesecloth (or a clean stocking) for seed-free sipping.

27. Remove pomegranate seeds (without dying your hands red)

The nitpicky nature of pulling out pomegranate arils is almost enough to make you pass on these delicious, antioxidant-rich fruits. Zarfeshany A, et al. (2014). Potent health effects of pomegranate. DOI: 10.4103/2277-9175.129371

Simplify the process by cutting a shallow circular cone into the flower end of the pomegranate, then slice off the bottom (the other side) of the fruit.

Score the fruit along its natural ridges, and pry each section apart to reveal the seeds.

28. De-kernel a cob of corn without your teeth

Use a bundt pan — yes, really — to slice corn kernels off the cob. Place the pointy end of the cob on the center hole of the pan (with the open part of the pan facing up) and gently press downward. The pan does double duty as both a stand and a kernel collector.

29. Make cheese grating easier and less messy

Before grating semi-soft cheeses such as fontina and fresh mozzarella, freeze it for about 30 minutes. This hardens it up, making it easier to grate.

30. Cut the (soft) cheese with ease

Slice soft cheeses such as brie and goat cheese with unflavored dental floss to avoid squishing them. This trick also works for cake, cheesecake, and cookie dough logs!

31. Prevent onions from making you weep

To stop onion-induced tears, freeze this aromatic veggie before chopping. (Note: This trick only works if you’re planning to cook the onions later — otherwise, after the onion thaws out, the raw pieces will be a bit soggy!)

Another option? Strap on your swimming goggles to protect your eyes while you chop.

Or, if you want to look absolutely crazy when your housemate walks in, put a slice of bread in your mouth (partially sticking out) to absorb the irritant gas before it reaches your eyes.

32. Deal with hard-to-open jars

To open a stuck jar lid, wrap the lid with a rubber band and give it another try. The band will provide extra traction. If that’s still not enough (or your hands hurt too much), cover the rubber banded top with a dishtowel, and try again.

Alternatively, lid grips can help and are easily found at the grocery store in packs of three.

33. Make your own buttermilk

Buttermilk adds richness to muffins, pancakes, and breads, but it can be a tall order to get through a whole container of the stuff. (‘Cause we’re willing to bet you don’t drink it straight.)

To make your own buttermilk, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of regular milk. The mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as the real thing, but it will help create fluffy baked goods just the same.

34. Cut cherry tomatoes in half all at once

Cut multiple cherry or grape tomatoes in half with a handy lid trick.

Place one lid flat on the countertop, add a layer of tomatoes (roughly all the same diameter), and top with another lid. Gently slice horizontally through the bunch of tomatoes while pressing down the top lid.

What kind of lids? Anything works! Large yogurt container lids or Tupperware tops are good options.

35. Soften butter in a flash

Keeping butter out on the counter for an hour isn’t exactly ideal for a tight schedule. To speed up the process, grate it with a cheese grater or flatten it with a rolling pin (but put it in a plastic bag first).

36. Soften butter faster (without a grater or rolling pin)

If you’d rather not use one of the tips mentioned above, cut a stick of butter into about eight pieces. More surface area and air flow will allow the stick to soften more rapidly.

37. Bring melted butter back to solid form

Revive oversoftened butter by giving it an ice bath. Place the butter in a small bowl, then nestle the small bowl in a larger one filled with a few handfuls of ice and some cold water.

38. Measure sticky stuff without the mess

Coat a measuring cup or spoon with hot water or a dab of cooking oil (or spray) before measuring sticky substances such as molasses or honey. The heat or oil will help it slide right off and into a mixing bowl without leaving any behind.

39. De-crystallize honey

Bring new life to crystallized honey by placing the container in a bowl of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.

40. Don’t waste your time flipping

Now, don’t flip out on us, but you don’t always have to flip your food. When roasting items such as French fries and veggies, preheat your cookie sheet in the oven. This eliminates the need to flip halfway through.

41. Keep pots from boiling over

When your pot runneth over, prevent overboiling by placing a wooden spoon across the top of it. Because wood is not a good material for conducting heat, the hot water strays away from the handle.

42. Cook a whole bird evenly

When cooking an entire turkey or chicken, ice the breast of the bird. Since the dark thigh meat needs more time to cook than the white breast meat, chilling the breasts will promote even cooking.

43. Make a perfect poached egg

To poach an egg that’s both tasty and aesthetically pleasing, crack your egg into a fine-mesh strainer before cooking. This gets rid of liquid-y excess egg white.

The strainer is also a great tool for gently lowering the egg into the water.

44. Count out your olive oil

When you want to sauté, but all your measuring spoons are dirty, no need to dismay!

A standard spout on an olive oil cruet meters out oil at 1 tablespoon per 6 seconds. Count to 6 to pour the perfect tablespoon (or to 2 for a teaspoon, 24 for a quarter cup, etc.).

45. Cut brownies without the crumbs

There’s nothing worse than pulling out a pan of perfect brownies only to destroy the entire pan when it comes time to slice.

For flawlessly square, clean-cut brownies (or other bars), grease a baking pan, line it with two strips of parchment (one from left to right, one from front to back, crossed through the middle), and grease the parchment paper too.

Once cooked, let the brownies sit until cool to the touch. Use the parchment paper edges to lift the brownies from the pan. Then slice with a serrated knife.

46. Use parchment paper for muffins

No muffin liners? No problem! Use 5-inch squares of parchment paper instead.

To help the paper stick better, spray each muffin-well first. Then press the squares into each hole, folding the sides as needed to create flat walls. Bonus: The makeshift liners look pretty darn fancy with those popped collars.

47. DIY your cake flour

Psst… you in the flour aisle… you don’t actually need pre-purchased cake flour to make light-as-a-feather pastries. Instead, make your own!

Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour, then remove 2 tablespoons. Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch and whisk to combine.

48. Flatten dough without the mess

Okay, so your sugar cookie dough turned out a little sticky. How do you keep it from sticking to your countertop (and clinging to your rolling pin) when you roll it out? Wax paper to the rescue!

For minimal mess, place a sheet of wax paper underneath dough before rolling — and layer an additional sheet on top to keep your rolling pin squeaky clean.

49. Foam milk without a frother

So maybe you don’t have a fancy-schmancy espresso machine with attached milk steamer. We can’t help you on the espresso front, but we can tell you how to get frothy, creamy, delicious milk foam on the cheap!

All you need is a small jar with a lid. Fill the jar with a little milk (no more than halfway) and shake what your mama gave you (or, you know, your leftover jam jar) until the milk has doubled in size.

Pop off the lid and microwave the milk for about 30 seconds. Voila! Frothed milk.

50. Brew coffee without a coffee maker

For those times when you’re really roughing it without a coffee maker, there’s still hope for getting your caffeine fix!

Boil coffee grounds in a pot of water (use the same amount of coffee and water you would for a coffee machine). Remove from the heat and let the grounds settle to the bottom (4 or 5 minutes), then ladle the coffee off the top of the pot into cups.

The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship

Yes, the Pandemic Is Ruining Your Body

Cottagecore Was Just the Beginning

This cycle repeats seemingly every few weeks, when a new food video goes viral for being bizarre or disgusting, either on purpose or accidentally. Many of these videos start out in a familiar way, promising a quick weeknight dinner trick or a money-saving hack to re-create your favorite takeout. Then, they go off the rails. A woman fills a coffee maker with nondairy creamer instead of water and coats her coffee grounds in caramel sauce. What starts out as a recipe for baked barbecue chicken turns into one for a deep-fried, deep-dish barbecue-chicken pizzadilla. Food websites document improbable pizza toppings or extreme sandwiches with high-definition detail. The mysterious French website Chefclub is doing weird things with too much cheese again. Meanwhile, Flom’s Spaghetti-Os pie, which she posted on TikTok and Facebook, is one recipe in a recent wave of bizarre instructional TikToks, sincere or otherwise.

Disgusting food goes viral for the same reason you ask whoever is close by to smell the awful, forgotten thing you just found in the back of the fridge. By the millions, people voluntarily look at things they find revolting, over and over again, before gleefully spreading the experience to others. The cycle continues—more people document themselves trying out the offending recipes, the sense of communal disgust expands—until another video emerges to briefly obliterate our understanding of how other humans eat when the cameras are off. But the mystery here is really about us: Why can’t we look away?

If I had to pick who to blame for the explosion in internet cooking videos—the primordial goo from which viral gross-out cooking crawled—I’d blame BuzzFeed. Under the brand name Tasty, the media company began making short food videos optimized for social media in 2015, using a formula that is now the genre’s aesthetic vernacular: Two disembodied hands preparing food in time-lapse, set to jangly elevator music. No one speaks, and everything goes from mise en place to finished product in a minute, maybe less. Watching people cook (sometimes poorly, or with weird ingredients) was already big business on TV and YouTube, and Tasty proved you didn’t need long shows or detailed instructions to rack up a dedicated following people simply love watching food come together. Tasty currently has more than 105 million followers on Facebook.

Some of Tasty’s earliest videos foretell the eventual existence of the Spaghetti-Os pie. On OG Tasty, the repository for the site’s older work, the most-viewed recipe, with more than a 100 million views, is for the cheese-stuffed burger dog. It involves fashioning a tube of ground meat around an oblong hunk of cheddar, then grilling everything until molten cheese is squirting out the ends. Many of Tasty’s most successful creations share this Super Bowl–party-from-hell vibe: stuffed tater tots, bacon-wrapped mozzarella sticks, grilled pizza s’mores. The ingredients, like the videos, are quick. You don’t need to make dough in a world with canned biscuits, and you don’t need to thicken a sauce when cream cheese exists. They are food porn in the truest sense: pure pleasure without all the labor, sometimes to the point of grotesquerie.

It’s not an enormous leap from these videos to home cooks who try to build their followings on TikTok or Facebook by showing off their best quick-and-easy recipe hacks. Just as Tasty’s success has been a significant boon to BuzzFeed’s bottom line, viral cooking videos can help their creators amass an audience, sell sponsored content, make endorsement deals, and run ads. For the people who do the best job figuring out what others want to see—by Tasty’s example, it often seems to be quick, comforting, nostalgic foods—and how to get it in front of them, virality can mean realizing the dream of quitting a 9-to-5 job to work for themselves.

To achieve this, recipes that use cheap, widely accessible, shelf-stable ingredients appear to be a good bet. America is not a nation of super-skilled cooks. Most Americans say they don’t consistently enjoy the activity. The country’s food system was industrialized generations ago, which means that most people have little relationship to where their food comes from, and many lack the kitchen skills that might have been a basic necessity for their grandparents. That itself is a marketing opportunity for agricultural conglomerates separating people from their understanding of what they eat creates a void that can be filled with convenience products and fast food.

For many people, this way of eating isn’t just a cultural reality, but an economic and practical need. Canned goods and processed foods are cheap and plentiful in places where fresh produce often isn’t, and they take some of the prep work out of cleaning and chopping for people who are exhausted or physically unable to do it, or who didn’t get much cooking instruction from their own exhausted parents. The Food Network personality Sandra Lee built an empire out of this style of “semi-homemade” cooking after growing up poor, and is, in some sense, also a foremother of the accidentally viral cooking video—some of her recipes, like her infamous Kwanzaa cake, test the bounds of credulity.

Watching someone in a tastefully appointed luxury kitchen cook with the kinds of foods that affluent Americans frequently eschew can be disorienting it’s often unclear how much mockery, if any, lurks beneath the surface of any particular video. The ones that take place in normal-person kitchens usually seem more sincere. Either way, it’s easy for things to go awry. Sometimes these amateurs run afoul of how much dairy the wider internet is willing to tolerate, or they put too many soft canned goods in a crock pot set to High. If you know better, the errors are indeed disgusting. If you don’t, maybe Spaghetti-Os are pie filling. Spaghetti pie, after all, is a recipe that sometimes lands in the cookbooks of celebrity chefs.

For viewers who don’t genuinely want help constructing a fast dinner out of shelf-stable ingredients, why keep coming back for more? The internet is brimming with absurdity of all types, so it’s all the more notable that these gross videos seem to be impervious to fluctuating tastes or the whims of an algorithm. If you can’t go viral on your own, all you have to do is find someone absolutely bricking an attempt at pasta Alfredo, slap on a one-liner about the crimes its creator has commited, and virality is yours for the taking.

Alexandra Plakias, a philosophy professor at Hamilton College who studies food, disgust, and moral judgment, watched some of these videos at my request (my apologies to her). She identified a possible explanation for why the recipes bore themselves into our brains: They are minimally counterintuitive ideas. “You take something that’s familiar, but then you put just enough of a twist on it to subvert expectations,” Plakias explained to me. “Minimally counterintuitive concepts are maximally memorable.” This concept was developed by the cognitive anthropologist Pascal Boyer to make sense of which kinds of religious ideas stick—a god with a human visage, for instance. On social media, people mostly already understand the conventions of the quick cooking video—that is, until everything goes left, and the canned pasta goes into the pie crust.

Why we seek out these gross food experiences in the first place is less clear. Disgust, Plakias said, isn’t as well understood as other negative emotions that people pursue voluntarily, like fear, pain, or sadness. Those feelings can confer some physiological benefit—an adrenaline rush, a sense of euphoria, a good cry—when experienced in safe, controlled situations, such as riding a roller coaster, getting a tattoo, or watching a sad movie. Disgust, on the other hand, is mostly an emotion that is useful in real-world situations, where it helps people steer clear of things that might make them sick. There’s little pleasure in feeling like you’re about to barf.

Plakias thinks that the best explanation lies not in our personal reactions to gross recipes, but in our social reactions. For many people, it isn’t enough that they watch, aghast. They also have to smash that RT, because disgust can function as a powerful identity marker—in this case, by helping people to define what they’re not. “We co-opt this kind of disgust response to enforce social norms and moral norms,” Plakias told me. “Our judgments about which foods are disgusting are fairly arbitrary and are mostly culturally determined.” Most Americans, for an example, don’t eat insects, although bugs are a nutritious and sustainable protein source incorporated into food in much of the world. On the other hand, we do largely eat dairy products, which are sort of gross if you think about them for too long.

Whatever the boundaries, these expectations around what is and is not eaten fortify our shared reality. When a recipe goes viral for violating the aesthetic norms of some subset of the internet population—too greasy, too creamy, too mushy, too bland—the response to it often mirrors something Plakias has watched her young son do with his friends: Gleefully declare something to be gross between peals of laughter, buoyed by a small indication that they all understand the world in the same way.

The internet, of course, is just as useful for fracturing shared realities as it is for creating them. I still don’t know whether Flom was joking, and I’m not even sure what it would mean for her to be joking anymore. Her Facebook page, where the video originated, is full of nonculinary pranks identified as such—things like tricking her frequent co-star into grabbing a cactus. But the page’s food section simply advertises videos of “kitchen fun and crazy recipe hacks,” many of which have tens of millions of views. There and on her TikTok account, she has leaned hard into straight-faced gross-out food since the Spaghetti-Os pie went viral, doing things like reconstituting potato chips into mashed potatoes or frying a steak in a thick casing of butter.

When you look at Flom’s videos back-to-back, in the context of all the other things she’s done in apparent bids for social-media virality, she clearly is trolling—the butter arms and all the other weird little details are too conspicuous to be anything but provocative. But that’s still not quite the same thing as joking. Some of the ghastly recipes seem like they work on some level, like her “peach cobbler” made out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, canned peaches, and cake mix. It looks like a real dessert when it comes out of the oven, and the people who taste it on camera don’t flinch before singing its praises. In the comments, viewers report trying it and loving it, and they recommend tweaks to the recipe for others.

One of Flom’s more outrageous videos, which demonstrates a recipe called Sprite pie, melds two real parts of food history pioneered by the poor: the Depression-era water pie, which mimicked a custard when eggs and milk were scarce, and the use of soda to sweeten desserts and lighten their texture, a long-standing part of Black southern cooking. The recipe had been bandied about among food TikTokers before Flom uploaded her version to Facebook, and one popular DIY chef on YouTube has racked up nearly 1 million views proving that the concoction does indeed work. The filling sets up into a custard, and, apparently, it is sweet and satisfying.

Is Flom joking, or is she serious? Yes. Everything on the internet is a joke until it’s not anymore.

15 Incredible Recipes That Will Impress Absolutely Anyone

There are a few dishes that, if you know how to make them at home, will definitely earn you praise. They're classic, they're impressive, and they taste amazing. Perfect these 15 recipes and everyone will think you're the best chef around.

1. NOLA BBQ Shrimp

Cook shrimp with the flavors of New Orleans, and your guests are guaranteed to ask for seconds.

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you can make a perfect chocolate chip cookie, you can win anyone's heart. This recipe from Jacques Torres is your ticket.

3. Cheese Soufflé

Being able to cook a soufflé is the ultimate sign of an expert chef. Let Julia Child be your guide.

If you walk out of the kitchen with lobster on your serving tray, you will turn heads for sure, especially when that lobster is drenched in coconut butter and pineapple green curry sauce.

5. Fruit Tart

Make the prettiest, tastiest breakfast ever with this fruit tart.

6. Garlic-Yogurt Baked Chicken

There are about a billion ways to cook chicken and almost as many ways to cook it badly. This foolproof recipe will ensure you get it right.

7. Honey Goat Cheese Pizza

This homemade pizza topped with honey goat cheese and caramelized onions will have everyone swooning.

8. Cream Puffs

You pretty much need to master profiteroles, aka cream puffs, as they are the consummate French dessert.

9. Molten Lava Cakes

Are you ever sad to be served a molten chocolate lava cake? Of course not. Your guests will be thrilled to end their evening this way.

10. Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon, aka beef Burgundy, is another French dish that needs to be a part of your fancy food repertoire.

11. A Better Brownie

These are the best brownies ever. Perfect them and you'll be everyone's favorite.

12. Hearty Bolognese

If you know how to make a good Bolognese sauce, you will always have a wonderful dinner at your fingertips, whether it's for a weeknight alone or a weekend with guests.

13. Sweet Potato and Lime Taquitos

Anybody can throw together a taco. Taquitos, on the other hand, will show your guests just how amazing you are.

14. Chicken and Artichoke Ravioli

Pasta may sound boring, but homemade ravioli is the absolute best.

15. Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Braid

Even the most delicious chicken pot pie can look homely until you turn it into a beautiful braid. This is comfort food at its most delicious and most gorgeous.

Jane Maynard is a food blogger at This Week for Dinner and Babble, a writer and designer, and a lover of all things chocolate.

The Karl Lagerfeld Diet

When designer Karl Lagerfeld lost over 90 pounds from a specialized diet, he was so excited about his new look—and his new cuisine–that he decided to share all of his secrets with readers. Says Lagerfeld: "It is so stylish, so classy. You will never feel hungry.…It worked for me, and I guarantee it will work for you."

Redeeming Quality: While some of the food and diet advice tends toward the obscure or unattainable, the book does promote a decidedly classic take on cuisine that we dig: Quail flambé or vegetables in aspic, anyone?

All the Details

  • Before we dive into life hacks…everyone go add Ted Lasso to your watchlist. Twenty thumbs up, believe the hype. We both love it like we loved Schitts Creek WHICH IS SAYING SOMETHING. It restored our faith in TV after how sad we were when Schitts Creek ended. Please go watch (it's on Apple TV and totally worth it).

  • Thea proclaims me the queen of life hacks. I am slightly embarrassed about how far I take it. It knows no limits at times. My brain never thinks about tasks in a singular way–I am always thinking about how to get them all done in the order that makes the most sense. I sometimes have trouble actually relaxing.
  • Probably somewhere between the two of us is the perfect human. Thea doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about efficiency. However…she is really good at a fast shower. Hair, face, rinse. Conditioner, body, rinse it all. And every once in awhile she cleans her shower at the same time.
  • Thea's other shower hack–the intuition razor! All in one and it's amazing.

  • I love my motion sensor lights. You just walk in and they magically come on. You just set it for how long you want it to stay on.
  • Move the socks downstairs y'all. This one LITERALLY changed our lives. I was so tired of my kids forgetting to bring their socks down in the mornings and it was adding so much time to getting out the door. It is so simple but so great. Also, have toothbrushes in the bathroom downstairs.
  • Laundry hack–let your kids do their own laundry. Thea's daughter was not happy with the laundry schedule and she started doing her own which is amazing. My kids also do their own and it has made our lives so much easier.
  • Thea's best life hack is don't sweat the small stuff and choosing her battles. I cannot do that for most things.
  • Our girls started doing their own laundry at about age 8 but have been doing small laundry jobs since they were probably 3.
  • We have started alternating chore weeks. We have tried it all but this is finally what is working. Green week has certain chores involving the dog but less chores in the kitchen and yellow week has way more responsibility in the kitchen (after dinner etc). This eliminates negotiating and arguing about who has done more. If you have kids you know how focused they are on fairness. You can see a screenshot of our chore list below (Joe made it in Google sheets).

  • BIG HACK–let your kids do things for themselves. Stop making yourself a slave to your children. They need to learn how to do things and it takes things off your plate! If it is something you love, keep doing it! If you don't love it, delegate it.

  • My kids also make their lunches. Thea likes this one–she is still making lunches most of the time.

  • I. Love. Alexa. We use her for adding things to our shopping list (the list shows up in the Alexa app)–I don't have the opportunity to forget because I add it right when I realize it is out. Timers–baking, cooking, homework time, etc. You can also use them together to drop in on people around the house if you have Dots around your house. It is basically an intercom system that keeps me from having to yell, which I appreciate. We also have started adding smart plugs and use Alexa to turn certain lights on and off. A listener uses Alexa for their daily schedule–you set it up once and it tells everyone what to do when. Make your devices work FOR you!
  • Cup hack from Anna at Lightshine Candles–keep a cup bin on the counter and everyone gets one cup per day. Cuts down on how many cups you have to watch.
  • If something doesn't bother you, don't mess with it.
  • Bonus listener hacks: Do more frequent and smaller loads of laundry and keep everyone's stuff separate. Keep your keys by the door (this made us both laugh.) If you have a washer with a timer, set it to finish as you are waking up.
  • Leave reviews. If we read one in an episode and you hear it and email us, we will send you fun free stuff!

26 best cookbooks to give (and get)

Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Food plays a huge role in our lives. It brings people together, introduces new cuisines and cultures, and nourishes our bodies — and minds. So when you give someone on your list a cookbook, you’re offering them a gift that keeps on giving (and indirectly feeding). That's especially true when they have some of the best gadgets for home cooks to help them along.

And 2019 has been a great year for cookbooks. From Alison Roman's "Nothing Fancy" and Antoni Porowski's "Antoni in the Kitchen" to JL Fields's "Fast & Easy Vegan Cookbook" and Toni Tipton-Martin's "Jubilee," there are plenty of options for the discerning home cook to learn more recipes. Whether you’re shopping for a serious foodie, an avid home chef, a vegan, a health nut, or a passionate grillmaster, we have more than two dozen options in this updated annual cookbook guide to help you find a perfect fit.

13 Time-Saving Kitchen Hacks

1. Save Salty Soups

Ever been a bit too heavy-handed with your seasonings when making soup? Salt can make the difference between a bland soup and a delicious one, but too much salt can be very unpleasant! To rescue a salty soup, drop a peeled potato into the pot. The potato will help absorb some of the excess salt and save your soup!

2. Rescue Rice

Rice can be tricky to get right at the best of times! And if you happen to overcook it, the rice at the bottom of the pot can burn and affect the taste of the rest of the rice. But there’s an easy way to salvage your rice! Just placed a slice of white bread on top of the rice for 5-10 minutes. The bread will draw out the burned flavor and aroma, leaving you with plenty of palatable rice to serve! (Just be careful not to scrape up any of the burned bits off the bottom of the pot when you go to scoop the rice.)

3. Pop More Popcorn

I love homemade popcorn, but I used to get so frustrated by how many kernels remained unpopped after making it! But then I learned a simple tip that really helped. All you have to do is soak your popcorn kernels in water for about 10 minutes before popping. The additional moisture from the water creates more steam inside each kernel during cooking, resulting in fewer unpopped kernels!

4. Prevent Potato Sprouts

Can’t seem to keep your potatoes from sprouting in storage? Just drop an apple in the bag or basket where you keep the potatoes! The apple will help prevent premature sprouting.

5. Faster Defrosting

You can defrost meat quickly by pouring white vinegar over the surface of the meat. The vinegar will lower the freezing temperature of the meat, causing it to thaw faster. And as an added bonus, the vinegar will also help tenderize the meat too!

6. Fish Out Fat

Here’s a great tip for getting rid of excess fat and oil from sauces, stocks, stews, and soups. Wrap a few ice cubes in a paper towel, then skim them across the top of your soup. The ice cubes will encourage excess fat to solidify, making it much easier to scoop out and discard!

7. Thicken Runny Sauces

Struggling with a runny sauce? Toss a dry lasagna noodle into the sauce. The noodle will absorb the excess liquid without changing the taste or texture of your sauce. Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency, just pull the noodle out and discard it.

8. Ice-Free Ice Cream

Having an icy crust form on the surface of your ice cream can make it unpleasant to eat. But it’s easy to prevent that icy layer from forming in the first place! When you’re ready to put your ice cream away, press a piece of wax paper into the surface of the ice cream before replacing the lid. This will help keep your ice cream ice-free!

9. Keep Cake From Sticking

Use a damp towel to ensure your freshly baked cake doesn’t stick to the pan. After taking the pan out of the oven, set it on the damp towel to cool for a few minutes. Then turn the pan out onto a plate, and the cake should slide right out! This works for ceramic and metal baking dishes only – not for glass!

10. Quickly Warm Baking Ingredients

I can never seem to remember to let my eggs and butter warm up to room temperature before I start a baking project! But luckily for me, there’s an easy way to speed up the process! Just place your eggs and wrapped butter into a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes. The water will warm them right up!

11. Roast Without Flipping

When roasting foods like fries, vegetables, and potatoes, you typically need to flip them once or twice during cooking to ensure they cook evenly. But you can eliminate the need to flip by pre-heating your baking sheet before putting your food on it! (While this works great for roasting, I don’t advise trying it with baking!)

12. Easy Reusable Wrap

Instead of covering your leftovers with single-use plastic wrap, use a shower cap instead! Unlike plastic wrap, a shower cap is quick and easy to apply, and you can rinse and reuse it again and again!

13. Simplify Plastic Wrap

Sick of fighting with tangled plastic wrap? Just store the roll in your fridge instead! Chilled plastic wrap is much easier to handle than room temperature wrap. You’ll save yourself so much time and frustration with this tip!

How do you save yourself time and effort in the kitchen?

I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I've been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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