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11 Tips From Our Test Kitchen That Make Cooking Easier

test kitchen secrets

My team and I have made hundreds of recipes for the blog over the past four years! Along the way, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for cooking food that looks great and tastes delicious. Here are some of our favorite cooking tips and tricks that will help make your life in the kitchen a whole lot easier — from our kitchen to yours. :-)

Related: 9 Time-Tested Kitchen Hacks That Will Always Be Useful

11 Useful Cooking Tips From The OGT Test Kitchen

ogt test kitchen

1. Let Your Pan Heat Up

Give your pans a few minutes to warm up before you start cooking. This way, the pans will heat more evenly and you’ll get better browning.

You can also preheat your sheet pan before roasting foods in your oven. If the sheet pan is already hot when you put your food on it, you won’t need to flip the food to get even browning.

ogt test kitchen

2. Toss Food While Sautéing

When sautéing, try tossing your food instead of using a spatula to turn it over. No only is using a utensil more likely to bruise your food, but tossing is faster and helps to brown your food more evenly. It’s easier than it looks, and the more you do it, the better you’ll get!

Pasta Mistakes

3. Sprinkle Your Salt

When salting food, sprinkle from a height of about 10 or 12 inches above it. The distance gives a better sense of just how much salt you’re adding, and the granules will be spread more evenly over the food.

Pasta Mistakes

4. Keep Some Pasta Water

When you make pasta, reserve some of the water before draining the noodles. After draining, return the noodles to the pot, and pour about 1/4 cup of water back into the pasta. The starchy water will be absorbed by the noodles and make it easier for the sauce to stick to the noodles.

ogt test kitchen

5. Add Nuts To Dressings

Blending walnuts or cashews into your homemade salad dressings is a great way to add creaminess, a delicious nutty flavor, and additional nutrition. (And check out the recipe for a delicious raspberry walnut vinaigrette at the end of this post!)

ogt test kitchen

6. Rehydrate Dried Fruit

Before baking with dried fruit, rehydrate it make the fruit pieces in your baked goods more plump and moist. Place the dried fruit in a bowl, pour in the hot water, and cover for about 10 minutes before using.

ogt test kitchen

7. Quickly Warm Chilled Butter

If you need room temperature butter for a recipe, place the butter in a sealed bag and beat it with a wooden spoon or rolling pin. It doesn’t take long to achieve perfectly soft butter this way, and there’s no risk of over-softening it (as often happens when using a microwave).

cooking spray

8. Make Your Own Cooking Spray

Instead of using a store-bought cooking spray, make your own homemade cooking spray! It’s easy to make, easy to use, and a great way to save money. Plus, you can use it on your cutting board before cutting beets, berries or other staining foods, and you’ll be able to quickly wipe it clean afterward and avoiding leaving stains behind.

ogt test kitchen

9. Wrap Your Scale

Use plastic wrap on your kitchen scale (or cover with a plastic bag) to keep things clean and avoid cross-contamination. It also prevent gunk from getting into the buttons and cracks.

ogt test kitchen

10. Prevent Stuck Lids

Before putting the lid back on a jar, put piece of plastic wrap over the top. The plastic wrap will prevent the lid from getting sealed shut by sticky residue. It works great with jams, jellies, and molasses, and you’ll never need a special kitchen gadget to open a stubborn jar.

ogt test kitchen

11. Keep Your Knives Sharp

Having sharp knives makes a world of difference in the kitchen! Sharp knives are actually safer to use than dull ones, not to mention much more efficiently. To test the sharpness of your kitchen knives, hold a piece of paper upright and try to slice through the top edge. If your knife doesn’t slice through it with ease, it needs sharpening.

What are your best cooking tips or kitchen secrets?

Secrets from the OGT Test Kitchen

Raspberry and Walnut Vinaigrette

Jill Nystul
My team and I have made hundreds of recipes for the blog over the years! Here's one dressing we absolutely love, from our kitchen to yours.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Condiment, Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 159 kcal


  • 1/2 cup Fresh raspberries
  • 1/3 cup Toasted walnut pieces
  • 1/3 cup Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard


  • Blend all ingredients until smooth.


Calories: 159kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 1gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gSodium: 56mgPotassium: 55mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 8IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 13mgIron: 0.4mg

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Food & Recipes

  • Good ideas here. Learned a few new ones.

    Regarding heating pans, never preheat nonstick pans. At least one scientific study has shown that releases harmful chemicals into the air, which you will breath, of course.

    But do preheat regular, uncoated, pans

  • when stacking glassware together i find it helpful to place a strip of paper towel or coffee filter between each one . no more stuck glassware or accidents if someone tries to pick up the top glass.

  • I have decorative silicone Bundt pans that I would love to use. However, every time I’ve tried to bake a cake in them, I cannot get the pan to release and I end up with a pile of crumbs. What is the secret to using silicone pans??

    • Linda, from what I’ve heard, you can spray them with cooking spray just like any other pan (I know, the reason you bought it was for its nonstick feature) and then nothing will stick to it. Good luck!

    • I had the same issue with my mini bundt pan, to the point where I almost threw it out. The trick I learned is to either spray with nonstick cooking spray (or use oil or butter) and then sprinkle with flour, or use a nonstick cooking spray that includes flour. The latter is great if you bake a lot.

  • Great tips, Jillee! A very easy, fast way to soften butter/margarine is to heat a microwave-safe container of water in the microwave, empty it, and place it upside down over the butter. It will soften in no time!

    (I mentioned this one previously) – when you’ve purchased a package of sausage or other patties, and can’t use them all at once, cut or tear small pieces of waxed paper (just large enough so that the patties don’t touch each other), and place between them, and one on the bottom and top, and then freeze them in a ziplock freezer bag. Then, the next time you want some, you can take as many or as few as you want. You might have to slip a butter knife slightly under each one, but they break apart easily, and this is a good way to be able to take only what you need, and prevents waste.

    Have a great day, and Happy Easter!

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