The little things can make a big difference — especially when it comes to cooking. While we wish we had all day to devote to concocting delicious dinners and desserts all day, the truth is as parents, this often falls to the wayside. The solution? Shortcuts and tips that will have you wondering why you ever did it any other way.
Our Top 100 Food Bloggers of 2012 have shared the simple tricks that make their days in the kitchen easier, faster, and more fun. From freezing cookies beforehand to getting a handle on those knife skills, you’ll find something to help your cooking skills — and make the rest of the family happy to be your taste testers!
Check out their most valuable cooking tips after the jump!
Make a schedule 1 of 21When cooking a big holiday meal, I've learned that it's all about the timing. I make a schedule so I know exactly when I need to prep and cook the different foods on my menu. I also prepare as much of the food as I can ahead of time so that I'm not running around like a crazy person at the last minute trying to get everything ready in time for dinner.
- Megan, Food and Whine
Photo credit: Flickr user notahipster
Prep food ahead of time 2 of 21
Freeze cookie dough in individual balls 3 of 21
Invest in good cookware 4 of 21Invest in good pots and pans. After I did, I realized that many of my cooking disasters (uneven cooking, burning, scorching) could have been prevented with a heavier, thicker-bottomed pan. Having a proper-fitting lid nearby can also help control temperatures and improve braising and steaming. My pans not only conduct and retain heat well, they are pretty enough to take from stovetop to tabletop. And we can all use one less dish to wash amid hectic holiday hosting.
- Kelly, Dinner du Jour
Photo credit:Flickr user jonesggallery
Cook meat low and slow 5 of 21
Add a little liquor to desserts 6 of 21
Leave chunks of butter in your crusts 7 of 21I have no doubt in my mind that it was my trip up to Vermont to learn more about baking with the masters of flour; King Arthur. They taught me several indispensible tips for making simply delectable pie crusts and puff pastry that will forever be a part of my sweet creation arsenal from here on out. The secret? Big glorious hunks of butter left intact inside the dough.
- Julie, Mommie Cooks
Photo credit: Flickr user cookbookman
Use oven bags 8 of 21
Sweet and salty 9 of 21
Stick with what you know 10 of 21It seems that each year we typically have the same Thanksgiving day feast. Our plates are filled with family favorites. Stick with the tried and true recipes that your family loves. Everyone will be happy and content and walk away satisfied. Make a copy of your long grocery list, and store it with the recipes you will be making. You won't have to sit and think about all the groceries needed for this fabulous family meal. It's already made!
- Jonna, Get Off Your Butt and BAKE!
Photo credit: Flickr user dinnerseries
Freeze dishes beforehand 11 of 21My one tip that really helps me out tremendously during the holidays is knowing that is is okay to freeze dishes beforehand. I would stress about how to time everything so that things would arrive at the table hot and beautifully fresh. However, it is nearly impossible to feed a large crowd and have everything be prepared that day, especially when family is staying in your home for multiple days (needing multiple meals to eat per day!). These fall scones are a good example. I make loads of them, stack them between sheets of wax paper and freeze them. I have to remember to give them plenty of time to thaw. In the morning or for afternoon coffee, I can pop them into the oven and everyone can enjoy hot delicious baked goods.
-Sarah, Snippets of Thyme
Get the recipe at Snippets of Thyme
Marinate your turkey in booze 12 of 21When I finally learned my mom's turkey recipe and found out that she marinates the bird in three cups of booze for a few days, I went from having a turkey at Thanksgiving to being a rock star in my husband's eyes. He's even told his mother that mine's the best he's ever had (and what guy does that?!).
- Christiane, Taking on Magazines
Get the recipe at Taking on Magazines
Mislabel the goodies 13 of 21
Learning how to chop correctly 14 of 21Learn how to chop correctly. And to always use sharp knives. (Invest in them even if you don't love to cook; you may find that you like it more than you think once it gets WAY easier with good knives.) A great, sharp knife and proper technique — which is easy — cuts prep time and frustration by an order of magnitude. This is especially important during the holidays when there's so. much. prep. work! You don't have to go to cooking school to learn how to cut well. Check out YouTube for tutorials on how to cut an onion. You'll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
- Stacie, One Hungry Mama
Photo credit: Flickr user neilconway
Less is More 15 of 21When the holidays roll around I tend to go overboard in every aspect, including holiday meal and edible gift planning and preparation. As clichÃ© as it sounds, when I remember to simplify I enjoy the holiday more, my family enjoys me more, and the foods I do put the effort into making taste better and have more love in them.
- Jen, Delightful Delicacies
Get the recipes at Delightful Delicacies
Prepare spice blends in advance 16 of 21To prepare a versatile Mangalorean spice blend called Bafat Powder in advance and in bulk — helps save time grinding masalas as all you need to do is add the blend when you want any curry in a jiffy — be it vegetarian or non vegetarian. Works great for fried fish too!
- Shireen, Ruchik Randhap
Get the recipe at Ruchik Randhap
Make stock in advance 17 of 21Japanese food uses dashi stock as the base for a lot of dishes from appetizers to main dishes. As families gather together during the colder months, dashi stock is also used to make Nabe (hot pot) dishes. Around the holiday season, I was taught to make a big batch of homemade dashi stock with good quality ingredients in advance and keep it in the refrigerator (can last for a week). This simple instruction from my mom saved so much time and effort, and it's one tip that I have been following for the holiday season.
- Namiko, Just One Cookbook
Get the recipe at Just One Cookbook
Give homemade food 18 of 21People LOVE homemade foodie gifts! You can use lovely seasonal produce to make jams or chutneys, or bake up batches of candied nuts and biscotti — whatever it is, homemade gifts are appreciated for their thoughtfulness, tastiness, and usefulness. Tick, tick, tick!
- Amanda, Easy Peasy Organic
Get the recipe at Easy Peasy Organic
Make dishes that can be served at room temperature 19 of 21My mother once told me that when you're having a big party, it's a good idea to make mostly dishes that can be served at room temperature -- takes so much of the stress out of getting the meal on the table! This onion confit is a great example.
- Merrill, Food52
Get the recipe at Food52
Use a slow cooker liner 20 of 21Using a slow cooker liner to keep turkey and chicken moist! You place the poultry in the liner and tie it with kitchen string. Place the lid on your slow cooker and you get moist, delicious turkey every time!
- Karen, 365 Days of Slow Cooking
Get the recipe at 365 Days of Slow Cooking
Use a cheese shaker for flour 21 of 21I use a parmesan cheese shaker to keep flour at the ready for dusting surfaces before rolling out cookies.
- Jaime, Prudent Baby
Read more at Prudent Baby
What’s your number-one cooking tip? Share it in the comments!