Cheap Eats

Three Food Hacks You Can’t Live Without

I love spending time cooking and baking, but I’m always looking for an easier way to do things. That sometimes means taking shortcuts that don’t always result in the best food. Thankfully, there are lots of food hacks out there designed to improve on existing tips and techniques. Here are three of the best I’ve come across:

  Improve jarred pasta sauce with spices, heat, and tomato paste

Homemade pasta sauce is always better than jarred, but it takes a lot of time that most of us don’t have. If you don’t buy the best (and usually most expensive) jarred sauce, you might be disappointed. However, you can improve on the flavors with three simple tricks: spices, simmering, and tomato paste. Most sauces are bland and one-dimension. Add some herbs and spices like oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes, though taste the sauce first. Now, as you prepare the rest of your dinner, simmer the sauce on the stove for about a half hour. This concentrates the flavors and thickens the sauce. If it’s still too watery, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste. This will also boost the tomato flavor.

Make cheap steak taste better with salt

Top sirloin is probably the cheapest cut of steak you can get, but it often has a liver flavor that’s unpleasant. You can improve the taste with just simple kosher salt. The night before you plan on cooking the steak, take the sirloin out of the fridge and cover with salt, and I mean cover. You want to be sure to use kosher salt. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. Once you’re ready to cook, rinse the meat really well and pat very dry. Add other spices if you want, but you don’t need any more salt. Your sirloin is ready to cook hot and fast!

Ensure moist chicken with baking soda

If you’re like me, you have trouble with overcooked chicken. To make sure it’s moist, use baking soda. Why? When you dissolve baking soda in water and submerge chicken, the baking soda actually affects the meat’s chemistry. It raises the pH balance on the meat’s surface, so the outside is more alkaline. This makes it hard for proteins to bunch up, and bunchy proteins cause toughness. With baking soda, they’re all loose, which results in juicier chicken! You only need about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per 12-ounces of meat, and 15 minutes of soaking. Rinse and dry chicken well before cooking.