Improve Your Cooking Skills With These 45 Practical Tips

Here’s a handy list of notes from the 1950s and 1960s that I’ve collected from a variety of vintage clippings.

Each of these are from magazine articles or newspaper advice columns containing helpful ideas sent in from women sharing their tips with each other.

I consider these as timeless wisdom, they were our mothers and grandmothers–and it’s hard to find someone with better advice & tricks than they have, these women knew how to work a kitchen!

I’ve also included more info found on Tipnut where there was more expanded info or helpful goodies on the topic. Enjoy!

Timeless Wisdom Snippets

  1. When boiling milk, first stir in a pinch of baking soda. This will help keep the milk from curdling.
  2. Add one teaspoon of lemon juice to each quart of water when cooking rice, this will keep rice fluffy.
  3. First rinse raisins, dates and figs in very cold water before putting them through the food chopper. They will not form such a gummy mass.
  4. For crisper salads: Place a saucer upside down in the bottom of the salad bowl before filling with salad. Excess moisture will run underneath the saucer and this will help keep the salad crisp and fresh.
  5. Tasty flavored whipped cream: First whip cream then add 2 tablespoons of flavored jello and continue beating on slow until the whipped cream is right consistency.
  6. Leftover ham: Lay ham slices in a baking dish then cover with maple syrup. Refrigerate overnight then fry the ham in butter the next morning. A couple more ideas for leftover ham.
  7. Incorporate a dash of lemon juice into meatballs before cooking them.
  8. You can substitute crumbled cornflakes for bread crumbs when mixing meatloaf. You’ll find more tips & tricks for tasty meatloaf here (including some filler ideas).
  9. When a recipe calls for butter the size of an egg, use four tablespoons.
  10. Cookie & Cake Decoration: Keep a small amount of sugar in small glass jars, add a few drops of food coloring and shake jar. Keep several colors on hand. You can also use this technique on shredded coconut.
  11. Pickle Juice uses: Use sweet pickle juice to thin salad dressing or make French dressing with instead of vinegar, more delicious.
  12. Cook vegetables with one or more bouillon cubes instead of salt–improves flavor. Tossing in a few garlic cloves when boiling vegetables makes things tastier too.
  13. Salt added to flour used for thickening gravies, etc., will help to prevent lumping.
  14. Chilled evaporated milk, whipped until fluffy, may be used as the base for several frozen desserts by the addition of different flavors, fruits, nuts, instant coffee, cocoa, jello, and other flavorings. Then add coconut, drained fruits, etc., as desired. Use easy crusts such as crushed cereal or crackers such as graham.
  15. After crimping the edge of the pie crust, lift the edge of the crust gently all around with your fingers. This keeps the dough from sticking to the dish while baking and makes it easier to take out the pieces of pie.
  16. Place crackers, dried bread, cookies or sugar which has lumps in a sturdy plastic bag (make sure it has no holes). Roll with a rolling pin or fruit jar as coarse or as fine as you like then pour into a measuring container. If you have more than you need at the time, just tie the bag and place in a pantry or freezer for later use.
  17. A teaspoon of sugar mixed with your yeast and water helps it raise better. Even if you are making bread you can use some sugar. Never mix salt directly with the yeast and water mixture as the salt kills the raising action.
  18. Keep brown sugar in a closed container with an apple in it, the brown sugar will stay soft and moist. Here are more ways to soften brown sugar.
  19. Grate orange and lemon peel before peeling. Dry and incorporate into spice cake or any cookies or puddings. The dried grated peel will keep well in a covered jar. Here are some Uses for Citrus Peels Plus Candied Lemon Peel Recipe.
  20. Wrap parsley in foil first, then freeze. Shave off as much as needed, rewrap and return to the freezer. It will retain its flavor and freshness.
  21. For fried foods that require flouring, try pancake flour for a change, it’s quite nice.
  22. To keep peeled potatoes from turning dark without putting them in water, wrap in paper towel and wet under the faucet.
  23. Baking bread? Do not preheat. When you light your oven, pop in the bread pans immediately and you’ll be amazed at the resulting lightness of the bread. Here is More Advice for Homemade Breads.
  24. Toast oatmeal in the oven before adding to other ingredients when making oatmeal cookies-–delicious!
  25. Add two teaspoons of vinegar to jello and it will keep the jello from melting when you serve it.
  26. If you scorch milk by accident, put the pan in cold water and add a pinch of salt. Takes away the burned taste.
  27. Add a few sprigs of fresh peppermint to leftover tea while it is still warm, then refrigerate. Serve over ice.
  28. Roll pastry on waxed paper. Before placing paper on work surface, wipe surface with a damp cloth to prevent slipping. Flour paper lightly, and with forefinger draw a circle an inch and a half larger than the pan you intend to use. You’ve seen pastry cloths with guidelines…and they really do help. When pastry has been rolled out, pick up paper pastry and all. Fit into pan, paper side up and then pull paper away from crust. Prevents tearing or stretching twist paper and pan. Another nice tip: You can also roll pastry between two sheets of waxed paper.
  29. If it is a meringue pie you are making…add four or five marshmallows cut into pieces or 1/2 cup miniature ones, to meringue just before spreading. These marshmallows give both flavor and body to the meringue. The latter is important if pie is to stand for sometime before serving.
  30. Lemon juice or vinegar in water where cauliflower is cooked makes it keep its white color.
  31. To pare pineapple easily cut into rings and peel each slice separately.
  32. Add a slice of lemon to peeled sweet potatoes while cooking. The lemon will help them clear and free of discoloration.
  33. A tablespoon of minute tapioca sprinkled in apple pie will absorb excess juice while baking.
  34. Add one teaspoon baking powder to mashed potatoes to make them fluffy.
  35. Dip the blades of shears in hot water before cutting marshmallows, they won’t stick.
  36. Have a small bowl of melted butter and just brush on corn on the cob with a pastry brush. If you have a metal bowl you can put a chunk of butter in the bowl and set on grill to melt while meal is grilling.
  37. For bananas that are ripe and ready to eat but you have too many, peel the bananas and freeze them then dip in melted chocolate and freeze again, these make a nice treat! More tips on freezing bananas here.
  38. Fill a large hole or sugar shaker with flour and use that when needing to dust surfaces with flour or just pour out a tablespoon as you need it, this is handy way to keep a bit of flour on hand instead of digging in the flour bin.
  39. Use pastry wheel to cut rolled cookie dough in squares or diamonds, much less rolling and very pretty.
  40. Rinse measuring cup in hot water before using syrup, oil, etc. Will pour out clean and not stick to cup.
  41. Canned fruit is much better if opened and removed from the can an hour or two before using to restore the oxygen.
  42. When making popcorn balls, slip plastic bags on your hands when shaping them, won’t stick or burn your hands.
  43. A wire cheese cutter is ideal for cutting chilled refrigerator cookie dough.
  44. To liven up day old bread or rolls you can put the bread in a large bowl and place in a pot with a shallow level of boiling water. Remove from heat and cover the pot to steam the bread briefly. The bread will be warm and soft in a couple minutes. You can also use stale breads to make big batches of breadcrumbs and delicious homemade croutons.
  45. An ordinary funnel makes the best cooling rack for your tube cake pans. You’ll find another bunch of baking tips and tricks for making cakes from scratch on this page.

Feel free to add your favorite baking or cooking tips below :).

Related Posts


    • Slee

    Save the ends of veggies that you cut off in a plastic bag & store in your freezer, along with any veggies that have become a bit too old to use, but not yet rotten or slimy. Keep adding to it until you have enough for filling half of a large pot. I also add old dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, which previously would have been thrown out.

    Put the frozen mass into a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid reduces to about half.

    Use for soups & sauces, and freeze in portions what won’t be used within a week.

    Variations can include adding meat bones, chicken & turkey carcasses, and shrimp shells.

      • Rosan

      Great tip Slee.

    • Chef

    The easiest way to slice pineapple is to first cut the bottom to give you a stable base. Sit it on the cut base. Use the top as a handle and then slice the skin off the sides preferably with a bread knife. Slice into rings and cut the last piece off the top.

    • Darlene

    Thanks so much for the daily info. This website is the very best…You are the first e-mail I open each day.

    • Hilary

    When greasing and “flouring” cake pans, I use chocolate drink mix powder or cocoa instead of flour when making a chocolate or dark cake. I learned this many years ago when the local gas company had cooking demonstrations for junior high kids.

    • Neala

    To make lettuce crispy and fresh add a teaspoon of sugar to the final rinsing water. Let it stand for about 15 minutes or more … it even revives limp lettuce.

      • Lector El

      The sugar’s really not necessary- I work in the produce department of a local grocery store, and we use that trick all the time. Just trim the end off the lettuce, and let it sit for 15-25 minutes. It’s called crispening.

    • Rachel

    Instead of using a pastry cutter when a recipe asks for chilled and cut butter, I freeze the butter sticks and my cheese grater and grate the frozen butter into the flour. It’s not only much easier, but gives a more uniform consistency.

    • peeatwork

    7. Add a dash of lemon juice into meatballs before cooking them.


    • Judy

    When slicing a wheel fo goat cheese use a piece of dental floss ( not mint flavored of course)

    • Heather

    My husband’s family butters their corn by buttering a piece of bread and rubbing the corn with the buttered bread. Works like a charm!

    • Midge

    Wow, How do I save ALL of these? I want all of them. 🙂

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