Small Hacks That Might Be Useful #1

Introduction: Small Hacks That Might Be Useful #1

About: I'm severely visualy impaired, so intricate work is out of the question - so is anything that needs electric tools or blades. Prefer tactile work - if I can't see it I can at least feel it!

These are various small hacks that I've come up with over the years, they might be handy for other people: if not directly, then they may give others an idea for something similar.

Step 1: Cook Sausages Quicker

Sausages cook quicker and more evenly if you cut them in half lengthways before frying or grilling.

Bonus: they don’t roll all over the pan so that some bits get overcooked while other bits are still underdone. There’s really only two sides to be cooked on a cut sausage!

Step 2: Handy Oven Temperature Guide

It can be a pain to have to find oven temperature tables to convert from degrees C to gas mark.

[] Download a conversion table or make your own, using a larger font size than usual so that you can read it from a small distance.

[] - Print it on thin card – lasts longer than paper.

[] Stick it to a convenient wall, or wall- cupboard door, inside or outside. If on the inside, it will only be visible when you need it, just by opening the cupboard door

Extra: Can be done with metric/imperial/cup measurement conversions too.

Step 3: Knife-rack Near the Kitchen Sink

I NEVER put kitchen knives in with ordinary cutlery, whether clean or dirty – I once had a collision with a bread-knife that a chum had helpfully put into the washing-up water while my back was turned: my hand found it blade first. This is not something you want to do twice! Or even once if you can help it.

I have a small bar magnet on the door of the wall cupboard closest to the sink, and all kitchen knives go there to be washed, and after they've been washed: dirty ones go blade-down, and clean ones go blade-up, as they hang on the normal knife rack.

Kitchen scissors in need of washing or just washed go there, too – so everything with a sharp edge or point is kept securely out of the way.

Step 4: Food Bag Door Storage

I always had a problem storing my food bags; partly in the actual storage (close to hand but out of the way), and partly in knowing which bag was what (all the boxes look alike) – I’d have to pull out two or three to find the one I was looking for.

Need:

[] Drawing pins- thumb tacks – 2 per bag. (I originally tried using double-sided sticky pads, but, as the photo shows, some of them didn’t want to know.)

I put each type of bag into a bag of that same type; a large Ziploc bag will only have large Ziploc bags in it; the one-use sandwich bag will only have its own kind in it.

This way, I can see at a glance what’s where. I offset them slightly to make it a bit easier to get bags out and to put others back in, but not so much as to make the bottoms sag.

Step 5: Oven Chip Tray Stiffeners

I’ve got one of those metal mesh trays that cooks oven chips (and a lot more besides) on both sides at once, which saves having to turn them halfway through cooking.

Getting the tray into the oven is easy enough; the metal is cold and therefore fairly rigid and you can use bare hands. But getting it out again! When it’s hot and a lot bendier, and you have to wear oven gloves so you can’t really get a good grip on it …

Need:

[] wire coat hanger

[] wire cutters

How:

Cut the coat hanger into sections Thread the sections through the tray along the short sides in an over-and-under weaving pattern (I didn’t rigidly count how many meshes I went over or under each time; it was enough that the wire went over and under several times)

Now the tray will be rigid – across its width, at least. It still bends in the middle, and I might put another couple of wire sections in to make it fully rigid. But at least I drop a lot less food on the floor now

Step 6: Break an Egg Into a Cup Before Using

Whether frying or cooking or baking, break an egg into a cup first.

Three reasons:

[] I once saw someone break an egg on the edge of a frying pan. They hit the edge of the pan rather firmly – and the whole pan tilted. It didn’t actually topple over or spill hot oil, but it might have done.

[] If an egg is off, it’s better to find out *before* you’ve added it to other ingredients! (And yes, I’ve seen this happen, too. The whole batch had to be thrown away.)

[] You can fish out any shell fragments that might have fallen in with it.

Step 7: Keep a Pint of Milk in the Freezer

Keep a pint of milk in the freezer as a backup in case you unexpectedly run out and it’s late at night and the shops are shut, or it’s absolutely chucking it down outside You’ve got a reserve to last you till the shops open or the rain eases off.

(I did try powdered milk for dire emergencies, but after trying it a few times I found that I’d rather go up the shop in a blizzard than use it!)

Always leave an air-gap for the frozen liquid to expand.

If it’s late at night and you won’t need milk till first thing in the morning, it can thaw gradually in the fridge overnight. If you need it sooner, it can be thawed in a microwave: but make sure your container will fit! I once froze a 2-pint bottle and then found it wouldn’t fit; I had to leave it out to thaw naturally and go to the shop to get some to use now.

(I did try freezing milk in ice-cube bags; the idea was that I could tear off one cube and drop it into my tea. It melted fast enough, but maybe too fast, as it tainted the flavour.)

Change the milk every now and then; thaw out the old and freeze a fresh supply in its place, so that the milk isn’t kept for too long. I don’t know how long “too long” is, but I don’t want to find out the hard way.

And, when you use the reserve, remember that you need to replace it! I’ve done that, too; forgotten that I’d used it and found none when I ran out of fridge milk, so I had to trudge up to the shop despite it being half a gale outside.

Step 8: Keep Some Teabags in Fridge

Keep a small airtight container of teabags in the fridge, again for backup purposes.

The times I’d emptied my tea caddy and gone to the cupboard and not found a new box! Now I keep a dozen or so teabags in a small airtight food container – enough to keep me going overnight till the shops open or the rain eases. As with frozen milk, change the backup every now and then so they don’t get stale.

I don’t know if this would work with coffee, as it has a much stronger aroma than tea.

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    2 Discussions

    The magnetic knife rack is a good idea but please store your knives more carefully: all should go handle down/blade up, cutting edge (in your case) to the right. To remove knives, twist the handle (in your case) counter-clockwise so you don't damage the edge on the mag strip.

    Others wishing to adopt this excellent idea should look for a magnetic tool bar that a mag KNIFE bar. As a rule, the former are practical items with reasonable prices. The latter are gourmet items that may cost much more.

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comment: the knives are up-and-down so that I can tell which need to be washed and which have already been washed and are drying off before being put on the proper rack. If they're all the same way up [or down] I'd have to take each one down and peer at it to see if it needed washing or not.

    I usually put them so that the blade faces away from me, whether they're up or down.. I'd never thought about how I take them off the rack, I'll have to try to watch wht I do next time!

    This is actually a magnetic tool bar rather than a knife bar - I bought a set and happened to have a small one left over after putting one up for my knives and one for my screwdrivers and other small metal tools.