If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that cultivating and nurturing social relationships while physically distancing is so important. There was a definite learning curve, but people have found so many creative ways to connect with their loved ones (while still following health guidelines). We’ve found we can still do most of our favorite things virtually; hangouts, games, watch parties, happy hours, and even sharing a meal are all ways in which we can connect with friends and family. 

Before you have a meal with those you love (and if you’ve already ordered out too many times this week), you’ll have to prepare said meal. We’ve curated the best kitchen hacks of 2020 to aid you in preparing a meal you’ll be happy to share when things get back to normal. Read ahead for our favorite kitchen hacks of the year!

The Best Ways to Clean Stainless Steel, Tri-Ply, Carbon Steel, and Cast Iron Pots and Pans

Women's hands to polish burned pot

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Pot or Pan

Stainless steel is known for heating food evenly and can handle high heat well. These pots are dishwasher safe, but they can be damaged from too many cycles in the dishwasher. Washing by hand is best. First, deglaze the pan, then wipe out (once cooled) with a paper towel or cloth. Stubborn spots may need a Scotch-Brite sponge and dish soap. 

How to a Clean Tri-Ply Pot or Pan

Tri-Ply pots are also great for cooking food evenly. For stuck-on food, first, soak the pan for about 15 minutes. Then, use a soft nylon pad or brush to avoid scratching the pot. Protect your Tri-Ply with Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleaner Liquid, and when cooking, don’t turn up the heat past medium. 

How to Clean a Carbon Steel Wok

Season your carbon steel wok like you would cast iron. A patina will develop on the pan making it naturally nonstick, you can accept the patina or clean it gently. Definitely protect the seasoned surface by avoiding abrasive cleaners and steel wool, and never use the dishwasher. Use a gentle sponge, dish soap, and dry by placing the pan on low heat on the stovetop. 

How to Clean an Enamel-Coated Cast Iron Pan

Enamel coated cast iron will save you the pain of seasoning a regular cast iron pan and the cleanup is much easier. Handwash with warm, soapy water and a scrub brush.  

Prep Your Station

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Prep your cooking area by first reading through your recipe and ingredients. Make like a sous chef and wash and cut all your ingredients. Make sure you have everything out and prepped before cooking, you’ll be less stressed and timing everything will be easier. 

Foolproof Methods

Salt Pasta Water Like the Sea

Adding salt to your pasta water may be a no-brainer, but you need more than you think. If you’re a couple-of-dashes salter, you should reevaluate your salting technique. According to Eattiamo, you should “add two tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of pasta to boiling water.” It’ll help the flavor of the pasta.   

Season in Stages

Not adding salt during various stages of cooking is another rookie mistake to avoid. Season your dish from the beginning with pinches of kosher salt like Diamond Crystal. Salt brings out the flavor in your ingredients. 

Parboil Potatoes for a Crispier Spud

Similar to blanching, parboiling basically means pre-cooking, but you’ll skip the ice-water plunge when parboiling. You can parboil potatoes, rice, meat, and other vegetables.

Spice up Your Coffee

Attractive young black woman sitting at a table at home backliot by a bright sun enjoying a cup of fresh coffee with her eyes closed in bliss

A good cup of coffee helps get the day started off right. If you need a caffeine fix before being able to comprehend the words coming from your family's mouths, you’re not alone. Along with other coffee fads, like whipped coffee, adding cinnamon to your cuppa joe is one we love. For a subtly sweet and spicy flavor, add cinnamon to the coffee grounds before brewing.  

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

While technically not a hack, mastering these four elements will definitely up your game in the kitchen. Acid tends to get left out of the equation, but it’s important as it balances flavors. A little bit of lemon or lime juice, or vinegar can bring balance to salty, starchy, sweet, or bitter foods.

Fresh Ingredients

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Not everyone has access to a farmer’s market or co-op, but being mindful about where and when you procure your ingredients will help in the flavor and quality of the meal. Try to buy in-season fruits and vegetables. Opt for fresh instead of frozen (meat, veggies, fruit), real instead of artificial, and organic if you can. The fewer additives the better.   

Water Glassing Eggs

Overhead view of brown chicken eggs in an open egg carton isolated on yellow. Fresh chicken eggs background. Top view with copy space. Natural healthy food and organic farming concept. Eggs in box

Farm fresh eggs are hard to beat. This technique of preserving eggs will keep you serving huevos rancheros throughout a blackout, pandemic, or grocery shortage. You don’t even have to refrigerate the eggs once they go through the water glassing process. This was hands-down our most popular kitchen hack of 2020!

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