12 Common Cooking Questions

How do you keep pasta from clumping?

You donít want your pasta to stick together like mob wives in an†FBI†investigation, so make sure youíre boiling it in plenty of salted water (4-6 quarts per pound of pasta) in a large enough pot. Donít overcook. (Follow the cooking time on the package; pasta should be al dente, or still slightly firm). Do not rinse after boiling unless youíre using it in a cold dish. If youíre not otherwise saucing it, toss with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff).

How do you know if wine has gone bad?

If wine smells vinegary or mildewy (like wet newspaper), itís gone bad. If wine (red or white) looks brown, itís gone bad. If wine tastes funny, itís gone bad. If wine came out of a box, it was probably not good to begin with.

See: 5 Things to Do with Bad Wine

How do you keep herbs fresh?

The dried, pale ghosts of herbs you get from a spice rack just arenít the same as the fresh stuff. To keep leafy herbs fresher longer, treat them like cut†flowers. Trim the stems, submerge stems (or roots, if the plant is still living) in an inch or two of water in a glass or jar, cover loosely with a plastic baggie, and store in the refrigerator (exception: basil should be kept at room temperatureómeaning out of the fridge but not next to your stove). Change the water every few days.

How do you keep from crying when cutting onions?

There is a saying in the kitchen world: ďThe sharper your knife, the less you cry.Ē Onions sting your eyes because, when you cut them, you rupture cells, leading to a chemical reaction that produces acidic gases that trigger your reflexive tear response. Sharper knives rupture fewer cells, hence less crying. Other strategies include freezing the onion first, cutting it under cold running water, burning a candle nearby, wearing goggles, and my personal favorite, making someone else do it.

See: How to Cut an Onion Without Tears

How do you know if eggs are fresh?

A fresh egg will feel heavy and sink to the bottom of a bowl of water, lying on its long side. A less fresh†egg will stand on end in the bowl of water. A bad egg will float. When in doubt, use your eyes and your nose; a rotten egg is pretty hard to miss. One side note: older eggs are actually better for soufflťs than farm-fresh.

How do you know if cheese has gone bad?

It seems a little counterintuitive, as mold is essential to cheese, but if you see mold on your cheese (fuzzy, green, lichen-looking stuffónot the blue veins in your Gorgonzola), itís gone bad. It also should not feel slimy or oily. And while some cheeses start out smelly, if a normally non-smelly cheese, like provolone or mozzarella, starts stinking up the fridge, itís probably time to let it go.

Which part of the green onion (scallion) do you use?

You can use both. The white bulb part toward the root has a deeper, more oniony flavor. The dark green part is milder but adds nice color. (Donít forget: you eat with your eyes first.) With a leek (it looks like a scallion but much larger), you will only use the white part. The green ends are bitter.

Is there an easy way to peel garlic?

Smash it against a cutting board using the flat side of a large chefís knife and the heel of your hand. Donít be shy. Give it a good whack. Then slide or peel the papery skin off and smash again before mincing.

Can you substitute baking soda for baking powder (and vice versa)?

No, no, no, no, no. And yes. Both substances are leavening agents, meaning they make baked goods rise, and baking powder contains baking soda, but they are two different products. Baking soda can be bitter unless combined with an acidic ingredient; baking powder is neutral, as it contains acidic cream of tartar. In a pinch,†baking†powder can replace baking soda, though be forewarned it may change the finished product.†Baking soda canít replace baking powder unless you also add cream of tartar (2:1).

Whatís the difference between a boil, a rolling boil, and a simmer?

A chef friend of mine explains it this way: Imagine the pot is a hot tub and the bubbles are (scantily clad, highly attractive) people. A simmer is when the water is warm and the bubbles are just hanging out around the sides of the tub. A boil is when the water is so hot that people are kind of jumping around the tub. A rolling boil is when the people are trying to leap out of the tub for fear of being burned alive.

How do you keep your cookies from spreading too thin?

The culprit is likely your butter. Softening butter in the microwave is a surefire way to flatten cookies into pancakes. Instead, let the butter sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. To speed the softening process, cut it into tablespoon-size pieces. It should be yielding to a finger but not melted.

Whatís the best way to measure dry ingredients?

Wars have been fought over the best way to measure dry ingredients (and the hardcore get around it by weighing their†ingredients†rather than measuring by volume). The bakers I know prefer the spooning method (using a separate cup or spoon to shovel flour into the measuring cup) to the pouring method or the scooping method. Do not pack the ingredient down. Level with the flat edge of a knife.

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By Kathryn Williams


Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Samantha, for Sharing this!

Leena K.
Leena K5 years ago

good tips for everyday use, thanks.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Actually, there are some Very good table wines that come in a box. Blackbox comes to mind and that octogonal Aussie wine, I think there's a fish on the box.
Don't be such a snob, LOL! And some of the best wines now have twist top caps. Better for the cork trees and found to keep the wine better longer also..

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago


Nirvana Jaganath
Nirvana Jaganath5 years ago


Marie Therese Hanulak


Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Olivia S.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks...good tips

Lenee K.
Lenee K5 years ago

I like this.. thanks :)