5 Kitchen Headaches and How to Solve Them

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/liquene/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/liquene/

Some problems are just unavoidable. You could be the best chef in the world, but if you find yourself stuck without a corkscrew, there is little that your culinary training can do to help you out. Thankfully, the Internet is teeming with tips and tricks to help novices and experts alike avoid the frustratingly simple kitchen nightmares every cook faces. Keep reading to find out how to solve five common kitchen headaches.

1. Misplaced corkscrews

From celebrations to capping off a long day, there are many reasons people look forward to a glass of wine. But if you’re enjoying that glass with someone who is not a wine drinker or seem to have misplaced your corkscrew, you could encounter a seemingly simple barrier: the cork.

There is the shoe-and-wall method, which involves placing your bottle of wine into a pair of shoes, turning the whole thing sideways, and repeatedly hitting it against the wall until it pops out, as demonstrated here. This however, can be a lengthy process and does not always work.

A different method improvises a corkscrew. Start by taking a regular screw that you might have lying around in a tool box and twisting it into the corked top of your bottle of wine. Then, using pliers or clippers, twist the screw and cork out of your bottle.

2. Onion-induced tears

Ever wonder why onions make you cry? The Library of Congress says it’s because the vegetable produces a chemical irritant called syn-propanethial-S-oxide. The lachrymal glands in our eyes are stimulated by the chemical, and as a result, we produce tears. So how can you avoid this pesky problem? The National Onion Association has several tips on how to avoid tearing up as you slice away.

The highest concentration of sulfur components are in the root. Avoid cutting this section as long as possible by starting at the top of the onion. Make sure you are always using a sharp knife and try refrigerating the onion for 30 minutes before cutting into it. Knowing the proper technique when cutting will help, too, because it will enable you to make it through the process at a faster pace.

Two methods listed on the National Onion Association’s page are dicing and cutting into rings. In both processes, the onions are peeled and the roots are left intact, minimizing tear potential.

But people have experimented with other ways to reduce tears. For those who wear contacts, onion cutting is less of a tear-jerker because there is a barrier between the eye and the onion. As a result, the lensless report that wearing ski or swim goggles can assist. The idea even spawned a specialty product, the onion goggle. A slightly more unusual way that has reportedly found success is placing a piece of bread in your mouth while you cut — although you may end up trading watering eyes for a watering mouth.

3. Jammed jar lids

Even the strongest people can meet defeat when they face one of the kitchen’s toughest competitors: a lid on a jar or bottle that just doesn’t want to part with its container. To seek refuge from this problem, break out a rubber band. Wrapping the band around the lid will give you extra grip as you twist and can even help to close and open the jar in the future.

Not all jars and bottles come with lids conveniently sized for rubber bands, though. In that case, consider using a mousepad. You’ll mimic the rubberized traction from the previous method and finally have a use for discarded mousepads.

If adding extra grip doesn’t do the trick, it may be time to bust out the bottle opener. Place the jar upside down on a towel and use the bottle opener to pry away edges little by little. After going around the jar completely, use the towel to help you keep the lid secure and put the jar back in its upright position. The lid should twist off easily.

If the lid you’re dealing with was sealed on during canning, you may need to apply different techniques.

Trying to open a jar that has a previously broken seal? The contents of the jar are probably causing the lid to be stuck on like glue. Run the top of the jar under hot (but not boiling) water or let the jar soak in hot water for a few minutes, and the lid should pop off.

4. Brownie crumbs

The smell of fresh-from-the-oven brownies wafting through a home is a surefire way to attract anybody and everybody to the kitchen. But the crumbling mess that slicing the pan causes can make the prospect of plating the delicious dessert less than appealing. However, that does not have to be the way the brownie crumbles — it doesn’t even have to crumble at all.

The first tip comes from Real Simple, and it will also keep your brownies from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Before pouring the batter, use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides wish softened butter. Next, line the dish with parchment paper, letting it hang over two sides. Push the paper down and apply more butter with the pastry brush. Add a second layer of parchment paper so that it hangs over the other sides, as well. Brush again with butter. Pour the batter in and follow baking instructions. After the brownies have cooled, lift them from the pan using the parchment paper and set on a cutting board. You’ll now be able to cut your brownies without having them stuck to the pan.

Next, the Betty Crocker website cautions that the brownies need to be cooled if you really want to avoid a plate of crumbs. After cooling, use a plastic knife for both edging around the pan and for cutting. Unlike a sharp knife, a plastic one will not tear the brownies.

Another way to combat this problem and always have perfectly square brownies doesn’t involve cutting at all. Instead of baking brownies in the usual 9-by-13-inch pan, purchase a square cupcake baking pan. You will need to grease the pan well with butter and adjust baking time, but you’ll be able to indulge in oven-fresh brownies without added cutting hassles.

5. Hard brown sugar

Once a package of brown sugar has been opened, the process of hardening will begin. The moisture begins to evaporate from the sugar, leaving it dry, hard, and clumpy. It is still fine to eat and use after reaching this stage. To soften, all need to do is place the clumped sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, cover the bowl with moistened paper towels, and microwave. Depending on how much sugar is in the bowl and the power of your microwave, you may need to leave it in for anywhere from one to two-and-a-half minutes.

Ideally, the sugar won’t get to this stage in the first place. Airtight, moisture-free containers are one way to circumvent the issue. If you know you will not be needing your brown sugar again for a while, it can be stored in the fridge or freezer to preserve shelf life.

Fixes for regularly used brown sugar frequently call for adding items to the bag. Throwing some marshmallows into your bag of brown sugar is one method, as are slices of bread and apples. If you don’t want to add a food item to your brown sugar, a small terra cotta disk will work, as well.