15 Old-Fashioned Cooking Tips That Really Work, Experts Say – Don’t Eat That

Some old wives’ tales never go out of style, like “the watching pot never boils” and “you are what you eat.” Just as some old-fashioned cooking tips are still worth using in your modern kitchen. Some of these tips are nice, while others are silly, but all of them are relevant despite the fact that the home kitchen has all the latest gadgets and appliances.

We polled chefs and other culinary experts for their thoughts on whether these old-school methods hold up today, and they all gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. Here are 15 clever and creative old-fashioned cooking tips that still work. Be prepared to return to your grandmother’s kitchen with linoleum. Plus, don’t miss 15 old-fashioned cooking tips you should never use, and see how 16 celebrities make the best bowl of oatmeal.


This tip may be familiar, says Anne Grossman, founder of Rebel Daughter Cookies, but it bears repeating. “Chill this dough. If you want the cookies to be thicker, harden the butter before baking. In fact, try making the dough ahead of time, then freezing it and letting it thaw in the fridge overnight. Put the cookies in the oven when they’re cool, this gives the butter a chance to stand up to the hot oven.”

stir with a wooden spoon

A wooden spoon is softer and can stir better than a metal or plastic spoon, says Michael Cook, retired chef, food connoisseur, former owner of two restaurants, and My Conscious Eating blogger. A wooden spoon also doesn’t conduct heat, which means you can use it to stir sauces so they don’t heat up too quickly.

vegetable scraps

Professional chefs do this all the time, and no doubt your grandmother did. “Keep your pieces, then cook them in a large pot of water for homemade vegetable broth,” says chef Emily Eggers of the Culinary Education Institute and owner of Legally Healthy Blonde.

add salt to the pasta water

The salt helps the pasta bond with the sauce for a thicker consistency. “It also dissolves and soaks into the pasta to give it extra flavor. No step should be missed,” says Aysegul Sanford of Foolproof Living.

a combination of fruits and vegetables

“Fruits and vegetables that ripen at the same time of year taste great together,” says Claire Ivatt, founder of Kitchen Time Savers. Recipes that use these types of combinations will be the most successful: peppers paired with tomatoes, squash, and sweet corn, as well as kale and squash, are great pairings.

pasta in vegetable broth

This classic Old World cooking technique from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region (considered by chefs, historians and culinary travelers to be the epicenter of Italian cuisine) is a must-have for home cooks. Use this tip when making fresh (not boxed) pasta, says chef Wendy Cacciatori, a Bologna native who owns Via Emilia 9 in Miami and Nonna Beppa.

In New York. Most of his dishes were handed down from his grandmother: tortellini en brodo, tagliatelle with bolognese sauce, and hand-cut chicken breast with artichokes. “Water washes out the natural flavor of pasta,” says Wendy, “whereas broth—mostly vegetable and beef—adds a lot of flavor to any pasta dish, even if you’re just serving it with fresh butter and cheese.”

chicken in milk

Since chicken tends to dry out as it cooks, this is another classic Old World tip for making chicken juicy. “As the milk soaks, it helps soften and moisturize,” says Chef Wendy. “It also works well when cooking turkey.”

rinse the boiled pasta

When you rinse, you wash away the starch. And the sauce doesn’t stick well with the pasta. “Alternatively, cook the pasta in the sauce by adding a little pasta water,” says Brian Theis, author of The Infinite Feast Cookbook: How to Host Those You Love, chef and food blogger The Infinite Feast. theinfinitefeast.com.

cook with feeling

When cooking, rely on your senses — on smell, color, texture, taste — and not just on the recipe. “And always taste,” Theis says.

sharpen kitchen knives

“A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one,” says Tice.

RELATED: 50 surprising kitchen safety rules

brown your meat

If you are cooking beef or lamb, sear it in a pan before placing it in the oven at the desired temperature. “This will lock in the flavor and make sure that when the juice comes out, it adds flavor and doesn’t go to waste,” says Christina Russo, co-founder of The Kitchen Community. According to her, this is a tip she received from her grandmother.

cook on low

When you’re making a one-pot casserole or stew, as long as there’s enough liquid, the longer you cook it at a lower temperature, the tastier it will be. “Long, low and slow is a rule my grandmother swore by and I still follow,” says The Kitchen Community’s Russo.

mortar and pestle

This is old-fashioned cooking advice that evokes childhood memories from Top Chef 18 and James Beard 2022 semi-finalist Chris Vio. As a child, Vio would help his Haitian mother prepare dinner every night by grinding herbs and spices in a pilon, or mortar. He still uses this technique when preparing his Ansanm Sunday dinners at his Greenleaf restaurant in Milford, New Hampshire.

take your time when cooking

Read the entire recipe before you begin. “Rushing through a recipe only increases your chances of screwing things up, like skipping a step or using the wrong measurement,” says Lori Bogedin, chef/owner of Twigs Cafe.

fish broth

Ask your fishmonger for fish trimmings, which are the parts of fish left over after filleting. “Homemade fish stock has delicate aromas and flavors that can’t be replicated in canned or boxed stock from the supermarket,” says Craig Fear, author of New England soups from the sea.

RELATED: 4 culinary secrets that celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez swears by

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