Photo by Donna

Photo by Donna

I have two copies of Ad Hoc, signed by Thomas Keller, to give away, courtesy of Artisan (thanks, Amy!)  This is an even more valuable offer than I thought it would be because I see that Amazon is sold out until February, as are many bookstores.  More than 100,000 copies of this book have been printed, with more on the way, making Ad Hoc one of the best selling books of the season.  There’s a reason for it: it’s a fantastic book, with everything from burgers to bread pudding with leeks to cheesecake, and great discussion of cooking issues and technique from Thomas himself (who would have imagined a chef could be so uncommonly articulate on the page?!).  A few namby pambies in the media have whined that some of the recipes actually ask you to cook when you use this book (there’s a broad range of recipes, appropriate to every skill level, some simple, some labor intensive, but none that compromise).  But it’s been chosen one of the best books of the year by others. (Here’s a great series of four videos by borders; watch the one of Thomas and Ad Hoc chef de cuisine Dave Cruz making the bread pudding.)

One of the things I love about this book is the design, by David Hughes of Level in the Napa Valley.  There’s an ease and comfort to the book that makes it a pleasure to peruse.  I also love the small asides and tips throughout.  This most excellent tip on slicing chives, for instance.  I used to lay them flat on a cutting board but would often end up kind of mashing them, and often not slicing all the way through, leaving me to pick big pieces out of my fine slices.  Keller suggests folding a damp paper towel into a wide strip and rolling the chives into a bundle.  This allows you to slice cleanly through the whole bunch, keeping all their delicious oniony fragrance in the chive, not on your cutting board.  It keeps them together neatly, and results in perfectly sliced chives.

So, you’re wondering: “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO SHUT UP AND TELL ME HOW DO I ENTER THE DRAWING TO WIN MY SIGNED COPY OF AD HOC?!!!”

Simply leave a comment here with your favorite kitchen tip or trick.  Not technique, like, get your pan really hot before you put the meat in, but a tip like the one above.  I’ll pick randomly rather than judging them, so don’t worry if it’s not as good as others.  I’ll leave this post open and choose the winners Friday at noon eastern time via Twitter (follow me there and have a hand in the choosing).  With apologies, I can only offer these copies to addresses in the United States because of shipping costs and customs headaches.  Sorry!

I can however guarantee they’ll arrive before Xmas for two lucky people who share their kitchen tips here!  Good luck!

[Update: it should be needless to say, but only one entry per person, those who make multiple entries will be disqualified.]

[Update: the winners have been chosen!  They are Aaron Haley (http://blog.sektormedia.org/) and Jason Davies!  Will you two pls email me your mailing addresses?  Thanks everyone for all these fantastic kitchen tips!  I love them!]

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1,029 Wonderful responses to “Ad Hoc Cookbook Giveaway!”

  • Glenn Fincher

    When attempting a new recipe for the first time, consult your copy of Ruhlman’s Ratio for what to do when it bombs! (Alton Brown’s Hollandaise sauce recipe didn’t have the all-important “how to fix it when it breaks” secrets!) – Really happened to me a week ago!

  • EJJ

    I cook brownies in a small cast-iron pan because I shock mine in a ice bath when they come out of the oven, and of course I have no qualms about how a cast-iron pan will respond to such drastic changes in temperature.

    Not much of a trick, but I line the pan with foil and let it heat up in the oven while the oven preheats. That way the brownies cook evenly through and through. You wouldn’t need to do this with a thinner, smaller pan.

  • Pete from DC

    If you don’t have a spare set of hands to assist, filling a pastry bag can be a bit cumbersome if you haven’t have a lot of practice – since one hand is stuck holding the bag while the other scoops the filling inside. One way around this is to prop the bag up inside a tall, narrow glass, vase, or jar – using the rim of the jar as the support for the overhand of the bag to rest upon – leaving both hands free to fill the bag.

  • matt

    Just made the blowtorch prime rib last night.but i added a twist with a mustard herb crust that i rubbed on after torching..It was fantastic!

  • buzz dean

    relax when cooking—your mistakes are still usually better then what the local deli will sell to you

  • Gabe

    Can’t use a whole bunch of fresh herbs from the grocery before they go bad? Fill a glass halfway with water and place the cilantro/parsley/etc stem down in the glass and cover with a plastic bag. This will increase the life of those herbs by a factor of 4 or 5!

  • Culinary Rose

    Before I start prepping a recipe, I fill one side of my sink with warm, soapy water. That way, I just put used utensils (except knives!!) in the water – gets them off the counter and makes clean up more efficient.

  • Katherine Blue

    Pancetta at your disposal – I buy in 1/4 in slices and layer in wax paper to always have available, thaws quickly and can be used in multitudes of recipes from greens to pastas.

  • Terry

    I rinse out my empty, cardboard, 1/2 gallon juice and milk containers, open up the top and use next to my board and sink for garbage. Trimmings tend to be wet and this works as a disposable garbage bowl that can easily be closed up for transport without spills. This is also great for the stock strained vegis and bones …. less chance of a garbage blow up on the way out the door.

    I have to say that the overnight oven stock method is excellent. I don’t think I’ll ever make stock on the stovetop again. Thanks so much, Michael!

  • Dishy Goodness

    To remove the garlic smell from your hands, rub your hands on stainless steel (like your faucet, or some cook stores even sell stainless steel “bars” for this exact purpose). It gets rid of the smell instantly!

  • Chris

    I like to break down large pieces of meat, especially whole pork loins into chops and roasts, and the best way to do it is when it is still partially frozen. This keeps the cuts clean and straight, and minimizes how much moisture the meat loses in the process.

  • Chris Leynes

    When spreading alluminum foil over a large surface (baking sheet or under pan from the saute range) use a damp hand towel to apply pressure as you’re smoothing it out. This is most helpful when you have to slide the pan into a narrow area. The foil really forms to the pan.

  • ellen

    To prevent crying while chopping onions, put a piece of bread in your mouth. It will block the fumes/juices released from chopping, and then you have an automatic snack!

  • Jen

    I always seem to have the wrong type of tapioca when it comes time to make something that calls for it. After much searching, I figured out that regular and quick cooking tapioca are the same thing except for their size, so if you have regular tapioca and your recipe calls for quick cooking, simply grind the regular tapioca in a spice grinder until it’s in smaller pieces, and voila! quick cooking tapioca

  • Laura

    If you make large batches of bread, as I do. Cool the loaves thoroughly and then bag them overnight. The moisture equalizes and they slice much more evenly without many crumbs. Then you can freeze the loaves and pop slices off if you forget to thaw bread when you need it. You can put the bread, or some rolls in a crockpot on low and they heat up beautifully and are warm and moist like fresh baked.

  • NJ9

    As an adult cooking back at your childhood home make sure Mom has lots of wine so she forgets to tell you what to do in her kitchen. Loud music also helps. Cheers!

  • Dub Kilpatrick

    Washing sharp knives:

    Since I use a chopping block for almost every meal, it always needs a good scrub. I do the knives at the same time. I place the knife blade flat on the board (it is sitting at an angle in one half of the double sink) and turn the knife handle sligtly to have the blade tight to the surface of the board. Then it is safe (safer is guess is the correct term) to stroke the blade with the sponge or wash cloth. Turn the knife over, and repeat the other side. Voila! No cuts, no scratches and no nicks!

  • Bruce

    If you don’t have a proper wine cellar or cooler, chill reds in the fridge for 10 to 20 minutes, fine champagne for about 45 minutes and whites between 60 and 75 minutes before pouring. Within those ranges, fuller bodied less time, lighter bodied more. In the meantime, keep the bottles in their cardboard wine box on the floor of a pantry or closet…dark and cool is good. Never in decorative racks on the counter or over the fridge…light and heat is bad.

  • Cliff Bacon

    When helping in a friend’s kitchen I found dull knives with no sharpening equipment. Using two knives, use one against the other as a sharpening stone. Miracle.

  • Jodi

    I use a box grater to grate frozen butter for biscuits and pastry doughs – so much more effective for me than cutting in the butter.

  • Garrett

    If you need a pastry bag and don’t have one, try using a plastic food storage bag (Ziploc, etc.). Just fill it, cut a corner to the desired size and squeeze away. Works great for dispensing sour cream for Tex-Mex dishes also.

  • B.J. Lofback

    This one has to be in my top 5 and came first into my mind when I over salted my Cheese & Beer Soup a couple of weeks ago. I was told a peeled potato dropped into the soup will absorb salt. I cut mine in half for a little more surface area and I have to say, worked very well.

  • Roxy

    The easiest way to peel a butternut squash: cut the top and bottom off so that you have a flat surface on each end, then cut the squash half (specifically, at the point where the “neck” meets the “bulb”). Next stand each piece up vertically and shave off the outer rind using a sharp chef’s knife.

  • Sonja @ ActiveFoodie

    I just learned this one, when mixing in flour or other dry ingredients into the mixer bowl, cover the mixer with a wet towel to catch the flour from flying over the kitchen!

  • Jake

    When you make a batch of stock or broth make more than you immediately need, you can freeze them into dixie cups and cutting a tiny slit into the top of the lip of each cup. Once they are frozen, you can place them into gallon, ziplocs, which are more spatially efficient. While this is somewhat wasteful, it allows you to easily scale recipes based on each cup holding the same amount (9 oz). Also if you’re sick and short on time one of those 9 oz cups makes a hearty and re-invigorating hot beverage in the microwave or on the stovetop.

  • Dan

    Since I live at 6,000 feet getting my grill hot is difficult. I place a sheet of heavy duty foil over my grates and pre-heat. This helps to trap a little extra heat and helps with making presentable grill marks.

  • Tracie

    I don’t keep pastry bags handy because I don’t make pastry that often, but every once in awhile I find that I have need for one. Instead of going to the store, I take a regular sandwich bag and cut off the corner. This definitely doesn’t make up for a proper bag, but MacGyvering it has worked for me in the past and likely in the future as well!

  • Jay

    When you are doing a plate-up at a catering event, load your crew up with lots of water/other liquid refreshments 45 minutes before plating starts. Your crew will be motivated to move oh-so-much-faster when they know they can finally pee at the end of service.

  • Jesse

    Simple but extremely useful and time saving: To separate cloves from a whole head of garlic, put the garlic root side down on your cutting board. Hold a kitchen towel over it, and with moderate force smash the top with the bottom of your fist.

  • Karen

    Let your husband, or significant other, cook while you drink wine and watch. It makes for a great meal.

  • Rob

    I caught you on Iron Chef, tonight. I have to agree, zucchini is pretty bland. The girl to your left was just flat annoying.

  • Steve Roberts

    Coating peppers in oil before roasting them will help the skin to char evenly, so it will slip out of the crevices as well as off the bulges.

  • Mike

    Always keep some bacon lardons in the freezer (preferably homemade!) That way you don’t have to worry about waiting for them to defrost before cutting.

  • HCC

    oldie but goodie…

    when rolling out a pie crust wipe the counter down with a damp sponge and then put a sheet of saran wrap down (it will stick in place on the damp surface) you can then roll out your crust and use the wrap to help transfer it in one piece (folding it in half is always an option too)

  • nhallfreelance

    Never underestimate the power of cooking liquid. Whenever I cook beans or lentils, I always reserve the cooking liquid, strain, reduce and freeze. Makes an amazing stock for use in braises, stews, soups, risotto, etc. Same goes for pasta water. If you save it and reuse it, it not only saves water, it flavors each batch of pasta with the one before it. After a few batches, you can actually sauce the pasta quite nicely with a splash of it’s own cooking water swirled into the pasta with a bit of butter and parm. Basically, anything you cook in water, try to think of a way to save and reuse the cooking medium. More often than not, it will surprise you with its delicious usefulness.

  • duncan

    I haven’t read the comments, so I hope I’m not duplicating tips here…

    When you’re using egg yolks but not whites, you can freeze the whites to save them for later. They thaw just fine and can be whipped as normal.

  • Ian

    When peeling garlic, pound with the flat of the knife. and pound again when peeled to make it easier to mince. oh, and keep the fingers in!

  • luis

    Ynhallfreelance. Yes and if I don’t change my socks everyday I tend to concentrate the aroma of my sweaty feet quite nicelly. After a few days.. weird things begin to happen down there….
    I love you bro… just couldn’t resist poking you a bit…hope you have a sense of humor. But it’s the same thing.. I think.

  • Melissa G

    I store spices in empty clean baby food jars, then keep the jars on strong knife magnets. (the lids are magnetic.)

    I want to win!!!! I’ve been wanting that cookbook…

  • Dawn

    When I freeze stock, sauce or other liquids, I put them in a freezer bag and lay them flat on a sheet pan in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, I find that the flat packages are easier to stack or store in the freezer.

  • Rich

    Always invite fun guests that love food over for dinner, food always taste better with great company.

  • Todd Milbury

    Keep two plastic ice cube trays always stacked in your freezer.
    For left over sauces, stocks, pastes there is then a ready storage mechanism to freeze single portion servings of these items. When frozen, double bag them in plastic bags and mark the date on the outside. This makes it easy to grab a small portion of these ‘flavor’ cubes whenever needed. Need some stock to perk up a sauce, grab a cube! Want a little extra sauce or paste to drop into a meal or over some noodles. Grab a cube!

  • Teri

    I like to use a large zip-top bag to mush up my meatloaf mix-
    just put meat, eggs, binder, and veggies in and mush it up. You can even
    shape it in the bag!
    I hate the feeling of raw meat and eggs under my fingernails, and this also saves on clean-up and cross-contamination.

  • John DiGiovanni

    I have two tips for working with pate a choux. The first one is folding the parchment paper in half once and once again for the right size for eclairs. Be sure to pipe a little in each corner on the sheet tray before you lay the parchment down so the paper doesn’t blow around in a convection oven.

    The second tip is to use a scoop to portion out consistent cream puffs.

  • Dan Padilla

    I like to run onions under cold water so I don’t cry like a baby when I cut them.

  • carri

    Thanks to commenter tim e I’m listening to you on marketplace right now, (it’s true, the Cleveland food scene is great)… Love that Alaska time-delay! I have to say my favorite kitchen tip that I learned from working in professional kitchens is using parchment paper…under cookies on a sheetpan, under bacon on a sheetpan (cooking your bacon in the oven, 350 til it’s crisp… is also a great tip!) wrapping up fish (en papilliote), lining cake pans….or anytime you want your job to come out neat and clean. Better than aluminum foil and when we’re done we just burn it.

  • Lora

    Instead of making pumpkin bread, bannana bread, etc. I make muffins and keep them in the freezer. That way there’s always a delicious, nutritious homemade muffin in the freezer for whoever wants one.

  • Peter

    Use the long handle of a wooden mixing spoon to lift the skin of a chicken so that herbed seasonings and butter can be placed all the way down to the drum sticks without tearing the skin. The entire skin can be lifted to create easy access. The long spoon handle can also be used to spread the seasoning, again, without danger of tearing the skin.

  • Guy

    Don’t go to culinary school thinking you are going to be a million dollar chef. If you think that tv chefs are where you want to be – stay out of the kitchen, SAVE THE MONEY. If you love food and you are borderline psycho about it – yep it is for you.

    That is the best kitchen tip I can give M.R. Great contest but I figured since you know I am a culinary instructor you would have thrown me out anyways!

  • cathy rodriguez

    Test out new recipes when you do not have company. That way you can perfect your technique and make adjustments for taste without your guests becoming guinea pigs! :O)

    Cathy
    Leavenworth, WA

  • Suzanne

    I love the easy way to peel lots of garlic cloves! Take to matching bowls, I use a couple of medium metal bowls that have thumb rings and a bit of lip. Fill one of the bowls with unpeeled cloves, turn the other bowl over the top. HOld the bowls together and shake like crazy. I mean really rattle them around, remove the bowl and most if not all the cloves will be peeled.

  • Adam

    When cutting said chives wrapped in paper towel, slice them with a back stroke not the usual rocking or eliptical motion. It’s kind of like sawing in reverse. Also, make sure your knife is sharp and well honed for perfect chive rings!

  • Brian V.

    If i’m stuck with cheap ground coffee… I take a pinch of vanilla sea salt and add it to the top of the coffee grinds then brew. Takes the bitter right out. I know not so much of a cooking tip, but it’s in the kitchen right?

  • Nico

    When washing rice, as I poured the starchy water out of the pot to pour in fresh water, i’d always throw away a few grains of rice, plus there’d always be some leftover water in the rice, which made it difficult to get the proportions right afterwards.

    I recently switched to measuring the rice inside a strainer, and submerging the strainer inside a big bowl of water, and washing it with my hands. This way it seems like i don’t waste as much water, and then i leave the rice to drain for a couple of minutes on the dish rack before nailing the proportions for good rice.

  • YC

    when working with most gluten free dough (like pizza), the dough should have a thick frosting consistency, not a solid ball. the best way to spread it out is by putting a piece of oiled saran wrap over it before you roll it out with a rolling pin so it doesn’t stick and tack up and basically spread all over the place. this is important if you are using a yeast risen dough since it has a lighter, tackier texture to begin with.

  • Daniel

    I love hot sandwiches, but I do not have a sandwich press. Just heat up a cast iron skillet and use the bottom on the top of the sandwich.

  • Rachel

    I can never use up my fresh herbs – so I wash and dry a bunch, rolling a few sprigs at a time in a moist paper towel, and then put them all in a plastic bag…they stay good much longer, and each ‘serving’ is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  • Ivy P

    EASIEST WAY TO CLEAN YOUR BODUM FRENCH PRESS (after each use)

    1. Dump out the coffee grind and rinse the container with water.
    2. Add 2 drops of detergent to the container and fill with water.
    3. Place the plunger into the french press and pump the piston up and down a few times. (This will froth up the detergent water and wash both the container and piston at the same time.
    4. Remove the piston assembly and a quick wipe down of all the visible surfaces with the soap water in the container.
    5. Dump out the detergent water and rinse everything with water.
    Note: The entire operation should take no more than 3 minutes.

  • TitusHotweather

    when i cant find my whetstone (which it seems is always) i can sharpen by knives by sliding them across the bottom of a coffee cup. It does gets the knives sharper because of the rim that is unglazed on the bottom of the cup. Great trick when you need to sharpen your knives in a pinch.

  • Curt Hancock

    A great trick that an instructor taught me for cleaning a wooden block after butchering meat is to just cover it with salt and leave it over night. The salt will draw out excess moisture, kill bacteria, and “bleach” the board. In the Morning just scrape it off and you’ll be left with a clean block.

  • Hobson

    Let your meat rest when you are done cooking it. Not just steaks but any beef, pork, lamb or poultry. And I am talking minutes, not seconds. A good thick steak can rest for 7-10 minutes. Your Thanksgiving can rest for 20. If you slice into it too soon, much of the deliciousness will spill out onto the carving board.

  • Emily

    Here’s a tip for travel agents and other unfortunates: Cut and paste Ruhlman’s blog into one email, then cut and paste the comments into another so one can read them at work. All blogs and all interesting sites are blocked at my office- I have to work to read your blog, Mr. Ruhlman. :-) I enjoy it immensely, so it’s no problem.

  • Anne C.

    I’m still working on my cooking skillz with stainless steel pans, but I have been told (always forget to try it myself) that if you heat a stainless steel pan with salt sprinkled in the bottom, the salt draws out the moisture in the pan, rendering it with some non-stick properties for a short time. (Discard the salt before adding the food, obviously.)

    Next time I need to fry some eggs, I need to remember to try it!

  • Trevor Williams

    No-Brainer Tip.

    After blanching vegetables, place them in a china-cap or colander before lowering into a large amount of iced water. After agitating the china-cap/colander to chill quicker, the vegetables can be removed from the water faster and there’s no need to wrestle with ice cubes or stray veggies. There won’t be any lost product, either.

  • Sylvie

    When I bake and I need to line a pan with foil, I flip the pan over and wrap the foil on the outside of the pan like I am wrapping a present. I then lift off the foil, which is now in the perfect shape to fit easily into the inside of the pan.

  • Veronica

    My favourite trick is to peel my onions underwater so that I don’t tear up nearly as much. Works well because the bulk of the onion gas is under the first 2 layers of skin (supposedly). It used to work a treat when I was stuck peeling kilos and kilos of them for work!

  • emily

    to slice corn off the cob, i like to use a bundt pan and let the hole be the holder for the corn while i slice off the kernels. so much easier and much less messy!

  • Asli Ozturk

    Line a sieve with coffee filter for straining really fine particles. Thanks very much by the way!

  • stresscake

    Tonight, I used the top of my toasty radiator to raise some bread dough. With single digit weather raging outside and a complete lack of counter space, I was pretty damn pleased with myself. Thanks!

  • Monya

    When preparing to juice citrus, cut it in half and poke the flesh deeply with the tines of a fork. You will get more juice from the fruit. Smiles!

  • Maya

    Taking apart a pomegranate underwater is the easiest way to save getting red juice everywhere. The seeds sink to the bottom and everything else floats to the top making it easy to separate.

  • Johnny K

    I love smoking foods. I have a pretty basic home smoker (propane) that doesn’t do a good job cold smoking. When I want to cold smoke, I’ll use an electric hot plate, a thin pan and saw dust. This creates enough heat to have the saw dust smoke, but keeps the box cold enough to not cook the meat (my favorite technique for making bacon!!!).

  • Jan

    I recently found that my garlic press does a great job for ginger as well. I love the way you enticed us all to to share something useful, Ruhlman.
    Thanks!

  • Kat

    Using a piece of thread vs. a knife is a great way to even off a cake before frosting or cutting off cupcake tops prior to creating a baked delight. After you take the item out of the oven, let it cool about 5 minutes. Cut a piece of sewing thread to equal the width of your item plus extra on each end so you can hold on to it. Take the thread and place it up against the area you want to slice off. Gently start to saw back and forth and once the thread has started to cut you can gently pull it through. Works like a charm!

  • Joe kwon

    Instead of buying expensive rings for stacking just use a used canof tomatoes with both ends cut out. Just remember to dremel or sand down the sharp edges first. Best of all you can use the same can for cuttig your biscuits to the perfect size!

  • Dave

    Salt your boiling water before putting in the pasta – it’s the only chance you have to salt it!

  • Jon R-W

    Learn how to butcher your own meats. You will be able to create custom cuts to your liking, you will get all of the “goodies” that don’t make it into packaged or pre-cut meats, you will save money, and, I feel, the more work you put into the meal/ingredients, the more satisfaction in the result.

  • Eric the Read

    Along the lines of an earlier suggestion, when laying parchment paper on a cookie sheet, I spritz the cookie sheet with some water to make the parchment lie flat.

    -=Eric

  • Adam Mahler

    Whenever I use tomato paste, bacon fat, broth, egg whites, etc, I take what I don’t use and freeze in an ice cube tray, then transfer to a freezer storage bag (make sure to suck out as much air as possible. This is also great for fresh herbs, just chop them and put a few drops of broth or water to preserve. Good for roughly 6 months. This gives me approx 1T portions of any of these itesm if I just need a little for a recipe…

  • Sue Wittie

    To always have the best bacon available for flavoring recipes, take a baking sheet and spread your fabulous raw bacon rashers out in individual strips. Freeze them raw and flat, wrap individually and throw in a freezer bag. When needing bacon in small portions, you always have the best waiting for you in whatever small portion you need.
    This is a great tip for solo cooks and solo diners – bacon in large quantity can go rancid before needed in a single’s kitchen.

  • Dan B

    Don’t bother with pastry knives for pie dough. Add your dry ingredients to a blender, pulse to mix. Add your (very cold) fat, and pulse to mix. Add your water, pulse to mix. Done, in about 1/8th the time.

  • Scott Johnston

    Taste as you go. Took me forever to learn this simple task. Learn to trust your taste buds, learn how to salt, when to salt and what a dish should taste like.

    The other simple “ah ha” is that most slow cooked soups and stews taste better the next day!

  • Mark H.

    Put a good classic movie in the DVD player to keep your inlaws from “helping” you in the kitchen while making them a holiday dinner.

  • Sharon Scott

    Ventilation is the key for tear free onion chopping. Open a window near your chopping block, set up a small fan, or put your block on a cold range top and turn on the ventilation. It works!!

    Also, if at all possible, try to avoid cooking when you’re “p*&^ed” off. Seriously, your food will end up just as bitter as your mood.

  • ivoryhut

    Having grown up in a household where waste was almost sacrilegious, I always peel ginger using a small teaspoon and simply scrape the thin skin off. It really helps with getting into those pesky crevices.