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.


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 ( and Jason Davies!  Will you two pls email me your mailing addresses?  Thanks everyone for all these fantastic kitchen tips!  I love them!]


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

  • Mike

    Peeling mangoes: cut the “cheeks” off the pit. Using a paring knife, score between the flesh and the peel all around each piece. Using a suitably large spoon gently work between the peel and the flesh, working around the piece as needed. The flesh should easily come away if the mango is good and ripe.

  • John Beaty

    Use chopsticks to beat eggs for omelettes, rather than a fork or a whisk: less air in the eggs means creamier omelettes!

  • Erin

    I store extra flour in the fridge rather than a cabinet – keeps much better much longer. Just make sure you bring it to room temperature before you use it in any baking application!

  • ryan moore

    When you don’t have time to roast sweet potatoes in the oven, a microwave can produce similar results. Rinse your sweet potato and make a number of incisions with a knife around the circumference of the potato. Place the potato on a microwave-safe plate and drape a damp paper towel over the potato. Microwave on high for ninety seconds. Rotate the potato and microwave for another ninety seconds. Repeat for a total of four cycles. Caution: the potato will be extremely hot. Remove the potato from the microwave and wrap in aluminum foil. Let the potato rest in the foil for five to ten minutes depending on the thickness of your sweet potato. Serve.

  • anth

    1. Never underestimate non-kitchen tools. Hammers do great work at crushing all manner of things.

    2. Roll pie crusts on parchment – then place a pie plate over the parchment, flip & peel the parchment from the top. No sticky mess!

  • michael

    Always have the phone numbers of poison control, fire department and your local doctor nearby when cooking.

    Especially if you have young kids.

  • Rhonda Crosswhite

    I grow Meyer lemons and they all seem to ripen at the same time and don’t keep well. I cut them in half and put 2 halves in a zip lock or vacuum food saver bag and put the bag in the freezer. When I need juice just let a bag thaw UNOPENED. Roll over the bag with a rolling pin and pour out the juice. One whole lemon will yield one cup of juice usually. The freezer has done all the squeezing by bursting the ferules and releasing the juice. No work, fresh juice and ALL the juice is released.

  • Brian Mulvehill

    My daughter loves penne in butter with cheese On a busy weeknight – melt the butter in a metal bowl sitting in the pasta water as it cooks. Then, toss pasta in the warm bowl so it stays hotter longer. Not earth shattering, but keeps things moving on a work night dinner schedule.

  • Robert Montgomery

    Toss a pinch of kosher salt on the garlic you’re mincing, it will help break it down faster, especially if you drag the flat of the knife back and forth every few (dozen) chops.

  • Liz

    My life got so much easier when I learned how to properly slice an onion, in “The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry.”

    1. Cut the onion in half through the root
    2. Make 1-3 horizontal slices almost to the root (depending on size of the onion)
    3. Make vertical cuts almost to the root (with the knife point towards the root)
    4. Slice the onion, into a perfect dice!

  • Elliott

    When you crack an egg and a piece of shell falls in with the egg, the shell in your hand is the best tool for scooping out the piece.

  • Flavia Pantoja

    Put all the herbs (such as parsley, mint, etc) you need for a recipe in a glass jar or bowl and use a sharp pair of cisors to cut them! It makes the job a lot easier!

  • Stella Gimmestad

    GRAVY To speed up the separating of the fat while the turkey is resting, slip a few ice cubes into the separator. The melting ice will chill the mix quickly, moving the fat to the top. The floating cubes and the resulting water will stay on top and the good stuff pours out clean.

  • Jorge Hernandez

    After boiling pasta or potatoes, cool the water and use it to water your house plants. The water contains nutrients that your plants will love

  • Fred Bloss

    When making eggplant parmesan, soak the eggplant in salt water first to get the bitterness out.

  • Spencer King

    When making cheesecake, treat it as if it was a custard and cook it in a water bath. You will end up with a much creamer texture that wont crack on top.

  • Michelle

    Great tips!

    I’m baking cookies right now – instead of smashing my peanut butter cookies down with a fork (or any cookies you roll into a ball) I use the pointed end of the garlic press. Decorative and useful.

  • Sarah

    I like freezing leftover tomato paste as is mentioned above, but I also use that technique after opening a can of chipotles.

    Lay some parchment paper on a tray or plate that will fit in your freezer, arrange the chipotles so they don’t touch, and top each with some of the adobo sauce remaining in the can. Freeze them! After they are are solid, pop the lot into a freezer bag and they’ll be ready for your next recipe.

  • Sean PJ Collins

    When making consume and you need to get the fat off the top of the surface you can use parchment paper to take the oil off instead of using paper towel that will absorb your liquid and laddeling it off.

  • John V

    Freezing bacon slices. Take a big sheet of plastic wrap. Lay a slice of bacon at one end. Roll the wrap around the bacon. Put down another slice. Roll. Repeat. Store in a freezer bag. Anytime you need a slice of bacon, just unroll one from the collection. All the other slices will remain protected, and it will be easy to take out just one at a time. Enjoy!

  • Suze

    When cooking a roast dinner, keep some water used to cook the potatoes and vegetables to add to the gravy.

  • Becky

    Don’t be afraid – try a new dish, modify a recipe (ratios make this a lot easier!), make a substitution in one of your classic recipes. You won’t always have a masterpiece but you’ll get better the more you try. Some of my best dishes were created by being brave!

  • John Shelsta

    Hey everyone!

    Im culinary student currently and have a internship working in pastry. I recently learned about a trick to help whip egg whites to firm peaks.

    Seperate whites from yolks.
    Make sure you have clean, dry equipment!
    Add a pinch of salt to the whites right as you are about to whip them.
    About 2/3 thru whipping the whites, add a pinch of cream of tartar, it will help stabilize the egg whites.
    you will want to use about 1/8 tsp per yolk roughly.

  • cristen

    when cooking beans or pasta for a dish with vegetables (like kale), subtract the time it takes to cook the veggies, then add them into the boiling water with the pasta or beans. everything will be finished at exactly the same time, just drain and finish!

  • Leigh

    After making a caramel sauce or anything with melted sugar, instead of scrubbing your pan into oblivion to get the extra sugar bits off, just add water to the pan and simmer on the stove while doing the other dishes. The warm water suspends/dissolves the sugar and gets it right off the pan!

  • Jason

    I like to push my cooked potatoes through a mesh strainer with a rubber spatula before adding my butter and cream for lump free mashed potatoes.

  • zan

    since i have warm hands, when i make truffles by hand, i start by putting some (nonpowdered) food safe gloves in the fridge a bit to cool down things down and swap them out when the get too warm.

  • Nate Sturdevant

    My mother’s oatmeal:

    When making oatmeal whisk an egg per serving with a little maple syrup in a mixing bowl while the stuff cooks. Then, when the oats are still too runny to serve temper the egg by pouring the hot oatmeal into the bowl as you would for custard. Return the oatmeal to the pot and heat and cook a few more minutes until it’s perfect. That’s a fine oatmeal!

  • Brenda

    When I cut onions I always leave about a 3/4″-1″ cube around the root ball. That’s where all the acid is, and as long as it is undisturbed, you’ll never cry.

  • Terri Haley

    For better, firmer fried green tomatoes, slice and SALT an hour or so before frying. Then quick rinse, before dusting with corn meal and frying. No need to add additional salt.

  • Ebonye

    Garlic skin comes off easily if the garlic cloves are slightly warmed before peeling.

  • Lannae

    Tip: With extra tasty left over sauces, freeze them in an ice cube tray, and use the cubes later in another delicious dish.

  • Laura

    If you make a large pot of stock you won’t use right away, measure it out into ziploc bags, 2 cups (in a quart bag) or 4 cups (in the gallon size) per bag. Freeze all the bags flat, and you can store the stock a long time and thaw just what you need to cook with. Plus, they freeze in a nice compact shape and take up very little room in the freezer.

  • Nanci Courtney

    When faced with a burn in a pan – scrape what you can out, easily. Put in a cup or two of baking soda. Add at least a quart of water – less if a small pan. Let boil for at least ten minutes. The burn will lift right off and not trash the surface.

  • Pat Huber

    When cooking oatmeal raisin cookies soak the raisins in the egg and vanilla (and rum, if its the holidays!) mixture for about an hour before putting them into the cookie dough to bake. This allows the egg mixture to soak into the cookies for extra moist, delicious cookies! (You will soak the raisins in the desired amount of egg and vanilla according to the recipe you are using, then add the mixture to the dough prior to baking) Thanks!

  • jen

    This is more of a baking tip but for the best chocolate chip cookies you need to let the batter sit for 36 hours in the fridge. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Jean Erickson

    I always take the additional time to remove the “germ” or green part of each garlic clove. A lot of people complain that garlic can irritate their stomach, but when the green part is removed, we don’t seem to have any problems. Also, for people who have trouble digesting cucumber, but love the taste: grow salad burnet and use it in your salads. It’s a hardy herb that tastes like fresh cucumber.

  • Kim

    If you’re home canning and a jar doesn’t want to seal, turn it upside down.

  • Jess

    I always crack my eggs into a bowl before mixing them in when baking incase of shell mishaps!

  • Joe

    Make chunky guacamole in the avocado skin. Slice a ripe avocado the long way from the stem end all the way around. Separate the two halves. Remove the pit (using a folded side towel as a kind of “basket” for the avocado to protect your hand, firmly strike the side of the pit with your knife and twist .. the pit will lift out easily). Using a paring knife with the avocado half still in the towel “basket,” gently slice through the flesh being careful to not go through the skin. Turn the avocado 90 degrees and repeat. Then cut as near as parallel to the original slice as possible, making rough “cubes.” Scoop out the avocado flesh into a bowl. Repeat for the other half. I like my guacamole with just a little salt, and sometimes a squirt of lime juice.

  • rob

    don’t decide what you are going to cook until you’ve seen what is at the market. cook with the seasons!

  • Phillip Holstein

    I love Chocolate Chip Cookies but If my fiance makes the whole batch I’ll eat them until they are gone. :) So we now bake 1 sheet of cookies and then portion out the rest of the dough with a mini ice cream scoop on to another baking sheet and refrigerate the raw dough for 30 minutes. Then the par frozen cookies can be transferred to a ziplock or tupperware. Makes for simple cookies the next time you want some, just bake as you normally would… and I swear they taste even better after the dough has set!

    Ruhlman Rules.

  • kim kleinman

    these are terrific ideas. but my best tip is…..find someone who hates to cook but loves you and likes to CLEAN UP!!

  • Luis

    Do not store your coffee in the fridge or the freezer: when taken out of the freezer they will attract moisture and/or frozen beans will dry out and shatter when ground.

  • SeaWalkIn

    Throw away every oven mitt glove thingy you’ve ever used to handle hot things and learn to love the towel.

  • Rob

    After braising chicken in the skin (in a poulet basquaise, for instance), crisp the skin by taking the chicken out and putting it by the rotisserie burner of a barbeque for about ten minutes .

  • Daniel Buck

    When baking cheesecake, the final consistency is dramatically affected by the environment of the oven. Many recipes call for using a water bath to buffer the heat during cooking. This also keeps the oven relatively moist, and you’ll end up with a softer, creamier texture. I prefer a more crumbly texture, and I like the “New York style” browning on the surface of the cheesecake, so I usually skip the water bath, put the cheesecake in the oven after preheating to the recipe-recommended temperature, and then just turn the oven off. As it cools down, there’s still plenty of energy in the oven to cook the cheesecake, and you won’t dry it out with too much heat.

    Also, drip trays are your friend.

  • Jay C.

    Weigh your coffee instead of using a scoop because different beans are actually different sizes and the only way to achieve consistent results are to weigh your beans. Use 2 grams of coffee beans for every ounce of finished coffee you desire – so, an 8z cup of coffee uses 16 grams of beans!

  • Hannah

    Turn your oven down about 10 – 15 degrees lower than what’s called for in the recipe to prevent it from rising with a big hump in the center and keep the layers nice and flat. Just be sure to compensate appropriately with a slightly longer cooking time.

  • Matt T. Wood

    One hand pouring and one wisking, you can use a mouse pad to keep the bowl in place. One’s usually sitting close by if you’re looking up stuff on sites like this while cooking.

  • Diana

    Instead of chopping flat-leaved herbs like parsley and cilantro (and even chives), put them in a somewhat narrow water glass and snip/cut them with kitchen scissors. It is much easier than chopping, especially when the herbs are damp.

  • pinkdevora

    In order not to dull your knives prematurely, when transferring food off of a cutting board, scrape off the food with the blunt side of the knife.

  • david S.

    If you want to eat well cook the food yourself. Don’t leave it to your wife.

  • Rocky Barnette

    I keep the microplane handy not just for zesting and hard cheeses but chocolate, whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and finishing dishes with finely grated cashews, almonds or black truffle.

  • ErikaK

    My kitchen tip… use vermouth in place of white wine in braises or for pan sauces, so you don’t have to open a new bottle just for a small amount of wine, vermouth keeps well in the fridge. Julia Child says so.

  • luanda

    To prevent scorching when heating dairy products, rinse saucepan with a bit of water beforehand. Do NOT dry it.

  • ChefDeSanto

    When cleaning the hood above a fryer, never use a sheet pan as a platform to stand on.

    One of the most horrific things I’ve seen in as a chef, is coming out of the office to witness an employee doing just that. Needless to say within a moment of my seeing this, the sheet pan cracked and folded in half. I won’t describe the injuries that occurred, but just remembering it still causes me to cringe some 15 years later.

  • Tournant

    There is only one rule: MISE EN PLACE. Learn it. Know it. Love it. Everything else will follow.

  • BillB

    If you don’t have time to blanch tomatoes in order to peel them, try using a regular or Y vegetable peeler, only instead of swiping directly across the skin (which may tear into the flesh), perform tiny (quarter-inch or so) zig-zags from pole to pole across the skin. It takes a delicate touch, but will do the job nicely. An added benefit: it doesn’t cook the tomato. This technique also works for pith-less citrus zesting.

  • Shannon

    Peel a pomegranate under water. It keeps the juice from squirting all over the place and the pith floats to the top.

  • Keith T,

    Something you won’t learn in a book, class, or blog; Make friends with people who hunt!
    Wild game is Tasty, Healthy, and arguably the real Slow Food.
    It can’t be bought in stores, restaurants rarely serve it (if so it’s farmed), and it’s how humans have survived for god knows how long.

    Out of the ordinary ingredients give you the opportunity to cook out side the box. There is no such thing as Wild Boar “Helper”
    The dinner will be memorable, the pairing potentials are fantastic, and the food won’t sit uncooked in a freezer.

  • riceandwheat

    i have two:
    1. using a small spoon to peel the outer skin off ginger
    2. i can never use up a can of tomato paste right away, so i always freeze the rest for the next time i need it – i cut out little rectangles of plastic wrap, divide the leftovers by spoonfuls, and wrap them up in little packs before storing in a container in the freezer. single-portion tomato paste at the ready!

  • ChrisL

    I like to use a damp kitchen towel to peel garlic. Pull the stem out and separate the cloves, then put them in the center of the towel and bring all the corners together, wack it a couple of times on the counter, scrunch and roll your hands over it, and they should be free of their skins!

  • Dennis

    When deep frying tacos, I use tooth picks to hold the folded tortilla together so the filling does not fall out

  • Stephanie Henson

    When cracking an egg, sometimes shell fragments fall into the bowl. I just use the egg shell half to pick them out, as opposed to my hands or a spoon

  • David L.

    When I need lime juice I cut the ends off and peel in the same manner as a melon and/or pineapple. I then throw it in a blender…

  • Carol M

    Use a grapefruit spoon to remove the stringy insides of a winter squash or pumpkin.

  • Austin

    learn to make 2 great braised dishes or stews. make them often and in big batches. they get better after a few days. nothing satisfies a hard day at work or a long night at the bar more than a reheated braised dish sandwich. this always impresses my friends too.

  • Charlotte king

    Use half and half when making scrambled eggs, the milk fat makes them full and fluffy, but also rich in texture! Always finish with butter!

  • Karen

    My favorite kitchen tip is much like the chives-in-towel, and may have been posted already, but here goes:
    When cutting any small round/oval food (cherry tomatoes, olives, cherries, grapes) in half, I find it easier to take 2 plastic container lids (the kind with a discernible edge to it), sandwich those around the foodstuff and slice through the center. It’s an easy way to get a ‘slice in half’ if you’re in a hurry.

  • Davefox

    When you make stock ( and not to sound Kiss ass but Ruhlman’s oven method is the best way I have found to make it) take strained and defatted stock, put it on the stove top and reduce by half or until it sticks to the back of a spoon (you’ll know it when you see it). This is Demi glace and is the backbone to all of your sauces and gravies.

    Here is the real tip:
    Take the finished Demi glace, freeze it in ice cube trays and then store in a zip top bag.
    Ratio for use:
    1 -2 cubes into a pan with meats= a great pan gravy
    6 cubes to a cup of water= 2 cups stock
    8-9 cubes to 2 cups water= soup broth for 2-4 bowls of soup (depending on what else you put into it).
    Keeps forever!

  • Patrick

    If making an emulsified vinaigrette in the blender, the best way to know that you can stop adding oil is by watching the cone in the middle of the blender. As the oil emulsifies, the cone will slowly close towards the top. Once the cone is nearly shut or shut entirely and the vin doesn’t spin anymore, don’t add anymore oil or you’ll break it.

    How to fix a broken vinaigrette? Well, I could tell you, but that’d be two entries and I’d like to have the book.

  • Karri Norton

    Two tips:
    1) bouquet garni in soups and stocks: buy empty tea bags from your local store (especially an asian specialty store if you have one) and you can put your herbs in that. You get the great flavors, no green bits (that doesn’t bother me) and an easy dig out of the soup.
    2) any long-grained white rice, here’s an easy measuring tip for the water. Put your index finger on the top of the rice, add water until it reached your first knuckle. Bring to boil, put heat on low, cook 20 minutes, lid still on, let sit off burner for 10 minutes. Perfect every time!

  • Drew McComas

    Since dressing/stuffing cooked in the bird poses some difficulties with getting the stuffing to a safe temperature without overcooking the bird, cook the stuffing in a Crock-Pot instead. Saves burners and oven space while keeping it moist like it was cooked in the bird. For a little crunch, you can put the stoneware crock into the oven for a few minutes to brown the top.

  • Chris

    When basting, hold the spoon like you would a pencil. It reduces the burns, and provides you with a great angle of approach.

  • danny

    pound cold butter to soften it guicker rather than waiting at room temperature or using a microwave

  • Bret B

    Always toss your vegetable scraps into a freezer bag and when full, make a big pot of stock. Frugal and home made stock beats store bought, specially since you didn’t have to pay a dime extra for it.

  • Eileen Thornton

    for dried bread crumbs when you have no dried bread, simply put bread (as many as needed) into the microwave and microwave 20-30 seconds or until bread is dried careful no to burn the bread. If you want it toasted, grind the bread into crumbs then spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven until toasted.

  • Angela

    I can’t really claim credit for this personally, but I use Alton Brown’s technique for frenching a chop: cut away the main chunks, and then take string attached to a drawer handle (that you would buy from a hardware store), wrap the string in a loop around the base of the bone, and pull using the handle. It takes the meat off in one fell swoop.

  • Leslie

    If you’re traveling with a knife, stick it in a the cardboard roll from a roll of towels.

  • Lisa

    I’m very sensitive to onion vapors and the tip that has helped me the most is to put the onions (or shallots) in the freezer for 5 minutes before chopping. I was told that doing so slows the release of the gases that cause stinging/tearing eyes long enough to chop them.

  • Brenda

    After scraping vanilla seeds out of the pod, grind it in a mortar and pestle with some of the sugar in whatever recipe you are using. It will pulverize the larger bits and pieces of the pod that end up being scraped off with the seeds, and saves you from having to strain them out later in sauces, ice creams, etc.

  • Jeff

    Air cools pasta faster than running water, when cooking pasta, and wish to cool , spread with oil on a sheet pan

  • jdw

    First: Have trouble measuring single servings of pasta? Use a spice/herb jar. Cook however much fits through the neck of the jar.

    Second: Run out of table salt and not realize it until you tried to bake cookies? No worries. Toss some kosher salt in the food processor for a few seconds. It’ll be a bit of a pain to get it down to the same size as table salt, but you don’t need to go that far. (I decided to just use kosher salt a few years back. What a terrible decision. Salty spots are okay in biscuits. They are not okay in cookies.)

  • Hunter

    Separate large amounts of eggs by cracking all of them in one bowl, then moving yolks to another bowl.

  • napo

    use small jars for on the go vinaigrette: put salt, chopped or dried herbs, (olive) oil & vinegar (or lemon juice) in a jar and close it … shake well just before you pour it over your greens, beans, whatever, wherever, whenever …

  • Pam

    Here’s a tip from my Italian mother-in-law that you’re not likely to see elsewhere. Never eat a meal when your bra is too tight. It will give you stomach problems.

  • margalit

    When making chicken soup, to skim off the fat quickly, lay a piece of wax paper or even a paper towel over the top, and you’ll get all the fat in one fell swoop.