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!”

  • forrest

    When making stock, start with the pot to one side of the burner so the junk will accumulate in one spot and be easier to skim.

  • Adam

    Place a damp towel underneath mixing bowls to keep them in place while you stir/whisk …

  • Jay

    Keep a stock pot on the stove as described in Elements. This will change your way of life.

  • Heather

    When making ice cream, add a bit of vodka, so it doesn’t freeze so solidly.

  • sam

    Forget fiddling around with your pairing knife – smash an olive over the head with a meat mallet and the stone will pop right out.

  • Fred

    My best kitchen tip is to not be held back by a recipe. As long as you know basic techniques and ratios, use good ingredients and have a healthy sense of adventure, you will be successful most of the time.

  • Lila Dobbs

    keep a mason jar of vodka or bourbon handy for spent vanilla bean pods (rinse ’em first if they were steeping versus if you simply scraped them out.) once a week give it a shake and keep it in a dark-ish place. in a few weeks time, homemade vanilla extract!

  • Alma

    If you have some very ripe bananas you won’t be eating soon, peel, halve and freeze them! They can come in handy for smoothies or a yummy banana bread.

  • Nancy-TheSensitivePantry

    To clean the bottom of a burnt pot or pan — fill with water and sprinkle with baking soda. Put back on the burner and simmer. Pour out the water and scrape away the burnt food with a plastic scraper.

  • Whineaux (Dawn)

    To always have “roasted garlic” on hand buy a jar of the pre-peeled garlic cloves, put it on the stove in a small pot and cover with olive oil. Put it on the lowest setting and allow the garlic to poach until golden — as long as an hour. Drain it and store cloves in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last forever. As a bonus you get garlic infused cooking oil!

  • K

    I use my cappuccino/frappe electric frother to emulsify small amounts of salad dressing so I do not have to dirty my blender.

  • Nikki Dawn

    Cut roasted chiles with scissors over the bowl. This way you do not lose all the juice to the cutting board.

  • Bart

    Taking the time to caramelize your mirepoix/soffritto to a dark mahogany will add depth and richness to your dish without having to add more ingredients.

  • Seth

    Buy the best knives you can afford. One of the best wedding presents we ever got was our knife set, and it is used in someway everyday. Good knives make cooking that much more enjoyable.

  • Steven Lee

    When using fresh Ginger I like to use the back edge of a spoon to scrape away the outer skin. Makes for a perfectly peeled root with little wasted.

  • Mark

    Some brands of cookware (such as All Clad and Calpahlon) have lids with uninsulated handles. You’ll be able to grab the hot lids without a mitt or towel if you wedge a cork under the handle.

  • Rich B.

    If you have a rice cooker, use it to make oatmeal. Just throw in some steel cut oatmeal, some dried fruit (we like cherries, but raisins will do in a pinch), some water, and maybe a pat of butter. Best easy oatmeal ever.

  • Ronna

    Freeze unused cooked rice in a ziplock bag – – don’t refrigerate, as it will dry out the rice. Reheat in bag in microwave or pot of hot water.

  • Morgan Pierce

    Keep a bottle of wine open on the counter while cooking. When the recipe is ill-written and causing frustration, pour one half glass and consume quickly. Repeat until frustration subsides.

  • Annie

    Keep a roll of painter’s tape (the wide, blue kind- it’s easy to remove) and a sharpie in the drawer of your prep table (or wherever you prepare foods). Makes it so much easier to write dates on leftovers or bottles you open.

  • Adam J. Blust

    Use a small smooth rock to bash your garlic cloves. Find a small smooth rock about the size of your palm, and run it through the dishwasher. Then bash away – once just to pop off the skin, and several times to crush the clove. It’s refreshingly physical.

  • SG

    Throw some peeled garlic cloves into your rice cooker when you make rice, and you’ll have bonus stewed garlic when the rice (which will have a lovely, faint garlicky taste) is done.

  • Renée

    As for cutting chives, I hold them in a bunch and use scissors. This has always worked for me!
    I hope I win.

  • Marc

    When you make pesto, make more than you need for one meal and freeze the rest in an ice cube tray. That way you can pop a couple out one ‘cube’ and defrost for a quick topping on pasta, eggs, almost anything.

  • Elizabeth

    Need an icepack but can’t find the right one without nasty chemicals or one that will fit in your fancy new Mario Batalli office lunch bag? Use your vac seal to create icepacks that are just the right size!

  • alissa j

    Use a stand alone metal wine rack to hold your parchment, aluminum foil, plastic baggies etc. It provides easy access to them and saves space.

  • Mark Clayton

    Got a stubborn mason jar that just won’t open? Don’t pry off the lid and risk breaking the jar in the process. Turn the jar upside down ,vertically, and tap the top of the lid on the kitchen counter. Turn right side up and give the lid a twist, it will come off with no problem.

  • Anne

    When you have little ones to feed, kitchen shears or scissors do wonders in cutting up food to their bite size pieces. It’s so much faster and easier using scissors to cut meat, noodles, etc. up rather than using a knife and fork.

  • Natanya

    Instead of using (and throwing away) a damp paper towel every time you need to secure a mixing bowl or cutting board to the counter, buy a roll of rubber shelf liner and cut it into different sizes to accomodate different size boards and bowls. The liner is easy to wash in case there are spills and you won’t be creating a lot of waste.

  • Jules

    Let your onions sit in cold water for a few minutes before cutting them to reduce the gasses that cause teary eyes 🙂

  • Eric

    To make any poultry taste juicier, brining it a day in advance regardless of type of bird or method of cooking will make it taste juicier and not dry.

  • matt

    Learn to season your food properly paying close attention to the thickness of whatever you’re seasoning, which might require more than smaller portions.

  • Chris

    Foolproof way to open any stubborn jar lid (learned from my Grandmother): With the handle end of a butter knife, hit the jar lid in a few places. Breaks the seal. It will now open with no effort.

  • michelle

    When juicing carrots, add the residual pulp bi-product to soups, meatloaf, bread, any number of things. It adds great texture and helps moisten whatever food item you may be cooking, not to mention vitamin fortification of your dish and less waste.

  • Wendy B

    Hello from the Great White North. Even though I know we Canadians can’t win I thought I’d leave my two cents: when making fresh pasta I use a laundry drying rack that I picked up at Ikea for $7 instead of the fancy pasta drying racks that cost ridiculous amounts. It’s waist height so it’s easy to access and it holds over 3 lbs of noodles.

  • Kaye Lyssy

    Salt is your friend! It brings out the flavor of everything! Tomatoes, chocolate, pasta…you name it!

  • Zack Koulermos

    When I’m chopping garlic and it sticks to the blade, I like running my knife under the kitchen faucet for a quick second. Flick the excess water away and the garlic won’t stick!!

    Also, make your own chicken stock by saving the bones of chickens you roasted in a freezer bag. Once you have enough, make 2 big batches of stock at once in your oven (as suggested by Ruhlman).

  • Amy

    To make sure your eggs are completely blended for scrambled eggs, put them in an old jar & shake them. (I hate stringy bits of white in my scrambled eggs)

  • Aaron

    I took a butchering class in college, and learned that the quickest and easiest way to get a knife to hold a great edge was to steel it while it’s hot. I was mine in hot water, dry it, steel it, then put it in the block.

  • Matthew

    When you make stock, freeze a portion in ice cube trays, then transfer to a ziploc bag. They make great small additions to sauces or while treeking a recipe.

  • Kelly

    Buy spices and dried herbs from the “ethnic foods” aisle of the store. They cost about 75% less and you can buy what you need instead of a jar that will sit around forever.

  • Amanda Haynes

    I use a flexible cutting mat to grate all my cheeses onto and then roll the mat and us it cone shaped to “sift” the cheese in one handed to sauces and other things that need time. This can be used for many ingredients not just cheese, but I really like cheese sauce 🙂 Such a cool book and awesome giveaway!

  • Craig

    Store your ginger in the freezer in a zip lock bag. When you need some, use a microplaner and it will literally come off as dust that virtually melts when it hits the pan.

  • Kathleen

    When making pimiento cheese or guacamole, use a pastry cutter to break ingredients down to size. Much less effort than mashing with a fork and creates a better texture.

  • Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

    What a GREAT giveaway! My tip is related to peeling garlic. This must be done ahead of time, soak garlic cloves in cold water for half an hour. The garlic peel should soften and dissolve like paper in the water.

  • David in San Antonio

    When you need a little extra counter space, open a drawer and lay a cutting board across it.

  • Chris

    When making pesto, use walnuts instead of pine nuts (which in my area are $14.99 a pound). Any difference in taste is negligible.

  • seattle palate

    Wrap rubber bands around the loop and handle of your fine mesh strainer at the same width as your sink. Then the strainer will stay put on the edges of the sink and you can pour directly into it.

    Also, when cutting a bunch of green onions, leave the bottom 1/2″ of the bulb and replant it. New green onions will poke out of the soil within a few days. As they grow, you can just snip off the tops and use what you need, and you’ll always have fresh green onions on hand.

  • M.A.G

    To have your family or go-to recipes on hand while traveling you can type them all down then create a simple web site for your own use, therefore you will always have them on hand where ever you go, even on your cell phone for a quick shopping list.

  • Denise Cayer

    After cutting pears in half use a melon baller to remove the seeds. Makes for a nice clean presentation.

  • Magda

    If you can’t open a tightly sealed jar, knock the lid on the floor or the counter a couple times to break the airtight seal. The jar will open very easily. I’ve never had the jar break or leak while doing this.

  • Jyll Presley

    Before making stuffed cabbage rolls, put the head of cabbage in the freezer and when it thaws the leaves will separate much easier.

  • Kirsten

    If the bottom of your oven is covered with burnt bits and you don’t have time to clean it, sprinkle salt all over it for a temporary smoke stopper.

  • colls

    Have you ever burned a pot so badly that the only option was to throw it away? Before you toss it in the trash, try this. Fill it with water, add 2 dryer sheets and let it soak a day or two. Really–it works!

  • Grant

    Roll your doughs on an over-sized silicon baking sheet. Uses less flour to keep things from sticking and clean up is a breeze.

  • sara

    For those with limited kitchen space like me get ride of all the lids for your pots and pans. You can cover them with a circle cut out of parchment paper, or tin foil. It saves me from lots of clangy around my cupboards.

  • Brian

    If you are oven roasting a piece of meat and need it done a little faster you can jab a metal spoon into it so that it conducts the heat down into the meat.

  • Jon

    When grating ginger, place a layer of cling wrap over the cheese grater. It doesnt rip, so collecting your ginger and clean up are simple AND and the fibers stay connect to the hunk of ginger.

    One of the best tricks I learned in culinary school

  • Elan

    When making a brine use a whisk to dissolve the salt and sugar. You can do this directly in cold water saving the time of heating and then waiting for the brine to cool.

  • Tim Donahue

    A microplane is a whiz at grating garlic and easier to clean than a garlic masher.

  • Tom Drake

    Freeze Bacon (or other meat for that matter) for 10 minute to make it easier to slice thinly.

  • Leslie

    Ditch your sifter and use a food storage container instead. Put all the dry ingredients in, cover tightly with the lid, and shake like mad.

  • Erin

    When cooking with a wok, always add liquid to the side of the wok, not the center — it will keep the wok temperature hot and your veggies cooking.

  • Janice

    When grating soft cheese such as cheddar or mozzarella, be sure to freeze it for 15 – 20 minutes before grating so it’s easier to handle

  • karenology

    I posted this on Facebook but saw you wanted people to post here, sorry and hope this doesn’t count as a double entry:

    To keep soft herbs (like basil, mint, cilantro) from wilting, wash them, layer them between paper towels and store them in a cardboard box in the fridge! Tip courtesy of my mama

  • Richard from Charleston

    I like to thicken my curries with pumpkin puree. It’s a relatively neutral flavor, and it adds great texture and color.

  • BruceF

    After mincing garlic use the side of your knife to smear the tiny pieces into a paste. Scrape the results into any finished soup, stew, or ? to add a burst of flavor.

  • KathleenW

    When making guacamole, roll avocados and limes under your hand on the counter top to soften them up for mashing and juicing.

  • Claire

    When peeling hard boiled eggs, crack shell and then use a spoon to peel off shell. The shell will come off easier then peeling piece by piece.

  • brian

    When first bringing lettuce home, wash and spin immediatly. With lettuce slightly moist, roll up in paper towel and place back into grocery bag. Lettuce is now easily ready for salads or other use.

  • Jeff Ohlhausen

    When flattening a piece of meat, poultry, etc use two freezer sized ziploc bags. Cleanup is super easy, mess is self-contained and the bags are recyclable.

  • Dani

    Keep your flours in tightly sealed containers or zip-top bags in your freezer. (No more little mealy bugs.) Keep brown sugar in a zip-top bag with the excess air squeezed out in your refrigerator and it won’t get hard. Thanks for a chance at the giveaway!

  • Jennifer Johnson

    When you have the ends of crusty breads like baguettes left over and they’re getting stale – cut off the crust and stash in a ziploc bag in the freezer. When you need breadcrumbs, just grab out of the freezer, bring to room temp, and toss in the Cuisinart to shred your own.

  • Ron McKinlay

    Always season at the beginning of cooking rather than just at the end so that the flavor cooks in and allows the real flavor to come out instead of just tasting salty. Cheers on the chance to win this great book.

  • David Porter

    Use a coconut grater (any good restaurant supply store) for grating hard cheeses. I hate using a microplane for this….I end up with a pile of wispy cheese that just disappears into whatever I’m adding it to and I never taste it again. Using a coconut grater gives just the right consistency, not too big….not too small (it’s awesome for the popcorn you made on a previous post).

  • Brandon brown

    if you need/want to cold smoke something(cheese for example)and your smoker/grill does not have that capability, throw a big container of ice water in/under your smoking apparatus to chill the smoke.

  • Jeff D

    if you need some stock real quick and don’t have the bones handy go buy a rotiserrie chicken for dinner, strip it down and save what you don’t eat then use those bones for stock. Quick and easy and better than from a can/box.

  • Al F.

    Use moist paper towel to cover saucepan to prevent splattering when simmering tomato sauce.

  • s.r.e

    If you forgot to take your eggs out ahead of time for a recipe that calls for them to be room temperature, simply place in a bowl with warm water for about ten minutes. Viola room temperature eggs!

  • Chipper

    After mixing bread dough, to get it out of the bowl easier, sprinkle flour around the inside edge of the bowl. Then take a flexible pastry scraper and scrape around the sides of the bowl, down to the bottom. This works the flour all around the dough and it will now easily “pour” out of the bowl onto your work surface. This even works with difficult high hydration doughs.

  • EPC

    After opening a can of tomato paste…I take the leftover and put tablespoons on plastic wrap and then wrap these with foil and put them in the freezer so they are ready to go and avoid waste!

  • Marjorie Meeks

    when baking chocolate cakes use cocoa powder instead of flour to grease and “flour” the cake pan

  • Jimmy

    When peeling garlic, shellfish, citrus, etc. and want to get the smell off your hands, put a small heap of salt in your hand and some dishwashing soap (1:1 ratio, I’d say) and scrub throughly. Rinse and boo-ya.

  • Julie Y.

    After mincing garlic, rub your fingers on something made of steel to get the smell off. I usually just rub the side of the sink.

  • craigkite

    I write the date and contents on anything that goes into a ziplock bag with a “Sharpie” pen when it goes to the freezer. Hopefully, we thaw the chili and expect it to be chili and not sauce for a lasagna. We still have the last batch of pea soup from my late mother-in-law in the freezer in the garage. least that is what the bag says.

  • Jenna

    Freeze your pie crust in its pie plate, lined with aluminum foil, before blind baking instead of using weights.