25 Handy Hints for the Home Cook

Updated: Oct. 13, 2023

These why-didn't-I-think-of-that hacks will help you save time, get organized and work more efficiently in your kitchen.

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Easy Drawer Organizer

Pegboard and Dowel Drawer Organizer

My kitchen drawers used to be an absolute wreck; pans and dishes crammed in however they’d fit. And nearly every time I needed something, it was always at the bottom of the drawer. My solution was to cut a piece of 1/8-in. pegboard to the size of the drawer bottom and attach dowels using screws from underneath. Now my pans are organized and easy to access. The 10 minutes it took to build was easily made up for with how much frustration it has saved me. — Jim David

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HH Secure Your kitchen towels

No-Slip Kitchen Towels

Hanging a dish towel from an oven or dishwasher door makes sense. The towel is in a convenient location, and the oven’s warmth quickly gets rid of dampness. However, the one drawback with hanging your towels here is that they are constantly falling off! Here’s a way to keep the towel from slipping off: Fold your towel into its desired form and attach Velcro strips in two spots, one on the front and one on the back, as shown in the photo. Stitch in place, or use fabric iron-on Velcro strips and follow the directions on the packaging. Finally, hang your towel from the oven or dishwasher door and match velcro ends together. No more towels on the floor!

Learn how to make boat cleat towel storage shelves.

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HH icy drinks water bottle frozen

Reusable Icy Drinks in an Instant

The next time you do yard work on a sweltering hot day, make the chores a little more bearable by having icy water bottles at the ready. Fill your water bottles a quarter of the way, so that when they are on their sides the water settles just below the bottle’s neck, and stick them in the freezer. An ice block on the side of the bottle puts more liquid in contact with the ice, cooling it faster.

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HH kitchen condiments lettuce tomato muffin tin bbq

All Your Condiments in One Place

The next time you host a barbecue or a patio party, pull out a muffin tin. Rather than using it to bake muffins (although you can do this later too), fill the cups with various condiments and barbecue toppings. This way your condiments are easy to access and your buffet lines will move along quickly. You will also dramatically increase your table space, and cut down on the separate serving bowls to clean up afterward.

For a truly impressive backyard barbecue, a home cook needs the right tools and a great plan for a successful day out in your yard. That’s why we’ve collected 12 of the best tips to make sure your grillout is fun, easy and delicious.

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HH mega soap dispenser

Mega Soap Dispenser

I modified my kitchen soap dispenser inlay by adding plastic tubing into a gallon of soap that rests beneath my sink. To make this clever contraption, start by attaching plastic tubing that is slightly bigger than the diameter of your soap dispenser head. Next, thread the plastic tubing through the soap dispenser inlay into a gallon of soap. This clever kitchen hack ensures that my soap supply lasts well over a year so I hardly ever have to change it out. — Steve DiLuigi

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HH Keurig pod organization

Organize Your Coffee Pods

Coffee pods can be a disaster to keep organized, but this hack uses simple T-molding as an ideal organization system for Keurig, Nespresso or any other type of coffee pod. T-molding is designed for wood floor transitions, and it also makes a perfect storage rack for coffee pods because it has grooves for the pods to slide onto. This T-molding design also works great for a wine glass storage rack.

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HH Six Pack Organizer Fridge Door Sriracha

Save that Six-Pack!

Do all of your small bottles in the refrigerator door like to tip over after opening or closing the door? Fortunately, the answer to tidying those wayward bottles is just a recycling bin away. To keep all of your condiments under control use an empty six-pack holder to hold and organize the condiments in your refrigerator door. This organization solution is also great for transporting your condiments for a backyard BBQ or picnic!

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HH File folders under kitchen sink organization

Magazine Rack Hack for the Kitchen

Magazine racks can be used for more than just organizing papers and magazines in your office. They can also be used for organization in your kitchen. We filled the containers up with the clutter that normally barricades the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Place all of your kitchen cleaning supplies into magazine racks, putting the most frequently used items towards the front.

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HH Cleaning with drill brush
Family Handyman

The Drill Brush

To make this drill brush you’ll need: a drill, a washer, a bolt, a long machine screw and a brush head replacement. Start by threading the machine screw though the brush head so the head of the screw rests in the brush head hole. On the other side of the brush head, slide on the washer and secure it in place with a nut. Make sure to tighten it well with a wrench. However, do not over-tighten, as this may cause the plastic brush head to crack. Next, attach the scrubber head to the drill. Now simply point and press the drill to start and let the drill brush do the work.

Learn more cleaning tips for the pros.

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pipe trash bag dispenser with roll of trash bags

Trash Bag Dispenser

You can build a simple dispenser for your trash bags using 1/2-in. pipe and a few fittings. Screw a floor flange to the cabinet, thread in a 3-in.-long pipe nipple, and then thread a 90-degree elbow onto the nipple. Cut the vertical pipe so it’s a bit longer than the width of the roll of bags. Thread the vertical piece into the elbow and slip on the roll.

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Vinaigrette Scratch Remover

Vinaigrette Scratch Remover

Minor scratches in wood furniture don’t need to be sanded out; you can hide them. Mix one-part vinegar with three-parts canola or olive oil and wipe it on the scratch using a soft cloth. The scratch virtually disappears, and you can dress your salad with the leftovers.

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cabinet wine rack

Easy-to-Make Wine Rack

I never have enough space for wine storage, so I made this wine rack using pantry shelves and 1x2s. I used a router to round over the top edges of 1x2s, cut them so they’re a few inches shorter than the shelf depth; then spaced them about 2 in. apart. Then I screwed them to the shelf. I adjusted the shelf spacing so there’s about 5 in. of clearance for the bottles. — Robert Lackey

Have a hole saw? If so, this wine rack is a cinch!

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clean cast iron skillet with coarse salt
Family Handyman

Clean a Cast Iron Skillet with Coarse Salt

To prevent rust and extend the life of a cast iron skillet, it’s best not to use soap to clean it. Instead, use a about a tablespoon of coarse salt to scrub the pan after a meal. The salt breaks up bits of stuck food and residue on the skillet. Then you can toss the dirty salt in the trash, rinse the pan with hot water and dry it with a clean towel. To further protect a cast iron skillet, rub a few drops of vegetable oil over the entire cooking surface.

Check out more of our favorite cleaning tips.

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HH secure cutting board with rubber bands

Make a No-Slip Cutting Board

Most cutting boards don’t come with any kind of rubber surface on the bottom to prevent them from sliding on a countertop, but with a couple of rubber bands, you can stabilize your cutting board and keep it from moving around during use. Slip on two rubber bands—one at each end of the cutting board—and you’re good to go. Make sure that the rubber bands lay flat and aren’t twisted when you put them on so the board will sit steady on your countertop.

Check out some more brilliant rubber band hacks for your home.

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pool noodle inside drawer
Family Handyman

Use a Pool Noodle Inside a Drawer

I have always hated the way drawer organizers move around when you open and close a drawer. I solved the problem at my house with a pool noodle!

I measured the distance from the back of the drawer organizer to the back of the drawer and used a utility knife to cut the noodle to size. The pool noodle fits snuggly in place, so the drawer organizer doesn’t move around anymore. You could also cut the pool noodle in half lengthwise to reduce the amount of space that it takes up. — Roy Allison

Check out these 25 pool noodle hacks that will improve your life.

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HH secure garbage bag with command hook
Family Handyman

Super-Secure Garbage Bags

Trash bags and waste bins should work perfectly together, but that’s rarely the case. As trash bags start to fill up, the bag slithers into the bin and you have to dig it out. To keep handled or drawstring trash bags in place, all you need are two medium or large self-adhesive command hooks. Position the hooks at a location that allows full use of the bin. Plus: How to keep your trash can from flying in the wind.

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Rice and sock heat pad

Homemade Heating Pad

Next time you have a sore neck or back, don’t reach for an electric heating pad. Instead, fill a sock with uncooked rice, tie the end and microwave it for two or three minutes. I like this better than a heating pad, as it conforms to whatever body part that needs heat. You can even put in some fragrant herbs like cinnamon or lavender to make it smell nice!

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under-cabinet banana hook

Hang Bananas Under Cabinets

My wife and I wanted to get a banana tree to keep our bananas fresh longer and to help them ripen evenly. But counter space is an issue in our kitchen, so we thought of a solution: Instead of adding something else to the countertop, I attached a small adhesive hook under the cabinets to store bananas. When we need it, it holds bananas without taking up any of our limited counter space. When it is not being used, it is hidden from view. It works great, and I didn’t have to drill holes in the cabinet! — Michael Blough

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remove hard water buildup with a lemon

Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a Lemon

To get rid of hard-water buildup on a faucet, try this natural solution: Cut a fresh lemon in half. With one of the halves, use your thumbs to gently open up the center. Then press the lemon onto the end of the faucet. Put a small plastic bag around the lemon and secure it around the faucet with a rubber band. Be sure that the rubber band it cinched tightly and that the lemon is around the end of the faucet. Leave the lemon in place for a few hours to allow the citric acid to work its magic. After you remove the lemon, you may need to use a gentle scrubbing pad to wash off any loosened hard-water buildup.

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Sturdier reusable grocery bag

Make Your Reusable Grocery Bags Last Longer!

Have you ever had a heavy load of groceries that your reusable grocery bag just can’t handle without ripping? We’ve got the perfect solution for you! Find a scrap piece of plywood lying around your workshop and cut it to the measurements of the base of your reusable grocery bag. Replace the thin plastic insert (so prone to cracking and splitting) with the measured and cut piece of plywood and place it in the bottom of your reusable grocery bag.

In the mood for more simple plywood projects? Here are 19 surprisingly easy woodworking projects for beginners.

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HH Car Wax Stainless steal appliances apply
Family Handyman

Make Your Appliances Smudge-Free

If you own stainless steel kitchen appliances, you may want to consider using car wax to clean them rather than a surface cleaner. Simply apply a light coat of car wax to the appliance, allow time to dry and buff clean to resist fingerprints and smudges. No more kiddy fingerprints on the fridge.

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tennis ball bottle opener

Tennis Ball Bottle Opener

The rubbery interior of a tennis ball makes it perfect for gripping stubborn twist-off bottle caps or sticky jar lids. And the soft exterior eases the strain on your hands when bearing down on the item you’re trying to open. To make this handy bottle and jar opener, use a utility knife to cut a tennis ball in half. For safety, stabilize the tennis ball in a vise or clamp it to a work surface while cutting, so it doesn’t move around.

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HH DIY Ice Pack Sponge
Family Handyman

Make Your Own Ice Pack

Ice packs are a great way to keep your lunch cool, but they’re a bit expensive if you’re in the habit of losing them. This DIY ice pack hack is reusable, so it is good for the a home cook and the environment.

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seedlings growing in plastic clamshell container from salad bar

Greenhouse From the Salad Bar

The next time you hit up a salad bar for lunch, save the plastic clamshell container. It can be reused as a mini greenhouse for a home cook who is starting seeds in the spring. When you’re finished with your lunch, wash the container thoroughly. Use an awl and hammer to punch a few small holes in the top part of the container for airflow. Then fill the bottom half with potting mix or your own special seed-starting soil. Plant your seeds, spreading them out in the container as suggested on the seed packet. Give the seeds a small drink of water and close the lid. Place the container in a sunny spot, and patiently wait for your seeds to sprout!

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HH broken glass cereal box

The Best Way to Deal with Broken Glass

Broken glass items such as bottles, light bulbs, glassware, mirrors and windows can be a serious safety hazard if not disposed of properly. Broken glass should always be placed inside of something that will not be punctured by shards of glass. So sweep broken glass into an empty cereal box before throwing it away in a garbage bag. This prevents the glass from ripping the garbage bag and creating another hazardous mess.

You’ll have your house spick-and-span in no time by following these 16 house cleaning hacks from professional house cleaners.