Skip to main content
Menu
Search
Menu
Close

We make mistakes so you don’t have to.

Try CooksIllustrated.com Free for 14 Days

Email is required
How we use your email address

How to Refresh Stale Ingredients

By Annie Petito Published

We’re all trying to minimize the amount of trips to the grocery store. Here’s how to save the foods you’ve already got in the kitchen.

Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite activity. I can be a bit impatient and it’s usually while I’m strolling the aisles that I realize it’s been exactly three hours since my last meal and I’m suddenly very hungry. But recently, venturing to the store has taken on a bit more meaning: the last few months I’ve been home on maternity leave with my new baby girl and these once-mundane trips have suddenly become much more. They were moments of “me” time—an adventure with the baby where I would recite her the name of every piece of produce; even an opportunity to think about my ATK coworkers, who were all, at that moment, humming along in the test kitchen. 

Now, running to the grocery store feels like a luxury (or a risk) that shouldn’t be taken for granted. So, my husband and I are trying to be more resourceful with what food is already in the house. One of the ways we’re doing that is rethinking what we’re tossing in the trash. A lot of foods that might seem less than pristine since the day we bought them can be restored with a little help. I’m not telling you to salvage moldy cheese or use oil that's gone rancid (some foods can’t be saved) but there are some foods that you shouldn’t be quick to throw out.

How to Revive Wilted Produce

If leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula) are looking a little drab, soak them in ice water for 30 minutes.

To revive vegetables with stalks or stems (broccoli, asparagus, scallions, celery parsley): Trim stalks or stems on the bias to expose more water-wicking capillaries and stand the produce in a container filled with cold water for 1 hour.

How to Save Stale Cookies

Place hardened, stale cookies on a plate and microwave for 10 seconds. It is important to eat the cookies while they are warm before they lose their softness.

How to Save Stale Chips and Crackers

Spread stale crackers, potato chips, or tortilla chips in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet (larger items such as graham crackers should be on a wire rack set in a baking sheet) and place on the middle rack of a 225-degree oven for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the item, until the food is crisp again, stirring (or flipping) halfway through baking.

How to Soften Rock-Hard Brown Sugar

If your brown sugar has dried out and formed rock-hard clumps, you can use a coffee grinder to quickly break up what you need (up to ¼ cup at a time). A grater is also a useful tool for this problem; running the block of sugar along the tool’s sharp holes quickly breaks it down into a measurable, usable state.

To keep brown sugar soft indefinitely, store it in a sealed container with a terra cotta Brown Sugar Bear, which gets a brief soak in water before being added to the sugar.

How to Liquify Crystallized Honey

To bring honey back to its translucent, liquid state, use a pot of simmering water or a microwave. Put the opened jar of honey in a saucepan filled with about an inch of water and place over very low heat, stirring the honey often, until the crystals melt.

Alternatively, heat the opened jar in the microwave on high power in 10-second increments, stirring intermittently, until it has liquified. Once cooled, use the honey or screw the lid back on for storage. The honey will eventually recrystallize, but it should flow freely for several weeks.

If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, heat your honey with a small amount of light corn syrup (2 teaspoons per cup of honey).

Leave a comment and join the conversation!

0 Comments
Read & post comments with a free account
Join the conversation with our community of home cooks, test cooks, and editors.
First Name is Required
Last Name is Required
Email Address is Required
How we use your email?
Password is Required
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.