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12 Game-Changing Cooking Hacks From Top Chefs

04/15/2015 10:46 am ET | Updated Jun 15, 2015
Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Cooking can be both intimidating and time consuming, which often leads to microwaving. But on the rare occasion when you're not heating up Hot Pockets, it's empowering to have a few tricks up your sleeve. We asked a few of our favorite chefs and our in-house recipes editor to give us tips that will make your kitchen seem more like a playground, and not the kind that's full of bullies. Soon you'll be creating perfect burgers, using ramen flavor packets creatively, and learning how to keep oil from splattering everywhere.

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Credit: Drew Swantak/Thrillist

Use sausage to make the easiest meatballs ever
"Spaghetti and meatballs can be a quick and easy meal. Save time by using sausage instead of making meatballs. Remove the casings and roll small sections of the filling into balls. Fry them in a skillet and dunk into some hot marinara." - Perry Santanachote, Thrillist recipes editor

Try the recipes on boxed food -- but personalize them
"Read the recipe on the package while you're in the grocery store. Then buy those items, but add one or two ingredients to make the dish yours. Then to level it up, always serve it with hot bread purchased from the freezer section." - Brad Orrison, The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint (Ocean Springs, MS)

Test temperatures without a thermometer
"If you don't have an oil thermometer when deep-frying, a kernel of popcorn will tell you if the oil is hot enough. Place it in the oil as it heats up and it'll pop when the oil reaches 350 degrees. That's just the right temperature for frying anything from fries to donuts to Twinkies." - Perry Santanachote, Thrillist recipes editor

Experiment with flavor packets
"The flavor packets in ramen are awesome on popcorn, or mixed with sour cream to make dip. Same goes for the cheese packets in mac and cheese. Dump and toss." - Justin Warner, Do or Dine (Brooklyn, NY)

Cinnamon keeps oil from splattering
"While my wife Sylvia was in the Philippines visiting family, she noticed her aunt putting cinnamon into a pan of oil right before frying fish. The aunt explained that it keeps the oil from sputtering when the fish is added. We've since tried it with Texas quail in our cast-iron -- just two healthy pinches -- and sure enough, the oil didn't pop. Most remarkably, there was no cinnamon taste. This is my new go-to trick for home frying." - Steve McHugh, Cured (San Antonio, TX)

Get tomato flavor in any season with juice & gelatin
"To make perfect tomatoes for burgers in winter, I use tomato juice and gelatin or agar agar to make 'tomato jigglers.' I cut them into discs with a glass and put them on a burger. You get ripe tomato flavor, and it melts into the patty." - Justin Warner, Do or Dine (Brooklyn, NY)

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