7 Kitchen Hacks for Vacation
You've made it to your vacation rental house with a trunk packed full of pantry essentials and some lofty cooking plans for your trip. Then you get into the kitchen, ready to bang out some summer pasta or a simple dippy situation for the group—and the place looks like it's been ransacked. Here are some kitchen hacks and tips to help you through the holiday season.
1. Handy weight chart
Sometimes even a conscientious baker will forget to tare the digital scale (i.e., zeroing out the weight of the empty container before adding ingredients) while making a recipe. To avoid the annoyance of having to remove the ingredients from the container and reweigh, plan ahead for these moments by making a weight chart for your favorite bowls and measuring cups and taping it to the inside of a cabinet door. Determining the ingredient weight is as easy as subtracting the container weight from the total.
2. Sisterhood of the traveling panini
Here are two tricks for mimicking these popular griddle sandwiches in a rental kitchen without having to pack a panini press.
A. Cast-iron double-team
1. Set a large, seasoned, oiled cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; place the assembled sandwich inside.
2. Place a smaller cast-iron skillet (or other heavy pot) on top of the sandwich to press. Cook until the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown, then flip and repeat the process on the other side.
B. Tea (kettle) sandwiches
Fill a tea kettle with water and use it to weigh down the sandwiches as they cook. If you prefer, fill a saucepan with water and use it in the same manner. Remember to wipe the kettle or pan bottom before its next use.
3. Pack the salt and pepper
Most vacation homes supply plenty of table salt but rarely have the kosher salt you may want for grilling—plus, the pepper on hand is usually a flavorless preground kind of unknown vintage. Rather than pack a big box of salt and a pepper mill, just make a mix of kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to bring along in a zipper-lock bag.
4. Safe knife transport
There are a number of ways to safely travel with a kitchen knife. One option is to insert the blade into a paper towel roll. Most rolls easily accommodate the blade of an 8- or 10-inch chef’s knife. Another option is to cut a slit in a thick piece of corrugated cardboard and slip the knife into the opening. Or try wrapping knives in cone-shaped paper coffee filters for safe transport to picnics and cookouts.
5. Portable kitchen
If you often find yourself missing must-have ingredients or favorite kitchen tools when cooking while away from home, try packing a few sharp knives and other indispensable items like a garlic press, a pepper grinder, your favorite type of salt, and a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil into a plastic container to take along. Multiple containers can easily be stacked on top of each other and lowered into a paper grocery bag.
6. Traveling spices
If you want to cook while vacationing in rental properties but are afraid of finding old, flavorless dried spices gathering dust in the kitchens and don’t want to buy all new ingredients, try using a jumbo pill organizer to transport small amounts of your favorite spices—one in each of the compartments.
7. Organized road trips
When packing munchies for a long car trip, instead of piling up an impenetrable mass of snacks in a bag, use an empty box from a case of wine. The cardboard insert (used to separate the bottles) creates compartments for holding soda cans, napkins, utensils, fruit, and the like. It’s so easy to find the food that kids (and preoccupied adults) can help themselves.