Updated on 6 January 2021: Everyone loves a hack, so it makes sense that we’ve all been poring over the many, many cooking hacks that have flooded TikTok over the past few months. But how many of them actually work?
Well, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. A lot of time (thanks for that, Covid-19!). And so, in a bid to find out/fill my time during lockdown, I stocked up my kitchen with lemons, garlic bulbs, and eggs, so that I could test some of TikTok’s most iconic food tips and tricks.
Here’s what happened.
How to hull a strawberry with a straw
As reported on 12 October 2020: I decide to side-step the nightmarish strawberry hack everyone’s chatting about on social media (you know, the one with the salt and the water and the swarm of tiny bugs), and instead kick things off with TikTok’s strawberry hulling challenge.
As per the video above, all you have to do is stick a straw through your strawb, from the tip to the other end, and watch the stem pop right off.
I spend a long time searching through my kitchen for the one straw I own (a reusable metal number I picked up in those heady pre-Covid days), and then set to with a punnet of strawberries.
Occasionally, and I really do mean occasionally, my aim is off and I miss the stem. The majority of the time, though, I’m squealing with excitement over the effectiveness of this trick. Not only does the stem fly off, but that tough inner core gets taken out, leaving you with the best part of the fruit.
The only issue? As I reach the end of my punnet, I realise that a lot of strawberry residue was clogging my straw. It takes a lot of huffing and puffing down the straw to shake it out, and I’m red-faced, breathless, and lightly sweating by the end of it.
Next time, I vow, I’ll keep emptying the straw after every other berry.
Hack rating: 4.5/5
How to peel garlic in 20 seconds
One TikTok user has claimed that blasting your garlic bulb in the microwave for 20 seconds makes it easier to peel than ever. Sadly, I don’t have a microwave, so I shoot a message to my mum over WhatsApp, begging her to help.
My mum, as ever, comes up trumps. Not only does she attempt the hack herself, no questions asked, but she sends me an entire album of garlic photos – a few of the bulb before its time in the microwave, a few during, and a few after – as well as her own little review.
“I have garlic fingers now,” it reads. “It was easy to peel but it heats up the garlic a wee bit and releases the smell.”
I apologise for giving her vampire-proof fingers (nobody on TikTok mentioned that!) and thank her for her time.
Considering how long it takes me to peel a garlic with my bitten-down nails, this hack speaks to my soul. However, it loses points for its blatant microwave-privilege and for its unfortunate aroma-releasing powers.
Hack rating: 3/5
How to juice a lemon without getting your hands sticky
Everyone on TikTok claims that the easiest way to juice a lemon is by stabbing it at one end and squeezing it over a glass.
Check it out:
I give it a go and… well, it kind of works, but I’m not exactly impressed. Apparently my brute strength is too much for the lemon, as the first one explodes in my hands (guess all those Stylist Strong Women workouts are paying off).
The second, though, works. Sort of.
I don’t get a whole lot of juice for my efforts, but it may be because I’m squeezing it very gently so as to avoid any further explosions.
To be honest, though, I think hunting down a skewer takes way longer than it does to cut a lemon in half, squeeze it, and pick out any stray seeds with a teaspoon. So no, this isn’t one for me.
Hack rating: 2/5
How to peel garlic in even less than 20 seconds (allegedly)
Ah, the bowl trick. A classic.
To try it yourself, you need to separate your garlic into segments, chuck it in between two bowls, and shake like your life depends on it, as so:
I forget a key part of this hack: I don’t separate my bulbs into cloves. Instead, I chuck five whole garlics into a bowl at once and give them a shake.
And another shake. And another after that.
Finally, furiously, I shake them again, only to reveal ONE (1) perfectly peeled clove. Which, considering I forgot the first step, is a massive win.
I reckon, if I did this properly, it would be a dreamy hack like no other. So, with that in mind…
Hack rating: 4/5
How to halve all your cherry tomatoes at once
This is one of my favourite food hacks ever, even if I did learn it from my gran years before TikTok was even born.
Essentially, pop all your cherry tomatoes on a plate, and press another plate (lightly, don’t crush ‘em) down on top.
Then, all that’s left to do is slice a knife between the two plates and voila!
Perfectly sliced tomatoes. Every single time.
Hack rating: 5/5
How to reverse-strain pasta
There are no photos of my attempt at this hack, for obvious reasons. Essentially, it asks that you balance your colander on top of your pan of pasta, carry it over to the sink, tip it, and let the water drain out through the holes in the colander.
When I tell my boyfriend I’m attempting this TikTok hack tonight, he looks panicky.
“Why?” he asks. “It’s dangerous! The water will go everywhere.”
Reader, he wasn’t wrong. And I have no idea why anyone would ever think this is easier than sticking your colander in the sink and pouring the pasta into it there.
Genuinely, I really don’t.
Hack rating: 0/5 (WHAT PURPOSE DOES THIS SERVE?!)
How to make McDonald’s fries
Admit it: you’ve always wanted to know the secret to those oh-so-perfect- oh-so-salty, oh-so-fluffy-and-yet-also-crispy Maccy D’s fries, haven’t you?
Well, thankfully, there’s a TikTok hack for that.
Well, it’s not so much a hack as it is a very strange, very detailed recipe.
As per the video, you have to slice your potatoes, soak them in the fridge in a bowl of sugar water for half an hour, flash fry ‘em, stick them back in the fridge for another 30 minutes, and then fry them properly.
So I slice (my finger, as well as the potato):
I soak in sugar water (and, sure, slop some out of the bowl and into the vegetable drawer of my fridge, because I’m that person), before flash-frying them:
Finally, after much waiting and strange stomach rumblings, I remove them from the fridge and fry them… only to overcook them ever so slightly (clearly this is a genetic trait that’s been handed down to me by my dad).
It takes forever, far longer than it would to order yourself a bag of fries on Uber Eats. It uses up a lot of potatoes, and sugar, and vegetable oil. And it’s very easy to over-crisp, too.
Despite all of this, though, I’m into this hack. Because… well, because it tastes amazing and looks seriously skillful when you pull it off.
Hack rating: 4/5
How to cook poached eggs in the oven
I love poached eggs, but I hate the drama of stirring up boiling water, adding a drop of vinegar, then cracking my egg into the swirling vortex and hoping it will all come out OK.
So, when I learned that there’s a way to poach eggs in the oven, I was ecstatic.
The method seems simple enough: preheat your oven to 180°C, grease your muffin tin, pop a little water into each compartment, crack in your eggs, and stick in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
I forget one crucial part, however: I don’t preheat the oven. Which means that the eggs aren’t done after 10 minutes. Or 20 minutes. Or even 30 minutes (seriously, eggs?).
Then, I forget about them entirely because I’m too focused on my McDonald’s fries (see above).
So this happens:
Yup, I messed up. My eggs are rock-hard, my yolks could be used as marbles, and my muffin tin is now coated in a strange eggy substance that can’t be removed, no matter how much I scrub.
This, of course, is all my own fault: I should have listened to @JaxFoodHax and preheated my bloody oven. I know it would have worked if I had.
As it stands, though…
Hack rating: 3/5
Images: Author’s own