grilled chicken thighs on grill

5 Kitchen Hacks to Add Flavor to Your Summer Meals

Sometimes life gets a little hectic and you don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen. Luckily, cutting down on the prep time doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on flavor. These kitchen hacks will help you elevate some of your basic routines, while saving time and enhancing the flavor profile of your summer dishes.

Use Butter and Garlic for a Simple, Juicy Burger

simple ingredient burger

The best way to elevate a simple burger is with frozen garlic butter. Before it’s time to cook, press a clover or two of garlic into room temperature butter. Pack the garlicy-butter into small balls, place them on parchment paper or in an ice tray, and freeze. When it’s time to cook your burgers, push a frozen butter ball down into the center of your burger patties. As the burger cooks, the butter will thaw and spread that silky, garlic flavor throughout the patty.

Season with Ground Coffee to Wake up Your Taste Buds

steak tips with coffee bourbon bbq sauce

Coffee isn’t just a morning pick-me-up—the rich, its earthy flavors are the perfect for a dry rub, seasoning, sauce, or marinade. If you’re using it for a marinade, try reusing the grounds from your morning cup ‘o joe. For a dry rub or seasoning, grind ¼ cup of beans and add it into your spice blend. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, you can add a few tablespoons of fine coffee grounds to your next batch of whipped cream, giving the light dessert topping a creamy, cappuccino flavor.

Thaw in a Salt Brine to Cut Prep Time Down

rosemary brined pork chops

The next time you’re thawing frozen meat, try using a basic brine. The water will thaw the frozen meat while the salty mixture penetrates it, adds flavor, and ensures unparalleled juiciness. A brine is best used on pork and chicken, and you can easily add in other pantry staples to enhance the flavor like in this Rosemary Brined Pork Chops with Cider Mustard Vinaigrette recipe. When using a thaw to brine, remember to work with only smaller cuts, like pork chops or chicken breasts. This will ensure that the meat will thaw quickly enough to let the brine work through the whole cut.

Freeze and Use Leftover Wine for Sauces

Chicken marsala with mushrooms in a creamy wine and whisky sauce over farfalle pasta

Have some leftover cooking wine, or wine that has started to go tangy? Instead of dumping it down the drain, pour the wine into an ice tray and freeze. When it’s time to make dinner, add a few cubes to a stew, sautéed veggies, or a pan-seared steak for a quick and flavorful dish. This kitchen hack also comes in handy when cooking up recipes that don’t require a lot of wine like Chicken Cutlet Marsala—instead of buying a new bottle, you’ll have all the wine you need right in your freezer.

Add Pickle Juice for an Extra Kick or Instead of Spices

thyme lemon roasted chicken

Pickles are a great sandwich side, but when they’re all gone, you’re left with all of that pickle juice. Instead of pouring it down the drain, save it in the fridge or freeze individual portions in an ice tray. Since pickle juice packs a punch, make sure you add a tablespoon at a time to your dish whether you’re sautéing veggies and whipping up a stew. You can also substitute it in when a recipe calls for a strong acid or citrus juice.

But the best use for leftover pickle juice is as a brine or marinade, adding that salty dill flavor to chicken sandwiches and any chicken or pork you plan to grill. Marinate overnight in pickle juice and then dry and pat on your favorite dry rub—you’ll be amazed by the flavorful results.

littauer jonathan
Jonathan Littauer
Jonathan is a freelance writer/editor and rock climbing route-setter based in Boston, MA. When he’s not wielding words or making people fall off walls, he’s probably outside somewhere, hiking or climbing or surfing poorly. He’s been known, on occasion, to drop everything and travel the world for months at a time. Learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanlittauer.com.