When it comes to prepping, cooking, and serving delicious food, it’s safe to say that seasoned restaurant workers always have the upper-hand—whether they are cooking a feast in a commercial kitchen or just crafting a midnight snack with ingredients from their fridge!

So, when we recently found ourselves searching for off-beat cooking tips, we decided to focus in on what these restaurant professionals had to say. Lucky for us, over the years, thousands of servers, cooks, and chefs have taken to message boards and written blogs in an effort to share their best-kept secrets with everyday home cooks such as yourselves.

Well, we’ve combed through all of those tips and tricks and have come up with a list of 13 of their most useful and unexpected food hacks. Seriously, you guys, these are SO smart! For full tutorials and more information on the tips, be sure to follow the links below.

  1. Eliminate foul odors from burned foods

    If you’ve burned your meal, just stick the food in your freezer for a minute or two to stamp out the yucky taste. Doing so won’t get rid of the dark color, but it will give your burned masterpiece a fighting chance!

  2. Capture the juice from sliced tomatoes

    Don’t wash those succulent tomato “guts” go down the drain! Instead, invest in a cutting board with an attached trough, and freeze the liquid in ice cube trays to use as a seasoning in future meals.

  3. Give your iceberg lettuce the Kung Fu treatment

    Did you know that you can remove the core from a head of iceberg lettuce in under 3 seconds? Just slam the head, core-side down against a cutting board and turn over to remove the middle with your fingers. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

  4. Trade in your turners and spatulas for tongs

    There’s a reason why you won’t see professional chefs flipping their meats with slotted turners or spatulas in their kitchens—it’s just too difficult. Instead, invest in a pair of sturdy tongs, and pretty soon you’ll be using them any chance you get!

  5. Cut down on cutting board cleaning time

    Cover your wood cutting board with a layer or two of plastic wrap before you start prepping your fruits and veggies. Once you’re finished dicing, simply remove the plastic wrap and throw the mess in the trash. Smart!

  6. Use booze to de-glaze your cast iron skillet

    Splash a generous amount of cheap vodka after you are done using your cast iron skillet. This does two things: 1) It de-glazes your skillet without disrupting its seasoning and 2) It safely lifts the food remnants for a scrub-free soak.

  7. Coat your bacon in flour

    Achieve the perfect amount of crisp by adding a layer of flour to each and every piece of bacon. This mouth-watering hack won’t alter the taste of your bacon too much, but it does offer up the dreamiest of crunches. Yum!

  8. Take care of your knives and know how to use them

    According to mega-chef Anthony Bourdain, both professional and home chefs only really need three knives: a classic chef’s knife, an offset serrated knife, and a paring knife. Invest in good ones, make sure you follow their care instructions to a “T”, and spend time learning basic knife skills. Practice makes perfect!

  9. Give your omelets some “air time”

    Always dreamed of being able to flip your omelets in the air like a chef? Lucky for you, the move is actually a whole lot easier than it looks. Simply grease your pan, roll the eggs back, and pull the pan towards you. It may take you a few failed attempts, but soon enough you’ll be making breakfast like a pro!

  10. De-construct your mashed potatoes

    The secret to perfectly creamy and, dare we say, complex, mashed potatoes? De-constructing them, of course. Bake up some peeled potatoes in the oven and fry up the skin separately in a pan on the stove. Once both parts are finished, mash those potatoes and stir in the crispy skins for a smooth and crunchy texture. Simply divine!

  11. Protect yourself from hot peppers

    Just because you are chopping up some habanero peppers, doesn’t mean you have to be in a world of hurt. Before you get to chopping, coat the fingers of the handling hand in olive oil and wash away with plenty of dish detergent when finished. Pro tip: make sure that olive oil gets UNDER your fingernails, too!

  12. Heat plates before serving food

    This hack comes from a restaurant manager who knows the importance of turning out hot food to his guests. He says that sticking heat-safe plates in the oven BEFORE plating the meal ensures the food stays at the right temperature for minutes longer than a room-temp plate. The perfect tip for your next dinner party!

  13. Taste as you season

    If you are making a large soup or stew, be sure that you give the dish a taste every time you introduce a new flavor. The hack may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s literally the only way you can be sure that you’re not over-seasoning.

We can’t wait to integrate all of these tips into our cooking routine! We’d love to hear your thoughts on this list. Have you tried any of these hacks before? If so, which one works best? Are you a restaurant worker who would like to add any other tips to this list?