November 29, 2020

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Food the meaning

14 Viral Food “Hacks” That Are Total Fails

The internet is awash with food “hacks,” many of which look like magic tricks that will save you oodles of time and frustration in the kitchen. But everyone knows you can’t trust everything you see on the internet. If some of the kitchen hacks you’ve seen look too good to be true, it’s because they are.

To see which tricks work and which don’t, I tested 17 viral food hacks you’ve seen on TikTok or videos like 5-Minute Crafts. Sadly, most of them didn’t hold up to the hype. But a couple surprised me.

Golden eggs were all the rage a few years ago. The idea is that if you spin a raw egg super fast using a pair of old stockings, you can pop the yolk and scramble it from the inside. Cooking that egg leads to a beautiful, golden hard-boiled egg.

The Test: To give it its best chance, I spun my egg 50 times. But still, there was no yolk popage. My egg cracked in the boiling water (which may or may not have been from the spinning), but I could still tell that nothing was “golden” about my egg when I cut it open—though it did look like the yolk had moved closer to the top.

Craving crispy tacos, but have nothing but soft corn tortillas on hand? No problem. According to FoodBeast, you can transform a soft shell into a hard shell in just one minute using the microwave. The instructions are simple: Gently fold your soft corn shell and place it inside a coffee mug. Microwave for one minute, and bam: crunchy shell.

The Test: I could hear a significant crunch in the Food Beast video, so I was looking for that. While there was some crunch, the taco shell was also soggy in places where condensation had built up on the cup. Even without the soggy bits, it was nowhere near as good as a hard shell taco you can get from the store or as a shell that had been fried or baked in the oven. It was the sad, chewy kind of hard, not the nice, crunchy kind of hard.

Remember those cheese and cracker Lunchables? Some would argue they’re the best ones, with their perfectly portioned slices of cheese that fit so nicely on buttery crackers. That’s what one TikTok user was going for when they posted a video (since deleted) showing how the ridges of a Ritz cracker are great at slicing cheese into those perfect little squares.

The Test: I was skeptical of this one from the start, knowing that lots of flakey layers are what makes Ritz so delicious—and fragile. And I was right. While the cracker did start to cut into my slice of provolone, it took several back-and-forth rolls to make the tiniest cut, and halfway up one side, the cracker shattered. To make a nice square of cheese, I’d have to sacrifice several Ritz, and that’s just not worth it to me when it’s so easy to grab a knife or tear the cheese with my hands.

4

Melt Skittles to make rainbow popcorn

skittles popcorn in pan on stovetop

One of the most impressive hacks to come out of 5 Minute Crafts shows a bunch of Skittles, popcorn, and oil going into a skillet and coming out as rainbow-colored popcorn. Seems super cool! But there are clear problems with this recipe.

The Test: Right away, I thought “umm…no.” There was absolutely no way I’d melt a bunch of differently-colored Skittles in a pan and end up with individually-colored pieces of popcorn. At best, I might have come out with some kind of muddy-colored candy-coated popcorn. But, of course, sugar burns easily, so what I ended up with was a burnt mess of sugar semi-coating my popcorn. Major fail.

5

Bake cookies with the bottom of a hot cast-iron pan

cast iron skillet cookie fail

Sometimes you’re just in desperate need of a cookie. Maybe you have some pre-made dough in the fridge and you want it in your belly asap. In those times of need, the internet has a hack for you: Throw your cast iron pan on the stove, heat it screaming hot, and plop it right on top of your cookie dough. What should come out is a nicely done cookie, with a slightly gooey center.

The test: To be fair, I knew this one wouldn’t work, because Good Housekeeping tested it first. But I still wanted to give it a second chance. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me too, and I mean that literally. My cookie was thin and stuck to the bottom of my pan. While it was crispy on top, the bottom was still doughy—it wasn’t a cookie that’d satisfy any craving.

For cooking tricks that work, don’t miss these 33 Kitchen Hacks That Will Change Your Life.

6

Make cookies on the stove

cookie in skillet on stovetop

I wanted to give cookie hacks one more chance at redemption because I know how cookie cravings can hit. So I went to TikTok’s pan-fried cookie method. The idea is to put raw cookie dough into a cold pan, turn the heat on low, cover with a lid, and cook.

The Test: The TikTok video didn’t include any instructions, so I went looking for some. The instructions I read said to let the first side cook for 8-10 minutes, then flip and do the second side for five. It also said to put it on medium-low heat, so that might have made a difference because my cookie burned.

Skipping the burned parts, though, the middle of my cookie also had a weird, steamed texture—it wasn’t gooey in any sense. Maybe this could work if you did it at low heat, but it didn’t work for me. I’ll just keep making my cookies in the oven, and patiently wait the eight minutes they take to bake (which, FYI, is less time than this cookie took).

7

Spin an almost-empty peanut butter jar to get the rest out

An almost-empty jar is a peanut butter lover’s worst nightmare—it’s ridiculously hard to get the last bits out. So it was exciting when TikTok brought us a hack for that, too. Spinning the jar several times will push all of the peanut butter toward the top, so it’s easy to scoop out.

The Test: I spun my peanut butter jar everywhere—until it flung off my counter and launched at my cat, then I stuck to spinning on the floor like they do in the video. Even spinning it 12 times did almost nothing. My peanut butter may have looked a little more swirly than it had before, but it didn’t move any closer to the top.

8

Cook an egg over parchment paper

egg on parchment paper in skillet

Parchment paper is a versatile kitchen tool, and according to some parts of the internet, it’s the best tool for cooking an egg when you don’t have a nonstick pan. Simply crack your egg over a square of parchment to make an oil-less egg that won’t stick.

The Test: I don’t think I’ll be making eggs over parchment paper again. While the egg did cook and didn’t stick, the parchment left weird brown spots on my eggs. It was rubbery and tasteless without any oil to help it along. Besides, it’s not that hard to make eggs in stainless steel pans: The trick is to get the pan hot before the egg goes in.

9

Turn a lemon into a spray bottle

lemon spray bottle homemade

This one’s been around for a while. Lots of corners of the internet have suggested sticking the top of a spray bottle into a lemon for an instant way to spritz lemon on salad greens or anything else that needs a little acid.

The Test: To be fair, I’m not sure I had the best spray bottle top for this one. But still, I unscrewed the top of a water bottle I use to keep my cats off the counter and stuck it into a lemon—and absolutely nothing happened. However, because I know you can buy spray tops specifically for lemons, I searched the internet to see if those work. And it seems like they do. So, if you want a lemon spritzer, don’t DIY—buy.

And for more must-haves, check out these 20 Genius Cooking Gadgets.

Things That Worked Okay

1

Peel a boiled egg in a glass of water

peeled hardboiled egg in glass of water hack fail

The internet has about 1,000 methods for peeling boiled eggs—some that are great and some, not so much. One viral video shows a boiled egg tossed into a glass filled with water. Shake it around, and the egg comes out beautifully peeled.

The Test: This wasn’t the worst way to peel an egg, but it wasn’t the best, either. My egg still came out with a chunk missing when the shell stuck on. But we know that submerging the hot eggs immediately in cold water does help with the peeling, and so does adding baking soda.

2

Make a quesadilla in your toaster

TikTok has brought us yet another viral food hack: toasterdillas. In a video that’s been catching lots of attention, we see sliced cheese getting folded up into a tortilla like a wallet, then popped into the toaster to create a quick, ooey-gooey quesadilla.

The Test: Not a big fan of plain cheese quesadillas, I tried to jazz up my first one with a little salsa on the inside. That was a mistake. The cheese didn’t melt at all. Take 2 did melt, but the tortilla also started to burn a short way into the second toast. In the end, it did work to melt the cheese, but I missed the tasty butter I typically use to make quesadillas in a skillet. And I’d rather have it tasty than fast, so I don’t think I’ll use this method again.

Plus, some have pointed out that putting anything that has the potential to drip into your toaster is a fire hazard (and some cheese did drip into mine).

3

Make jam in the microwave

homemade microwave jam

Homemade jam is delicious but takes a lot of time and skill to master. Never fear! There are lots of internet recipes that turn fresh fruit into a jam with just 10 minutes in the microwave. One video I saw made the perfect amount of jam for one or two breakfasts in a small bowl.

The Test: My first attempt exploded all over my microwave, but it did have a jammy texture, so I was hopeful. After switching to a bigger bowl, I ended up with something that might have been jam if I’d used more fruit. I fully believe this could work with the right quantities, especially because you can find recipes for microwave jam on trustworthy recipe sites. For me, though, I don’t see the point—I’d only want to make microwave jam if I had a big, buttery biscuit and no jam to top it with. Otherwise, I’d just buy it.

4

Perfectly peel a potato by boiling the skin

Peeling potatoes isn’t the most complicated thing in the culinary world, but the internet has hacked even that. Viral videos show how to peel potatoes beautifully with a simple cut down the middle. After scoring the potato, you put it into a pot of water and boil it. When the potato comes out, you can easily pull each half of the skin off.

The Test: My peel did not come off as two, clean, beautiful halves like it showed in the video. Instead, it peeled off in chunks, but it did peel and took off less of the potato than a knife or peeler would. So if your goal is to save as much potato as possible, this is a good method. However, it only works if you planned to end up with boiled potatoes.

5

Freeze an apple to make apple juice

Desperate for some fresh apple juice? You’ll find a viral hack for that. Viral videos show you how to take an apple, freeze it, let it defrost, and then squeeze out the juice with your bare hands.

The Test: This was one of the wildest tricks on this list—and it worked. It’s not something I’d want to do frequently (it’s still SO much easier to just buy some apple juice, y’all), but was a cool experiment. However, one apple only filled my glass about a quarter of the way, and my juice was full of chunky bits of apple that escaped my hands.

The Total Wins

1

Destem herbs with a box grater

herbs destemmed using box grater

Finally, a TikTok video that was as amazing as it looks! This viral video shows how to stick your herbs through the holes in your box grater and pull the stems cleanly off.

The Test: This may have just changed my life. I love thyme, but I hate destemming it, and this hack let me destem lots of thyme in about 20 seconds. I also tried it on cilantro (in bigger holes) and it worked perfectly for that too. I doubt you could use this for all herbs, but it does work for some of them.

2

Quickly peel garlic with a knife

garlic cloves peeled with knife

Peeling garlic can be such a pain, so we’re always looking for ways to make it faster and easier—and viral videos show you how to easily peel garlic with a knife. To accomplish this trick, you stick a knife about three-quarters of the way into the base of one clove of garlic and then twist it out. Done right, it should pop right out of the skin.

The Test: At first, I didn’t quite understand the method and tried sticking my knife in the middle of the clove. That didn’t work at all. But when I tried again, doing it right, it worked perfectly. However, this does seem to work best on fresh garlic—my older garlic tended to splinter a bit in the twisting process.

3

Bonus: Use bread to save rock-hard brown sugar

brown sugar bread hack

This one isn’t an internet hack: It’s a grandma hack. Years ago, my grandmother taught me that you can save brown sugar that’s gone hard by sticking a piece of bread into a Ziploc bag with the sugar. A day or two later, the sugar will have drawn the moisture out of the bread and be soft again.

The Test: I’ve used this trick several times, and it always works. When I pulled brown sugar out of my cabinet to make cookie dough for the cookie hacks, I had a solid lump on my hands. So I threw in some bread and had nice, soft sugar a couple of days later.

For more, check out these 108 most popular sodas ranked by how toxic they are.