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The BH&G Test Kitchen Staff Answers Your Kitchen Questions

Whether you're a seasoned professional in the kitchen, just beginning your cooking quest, or fall somewhere in between, our Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen staff is coming to the rescue. Take a peek at some of the most common kitchen questions, answered by our pros.

We all have those instances in the kitchen where our amateur routine and our desire to be a professional chef merge together and we're left standing above our morning omelet wondering how long these eggs have been sitting in our fridge and if in fact they're okay to eat. Rest assured that you are not alone in your kitchen qualms, and the answers to your lingering cooking questions have finally arrived.

Our editors sat down with the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen staff to get to the bottom of the hard issues, such as how to prolong the inevitable browning of bananas to how to prevent ingredients sticking to the bottom of the measuring cup. Read on for some insight on all the kitchen knowledge that you didn't even know you needed, straight from the BH&G pros themselves.

How do you keep ingredients from sticking in a measuring cup?

We've all been there. Baking that cake recipe we've been dying to try, and then we're perplexed by the amount of challenges a simple list of to-do's can present to us. Number one qualm on our list? Measuring our wet ingredients in their respective measuring tools and never failing to get remnants stuck in the bottom. Luckily, the Test Kitchen staff is sharing their go-to hack:

Lightly coat the inside of your measuring cup with cooking oil (or cooking spray) to keep sticky ingredients, like honey or peanut butter, from sticking in the cup.

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How can you soften butter quickly?

Everyone knows that all the best recipes call for butter, but who really has the time to achieve the recipe's required consistency beforehand—AKA getting the frozen stick to room temperature? If you're like us and are looking for the best way to get your butter to a desired temperature in a pinch, read up:

  1. Cut Up the Butter: If you cut a stick of butter into smaller chunks or slices, it will soften more rapidly at room temperature.

  1. Microwave It: This method works best for softening butter meant to be used as a spread. If using this method for baking, make sure the butter does not start to melt, since this would be too soft for baking recipes that call for softened butter. To microwave, place the butter in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on 30 percent power (defrost) for 15 seconds. Check the consistency of the butter and repeat, if necessary.

Tip: If the butter you are softening for cookie dough melts, use it for another purpose and soften new butter for your cookies. Once melted, the butter reacts differently with the dough and will give your cookies a different consistency.

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How do you prevent splatters from an electric whisk?

We know we aren't the only one's bracing for cover whenever we pull out our trusty hand mixers. From splattering cake batter all over the kitchen to getting our countertops forever drenched with vegetable oil, we're so relieved to learn about this BH&G Test Kitchen trick:

Make your own spatter guard by cutting a channel and hole in the center of a paper plate or plastic container lid. Simply slip your whisk to the center of the lid and place over your bowl while beating liquids such as whipping cream.

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How can you tell the freshness of an egg?

Apparently, there is an expiration date to eggs and you should abide by it. Who knew? Luckily the Test Kitchen staff broke it down for us, and showed us a fun tip for how to check if your egg is good or bad:

You can tell if an egg is old or not by dropping it in water. According to the American Egg Board, "Eggs can float in water when the air cell has enlarged enough to keep it buoyant. This means the egg is old, but it may be perfectly safe to use. Crack the egg into a bowl and check for an off-odor or unusual appearance—a spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, either when raw or cooked."

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What's the best way to keep herbs fresh?

Buying fresh herbs seems like such a nice idea while strolling through the produce section of the grocery store, but fast-forward a few days and all of the sudden our green-filled vegetable drawer is looking less than fresh. If this is a common occurrence in your refrigerator, don't worry. The Test Kitchen professionals know a thing or two about keeping herbs fresher for longer. Read up for their tips for keeping your favorite fresh toppings at their best:

For short-term storage, cut a 1/2 inch from the stems for added absorption ability. Stand the herbs upright in a small jar with some water. Cover the leaves loosely with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Change the water every 2 days. Discard wilted leaves as they appear. Do not refrigerate basil because it will blacken. You can also store with a damp paper towel in a zip-top plastic bag.

To Revitalize a Fresh Herb:

If too many days have passed since you purchased your fresh herbs and they look a little droopy, revitalize them by soaking the sprigs in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. When done, thoroughly drain the water from the bowl, wrap the herbs in paper towels, and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should stay fresh for up to a few hours.

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