Can you really open a bottle with a piece of paper? Can you eat an ear of corn on the cob in 3 minutes without washing dishes or getting cornsilk all over your kitchen? These summer hacks promise to help you out this summer, whether you're at a picnic, or on the beach, or in a pinch while camping. Some of them look like they are trying to trick you. I test, analyze, and rate popular food hacks on a scale of 1 to 5 for how useful, easy, or special they are. Some of them are pretty dumb but a few of them are genius. Which ones will improve your life?
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01 of 08
Open a Bottle With a Piece of Paper
What Is It? This hack solves a real problem: It's for when you have a nice bottle of beer or soda but no bottle opener. You fold a piece of paper five times to make an opener and pop open the cap using your thumb for leverage.
Pros and Cons: Folding the paper was easy and opening the bottle was hard. When the cap finally popped off, it was thrilling. The tool only works once, so you'll need a new piece of paper for each bottle.
Helpfulness: 2 Easiness: 3
02 of 08
No-Shuck Corn on The Cob
What Is It? Microwave a whole ear of corn for 2 to 3 minutes. Cut through the husk and the cob at the widest point, slide the corn out of the husk, and eat it! There is no shucking and no silk. This reliably works and requires no skill or practice. Let's eat some corn.
Pros and Cons: Saves time and cleanup. No vegetable-hairs scatted about your kitchen. You can only do one ear at a time. Newfangled.
Helpfulness: 5 Easiness: 5
03 of 08
Guacamole in a Bag
What Is It? If you have neither a molcajete, nor a bowl, you can squish avocados in a plastic bag with salt, lime, cilantro and maybe lime juice to make guacamole. Just because you can do this, should you? If you do, I hope you are alone when it happens.
Pros and Cons: There are no pros. You're making guacamole with your knuckles. It lacks decorum and wastes a plastic bag.
Helpfulness: 0 Easiness: 1
04 of 08
Slice 20 Tomatoes at Once
What Is It? Instead of halving dozens of little grape tomatoes, one at a time for a tomato salad, this hack lets you slice them all at once with a single stroke. Put as many grape tomatoes in a single layer on a plastic storage container lid. Top with an identical lid, put a hand on top and run a long, sharp knife between the lids, through the tomatoes.
Pros and Cons: Saves time, cuts lots of tomatoes at once, wastes nothing, and uses an economy of motion.
Helpfulness: 5 Easiness: 5 Old School Bonus Points: 5Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Iced Frappuccino at Home
What Is It? This hack solves the problem of wanting a frozen Frappuccino but not being inside of an actual Starbucks. In this popular TikTok hack, @naatalie_lee pulls a bottled Frappuccino from a freezer and stirs it with a straw. Suddenly, through the neck of the bottle, we see that it is the same icy, slushy texture of a Frappuccino directly from the coffee shop. This is exciting to many who are at home and miss the coffee shop. The key to this trick is to freeze it for only two hours. There is enough sugar in the drink that it makes a terrific slush, but the wow factor is pretty low. Don’t freeze for longer than three hours or the glass may explode from the pressure.
Pros and Cons: It’s easy to do. Unsurprising that liquids freeze in a freezer. Requires a timer.
Recommend: Why not?
Helpfulness: 2 Easiness: 4 Wow factor: 1
06 of 08
Snack Bowl From Any Chip Bag
What Is It? This is the best way to serve chips at your minimalist cookout. You don’t want to bring a bowl to a picnic? Digging around in a bag of chips with your hands is germy and can be annoying. Rolling the bag up from the bottom makes a stable base and shortens the bag so that the chips are right on top. Turn the rim down inside the bag for a finished look and set the bag on its base.
Pros and Cons: No bowls to pack or wash. Turns any bag into a stable serving vessel. Reduces the number of shared hand germs on chips. Folding the base crushes and wastes a number of chips at the bottom of the bag.
Helpfulness: 5 Easiness: 3
07 of 08
Make a Spiral Hot Dog
What Is It? This hack threads a hot dog onto a skewer and slices through the dog in one continuous line, creating a springy spiral like an old-fashioned telephone cord. The promise is unclear. Maybe the condiments can mingle with the hotdog in each bite? It was disappointing. The tension of the hotdog skin was gone, and the ratio of dog to bun is thrown off-kilter. Was it even a hot dog anymore?
Pros and Cons: Makes hotdogs more interesting looking. More work than standard cooking method. Difficult to cut an even spiral. Off-kilter hotdog-to-bun ratio in each bite.
Helpfulness: 2 Easiness: 2 Self-esteem: 1
08 of 08
Cut Watermelon Into Sticks
What Is It? Each summer, we're freshly amazed by how awkward it is to cut watermelon. It's big, juicy, and it rolls around. This hack uses basic knife skills so it’s reliable, relatively safe, and sort of boring. Cut the melon in half and set it flat-side down. Slice off the whole rind. Then, cut the melon into long sticks. Top the melon with a bowl and flip whole board over to transfer the melon sticks all at once. The slippery, heavy melon nearly slid onto the floor. It was fun to eat but proceed with caution.
Pros and Cons: A melon stick is fun to hold and eat. This is an efficient way to cut a melon that is not all that exciting. Flipping it into a bowl is a more advanced technique that was fraught with danger.
Ratings: Recommend: Yes
Helpfulness: 4 Easiness: 4 Riskiness: 3
How to Tell if a Hack is Good
First, what is a hack? It’s an unconventional way of doing something that uses ingenuity to solve a problem. A good hack gets the job done. A bad hack crushes your tomatoes and also your dreams, it’s disappointing, more difficult than the real way to do it, dangerous, and messes up your food or your kitchen. A bad hack makes you feel dumb, and you are definitely not dumb. A good hack saves space, time, effort, or money. It makes things easier and maybe more fun. The Spruce Eats cares about all that!
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Heather Ramsdell, Senior Editorial Director of The Spruce Eats hosts the YouTube series, Hack Chat. She’s passionate about publishing stories and recipes that are clear and accurate to help home cooks make food they love. She hosts Hack Chat because she believes that you really can build a better mousetrap but dislikes trickery especially if it wastes your time. She grew up in New England and would rather fix than replace things. She has worked as a test kitchen director, cook, author, carpenter, and sculptor’s assistant. She has tested hundreds of hacks in the search for well-designed tricks that make life easier and more fun.