11 Popular TikTok Kitchen Hacks, as Reviewed by a Skeptic | Yummly
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11 Popular TikTok Kitchen Hacks, as Reviewed by a Skeptic

These viral recipes may cause you to question everything you thought you knew about cooking, eating, and taste — with some seriously delicious discoveries. Never doubt the power of TikTok.

In my family, skepticism was a prized virtue. “Don’t believe the hype” was a constant refrain. I learned from an early age to temper my excitement — to be suspicious, even cynical, when faced with claims that sound too good to be true.  

You wouldn’t think, then, that I’d be susceptible to the world of TikTok food hacks, those clever cooking tips that purport to produce incredible results with Harry Houdini ease. Labor-savers, time-savers, shortcuts to greatness, all digestible within the scope of a 45-second video.

You wouldn’t think that, but, friends, you’d be wrong. Perhaps my early life full of doubt primed me for a midlife seeking certainty. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. When I see someone cutting a cake with a wine glass or a pair of tongs I want to believe that it’s better and easier that way. I want the upright honeycomb pasta, with each penne tube individually filled with string cheese, to be more delicious than the sum of its parts. Maybe I’m worn down by pandemic doom; maybe I need some optimism that the daily news cycle can’t provide.  

Whatever the reason, I feel impelled to try out these cooking hacks. So, here you are — a skeptical guide to eleven of the most viral TikTok recipes of the last year from someone who wants them all to be great.

Listed below from most surprising hack to most disappointing.

Jump ahead to:

Mashed potato chips >>

Baked feta cheese pasta sauce >>

Dalgona coffee >>

The official TikTok egg sandwich >>

Pancake cereal >>

Two-ingredient Oreo mug cake >>

Tenderer chicken tenders >>

The quad quesadilla / tortilla hack >>

Tornado omurice >>

Taco cups / chicken & waffle cups >>

Vegan carrot bacon >>

Mashed potato chips 

Watch the hack on TikTok here and here.

I was prepared to hate this hack. I mean, on the face of it, it’s horrifying. Why ruin a potato chip — one of the world’s perfect foods — by boiling it in water until it’s an oleaginous goop instead of a crispy delight? You want mashed potatoes? Make mashed potatoes! Don’t lean on the crutch of a shortcut when honest work would do the job just fine. 

But then I took a bite. Reader, I was shook. Did it taste like potato chips? Yes it did. Was it delicious? Dear lord, yes it was. Did it taste like mashed potatoes? Well, sorta. The mashed potatoes that come out of this hack acquire a sort of gee-whiz molecular gastronomy aura of wonder that belies the ingredients and method. This is an exercise in culinary nostalgia and avant garde disorientation that would be right at home in the haute kitchens of Alinea or the French Laundry — an edible distillation of childhood, transformed by whimsy and fun. 

The verdict 

Do it. The more skeptical you are, the more delicious it’ll be. Ignore the fact that it’s a more expensive version of instant mashed potatoes and embrace the absurdity of it all. 

Or try

Three more recipes that use potato chips creatively:

Baked feta cheese pasta sauce 

Watch the hack on TikTok here

There’s a reason this viral pasta sauce tutorial brought the Finnish national feta cheese supply chain to its knees. It is delightful, a winner of a recipe with no demerits. It doesn’t hurt that it contains only delicious things: Briny feta, pert cherry tomatoes, and spiky chili flakes melt together in the crucible of a 400-degree oven and add up to a whole that is distinctly more than the sum of its parts. The molten cheese becomes a creamy base for a sauce that clings to any noodle shape you desire. And the formula is endlessly adaptable — love garlic? Add more! Prefer oregano and thyme to basil? Swap ‘em out. It’s the sheet pan dinner of tomato sauce.  

The verdict 

Do the hack! Don’t delay! 

Or try

Baked feta pasta variations:

Dalgona coffee 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

I was even more dubious about this one than about the potato chip mashed potatoes. Instant coffee? I like pour-over!  But I’ll be darned if this isn’t delicious and easy and fun.  All it takes is a whisk and a few minutes of elbow grease, and you wind up with a sweet and bracing coffee mousse that tastes outstanding and has the satisfying feel of whipped cream. This hack is not without its pitfalls, however. Learn from my errors in judgment, reader: The recipe I found calls for two tablespoons of instant coffee, two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water, but you’re not obliged to consume all of it in one glass. In fact, you shouldn’t. By the time I learned from the label that each teaspoon of instant coffee was enough for a single serving, I’d already downed the caffeinated equivalent of six full cups. The jitters went away eventually, but it was an unforced error, a hack self-own. 

The verdict 

Doggone it, I love dalgona coffee. Do it! 

Or try

Variations on a dalgona theme:

The official TikTok egg sandwich 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

For about a month last year, every other video on my TikTok account's "For You" page was eggs. Eggs flipping. Egg yolks oozing. Teppanyaki chefs drawing egg white hearts with eggs cracked on the edges of their spatulas. TikTok users love eggs. And they love this sandwich, which takes the logic of the Monte Cristo and pares it down to bare essentials. In principle, there should be nothing special about it — egg-soaked slices of bread, cooked into an omelet and assembled into a breakfast sandwich in the pan. But TikTok caught me snoozing again — the sandwich is delicious, way better than it oughta be. It’s not quite French toast, but you get the same custardy texture from the egg-soaked bread. There’s no reason it should be so much better than a plate of eggs and toast, but then, that’s why it’s a hack. As if by magic, you get more out of the ingredients than you put in. 

The verdict 

Yes, follow this #egg #food #trend.

Or try

More egg bread:

Pancake cereal 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

People love little things. They’re so cute and cozy! It’s that love of the miniature that makes Pancake Cereal so delightful — individually griddled dabs of pancake batter, bobbing diminutively in a puddle of milk. Even a jaded cynic like me couldn’t stifle a giggle at the fun of it all. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to do well. The little griddle cakes are fiddly to flip, quick to scorch, and it takes a surprising number of them to fill a cereal bowl. So, although my eleven-year-old grinned from ear to ear while eating them, I don’t think this is a hack I’ll be revisiting any time soon — call me heartless if you must. 


The verdict 

If you can’t quite see yourself individually flipping 350 pancakes smaller than dimes, then you’re officially excused. 

Or try

More twee recipes for cute and tiny eats:

Two-ingredient Oreo mug cake 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

There’s something so appealing about a recipe with only two ingredients. It feels like sleight of hand to convert crushed cookies and milk into a microwave mug cake. As a magic trick, it’s neat enough. As a cake, it’s a bust. The Oreos are not quite sweet enough, so it’s more like a savory pudding with a bare hint of cocoa. You can doctor it with a little extra sweetener, and add baking powder to give it extra lift, but then you’ve sacrificed the elegance of the short ingredient list on the altar of flavor. The best hacks are simple and delicious. This one’s just simple.

The verdict 

If you’ve got Oreos and milk, just eat them. 

Or try

Some better uses of your Oreos:

Tenderer chicken tenders 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

I managed to make it 43 years without ever buying a package of uncooked chicken tenders. So it was a surprise to me to learn that each tender comes with its own piece of inedible gristle. I’m happy to report that this hack works like a charm — a fork and a paper towel make short work of the tender-marring tendon. If you’re a regular tender consumer, then by all means, do the hack. I would encourage you, however, to consider the other parts of the bird. The tender is the best piece of the worst piece of the chicken, and almost any other part is tastier. 

The verdict 

It works, but if you need this hack, there may be easier ways to improve your dinner. 

Or try

Tender chicken and chicken tender:

The quad quesadilla / tortilla hack 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

OK, I get it, sort of. It’s fun to make a multi-layer wrap. And who doesn’t love a quesadilla? But there’s one thing that makes me nuts about it: This tortilla hack is topologically unsound. Why do you fill each quarter with filling when the folding method creates only three compartments? The moment you lift the first quarter to fold it over, the ingredients on the first flap fall right off and combine with whatever’s in the next section.  Better to stick with three ingredients or choose a different folding method. GEOMETRY! Ugh.

The verdict 

If you’re the kid who loved school lunch because the separate sections of your tray kept your peas off your mashed potatoes, you’ll think this is the hack for you, but it’s not.

Or try

Topologically sound tortilla recipes:

Tornado omurice 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

I’ve enjoyed all the TikToks devoted to omurice — the Japanese riff on the French omelette, sliced and draped over a mound of fried rice, topped with a shot of demiglace. The tornado omurice is a riff on a riff: A pair of oversized chopsticks twirl the beaten egg into a ridged spiral, in what seems like an impossibly efficient motion. Seems impossible. Is impossible, at least the first forty or fifty times you try it. I would love to say that this egg challenge is an easy hack, but it’ll require the same repetitions and practice that any French omelette does to recreate the smoothness on display in this viral video.  

The verdict 

As a TikTok egg hack, the level of difficulty is just too high for the casual home cook. 

Or try

More omelettes:

Taco cups / Chicken and waffle cups 

Watch the taco cups hack on TikTok here.

Watch the chicken and waffle cups hack on TikTok here.

There are two versions of this kitchen hack that I’ve seen circulating. The original is a taco bowl fried on the bottom of a ladle. The footage is so brief, it’s almost dreamlike: A ladle floats into frame, dunks in batter, and seconds later it’s a crispy golden bowl, filled with lettuce, tomato, and picadillo.

The second version, created by dietician Steph Grasso, uses the deep-fried ladle bowl as a jumping off point for a single-serving size waffle cup to contain fried chicken. That’s the one I tried and let me tell you this: It is NOT easy to get the waffle cup to release from the ladle after you deep fry it. OK, it is delicious — what could be bad about deep-fried pancake batter? — but from the perspective of effort to reward, it’s a tough sell.  

The verdict 

Skip it; I like my trends less fiddly. 

Or try

Less fiddly edible bowls:

Vegan carrot bacon 

Watch the hack on TikTok here.

Nobody who has eaten or smelled bacon would ever mistake this abomination for the real deal. It’s not even a tasty substitute — this is a smoky maple carrot chip. If you like a carrot chip, then enjoy. But why call it bacon? For me, it’s a non-starter, no matter how charming Tabitha Brown is. 

The verdict 

Not bacon, not a hack. Why was this a trend!?

Or try

Better imitation meat:

More clever hacks

Check out these additional Yummly articles all about kitchen hacks!