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Food hacks are everywhere, and when they go viral, they’re pretty enticing. Who doesn’t want to learn how to effortlessly peel a mango or dice up hardboiled eggs without using a knife? From awe-inspiring tricks to tasty new meal ideas, these viral hacks are super convincing.
But if you’ve ever given in and tried a few popular food hacks, you’ve probably discovered that not every hack is a smart one. Plenty can leave you even more frustrated in the kitchen – or with a total mess on your hands.
Do yourself a favor and skip the following tricks, which are dangerous, destructive or just plain ridiculous.
1. Cooler corn on the cob
Have you seen the viral social media post that shows you how to turn your cooler into a makeshift stovetop pot? Cooler corn on the cob looks like a super simple and convenient way to cook a whole bunch of corn for a crowd.
All you need is a plastic cooler, a couple pots of boiling water and as many ears of corn as you’d like to cook. Pile your shucked ears of corn into the cooler, then pour the boiling water over them. Close the cooler lid and in just half an hour, your corn is ready.
This easy food hack sounds almost effortless – a whole batch of corn cooked while you tackle other tasks. And it’s especially awesome if you’re planning on tailgating, picnicking or hosting a cookout. But it’s far more dangerous that it seems.
Even if you wipe out your cooler before dropping your corn inside, cooking corn inside puts you (and anyone else who eats the ears) at risk for foodborne pathogens and bacteria. As Herve Malivert of the Institute of Culinary Education told the TODAY Show, your typical plastic cooler isn’t designed to handle high temperatures and boiling water. The soft nature of a plastic cooler is prone to scratches, which can let dangerous bacteria into your food.
And the boiling water used to “cook” the corn isn’t going to necessarily kill all of the pathogens present. As the water sits inside the cooler, it’ll cool down. That alone allows bacteria to multiply at a quick pace, potentially increasing the danger even more.
Just stick to cooking corn the typical ways, like boiling on your stovetop or grilled on the barbecue.
2. Toaster grilled cheese
Toaster grilled cheese, at first glance, looks like a genius way to whip up a classic sandwich without pulling out a frying pan or turning on your stove. Just turn your toaster on its side, and you can slide the sandwich fixings right in, and you’ll get crispy toast and perfectly melted, gooey cheese.
This food hack has a lengthy history – it’s all over TikTok, and it’s been floating around the internet since 2012 on sites like Huffington Post and Tastemade. Even Jamie Oliver tried it! But there’s a little catch to this cool trick, and it’s one that can put you, your grilled cheese and your entire kitchen in danger.
Toaster grilled cheese is a straight-up fire hazard. Back in 2015, CNN reported that this hack was literally lighting kitchens on fire as toasters burst into flames. It turns out that any foods that could drip into your toaster’s base (like cheese) can cause the appliance to ignite. Additionally, turning your toaster onto its side is extra dangerous because toasters aren’t built to work on their side. The exterior can generate so much heat that it can start a fire right on your kitchen countertop.
It’s better to be safe than set your kitchen aflame, so keep your toaster upright and make your grilled cheese the traditional way. Or, if you really want a hands-off approach, you can try using a toaster oven instead.
Oh, and don’t try any other sideways toaster hacks like TikTok’s toasterdilla trend either! This poses the same fire risk.
3. Mini eggs
Have you ever looked at a traditional fried egg and thought, “Man, I wish I could make that egg tiny”? Well, if you have little kids you might’ve wished you could shrink this breakfast staple. And that’s exactly what led one TikTok user to create mini eggs, a trend that quickly went viral.
Mini eggs are simple yet unusual. This kid-friendly breakfast hack creates toddler-sized servings from a single egg. All you have to do is freeze one egg; once it’s frozen, slice it up into little discs. You can then drop those little egg slices into a frying pan and make tiny individual eggs.
These mini eggs might be adorable, but there’s a pretty high risk of foodborne illness involved in this hack. Freezing eggs inside their shells is a dangerous practice – one the FDA actually warns against. When a fresh egg is frozen in its shell, the liquid inside expands. This can cause the shell to crack, which exposes the inner contents to bacteria and other contaminants. It can also lead to spoiling.
Instead of potentially feeding your kids (or anyone else) a bacteria-filled breakfast, fry your eggs the old-fashioned way. You can even create smaller-sized servings by boiling eggs, then slicing them.
4. Speed-ripen avocados in the oven
If you’ve ever been desperate for a perfectly ripe avocado, you’ve probably tried a few quick tricks to try to get this fruit from rock hard to soft to the touch. One of the most commonly recommended tricks on the internet? Bake your avocados in the oven.
Even I’m guilty of trying this food hack – but it’s one I’ll never try again, no matter how badly I want or need a ripe avocado! And technically, it works. However, the results are pretty terrible.
Put an avocado in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes. You can wrap it in foil or leave it uncovered. Once time is up, you’ll find a nicely softened avocado in place of the brick-like one you put inside.
But when you actually eat an oven-softened avocado, you’ll immediately realize why this hack is so awful. Baking an avocado changes both its flavor and its texture. It’ll taste sour and unpleasant, and instead of the creaminess you’re used to, you’ll get a mushy mouthfeel.
Just stick to the tried-and-true ripening method: waiting. To speed up the process, you can place your avocados next to ethylene-producing fruit like bananas or apples. If these fruits are already ripe, they’ll have your avocados soft and ready for use in just a day or two.
5. “Chopped” chunky guacamole
Here’s another avocado sin you’re better off avoiding. Plenty of people love their guacamole chunky rather than smooth and creamy. That includes one well-respected name in cooking: Ina Garten. The Barefoot Contessa has her very own kitchen hack that’ll deliver a nicely chunky batch of guac.
Unfortunately, even experts make mistakes. Ina’s method, which aired years ago and then resurfaced online and on Ina’s own Instagram, involves some seriously dangerous knifework. After scooping the avocados out of their skins, adding seasonings and fresh ingredients, Ina “mashes” her guacamole by literally hacking it into pieces with a knife inside the serving bowl.
This chopped method for creating chunky guac might have delicious results, but it’s as damaging as it is dangerous. It requires you to slash away at your ingredients aggressively, which could lead to potential injuries for home chefs who aren’t as experienced with knives as a pro. Additionally, whacking at your soft avocados in this way can actually damage the bowl it’s in – a little detail Ina herself acknowledges.
Instead of putting your fingers and your serveware at risk, try one of the many other methods for making chunky-creamy guacamole. You can use a pastry blender, mash the avocado with a fork, use a mortar and pestle or even employ a handheld potato masher (though this can result in fewer chunks). If you really want a higher chunky-to-smooth ratio, you can simply cut up the avocado while it’s still inside its skin. Then, you can simply drop the cut chunks into a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon or spatula.
Instead of food hacks that might put you and your meals in danger, try some of our tried-and-true cooking tips to make everything you whip up easier and more efficient