Chopsticks Make A Perfect Cooling Rack When You're In A Pinch

If your kitchen doesn't have space for a large wire cooling rack, what are you supposed to do with baked goods or deep-fried foods that need to be cooled down? The answer is to use chopsticks. By laying chopsticks down on a counter and balancing food on top, you lift the food off of the flat surface, creating a bit of space underneath to speed up cooling. This setup is even more effective if you balance the chopsticks on the rim of a bowl or dish, creating more space underneath your food.

Even if you only have a single pair of chopsticks, you can space each stick closer or further apart to suit your needs. Chopsticks arranged close together can hold up a narrow baguette, while spacing them far apart can help them hold a wide cookie sheet. More chopsticks provide further stability or cooling space. What really matters is that the chopsticks raise the food off the countertop, so that air can circulate underneath and cool it. 

As previously mentioned, you can increase airflow by balancing chopsticks (ideally ones with flattened sides, as opposed to being cylindrical) on a plate with a raised rim, or a deeper dish or bowl. The added space beneath the hot food will help it cool more quickly. This not only lets you enjoy your food faster, but it can prevent overbaking that may occur if you leave baked goods on a hot tray after taking them out of the oven.

Cool hot food faster with other common kitchen tools

Using chopsticks as a cooling rack does more than cool your food faster. It can prevent crunchy French toast or homemade hash browns from turning soggy. A cooling rack (or cooling rack substitute) prevents humidity from collecting under foods as they release steam. Raising food off of a surface and helping moisture escape preserves the crispness of roasted and fried dishes, as exposure to steam or moisture can quickly soften a crunchy coating.

If, unfortunately, you own neither a cool rack nor any chopsticks, a muffin or cupcake tin can save the day. Simply flip the tin upside-down, so the cups are facing downward. Balance your food on top of the tin so air can pass between the cups and the hot items. Note that this hack may not work as well for smaller or softer foods like delicate shortbread cookies, as they may crumble and fall into the spaces between the cups.

For another DIY cooling rack method, try using several metal cookie cutters. Be sure to choose cookie cutters of the same approximate height for the most stability. Carefully place your hot food on top of the cookie cutters, and the raised surface will allow for some airflow. Grouping cookie cutters closer together works for holding larger items, or you can place individual cookies, muffins, or other small baked goods on top of their own singular cookie cutters.

Borrow the grate from another kitchen appliance

In the event that you have none of the aforementioned tools on hand, no worries — the same oven, toaster oven, or air fryer you used to cook your food can also be used to cool it. These appliances have metal racks or grates inside that can be removed and used to cool food, so long as the rack isn't hot, of course.

You can either remove the grate from the appliance to use it on a countertop or table, or leave it inside the (cool) appliance with the door open for airflow. If you just baked cookies in the oven, the still-hot oven rack isn't going to be suitable, so borrow a grate from another appliance instead. And if you have a smaller kitchen and an oven rack is too big to fit on your counter without some re-arranging, use the grate from a toaster oven. It's small enough to fit on a counter, but not so small that it can't hold a decent amount of items. Most of these grates also have tiny metal "feet" on the bottom, perfect for keeping hot food raised upward, just like a pair of chopsticks or an actual cooling rack would.