1567: Kitchen Tips

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Kitchen Tips
Household tip: Tired of buying so much toilet paper? Try unspooling the paper from the roll before using it. A single roll can last for multiple days that way, and it's much easier on your plumbing.
Title text: Household tip: Tired of buying so much toilet paper? Try unspooling the paper from the roll before using it. A single roll can last for multiple days that way, and it's much easier on your plumbing.


This is another one of Randall's Tips, this time with a series of Kitchen tips.

In this comic, Cueball appears to be hosting a show (or be in an ad) giving out kitchen advice. He starts with a reasonable tip to use a meat thermometer instead of guessing when meat is cooked, as many people would indeed make an perfectly good educated guess, from experience, outward appearances and prodding with a fork. The thermometer takes some guesswork out of this, but only adds another datum point that you still have to understand the significance of. His later tips, though, are little more than telling how to complete normal kitchen activities performed using common sense. Moreover, in most cases he repeats "If you're anything like me," suggesting he's actually done these things in his kitchen. This is a parody of many commercials and infomercials that imply their consumers have no basic motor skills or common sense in order to make their product more appealing.

The first tip he gives is reasonable because, though the use of a meat thermometer is fairly well known, not everybody goes to the trouble of using one. To determine if meat is done cooking, one can either guess or use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached the correct level to render meat safe for consumption. Many people don't own a meat thermometer and rely on an alternative solution that doesn't require special equipment (such as testing by feel, cutting the meat open to check its doneness, checking the color of the juices after pricking the meat with skewer, or simply guessing).

The second panel shows that Cueball throws away dishes and buys new ones every time they are used. This is perfectly normal if the plates are disposable plates made of paper or Styrofoam (though not exactly environmentally friendly), but we see his trashcan is filled with chipped glasses and ceramic plates. Naturally, this would be a very expensive practice. The virtually universal chore of "washing the dishes," is one Cueball presumes the audience is heretofore unaware of.

Cooking on a stove is typically done placing the food into a pot or pan which is placed on the burner.[citation needed] Cueball seems to suggest that the use of a pan is a tip most people would be unaware of, suggesting that most people cook eggs directly on the burners themselves, a method that is likely to burn the food and create a great mess. Cueball's stove has T-shape raised burners (probably gas, but might be electric), making the task very impractical, though owners of glass-top electric stoves could conceivably cook directly on the glass surface.

Ice is usually made by filling an ice cube tray with water and leaving it in a freezer for several hours. Cueball, however, sprays a hose directly into his freezer compartment and quickly slams the door shut to trap some water inside. (This would work somewhat better in a chest freezer, which has a door on the top, as it could be filled with water and the door would not need to be closed to trap the water inside.) While this unorthodox method will make ice, it will result in a large sheet of ice on the bottom of the freezer. More importantly, it will also make it impossible to actually use the freezer to hold anything else (unless you were to put anything in beforehand and you don't mind breaking through a block of ice to get it out). Also, ice expands as it cools (it is one of the few substances with a negative coefficient of thermal expansion), and its expansion might push the freezer door open.

The title text, a household tip, suggests using toilet paper a few sheets at a time, which is how most people use it. Cueball, however, seems to suggest that most people use the entire roll as a single object without unspooling it and then flushing it whole, using at least one roll each time they use the bathroom. This is economically impractical, and is prone to clogging the toilet and the plumbing if you throw the toilet paper away by putting it into the toilet and flush it.

For more household tips like the one in the title text, see the sequel to this comic: 1715: Household Tips.


[Cueball at a kitchen counter, with various items, holding a meat thermometer.]
Cueball: If you're anything like me, you may have trouble telling when meat is fully cooked.
Cueball: Instead of guessing, try a meat thermometer!
[Cueball at a sink, holding a dirty dish, with a trashcan next to him full of broken ceramics and glasses.]
Cueball: If you're anything like me, you probably throw away your plates and glasses when they get dirty. But if you clean them, they can often be used again!
[Cueball cracking an egg over a pan on a hot stove.]
Cueball: Making scrambled eggs? Put a pan under them!
Cueball: It's easier, and it keeps your burners clean.
[Cueball holding a garden hose, spraying it into the freezer compartment of a freezer.]
Cueball: If you're anything like me, you make ice by spraying a hose into your freezer and then slamming it shut.
Cueball: But there's a better way...

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Does the title text refer to Cueball never ripping a sheet of toilet paper off, just putting the end of the roll in the toilet and flushing, making it unroll? Thomasa88 (talk) 05:16, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

-Not quite, I think. I got the impression that cueball wiped with the whole roll, then simply shoved the entire thing down the toilet. 05:49, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

That is really wasteful! 16:00, 16 July 2021 (UTC)

That option didn't even occur to me. In my defence, it just wasn't where the comic panels seemed to be heading. 23:25, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Is Cueball really hosting a show here? I would think of this comic as a series of commercials or a vlog series rather than a TV show. Just my opinion. 05:37, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Maybe it's also meant to mock the so-called kitchen-hacks articles. 07:01, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure it's aimed at [such-and-such]-hack listicles, articles, and videos. 12:40, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

The implication is that the the first tip: "If you want to know the temperature of something, use a thermometer designed to measure its temperature", is as obvious as the other four ridiculous 'tips'.Zeimusu (talk) 07:42, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Zeimusu's comment goes to what i think is the real point of this comic. I came here since i wanted to know why. It is a commentary on the stupidity of not using the obvious and sane methods of household activities. There are a lot of really odd tips for households, including "unspooling two ply toilet paper to have each roll last twice as long" of which the "whole roll" usage is a parody. Harodotus (talk) 10:45, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I 2nd Zeimusu's comment. I think Randall is saying that meat thermometers should be used more often. I don't see how you could say each panel builds up from practical to impractical. Throwing away dishes is probably less practical that cooking directly on a stove. So it goes: Obvious tip (thermometer), Obvious tip (dishes), Obvious tip (stove), Really crazy obvious tip (hose in freezer, punchline), Further grossout title text (TP waste). I don't agree with Randall's cooking advice myself (I think a meat thermometer is bothersome, and cooking to a certain number for safety is not always the point of cooking) but if you follow his "scientific" perspective then it should be "obvious" you use a thermometer to measure internal meat temperature instead of the typical (scientifically unreliable) methods of basing it on timing or other folk wisdom indicators of meat being done. 07:41, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
Actually throwing away dishes is not less practical than cooking on a stove if you consider that paper/plastic plates, plastic cups and plastic utensils can also be purchased and thrown away after every meal. Thus, the panel can be saying not to throw away glassware or to stop buying and throwing away plasticware and instead invest in dishes that can be cleaned and reused. In a way, this panel is the bridge between the realistic and the absurd since it can be taken either way IMHO. --R0hrshach (talk) 16:07, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
A lack of meat thermometers isn't 'stupid' and you're only 'guessing' if meat is done if you are a child or an alien with no cultural context. Recipes will say 'Until the juices run clear' or 'until pink in the middle' for a reason. Because that means it's cooked. And the result is that thermometers are just superfluous for most home cooking. They get used in commercial kitchens because in most countries you are required by law to heat meat to a set temperature before you can serve it. You don't just heat it until the temperature reaches a set point and call it cooked, you cook until it's right for the recipe, then double check it with a thermometer to comply with health regulations. When equipment is mandated by law then it shows up a lot, but I worked in kitchens for years and I never met a chef who used one at home. Why? Because knowing the temperature isn't that helpful for a lot of things. When you are cooking a big turkey or barbecuing chicken from raw then they can potentially be useful but using them correctly (which involves totally disinfecting the probe after every time you use it, and for meat with bones or different thicknesses you need to test a couple of times on each piece) is extremely time consuming. If you ever fail to properly wash the probe then you'll contaminate your cooked meat with uncooked bacteria. Also, if you only wait for the temperature to reach the legal limit and take it off you might kill the bacteria but you won't necessarily properly cook the meat. If you are cooking steak at home you really don't want to use a meat thermometer unless you want to cook it well done. Steaks are supposed to be unevenly cooked to make them tender and juicy and depending on thickness you can either ruin a steak waiting for the temperature in the middle, or serve it very rare. That's why commercial chefs cook for colour or texture then probe once before it hits the plate. Almost every other kind of meat you are going to cook until it's evenly cooked through and you don't need a thermometer to see if that's happened. Thermometers just aren't helping most of these processes. They are taking up time to tell you something you already know; they are a way to standardize something for the commercial industry that you'd never do at home, just like I'm sure you don't put out a wet floor sign when you mop at home. In theory a thermometer can make your cooking safer but our whole lives are about acceptable levels of risk. It's safer to never step out of your house, to never see the sun light or inhale unfiltered air. But just like with meat, the risks there are very small and having a happy, convenient life has to trump some abstract idea of safety at some point. You can make that call for yourself where the line is for you but don't call other people stupid for just cooking a damn steak how they like it. LostAlone (talk) 16:56, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

The last tip would result in the freezer door being very hard to open as it becomes jammed with ice. Try it! 08:20, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

That's not the tip. The tip is that there's a better way. 23:19, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

i don't find it surprising that randall doesn't read viz. http://viz.co.uk/category/top-tips/ -- 11:38, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

But what is his better of way of making ice? 14:13, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Presumably installing a faucet inside the freezer. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Can we be sure that the title text is also from Cueball? Jkrstrt (talk) 14:19, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

My first inclination was that this was a meta joke on Randall's My Hobby series. The more I looked at it the more I think it is a progression from Practical to Impractical (Y-axis) and Plausible to Implausible (X-axis). It is both practical and plausible to check meat without a meat thermometer making the comment a true tip. However, assuming the title text is the implied last panel, it is both impractical and implausible to stuff a whole roll of toilet paper down a toilet drain making the comment an imperative. --R0hrshach (talk) 15:43, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

I felt this was maybe a take on the whole "life-hacks" thing, most lifehacks are simple, and one would think, obvious. Some are a little less so, and some are just ridiculous. We've become a society which has lost it's ability to solve things by thinking, and presumably the ability to pass on basic knowledge that has been known for years, instead we need to google, luckily there are people out there who will tell us what we need to know. 6328915234 (talk) 15:31, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

You could have left it at the first paragraph, but no, you had to throw in a "Modern society is dumb, bluh bluh bleh" complaint. Neglecting the fact that it was the previous itineration of society that dropped the ball on passing down basic knowledge if anyone did, and apparently acting like checking Google is somehow inferior to older ways of finding out things. Go and Google how to get down off your high horse. -Pennpenn 03:11, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

This XKCD seems very similar to this recent episode of "The New Screensavers" in which Patrick Norton has a quick tip session about using a meat thermometer: https://youtu.be/AvN-9pOsnP8?t=1h9m47s Perhaps Randall watches the show? --Bkuhns (talk) 16:17, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Could 'easier on your plumbing' be interpreted as meaning that it's physically easier to wipe with sheets than a whole roll of paper? Just saying . . . (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Nope. Plumbing in this case probably refers to the regular usage of the word. I don't think Randall would try to imply an alternative meaning to the word so subtly where the normal meaning of the word fits so naturally. "It's much easier to use single sheets on your butt than it is to use a whole roll" vs "it's much easier for your toilet to handle single sheets than it is for it to handle a whole roll" 16:22, 1 October 2015 (UTC)

I really don't think the last bit in the explanation about Greece is really necessary as it doesn't really add anything to the explanation. Does anyone second? 14:33, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Agreed. I can't really be sure why somebody thought it was important to include. I mean, I can somewhat see why it's relevant, but the way it was introduced is very jarring. You might say "This is economically impractical, and is prone to clogging the toilet and the plumbing, especially in Greece, where narrow-bore outflows from the toilet are used, and the user is required to dump the used toilet paper in a trashcan adjacent to the toilet instead of flushing it." 16:22, 1 October 2015 (UTC)

So I think these are also a commentary on the loss of once universal skills. Like how most people can't change a tire, drive a manual or do basic auto maintenance, let alone ride a horse, and many people can't prepare food w/out a microwave, etc. -- 15:10, 31 October 2018 (UTC)

Seems like Randall has predicted the existence of YT channels like "5 Minute Crafts". -- The Cat Lady (talk) 07:47, 8 August 2022 (UTC)