13 Easiest Cooking Mistakes to Avoid
Whether you’re a mom who is cooking for a large family or a single who enjoys entertaining friends, cooking can be fun as well as functional! However, there are some issues that have been passed down from kitchen to kitchen (generation to generation) that may not be the best or safest way to go about cooking. Creating new habits and avoiding these mistakes can help your food taste better, making your friends and family wonder if you’ve been secretly taking cooking lessons!
1. Not Tasting Food as You Go
Even if you follow a recipe exactly, you’ll want to be sure to taste sauces, soups, and other foods as you are cooking them. People have differences in the way they cook that can affect the flavor of the food. For instance, if your spices are a bit older, then you’ll need to use more of them to get the same flavor which means you need to taste the dish as you are preparing it. The best way to be sure you’ll love a recipe is to taste as you go!
2. Only Reading Part of the Recipe Before Starting
Although it may seem silly, it’s really important to be able to plan ahead when you are cooking. Some recipes require you to do multiple things almost simultaneously. If you know this in advance, then you can do some chopping, slicing, or measuring before the actual cooking or baking process. Maybe you have to refrigerate your dough for an hour, and you’re in a hurry. Just to be safe, read everything first, gather your ingredients, and then get started.
3. Cutting Meat Just After Grilling
Patience is a virtue. And if you can be patient enough to wait for just five minutes or so after grilling your meat, you’ll be really happy with yourself. That is the amount of time that it takes for the juices to distribute evenly, creating a much tastier, juicier piece of meat.
4. Cooking Cold Meat
Speaking of great-tasting meat, the best temperature to cook meat from is room temperature—not straight from the fridge. Although we do need to be careful to keep meats at the appropriate temperature (especially pork!) most meats, such as chicken, beef, and fish, will taste better if allowed to sit out for about 30 minutes prior to cooking them.
5. Too Much Food in the Pan
Particularly when pan-frying or grilling meat or vegetables, it’s critical to allow all of the food to have time touching all of the sides of the pan for even heat distribution. If you find that your pan is super full, go ahead and divide it in half and use two pans to cook separate batches.
6. Boiling Instead of Simmering
Although it might seem that boiling is a great way to just simmer faster—it’s not! Boiling food does cook it faster, yes, but it also leaves it chewy and less tasty. Simmering is when small bubbles hit the surface of the liquid every second or so. Boiling is when bubbles are larger and come to the surface rapidly. A slow simmer is what brings out the favor in many dishes such as stews and soups. Sure, simmering will take more time, but your dishes will also taste must better.
7. Butter That’s Too Soft
Recipes that call for softened butter need to be read ahead of time and the butter left out on the countertop for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. If you’re running late and try to soften butter in the microwave, you’re much more likely to melt it than soften it. Butter that is too hard will not make a dent when poked with a finger. Butter that’s too soft will almost melt when poked. Go for something in between to get your baked good just the right consistency.
8. Not Preheating Appropriately
Whether it’s bringing your oven to the needed temperature prior to placing your baking inside, or getting frying pan hot enough before adding oil and veggies or meat to sauté, preheating is essential. Bringing your oven to the right temperature prior to baking is critical for evenly baked food. When sautéing, heating the pan (and then the oil) ahead of time helps to ensure even cooking and keeps the food from sticking to the pan.
9. Inaccurate Measuring
When you’re cooking throw-in style dishes such as soups or casseroles, it may but okay to fudge little bit on the measurements. But some dishes, especially baked dishes, require exactly measured ingredients to turn out right. Unless you’re just a whiz in the kitchen, always measure carefully and follow recipes exactly.
10. You Don’t Know Your Oven
As much as we would like to believe that our ovens all cook at exactly accurate temperatures, they don’t. So even if you’ve followed the recipe exactly and set a timer, your cookies might still be burning on the bottom. Appliances vary and you need to know if your oven cooks just a bit hot or a bit cool. It’s easy to know by using an in-oven thermometer to test your oven temperature’s accuracy. Then adjust accordingly.
11. Turning Meat too Often
Out of fear of burning, it’s easy to turn the food too often which impedes the cooking process. While it’s tempting to stand over your breaded fish chicken, flipping it every couple of minutes, this will keep the lovely crust from forming and cause your meat to be dry. To check to see if meat is ready to turn, try sliding a spatula underneath. If it slides easily, it’s ready to turn over with crust intact.
12. Overcooking Veggies
Adding green vegetables to a pan of boiling water for four to six minutes will bring them to an amazing green and crisp consistency. But unless you serve them immediately, this won’t last. If continue to let the vegetables sit in the hot water, they’ll keep cooking and turn dark green and mushy. To avoid this over-cooking, spoon your perfectly cooked veggies into a pan of ice water, or run them under very cold water, to stop them from cooking.
13. Lumpy Gravy
Sure, grandma’s gravy may have always had lumps in it for holiday meals. But that’s not actually how it’s supposed to be! Making smooth gravy isn’t terribly difficult, but it does require a bit of careful attention. First of all, don’t add your thickener (cornstarch, dry flour, etc.) into a hot broth. Instead, mix the thickener into a small amount of cold water first, then add—slowly and gradually!—into the boiling roux while stirring constantly.