Cooking Mistakes to Avoid in the kitchen happen to all of us, but following a few simple tips can prevent some of them from happening.
In their most simple form, making mistakes in the kitchen can lead to failed recipes. Nobody enjoys a fallen cake or burned cookies, but do you know that kitchen mistakes can also lead to potential danger?
Here are the top 10 cooking mistakes to avoid in the kitchen that most home cooks make, and how to prevent them from happening:
Not washing your hands. Before handling food, it’s important to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. This simple step will help to remove any bacteria that may be lurking on your hands.
A common cause of visits to an ER or walk-in clinic is food poisoning, typically caused by cross contamination. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. There are over 250 illnesses and diseases that can result from contaminating the foods we eat.
Not reading the recipe all the way through. Before you begin making a recipe, read the instructions all of the way through. Most times, the steps need to happen in a specific order. And occasionally, the steps need to happen in a quick fashion, such as when you’re cooking sugar to make candy.
Another reason to read a recipe ahead of time is so that you can measure out the ingredients and have them in place before you begin. Ingredients set up ahead of time is also known as mise en place, a French term meaning “everything in its place”.
Not measuring ingredients properly. Measuring ingredients properly is one of the biggest cooking mistakes to avoid and is a very big deal when you are baking. Because baking is a science, the ingredients work together chemically to create a perfect cake or brownie. Too much baking soda can cause a cake to “explode” while baking. Too much flour will cause your cookies to be dense. Do you know that there are different types of measuring cups? Be sure to buy specific measuring cups for dry ingredients (like flour) and wet ingredients (like oil). How to measure ingredients properly.
Not paying attention. Many home cooks get sidetracked, are overwhelmed because they didn’t plan, or they just let their attention wander off. They don’t pay attention to the heat level or to the time on the heat. The result is overcooked, or otherwise improperly cooked food.
Not respecting cooking times and processes. For example, “I don’t have enough time to wait for these onions to caramelize, so I’ll just turn the heat to high and then… Bam! Chewy bitter onions. We all know what it’s like to have chicken that is browned on the outside and raw on the inside. By the time the chicken is cooked it’s burnt on the outside.
Using the wrong cooking tools. Another one of the basic cooking mistakes to avoided. Examples:
- Using a paring knife to chop vegetables. This can be done, but it is a waste of time when a chef’s knife does it more efficiently.
- Using a whisk to combine ingredients that are way too thick or a spoon for something that needs to be whisked.
Using the right knives and cutting boards is important. You don’t need every knife available at the store, but every kitchen should have the following cooking knives:
- A chef’s knife (they come in blade sizes from 8 to 10 inches).
- A 7-inch santoku knife. This is the knife I just more than any other in the kitchen and I have this one from Henckels
- A 4-inch paring knife.
The chef’s knife will handle all food cut on a cutting board (slice, dice, chop, even debone meat/fish);. The santoku will be a utility knife, for smaller chopping tasks. The paring knife will handle all the food you cut in your hand, such as peeling the skin from an apple.
More cooking mistakes in the kitchen to avoid easily:
Not tasting as you go. Taste, taste, taste, and season accordingly, because flavors change every minute. This includes improperly salting food, or not salting it at all. Salt helps to bring out the flavors of ingredients, and it helps to keep raw meat and cakes from drying out during cooking or baking.
Not using thermometers. This is a big cooking mistake to avoid to get the perfect level of doneness on all your meats. All ovens are different, and every cut of meat is different. You and your neighbor both have the dial turned to 300 degrees, but the actual temperature in their oven won’t be the same as in yours. The meat is ready when it’s ready. Which suggests that….
….People don’t use meat thermometers as often as they should. The temperature shown on a meat thermometer will tell you the (you guessed it) internal temperature and doneness of your food, not the recipe that says it will be done at xxx degrees after yyy minutes. Many home cooks believe their stoves have two temperatures: off and max. It’s maddening.
Not resting meat before slicing it. This one kills, KILLS me. Much of the flavor of your meat is in its juices.
Tip: Cutting it while it is hot is going to cause all those juices to end up on your cutting board. Rest your proteins, covered in foil, for at least 10 minutes. It’ll make a huge difference on your plate. As for your plates, warm them up so they don’t suck all the heat from your food.
Over- or under-cooking pasta. The general trend is a failure to test and to taste.
Tip: Please, cook pasta al-dente. Al-dente means cooked so as to be still firm when bitten, firm does not mean hard and chewy. Taste it and when it just hits that stage, get it off the heat. Remember, as well, that your pasta will keep cooking for a little while. Keep the pasta water and add a little to whatever sauce you’re coating the pasta in to help thicken and season it; pasta water is salty and starchy and thus useful!
How many of these cooking mistakes in the kitchen have you made??
Love these tips make sure to check out Clean Up! 9 Spring Cleaning Chores Most People Forget!