25 Common Mistakes in the Kitchen That You Might Not Realize You’re Making

oops-1432954_1920.pngMistakes happen to the best of us but when it comes to cooking certain mistakes can quickly make or break your dish. Overwork your potatoes and instead of creamy mashed potatoes you will have wallpaper paste. Boil instead of simmer and you can end up with food that is dry and tough or mushy and flavorless. It is crucial that you follow a few important tips and guidelines when cooking or baking so that you obtain consistent, delicious results in the kitchen every time. There is nothing worse that spending money on ingredients and valuable time in the kitchen only to end up with a meal that falls flat. Follow these few simple rules and you’ll be a kitchen pro in no time!

  1. Not seasoning your pasta water – Generously salting the water will allow the pasta to be seasoned internally. As it cooks and swells it will absorb the salt flavor which makes for a better tasting dish.
  2. Not reading a recipe through before beginning to cook – It is imperative that you read through a recipe before doing anything else. Familiarize yourself with the steps and ingredients and make sure you have “everything in its place” (mise en place) before getting to work. You don’t want to dive into your cooking only to realize when you’re halfway through that you’re missing an ingredient or that you missed a crucial step.
  3. Not using a meat thermometer – Miscalculating if meat is cooked through is the difference between a great meal and getting sick. An instant read thermometer is a great, inexpensive tool to have in your arsenal so that you have perfectly cooked meat every time.
  4. Mishandling egg whites – Egg whites are an extremely delicate and finicky ingredient. Take care to whip, mix, or fold them as directed in your recipe. Do not overwork them, ensure that no yolk gets into your white because fat is the enemy of whipped whites and always use room temperature eggs so that you achieve the proper aeration and height.
  5. Using butter that is too soft – When baking, make sure your butter is softened only enough to where it gives just a little when pressed. It should not be a super soft mushy mess, overly soft butter will result in improperly baked treats and it will also cause your cookies to spread in the oven.
  6. Boiling when you’re suppose to simmer – When a recipe calls for something to be gently simmered do not try to rush the process by boiling it. Rapidly boiling delicate food that is supposed to be cooked low and slow will cause it to be unevenly cooked, too mushy, or even tasteless. Alternatively, your food could also come out dry, tough, and overcooked. Simmering may be a longer cooking process but it will result in a better finished product.
  7. Overcrowding the pan – Overcrowding will cause the temperature of your pan to decrease and food will not sear or brown properly. Also, too much food in the pan means more moisture will be released and instead of browning your meat or vegetables, now you’re boiling them. For food to cook evenly it needs to have good contact with the hot pan so make sure to leave a little room and cook your food in batches if you need to.
  8. Overmixing dough and batters – Overmixing flour releases gluten which can give baked goods a firm, elastic structure which you do not want in delicate pastries and cakes. Go slow and use the low setting on your mixer to avoid overmixing.
  9. Cooking with a cold pan – If you add food to a cold pan it will adhere to the pan like glue however, if you have a nice hot pan your food will release much more easily and brown nicely.
  10. Adding garlic too early – Garlic browns in about a minute, add it to your pan too early and you’ll end up with scorched, burnt, bitter garlic.
  11. Not letting your meat rest – That beautiful steak you just grilled will be a lot more juicy and flavorful if you let it rest for about 10-15 minutes after cooking. Resting your meat gives the juices a chance to redistribute, cutting into it too soon will cause those delicious, flavorful juices to just pour right out of the meat. What a waste!
  12. Not tasting your food as you go along – Taste, taste, taste and then taste some more. Check your seasonings and adjust as needed. There is nothing worse than serving an overly seasoned or under seasoned dish. Always taste your food!
  13. Overworking your mashed potatoes – Mashed potatoes can go from fluffy, creamy and delicious to glue in seconds. The more you work your potatoes the more starch they will release, this starch will cause your potatoes to become very gummy and glue like. Gently mash your potatoes and then mix them just enough to incorporate your seasonings and achieve the right texture.
  14. Turning meat too often or too soon – When your meat is properly browned it will release itself from the pan or grill. Trying to turn it too soon will cause your meat to tear. Gently nudge the edge of your meat, if it releases it’s time to turn, if you’re tugging and the meat isn’t giving, let it go a few minutes longer. Also, resist the urge to constantly flip your meat. Just leave it alone and let it do its thing, you can’t rush the process by constantly moving it around.
  15. Measuring dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup – Liquid measuring cups, as their name suggests, is for liquids only. You will not be able to measure with any accuracy if you use the wrong tools for the job.
  16. Using the wrong knife – The right tools make your job much easier and won’t damage the food you’re trying to cut. A chefs knife is a great all-purpose knife that’s perfect for dicing and slicing firm ingredients, a paring knife is good for peeling and removing seeds and pits, and a serrated knife is used to slice delicate pastries, breads, and soft skinned fruits and veggies like tomatoes and plums.
  17. Boiling your pasta in a pot that’s too small – Crowding your pasta pot will result in mushy, sticky, clumped pasta because there is not enough room for it to move around while cooking. Also, when the pot it overfilled the water temperature will drop substantially and your pasta will not cook properly.
  18. Storing tomatoes in the fridge – Temperatures that are too extreme (cold or hot) will damage the delicate cell walls of the tomato leaving you with mealy, inedible tomatoes.
  19. Using very lean ground beef – There is nothing worse than a dry meatloaf or burger, don’t be afraid to use meat with a little fat to it, most of it will cook off anyway. The fat acts as a basting agent during the cooking process which means you’ll end up with a juicy, flavorful, and rich piece of meat.
  20. Using a tiny cutting board – You won’t be able to properly maneuver your knife or corral your diced ingredients if your prep area is too small. Use a proper sized cutting board and give yourself some space.
  21. Your breading doesn’t stick to your food – Make sure you follow these simple steps: First dredge in flour, then dip in your liquid (egg, buttermilk, etc), and lastly coat with breadcrumbs.
  22. You remove the Crock-Pot lid – Every time you remove the lid you’re letting valuable heat escape and in turn, increasing your overall cooking time.
  23. Making random substitutions in your baking – While cooking affords you a little more leeway when it comes to substituting ingredients baking is a very precise science. Increasing, decreasing, or substituting ingredients at random can (and will) affect the final product. Unless you have a through understanding of how baking ingredients play together it’s best to stick to the recipe.
  24. You overheat your chocolate – You should always melt chocolate slowly and on low heat. Rushing the melting process or cooking over higher heat can scorch the chocolate or give it a grainy texture. When using a double boiler, make sure your water is simmering, not boiling. If using a microwave, be sure to check on the chocolate every 20-30 seconds, giving it a stir each time.
  25. You don’t know your oven – If you cook even a little bit you need to become intimately familiar with your oven because they all have their own quirks that you need to account for when using. To ensure your food cooks properly you may need to adjust your cooking time, temperature, and/or the placement of your racks. If you think your oven might not be holding the right temperature, get yourself an inexpensive oven thermometer to see if it’s running too hot or too cold.

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