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58 Common Cooking Errors Every Cook Should Avoid Making




A lot of us probably violate a lot of cooking rules. Sometimes, it takes a lot of practice and awareness to get it right. Even seasoned cooks need reminders of the basics every now and then. Like the saying goes, “You are always a student, never a master”.

  1. Metal Utensils on Teflon
  2. Even the best nonsticks are not indestructible. Rough treatment is discouraged, especially cutting of food in the pan. Always use wooden or high quality plastic utensils to cook your food.

  3. Overheating Teflon
  4. Cookware Temperature,
    °F
    Cookware Temperature,
    °C
    Cooking Use
    212 100  Boiling point for water
    325-400 163-204  Normal range for baking cookies, cakes etc.
    400-470 204-243  Normal range for pan-frying meat
    450 232  Roasting poultry or vegetables
    500-550 260-288  Broiling

    Baking, pan frying and roasting usually use temperatures below 500°F/260°F, the recommended maximum for Teflon products. Broiling, a cooking process that usually begins at 500°F/260°F, will discolor the surface of the cookware and cause it to lose it’s non stick properties. Teflon will start deteriorating above 660°F/348°C. If you’re regularly hitting the 400°F/205°C temps that are already potentially dangerous, you probably don’t need nonstick anyway.

  5. Using The Wrong Oil
  6. About 75% of olive oil, one of the most healthiest and commonly available oil in the world, consist of monounsaturated fatty acid aka oleic acid. Primary health benefits include anti cancer effects, lower risk of diabetes and lower risk of heart diseases. These beneficial properties start deteriorating above 250°F/121°C. Unrefined extra virgin olive oil, which has a distinct taste, is best used for making salad dressing not frying. Two of the best choices for medium/high heat are safflower and canola oil.

  7. Getting In A Rut
  8. It simply means preparing the same 10 recipes night after night, week after week. These may be tried and true recipes that you know work and your family loves them but now they are getting tired of some of it. The only way to get out of a rut is to think outside the box. Check out a cuisine that you know nothing of. A good start would be exploring delicacies from the world’s tastiest continent. Asia.

  9. Failing To Sanitize The Sink
  10. Rinsing meat off in your sink may get rid of the slime factor, but it contaminates your sink with bacteria that could potentially cause foodborne illness. If you have a contaminated sink and you fill it with soapy water and wash dishes in it, that sink is still contaminated and now so are the ‘clean’ dishes. The soapy water doesn’t kill the bad bacteria, you’re only diluting it and rinsing it off, so if there’s a whole lot to start with, some will remain and be spread everywhere. The best sanitizer you should be using is vinegar. The cheapest ones work just as well. Pour about an inch or two of hot water in the sink and a splash of vinegar. Wipe the entire sink in the mix and leave it for 5 mins then give the sink a scrub with an abrasive sponge and voila a nice and clean sink! Here are 75 more useful ways to use vinegar.

  11. Cheaping Out On Kitchenware
  12. Just because you bought your pan from a swanky place doesn’t make it better. The best are actually found in a restaurant supply where quality pans, built to last from 10,000,000 meals cooked in it, are found.

  13. Not Being Aware To Surroundings
  14. Cooking fires are the No.1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Take an effort to pay attention while you cook. Keep children and household pets at least 3 feet from stoves, grills, fryers, etc. Reduce the risk of accidents by staying aware of your surroundings.

  15. Under Seasoning Food
  16. One of the most common phrases found in recipes are ‘season to taste’ but most people would just add a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt and hope for the best. A real cook will douse, instead of pinch, 5 steaks with salt before grilling. Even the amount of pepper is larger. Grilling itself will reduce the salt and seasoning. Experiment and learn what each level of seasoning tastes like.

  17. Not Preheating Oil In Pan
  18. Every knowledgeable chef in every cooking show will always preheat the pan first before cooking. On the other hand, a lot of people today still make the classic mistake of putting cold food into cold oil in a cold pan before turning on the stove. Food will actually absorb the oil and become heavy and greasy. The main aim of preheating oil is to help food from sticking to the pan. Secondly, the initial violent temperature change on the surface of the food being cooked is what causes good caramelization to occur, a process called the Maillard reaction. This is how you get a good sear or crust on meats, and is also why you get grill marks on grilled food. You’re creating a new flavor element in whatever you’re cooking. A sure fire way to know that the oil is ready is by throwing in a little churn of bread. If it begins to fry, then the oil is ready. If on the other hand it begins to soak up the oil, then it isn’t. Another trick would be to run your hand under water and flick at the pan. If it hizzes and sizzles, it’s ready.

  19. Overcooking
  20. One of the most common causes of ruined food. When vegetables are cooked too long they lose their vibrant color, sweet flavor and crisp texture, making them far less appealing. Most vegetables can be eaten raw, so cooking should just enhance their flavor and make them easier to chew. Overcooking meat ruins the texture, making it dry, difficult to chew and hard to swallow. Perfectly cooked meat should be tender and juicy. Moreover, meat cooked well done is more carcinogenic than meat cooked medium rare.

  21. Using Glass Cutting Boards
  22. They are dangerous as the knife slips around when it comes into contact with the board. Moreover, cutting on any hard surface damages your knife blade be it granite, marble, ceramic, porcelain tile, corian, formica, tempered glass, etc. Wood and plastic are the two most suitable material for cutting boards.

  23. Cheaping Out On Ingredients
  24. Ingredients are the backbone of great cooking. The dish will be as mediocre, good or out of this world as the ingredients used to make them. For example, Fleur de Sel may be expensive compared to other salt but it’s texture is crystalline, melting slowly in the mouth and the earthy, pleasing flavor lingers on the tongue. Make it a habit to use high quality ingredients whenever available and affordable. Ask any high-end chef and they’ll say the same thing.

  25. Slicing Meat Immediately After It’s Cooked
  26. This has to be one of the top mistakes made in the kitchen. People normally will consume the cut of steak or other meat soon after it gets off the grill, especially at home. Looks good, smells good, dig in. Don’t. Wait for at least 10 minutes. By resting the meat, you allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. The result? Juicier meat.

  27. Overcomplicating Recipes
  28. Often people over complicate cooking. Adding 4 more ingredients of your own to the recipe to letting it simmer for an extra 10 minutes. You will never see a 30 step 4 hour long process going on in 5 star restaurant kitchens. Unless of course, you are cooking Indian tonight.

  29. Too Much Stirring
  30. A lot of times the hot pan or grill is perfectly capable of cooking the food with minimal supervision but you may have developed a habit to move food around constantly to feel busy or you may be afraid of watching it burn before your eyes. Don’t. Two reasons why not. One, it prevents browning, an added dimension of flavour. Two, you may break food apart, making your meal soft and doughy.

  31. Conflicting Tastes
  32. A great example would be wine. High-acid liquids such as vinegar and citrus juice, for instance, give wine a disagreeable off-flavor. The sulfur content of egg yolks does the same deed. Other enemies of wine include artichokes, asparagus, chocolate, onions, pineapples, tomatoes, cod fish, haddock, mackerel, and shellfish.

  33. Blending Hot Liquid
  34. If you aren’t holding the lid of the blender in place, it will explode all over you and your kitchen. The explanation is simple. As gas gets hotter, it expands, creating pressure that blasts off the lid if you didn’t remove the stopper. A helpful tip would be to never fill it up to more than half full and covering the lid hole of the stopper with a towel instead. Or even better still, use an immersion blender.

  35. Neglecting Presentation
  36. Just like the ambiance of a restaurant creates the mood, be it romantic or relaxing, it is just as important how food served to you is presented. It enhances/reduces your appetite and determines your dining experience. A fruit salad served layered looks more tempting than one that is all jumbled up. The sight of soup and mains presented in fine china is sure to stimulate one’s appetite.

  37. Ignoring The Temperature Limit Of Your Plastic Utensils
  38. You only have to experience the sight of little black bits, plastic gravy and discovering a quarter of your spatula missing once because the scare is fairly memorable. If you can’t seem to find any info on it, switch to bamboo.

  39. Scraping Burnt Bottoms
  40. When stirring your beans, don’t scrape the bottom of your pot. Let it rest because it acts as a layer of buffer to preserve the rest of the pot. No one appreciates burnt beans.

  41. Disregarding The Importance Of Washing Hands
  42. Eliminate bacteria on your hands before handling different foods. Washing hands thoroughly is most crucial especially after handling raw meat so as to prevent cross contamination.

  43. Failing To Comprehend The Recipe
  44. Reading a recipe gives you a chance to both familiarize yourself with what you’ll actually be doing with the food and to make sure you have all the required ingredients and supplies. It saves you grief and time when you don’t have to run around the kitchen touching fridge handles and cabinet doors with contaminated hands. You’ll also be less likely to add ingredients in the wrong order or do anything else that may compromise the end product.

  45. Not Tasting Before Serving
  46. A lot of people follow the recipe to the letter but your tastes may differ from the author. Some dishes may turn out to be too bland.

  47. Tenderizing Good Steak By Pounding
  48. If you purchased a Kobe, Wagyu, Tenderloin, Angus, Kansas City Strip, Porterhouse, T-Bone, or a good Ribeye, never pound them as they are already very tender, in descending order, compared to other cuts. Other than that, pound your meat. Beat thoroughly with a meat hammer to break down the muscle. It is also the accepted way to tenderize abalone and clams.

  49. Storing Herbs & Spices Wrongly
  50. It is easier to store them near the stove or sink as it is within reach but heat speeds up flavor and color loss of herbs and spices. So does air, light and moisture. Herbs and spices should only be stored in airtight containers, kept away in a dark cupboard or drawer. Never sprinkle directly from the container into a steaming pot or pan. As a general rule, herbs and ground spices will retain their best flavors for a year.

  51. Not Slicing Against The Grain
  52. You read, hear and see it all the time but what does cutting against the grain mean? Meat is made out of muscle fibers laid out parallel to each other, much like what you see in wood. The secret to enjoying bite sizes of meat in your mouth, especially hard cuts of steak, is to shorten the muscle fibers to a point where they can barely hold together. And that requires you to cut perpendicular to the lines aka the grain.

  53. Not Drying Your Salad After Cleaning Them
  54. Have you ever noticed the difference in a salad from a good restaurant and one that you make at home? Noticed how crisp and cool the lettuce is? The secret lies in the salad spinner. Most are just a simple perforated bowl within a solid bowl with a device to spin the inner bowl with a handle. The water is forced out of the washed lettuce into the outer bowl. Dry vegetables that are chilled, especially lettuce, takes on a delightful nutty flavor and crunch.

  55. Using Dried Herbs In Place Of Fresh Ones
  56. If a recipe calls for dried herbs, then use dried herbs. It may seem like a quick fix when you only have dried ones in hand but you will overseason your dish. Dried herbs are often stronger flavoured than fresh ones. If you must use dried herbs in place of fresh ones, use about a third of the amount of fresh herbs called for in the recipe. In any case, the best way to judge a herb’s strength is by taste.

  57. Not Knowing The Difference Between Boil And Simmer
  58. Simmering is cooking just below the boiling point. Essentially, it’s the size, number, and speed of the bubbles. Tiny little bubbles that start to come up are a simmer. When they start to get big, it’s boiling. A slow boil is bubbles that move more lazily. They’re medium sized and not too horribly vigorous. A hard boil is the kind of bubbling that can spit at you from a feet away.

  59. Using A Glass or Metal Baking Dish In Place Of The Other
  60. Yes, it absolutely makes a difference and you cannot substitute the material the recipe calls for. Glass is an insulator, which means it takes longer to heat up, but once it does, it stays at a stable temperature, even in an oven that’s constantly turning on and off. Best for cakes and especially cornbread where it browns more evenly than if you use a metal baking dish. Metal heats and cools quickly, suitable for baking at high temperature for short times. Best for cookies.

  61. Serving Canned Tomatoes With Tin Can Taste
  62. It usually contains calcium carbonate or citric acid. Even tomato sauces that are not canned are acidic by nature. The best way to cut the acid is by adding sugar. Not much is needed, maybe a teaspoon or so. However, good quality canned tomatoes may already have sugar added to it.

  63. Not Reheating Food Hot Enough
  64. A lot of people are guilty of not reheating food to a safe enough temperature for consumption. Harmful bacteria usually starts growing within 2 hours on food left in the open. On a sunny day at 90°F/32°C it only takes 1 hour. When reheating, temperatures should reach 165°F/74°C, which physically means piping hot.

  65. Getting Rid Of Chili Burns With Water
  66. Chopping spicy peppers like South America’s habanero or South East Asia’s bird’s eye chili will surely result in burning sensations. Capsaicin, the compound responsible, binds to pain receptors, making you suffer excruciating agony. However, it is totally harmless to your body. The most effective way to treat external exposure is by using any kind of vegetable oil or vaseline. Capsaicin which has not already been absorbed into tissues will be picked up into the solution and easily removed. A helpful tip would be to coat the fingers coming into contact with the pepper in oil before cutting.

  67. Including Cruciferous Vegetables As Part Of Stock
  68. Cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes and other similar vegetables have overpowering flavours. Never use beet root or onion skins too unless you are looking to colour your stock red or brown.

  69. Adding Too Much Salt
  70. It is remediable if you are cooking soup or stew. Cut potatoes into rounds and add them to the stew. It will absorb excess salt. Remove it once the job is done.

  71. Adding Too Much Curry Powder
  72. The known way to soften it is by adding some coconut milk, yogurt, tomato or tomato paste. It will surely balance out the excess spices. There’s nothing much to worry about as a big portion of curry powder is made out of turmeric, adding more yellow/orange/red colour than flavour.

  73. Not Knowing When To Start Over
  74. You will know that it is too late for any salvaging when the time comes. Yes, it may be wasteful but it’s the right thing to do. Look at your mistakes not as simple disasters, but as potential sources of information about what you can do differently and better next time. As the saying goes, your best teacher is your last mistake.

  75. Using The Knife Wrongly
  76. Using the wrong knife can cause unnecessary bruising, mess and damage to food. Just as you wouldn’t use a rake for a delicate garden transplanting task, you shouldn’t use a bread knife to carve a roast. Also, in choosing a knife that will give you the best control, you will avoid injuries caused by slipping or unnecessary added pressure. Use only the serrated knife aka bread knife for food that has a tender center and a firm crust like bread, tomato, melon, flaky pastries, meringue, etc. A paring knife is best suited for small, delicate tasks like peeling garlic, trimming mushrooms, slicing strawberries, etc. A chef’s knife is an all purpose knife that you can use for almost anything from chopping fine herbs to shredding a cabbage head.

  77. Too Ignorant To Buy A Bigger Cutting Board
  78. In cutting boards, size matters. You can always cut smaller items on a larger board, but it doesn’t work to cut larger items on a smaller board. A cutting board should be large enough to hold the ingredients at every stage of the process. For example, if you’re chopping celery, you want room for both the stalks you start with and the pile of cut pieces you end up with. A general rule of thumb would be small knife small board, big knife big board.

  79. Cross Contaminating Your Food
  80. We may not see it but it happens more often than we think. Meat drippings from raw meat stored on the top shelf of the fridge onto cooked vegetables placed on the lower shelf or using an apron/cloth to wipe your hands between handling different foods are two common ways cross contamination happen without us realizing it. A simple solution would be to cut the items to be eaten raw first, vegetables to be cooked second and raw meats last. Washing is essential before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, after handling pets, etc.

  81. Storing Tomatoes In The Refrigerator
  82. The fridge is not the ideal place to store tomatoes. They have delicate cells, and excess cold causes the cell walls to burst, leaving the tomatoes soft and mushy. The best way is to store them in room temperature, away from the sunlight, in a dry place, stem side up. The same goes for onion and potatoes.

  83. Using Garlic Wrongly
  84. You either add it too soon or you wait too long. Garlic browns in 1 minute. For example, if you add it to the pan with chicken breasts which takes more than 15 minutes to cook, the garlic will scorch and turn bitter long before the meat is finished. Instead, use sliced garlic or smashed cloves which are less susceptible to burning than minced or pressed garlic. Another tip would be to add garlic near the end. But of course if a recipe asks for garlic to be added at the beginning, make sure the ingredients are ready to go as well so that they can be added quickly before the garlic starts burning.

  85. Using A Non Stick For Everything
  86. A non stick pan transfers heat slowly and is most suitable for delicate or sticky food like eggs, crepes and breaded items. A non stick pan is more of a ‘breakfast pan’. A stainless steel pan is most suitable for food that you would want to take a bit of browning, but not using the high heat that you would use with cast iron and that cannot be achieved with non stick. Any type of fish would suit it. A cast iron pan, on the other hand, holds on to heat for a long time and takes high temperatures with no problem, making it the perfect choice for broccoli, bacon, hash brown, chicken, searing steaks, and anything you want to end up with brown crunchy bits.

  87. Pushing Down On Burger Patties, Pancakes And Crab Cakes
  88. Don’t give in to the temptation of pressing them flat as it squeezes out the nice juices. Just let them sit for before using a spatula to flip them over to the other side. Keep an eye on them while they are finishing up cooking. The amount of time it will take to cook depends on the size.

  89. Not Fully Extracting The Flavor Of Herbs And Spices
  90. Crush herbs and spices in order to release more of their natural oils and aromas. Hard spices like clove, lemongrass, cumin, star anise, and ginger should be cooked in oil for at least 1 minute prior to adding anything. They don’t give up flavor easily otherwise.

  91. Grilling High Water Content Vegetables
  92. Caramelizing flames and a touch of smoke do wonders to vegetables but high water content ones like cucumbers, celery, lettuce, and most leafy greens are not so suitable for grilling. However, there are a few exceptional ones like tomato and zucchini. Most vegetable will do well on the grill but exceptional ones that stand out are asparagus, corn, eggplant, mushroom, bell pepper, onion and garlic. A helpful tip; add a teaspoon of mayonnaise to your marinade to help the flavors cling to the veggies.

  93. Grocery Shopping Without A List
  94. Always keep a little notebook on the table when preparing food. If you bring up something from the pantry and see it is getting low, put it in your grocery list. If you need a particular item not normally stocked in your pantry for a recipe, put it in your grocery list. When you step into the store, you already know what you need to buy. You won’t waste time wandering the store debating on what sounds good or what you feel like eating before you decide what food to place in your grocery cart. When you stick to your meal plan, you avoid wasting money. A lot of times, people buy food and never eat it, or it goes bad.

  95. Working Against Fatigue
  96. Know your limits. Fatigue cause inattentiveness that leads to kitchen accidents and inedible food. Let go of the thought of cooking and eat out instead.

  97. Opening The Oven Door Too Frequently
  98. Don’t open the oven door too often when checking your food. Each time you open the door the oven temperature drops by a minimum of 20°F to 50°F depending on how long you open the door. Watch the clock or use a timer instead.

  99. Multitasking Out Of The Kitchen
  100. In between the time it takes for the kettle to boil and the pasta to cook, don’t watch the TV or do some gardening. You may forget what you were doing and cause your food to overcook. Worse still, you could start a fire. So, avoid cooking accidents by staying in the kitchen. Like the saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

  101. Including Alcohol Products As A Marinade
  102. A lot of people like to use wine, beer, and spirits in their marinades, but this may not be a good idea. Alcohol doesn’t tenderize; cooking tenderizes. Alcohol in a marinade in effect cooks the exterior of the meat, preventing the meat from fully absorbing the flavors in the marinade. Raw alcohol itself doesn’t do anything good to meat. So put your wine or spirit in a pan, add your aromatics, cook off the alcohol, let it cool, and then pour it over your meat. This way you have the richness of the fruit of the alcoholic product you’re using, but you don’t have the chemical reaction of ‘burning’ the meat with alcohol or it’s harsh raw flavor.

  103. Not Marinating Meat At All
  104. Marinating is the best way to impart flavor into meat, as well as tenderizing it. One who marinates meat, even a quick 10 minutes, will be rewarded with a flavorful dish.

  105. Substituting Dry Measuring Cup For Wet Measuring And Vice Versa
  106. Measuring a liquid by pouring right to the tip of the measuring cup is just asking for spilling and mess. On the other hand, it’s really hard to level a dry ingredient like flour if it’s not right up to the top of the measuring cup. Moreover, liquid measuring cups generally have a pour spout and are made to be filled to the gradations on the side of the cup (¼ cup, ½ cup, 6 oz, etc.) rather than being filled right up to the top. A tip; When leveling dry measuring cups, use the back of the knife.

  107. Substituting A Measuring Spoon With A Serving Spoon
  108. Many would be surprised to learn that a flatware serving teaspoon holds more than a measuring teaspoon, and a flatware serving tablespoon holds more than a measuring tablespoon. These are not expensive tools, but they can make a difference. It’s critical that you get the measurements correct if it involves a chemical process like baking.

  109. Cutting With A Dull Knife
  110. The dangers of a dull knife are more about the lack of control. More pressure is required hence the increase in chances of the knife slipping and cutting a finger or stabbing a hand. However, a sharp knife allows you to use it with just a light touch and seeing what they can do to a carrot will certainly make you a lot more careful around it.

  111. Cooking Without Love
  112. Love is the one ingredient that must be present in every single recipe. It is more important than salt. Whether it’s love for cooking or love for the people you’re cooking for or just love of food, you must add love.

  113. Frying Bacon In The Nude
  114. Never, never, never do this. Trust me.

  115. Letting Your Children Into The Kitchen Unattended While A Tray Of Chocolate Chip Cookie Is Cooling
  116. Even if it’s for 10 seconds, it’s 2 mouthful of chocolate chip cookies gone.


     



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