Whether you’re a novice or an accomplished chef, there’s one thing all cooks have in common: we all make mistakes in the kitchen. But you can avoid many cringe-worthy moments with your foodie friends if you steer clear of these common cooking mistakes:
1. You don’t let meat sit after cooking.
This is a cardinal sin in the culinary world. Whatever you do, fight the urge to cut into that beautifully-marbled piece of meat after you take it off the grill. Wait 5 minutes for the juices to distribute. Your taste buds will thank you.
2. You don’t taste the food as you’re cooking.
While it’s good to have confidence in your cooking, not tasting your food is a big no-no. Even if you’re following a recipe, taste early and often.
3. You put too much food in the pan.
Overcrowding your pans means more uneven heat distribution. Instead of stuffing the pan with food, make two batches.
4. You flip the meat on the grill constantly.
You know how many times you need to flip a good piece of meat? Once. That’s all it takes to get a nice, beautiful sear.
5. You cook beef, chicken, or fish directly after you remove it from the fridge.
Let meat sit in the sink for about 30 minutes before you cook it so it reaches room temperature. This allows for even cooking, so you don’t get a medium-well steak when you want a medium-rare one.
6. You try and save a bad dish by adding more stuff.
Sometimes kitchen experiments go horribly wrong. It happens to the best of us. Don’t be afraid to scrap a bad dish every once in a while. It’s part of the creative process of cooking.
7. You take the lazy way out.
It’s easy to choose the “ready-made,” highly processed junk. But nothing makes up for the real thing. Buy all natural, real ingredients (from local farmers whenever possible).
8. You overseason.
It’s easy to get aggressive with the salt and other seasonings. When this happens, use water or an acid like lemon juice or vinegar to dilute it.
9. You under-season.
The only thing worse than over-seasoning is under-seasoning. That’s why you should always taste your dishes before you serve them (see number 2).
10. You overcook the meat.
There’s a simple solution for this one: use a meat thermometer.
11. Your food sticks to the pan or grill.
Buy a plastic bottle and fill it with olive oil. This will help grease the grates on the grill or pan so food doesn’t stick.
12. Your breading doesn’t stick to the food.
Try this no-fail process for getting your breading just right: first dredge in flour, then dip in liquid (like beaten eggs or buttermilk), then coat with bread crumbs.
13. You don’t know your kitchen appliances’ cooking times.
Hey, we’ve all been there. Sometimes it takes some getting used to your appliances, especially if they’re new. Practice makes perfect.
14. You added too much heat.
Spicy foods are great but it’s easy to overdo it with the spice. If possible, add a little water, lemon juice, or salt to neutralize the heat. Or grab an extra glass of water, some tissues, and eat it anyway.
15. Your egg whites won’t whip.
There’s an easy fix for this one: let the eggs sit in the bowl on your counter for at least 15 minutes. Eggs whip easier at room temperature.
16. Your salads are soggy.
Green leafy vegetables are among the healthiest foods you can eat but they’re also some of the most delicate. To decrease the odds of a soggy salad, rinse your greens under cold water then dry them in a salad spinner.
17. You forgot to thaw the meat in the refrigerator.
Here’s a quick fix to thaw frozen food: put in a plastic bag and let it sit in a bowl of cold water for an hour.
18. You’re using the wrong cooking oil.
Certain cooking oils have lower smoke points, which means it helps to know which oils to use at various temperatures. Use olive oil and butter for low-temperature cooking; olive oil and coconut oil for medium-heat cooking; and peanut oil, avocado oil, and ghee for high-heat cooking.
19. You don’t follow the recipe.
If there’s one common cooking mistake I’m personally guilty of the most, it’s this one. For those of you who like to “make it your own,” this can often lead to disastrous results. Sometimes it’s better to just follow the recipe, especially for traditional and complex dishes.
20. You don’t heat up the pan properly.
Your cooking surface needs to be hot before you place anything on it. Give your pan or grill at least 5 minutes to heat up.
21. You overcook your veggies and they taste mushy.
“Shock” those veggies when they’re done cooking, which means tossing them into very cold water after the allotted cooking time is up. This works particularly well for green beans, broccoli, asparagus, and corn.
22. You burn the bacon.
Cooking bacon in a pan can be a greasy debacle in your kitchen. Bake your bacon instead at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
23. Your guacamole turns brown.
Guacamole has a tendency to oxidize, which turns it an unappetizing brown color. If you’re serving guac, just squirt a little lime juice or lemon juice on the top periodically to prevent browning.
24. Your eggs are tough and dry.
If you struggle with eggs, lower the cooking temperatures. Lower the heat and cook at low to medium heat until the eggs are still moist. Remove them from the heat source immediately and serve.
25. You remove the crock pot lid.
Using a crockpot can produce some of the most tender, memorable meals you can eat. But taking the lid off every half hour means heat escapes, which can affect the cooking time and ultimately the taste of your food. Check on your crockpot creation a maximum of once every 2-3 hours.
So what did we miss? What are other common cooking mistakes you’ve made?
Better your cooking skills easily: Cooking 101: 20 Lessons to kick start your cooking skillFeatured photo credit: Three little chefs enjoying in the kitchen making big mess. Little girls making bread in the kitchen via Shutterstock