I thought I’d share five common cooking mistakes we probably all have done (or still do) in our kitchens and how to fix them.
It’s okay. Sometimes, we can get lazy. Or careless. Or maybe we don't even know better.
Lucky for us, there are usually ways to fix these common mistakes without having the food wind up in the garbage. Usually.
Here we go:
- Not tasting as you’re cooking: Taste is the most important element of food. So, why not make sure your food is tasting the way it should while you cook? Tasting while you cook also allows you to notice subtle issues in texture or other characteristics that you could change long before they become an issue in the final product. Don’t just assume the recipe you’re following has the right measurements for the various ingredients. Your oven, altitude, specific ingredients and other factors will all play a role in whether or not your food tastes good to you.
- Not getting to know your oven: Ovens can be very fickle creatures. I used to have a love-hate relationship with my oven until I started to understand it. Turns out, it was consistent and I just didn’t know it. Buy an oven thermometer and learn what areas in your oven tend to be the hottest or the coldest. Don’t just assume your oven temperature gauge is working. Truth is — it’s probably way off. Once you learn to communicate with your oven, baking (and cooking in general, fort that matter) will get a whole lot easier.
- Not taking your knives seriously: Using a good knife will not only make you more efficient in the kitchen, but it will make you a better cook. Using a good knife and learning basic cutting techniques will make your food more uniform which will make it cook more evenly which will make it taste better. See how it’s all connected? For more information on proper knife care, please see my Cooking 101 post for Basic Knife Care.
- Not reading through the entire recipe (and ingredient list) prior to starting: How many times have you reached the end of the recipe with the water boiling, the oven on and most of the ingredients already mixed together only to find you need something you don’t have or you need to refrigerate overnight or bake for three hours? Too many times, I have found myself in this situation. Reading through the entire recipe and ingredient list before starting to cook is extremely important. Not only will this give you an opportunity to get a feel for what you’ll be doing, but it will help to make sure you have everything you need — when you need it.
- Overcooking your meat: I don’t know about you, but I hate overcooked meat (whether it’s steak, pork, chicken or fish. I see meat overcooked everywhere — at restaurants, at friends houses — and it just irks me. Problem is: most people don’t even know they’re overcooking it! If you find your meat has been overcooked, you still have some options. You can make a sauce that will help mask the dryness of the meat or, if fish, you can try mashing it to make something like salmon cakes or tuna salad. Also, get to know The Finger Test to gauge the doneness of your meats — super helpful! If you'd like more information on the Finger Test, you can go to my Cooking 101 post on How To Check The Doneness of Meat.
It's important to think about these common mistakes and pay them their dues before moving on and improving your skills in the kitchen. These seemingly minor errors can make huge changes in your food. If you can plan ahead to avoid them, you will have an easier time in your kitchen, spend less time on unnecessary things (like frantically running to the store to get a particular ingredient you didn't realize you needed) and will enjoy your food more. Now, there are many, many more common errors people can make in the kitchen and I hope to discuss more in a later post.