Common Cooking Mistakes

Here are 30 of the most common cooking mistakes people make.  To read the full article click here.

1. You don’t taste as you go.
Result: The flavors or textures of an otherwise excellent dish are out of balance or unappealing.

2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.
Result: Flavors are dull, entire steps or ingredients get left out.

3. You make unwise substitutions in baking.
Result: You wreck the underlying chemistry of the dish.

4. You boil when you should simmer.
Result: A hurried-up dish that’s cloudy, tough, or dry.

5. You overheat chocolate.
Result: Instead of having a smooth, creamy, luxurious consistency, your chocolate is grainy, separated, or scorched.

6. You over-soften butter.
Result: Cookies spread too much or cakes are too dense.

7. You overheat low-fat milk products.
Result: The milk curdles or “breaks,” yielding grainy mac and cheese, ice cream, or pudding.

8. You don’t know your oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Result: Food cooks too fast, too slow, or unevenly.

9. You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.
Result: Dry, tough cakes, rubbery brownies, and a host of other textural mishaps.

10. You overcrowd the pan.
Result: Soggy food that doesn’t brown.

11. You mishandle egg whites.
Result: The whites won’t whip up. Or, overbeaten or roughly handled, they produce flat cake layers or soufflés with no lift.

12. You turn the food too often.
Result: You interfere with the sear, food sticks, or you lose the breading.

13. You don’t get the pan hot enough before you add the food.
Result: Food that sticks, scallops with no sear, pale meats.

14. You slice meat with―instead of against―the grain.
Result: Chewy meat that could have been tender.

15. You under-bake cakes and breads.
Result: Cakes, brownies, and breads turn out pallid and gummy.

16. You don’t use a meat thermometer.
Result: Your roast chicken, leg of lamb, or beef tenderloin turns out over- or under-cooked.

17. Meat gets no chance to rest after cooking.
Result: Delicious juices vacate the meat and run all over the cutting board, leaving steak or roast dry.

18. You try to rush the cooking of caramelized onions.
Result: You end up with sautéed onions, which are nice but a far cry from the melt-in-your-mouth caramelized ideal.

19. You overwork lower-fat dough.
Result: Cookies, scones, piecrusts, and biscuits turn out tough.

20. You neglect the nuts you’re toasting.
Result: Burned nuts, with a sharp, bitter flavor.

21. You don’t shock vegetables when they’ve reached the desired texture.
Result: Mush.

22. You put all the salt in the marinade or breading.
Result: Fish, poultry, or meat that’s under seasoned.

23. You pop meat straight from the fridge into the oven or onto the grill.
Food cooks unevenly: The outside is overdone, the inside rare or raw.

24. You don’t know when to abandon ship and start over.
You serve a disappointing meal. And you know it’s disappointing!

25. You use inferior ingredients.

26. Your poached eggs aren’t pretty
The typical botched poached egg is tentacled, scary, tough, overcooked.

27. Your gravy is lumpy
Lumpy gravy. Next time, whisk wisely. Meanwhile, here’s a fix.

28. Your mashed potatoes are gluey
Gluey mashed potatoes. Next time, watch the cooking time and drain well.

29. You Burn the Brown Butter
Dark and bitter butter. Next time, pay attention to the visual cues.

30. Your bacon is burnt and crinkly
Burnt and crinkly bacon. Next time, bake your bacon.


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