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.
Result:
Food cooks unevenly: The outside is overdone, the inside rare or raw.

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

25. You use inferior ingredients.
Result:
Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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