Most people cook, to some extent, on a daily basis and everyone was instructed from some source whether it was a cooking show or their grandmother. Along the way, many kitchen mistakes have been passed from person to person. Some were thought to be useful or time-saving ideas, while others have simply become habits over the years. So how do you know what’s wrong and what’s right when making your next meal? Here are just a few tips on common missteps you may be taking every day in your kitchen and how they can be solved .
Blunder #1: Putting oil in your pasta water
Why it’s wrong: When you first started cooking, chances are one of your first dishes was pasta of some sort. More than likely you were told to add a little oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Makes sense right? Wrong! Adding oil to your pasta water actually doesn’t do any good for the pasta itself. At best the oil will float on top of the water (remember how oil and water don’t mix?) and at worst it will coat the pasta and prevent any sauce from being absorbed.
How to fix it: Instead of using oil, you can prevent your pasta from sticking by doing one simple thing…stirring regularly. It’s also a smart move to use a pot that is large enough for the amount of pasta.
Blunder #2: Don’t overcrowd
Why it’s wrong: You’ve done it before. You, your family, etc. are starving and you want to just throw everything in the pan and get it cooked up fast. What’s so wrong about getting your stomach full faster? Well, overcrowding your pan does a few bad things. First, the more food you have in the pan, the lower your pan temperature goes. This can lead to undercooking some pieces while others get burnt and ends up actually making your cooking take longer. Second, it can actually change the flavor of what you’re cooking (especially if different elements are being cooked together).
How to fix it: Cook your food in batches. While it may seem like it takes longer, your pan will actually stay at the desired temperature ensuring that all ingredients are done to the correct degree and preventing re-cooking or burning.
Tool for the job: Grab a Vollrath Nonstick CeramiGuard II Finish Pan. Remembering to not overcrowd the pan plus cooking on a non-stick surface will help make sure your food is cooked evenly and isn’t burnt on the bottom.
Blunder #3: Don’t turn food too often
Why it’s wrong: It’s tempting to turn your food to prevent it from burning and to ensure that both sides get cooked equally. However, the more you move the food the less time it’s actually getting to cook. While it doesn’t seem like much time for the food item to be away from the pan, because food is cooked by laying on the hot pan, when it is moved the food has to reheat itself to bring it back up to the correct cooking temperature.
How to fix it: There is one simple tool that can prevent frivolous flipping, a meat thermometer. This tool will allow you to check the temperature on the food to know when it should be flipped. It’s also helpful to know the general rules on how hot to cook your food and how long on each side. Go here for a nice guide.
Tool for the job: Instead of turning your meat repeatedly to see if it’s done, it much safer to use a meat thermometer like the Cooper Atkins Dial Meat Thermometer to check the meat’s temperature. This will help you keep from overcooking and keep your steaks (and other items) juicy and delicious.
Blunder #4: Not tasting your food
as you go
Why it’s wrong: You’ve followed the recipe and put in exactly what was instructed. Of course, it should taste great and be seasoned perfectly. In a perfect world, this would be true. However, in the real world, everybody’s taste preferences are different. By simply going by instruction you could end up with food that is totally bland or way over seasoned.
How to fix it: The easiest way to fix this is to taste and then season as you go. While it may seem like common sense, you have to season a little, taste and adjust. By doing this you’ll not only make a dish that works with your tastes, you may also create your own version of a great recipe. It’s also smart to follow seasoning guidelines about fresh and dried herbs. Sounds easy enough, but if you substitute one for the other it could increase/decrease the desired taste outcome. If you happen to accidently over-season a dish, there are also ways to fix these by using this handy guide.
Blunder #5: Not using an appropriately sharp knife
Why it’s wrong: It’s often thought that by using a duller knife you’ll be less likely to cut yourself. In fact, the exact opposite is true. By using a knife with a sharp blade you will have to use less pressure to cut food and the blade will be less likely to slip through what you’re cutting. Sharp knives will also ensure better, cleaner cuts to food, making more consistent, visually pleasing incisions.
How to fix it: It may be tempting to go out and buy new, expensive knives to fix this mistake, but it isn’t always necessary. Just because a blade is pricey doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well. The best advice is to buy a sharpening tool to keep up on your knife’s blade. Taking care of your knife is also important. Make sure to use either wood or plastic cutting boards, wash and dry the blade right after use and store them in their own area.
Tool for the job: Purchase a Mundial 7 Piece Knife Set to make sure you have every cutlery tool you will need to cook just like a professional. It even includes a sharpening steel so you can always ensure that your cutlery is up to snuff and your food will be sliced, chopped and diced with ease.
Now that you have these handy tips, try them out in your own kitchen and see if things go a bit more smoothly (no more cutting yourself due to a dull knife) and your food taste just a little better (undoubtedly your steaks will be juicier). You might also want to pass these tricks of the trade on (maybe to that person who taught them to you) to help start new kitchen habits.