We all make mistakes in the kitchen — especially when we’re just starting out. But great cooks learn to be great by learning from their mistakes. Whether you’re a seasoned professional chef or a 20-something try-hard, if you’ve picked up any of these bad habits in the kitchen ditch them right now! Your cooking is suffering and you might not even know it.
1. Your knives are always dull
When you’re using a dull knife, you actually increase your risk of getting injured. A sharp knife easily slices through anything, but a dull blade needs some force. This means it’s more likely to slip out of your hand and cut you — possibly seriously.
If you don’t know how to properly sharpen a knife, no worries. You can get it done by a professional relatively cheaply.
Once sharp, remember to store them with their blades protected in knife guards. Never just toss them in a drawer — that’s an accident waiting to happen!
Also remember to cut on a cutting board to extend the life of your newly sharpened knives.
2. You don’t preheat your pans
Add a piece of meat to a pan as it’s just heating up, and you’ll notice juices start to leak out as it warms. The next thing you know, those juices will start to boil, in turn causing your meat to steam rather than sear resulting in a tough piece of meat. The same goes for veggies. Rather than a tasty sauté, you’re going to have mushy, overcooked vegetables. For crisp, flavorful veggies, they need to hit a hot pan, cook, and get out.
To get the best tasting food, heat your pan over medium-high heat until a droplet of water jumps and sizzles on the surface. Do this before adding oil, or the oil will splatter and could burn you.
After some practice you’ll get the hang of how long you need to heat your pan for it to be adequately hot. While there are a few exceptions, like bacon, chicken thighs, and caramelized onions, almost all foods you’ll make can benefit from a preheated pan.
3. You use the wrong cooking oil
Cooking oils have different smoke points, which means that the wrong choice could mean a smokey, burnt mess on your stove. For lower temperate cooking use olive oil or butter. Olive oil or coconut oil are good for medium-heat, and peanut oil or avocado oil for high-heat cooking.
4. You overcrowd the pan
Overcrowding means uneven heat distribution. This means undercooked or overcooked food all in the same dish. Yuck. Instead of stuffing the pan full of food, make two batches, or use a larger pan.
5. You don’t taste your food as you go
Maybe you skip this step because you’ve made the dish a thousand times. Regardless of your reason, you should taste your food every step of the way. This will alert you early on if something is off and then you can correct it — which is much easier to do in process than when it’s ready for plating.
6. You over-season your food
Don’t get aggressive with the salt or other seasonings. While it’s tempting to add a few more shakes for flavor, over seasoned food can be nearly inedible. Always taste your food as you go and make small adjustments (see above).
7. You under-season your food
What’s worse than over seasoned food? Arguably under seasoned food. Also, see above.
8. You overcook your meat
Dry, rubbery meat is no ones friend. Take the guess work out of cooking and buy a meat thermometer and learn the correct internal temperatures It’s a tiny investment that will drastically improve your cooking.
9. You don’t really read the recipe
Have you ever started cooking then realized that you don’t have a key ingredients? How about that you forgot an entire step? Yup. We’ve all been there. It can mean last minute holiday runs to the grocery store, or even worse, totally disastrous dishes that end up in the trash. Don’t waste your time or money if you’re not going to read the recipe.
To avoid issues, read the recipe in its entirety before you do anything. Then gather everything you will need — tools and ingredients. Double check, and only then get ready to follow along making the recipe.
10. You take the lid off of the Slow cooker
It can be tempting to check on food while it’s cooking, and of course, sometimes you have to. But resist the urge to check on food when you know there is no way it could be ready. If you’re lifting the lid of your slow cooker every half hour, you’re going to let all of that steam escape and your cook time is going to change, not to mention the taste of your food. You shouldn’t check on your slow cooker more than every 2-3 hours. That gives you a check about half way though, just to make sure it’s on track, then once at the end — possible to add cornstarch to thicken sauces, or any other adjustment you might need for the last bit of cooking.
Also see, Avoid these 10 common baking mistakes.