How A Seasoned Chef Avoids The Most Common Cooking BlundersBy Sunny Eldon
Cooking is an elegant form of self-expression and can bring joy to both the chef and those served. However, it is common for even the most experienced chefs to make mistakes in the kitchen. It can be frustrating and ruin an otherwise delicious dish if you make a cooking blooper, from burning the roast to overtiring the soup.
In spite of this, there is no need to worry, these common mistakes can easily be avoided by following a few simple techniques and tricks. This article will explore some of the most common kitchen blunders and provide tips on preventing them. As a matter of fact, some of these might even come as a shock to you considering how common they are now.
Blunder: Preheating The Pan Before Cooking Bacon
Interestingly, preparing bacon without preheating the pan is what experts recommend to get the best results. Many people grease the pan with oil and preheat it before frying, but it is unnecessary because starting with a cold pan will allow for slow and steady cooking, which is the best way to prepare bacon.
Following that method helps the fat to render slowly and results in an evenly cooked strip of bacon with consistent texture, as opposed to the unevenly cooked morsel one may get by preheating the pan with oil. In addition, when starting with a cold pan, ensure the bacon strips don’t overlap.
Blunder: Choosing The Wrong Bread For French Toast
Allison Robicelli, chef and writer at The Takeout, says not all bread is suitable for making great French toast. The thickness plays a crucial role, as thin slices are not ideal for the best results. When preparing French toast, it is recommended to use a slightly stale, dense bread, such as brioche, challah, or Texas toast.
Those types absorb the custard mixture well, resulting in a rich and creamy texture. Soft, fresh loaves, like white sandwich bread, can become mushy when soaked in the mixture. Also, using thicker cut slices will allow for a crispy exterior and a soft interior.
Blunder: Cooking Cold Eggs
According to Chef Robert Irvine, it is recommended to let eggs sit at room temperature for four to five minutes before frying, despite the common belief that egg temperature doesn’t matter. When fried straight from the fridge, they tend to contract rapidly due to the temperature difference between them and the hot cooking medium.
This rapid contraction causes the eggs to stick to the pan and break apart, ruining their appearance. On the other hand, when they are allowed to reach room temperature before frying, the process is smoother, and the dish cooks evenly, resulting in a better texture and appearance.
Blunder: Frying Bacon Flat
If you enjoy incorporating pork into daily meals and have yet to try the twisted bacon hack, you’re missing out. If you thought frying bacon flat was the only way, you’re wrong! This hack is a simple yet innovative way to elevate the flavor. By twisting each slice before frying, it becomes more compact, allowing it to cook more evenly and become crispier.
Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram feature numerous videos of chefs presenting twisted bacon as tasty as fillet steak. The twisting motion creates crispy pockets of salty, fatty, and savory goodness that burst with flavor with each bite.
Blunder: Cracking Eggs On The Rim of a Bowl
Cracking eggs is an essential step in many recipes. Using the rim of a bowl is a standard method and requires tapping the egg until it breaks, but this can introduce eggshell fragments into the mixture, introduce bacteria, and compromise the recipe.
The best way to crack an egg is still to use the edge of a flat surface, but a countertop is best. Gently tap it on the surface until a crack forms; then, holding the egg above the bowl, apply more pressure to widen the crack and open it. That way, shell fragments are unlikely to enter the mixture.
Blunder: Pan-frying Raw Sausage
Pan-frying raw sausages is a common mistake as it can result in distorted and potentially deformed meat. To avoid that, use a steamer pot filled with 0.8 inches of boiling water and steam them for 15 minutes. Steaming first allows for a gentler frying method that cooks them evenly, resulting in juicier and more tender meat.
Additionally, steaming helps to release any excess fat, which can be drained off before pan frying. Not only does this lead to healthier sausages, but it also prevents them from splattering and making a mess in the pan while frying. All that’s left is to sear them to the desired crispiness.
Blunder: Whisking Eggs Too Quickly
Whisking eggs properly is essential for making fluffy and delicious scrambles. According to The Spruce Eats, achieving a restaurant-style scramble requires thorough and even whisking of the eggs. This enhances their fluffiness and softness by incorporating more air into the mixture. The resulting trapped air bubbles increase the volume of the eggs and make them visually appealing.
To properly do this, crack eggs into a bowl and beat them until the yolks and whites are well combined and the mixture is a uniform color. You can even add a pinch of salt and a splash of milk to enhance the flavor and texture.
Blunder: Avoiding Nonstick Pans
Eggs are a staple food in many households and can be made in various ways. However, small cooking mistakes can affect their taste and appearance. A nonstick pan is the best option to ensure they are adequately cooked and maintain their form.
With a nonstick pan, flipping the eggs is quick and effortless, and the yolk remains intact. It is also recommended to use a nonstick pan to prevent burning, as eggs tend to stick to the pan. Using other pans may result in dry, overcooked eggs that won’t live up to expectations. A great breakfast starts with a good pan.
Blunder: Insufficient Fat for Cooking Eggs
Fats have a bad reputation, but not all of them are the same. While using a nonstick pan for cooking eggs is advisable, adding butter enhances the flavor. The grease actually serves a dual purpose; not only does it add flavor, but it also helps lubricate the pan. Cooking eggs without enough oil can lead to dry, rubbery, and undesirable results.
Good fats, such as butter, help fry the egg evenly and thoroughly and also makes a healthy combination for children. Although butter is high in calories and saturated fat, it also contains fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Blunder: Not Storing Fried Bacon in the Freezer
It is rare to have leftover bacon after cooking, but if it does happen, it is essential to know how to properly store the prepared strips to ensure they stay fresh and delicious. The first step is to avoid storing them in the refrigerator. Instead, place it in the freezer to extend its shelf life.
However, more than simply placing the meat in the freezer is required to guarantee freshness. For the best results, wrap each strip of bacon in a single sheet of paper towel, then place them into a ziplock bag. The bacon can remain fresh for up to six weeks when stored this way.
Blunder: Overmixing Eggs in Pound Cakes
Preparing a pound cake for an evening feast requires attention to the batter’s consistency. Overmixing eggs when preparing the cakes can result in a dense and tough texture with a tendency to crumble. When they are beaten too much, their proteins denature and turn dry. Thankfully, we can still salvage them by adding another fresh egg to the mix.
To avoid overmixing, it’s essential to beat the eggs just until they combine with the other ingredients. In the case of pound cakes, where the eggs provide structure, it’s crucial to be gentle so the cake rises appropriately and has a tender, light texture.
Blunder: Always Adding Milk Or Cream To Scrambled Eggs
For lighter and more flavorful scrambles, many chefs add milk. Yet, it’s essential to consider the color of the yolk before adding the milk. If the yolk is orange, there’s no need to add milk. Adding milk or cream can make them more tender and creamy, but it can also dilute their flavor.
Excessive milk can cause the eggs to become rubbery, leading to difficulties handling them. Additionally, some people prefer their taste when prepared without dairy, as the eggs provide enough richness and flavor. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and desired outcome, as both versions can be delicious.
Blunder: Forgetting About Topping Variety
Hosting a gathering at home? Consider keeping chili con carne on the menu. It’s budget-friendly and offers a variety of toppings to suit everyone’s taste preferences. You can customize the flavor by adding cocoa powder for a sweet touch or jalapeños for a spicy kick. The key with chili is appropriately timing the seasoning to ensure a thick, hearty consistency.
For a classic Texas red chili, mix onion, pepper, garlic, tomato, and spices. Additionally, you can add crackers, cornbread, or rice to make the dish even more filling. Chili is not only delicious but also very versatile and can be made in a slow cooker or on the stove.
Blunder: Not Soaking Potatoes Before Making Homemade French Fries
According to Food & Wine, to achieve crisp French fries, sliced and rinsed potatoes should be soaked in water overnight. This removes the starch on the potato surface, which could cause stickiness. And for many chefs, that step is crucial. Some disagree with it, though, and suggest partially cooking the potatoes before frying to eliminate additional sugar and brown the fries to a crispy finish.
Although both methods aim to produce delicious and crispy homemade French fries, soaking potatoes overnight has additional benefits. In addition to removing excess starch, it also helps to prevent the potato from turning dark during the frying process.
Blunder: Improper Seasoning of Pasta Sauce
Many of us prefer using store-bought pasta sauces containing fresh garlic, bell peppers, browned onions, dried basil, and oregano. However, making a delicious sauce at home is easy. Properly seasoning homemade pasta sauce is vital for a delightful and flavorful dish. So using fresh herbs instead of dried ones can significantly enhance the flavor.
Start with adding salt, as it helps to bring out the flavors of other ingredients. Then add the same herbs in the commercially sold sauces if you like. But remember not to add too much at once, as correcting the flavor later on can be challenging.
Blunder: Oil Overuse For Hash Browns
Excessive use of oil in preparing hash browns can result in a soggy texture and a less appetizing dish. Fat can also add some unwanted calories and negatively impact the health benefits of the meal. Instead of using a large amount of oil, consider using a minimal amount or alternative options, such as clarified butter, which can provide a crispier result.
Additionally, using the correct type of potato and removing excess starch also contributes to the overall crispiness of the dish. One can enjoy a delicious and healthier breakfast dish by reducing oil usage and focusing on proper preparation techniques.
Blunder: Avoiding Microwaving Bacon
Microwaving bacon is a quick and easy way to prepare it without making much of a mess. Despite the common belief that microwaves are only suitable for certain foods like popcorn or macaroni and cheese, we can actually produce tasty, crispy bacon with them. Simply place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels and cover it with another sheet.
Microwave at a high temperature for about five minutes, depending on the amount and desired crispiness. Make sure to check on it every 30 seconds to avoid over-cooking. This method also helps reduce the amount of fat in the pork as the towel will absorb it.
Blunder: Not Checking Egg Freshness
Fresh eggs, straight from the farm, have a taste and texture that’s far superior to those that have been refrigerated. This is because they have higher water content and lower air cells, resulting in a creamier yolk and firmer white. They also contain more vitamins and minerals, which are essential for overall health.
Interestingly, the fresher the egg, the easier it is to separate the yolk from the white, making them easier to prepare. It’s not even recommended to store them for an extended period as it can lead to bacterial growth that can penetrate the shell, making the eggs inedible.
Blunder: Preparing Omelets in a Regular Pan
Making omelets in a regular pan can be a challenge. It’s quite different from making scrambled eggs. To achieve an omelet, make sure the pan is coated with a non-stick spray, or just use a non-stick pan. Heat the pan over medium heat before adding a small amount of oil or butter.
As the pan heats, crack and beat the eggs in a bowl and pour when the pan is hot. According to chefs, let the batter settle and begin hardening, then flip and fold it once or twice after all the liquid has dried. Using non-stick utensils as well will make the flipping easier.
Blunder: Using a Ladle for Pancakes
Making pancakes with a ladle is a common mistake, leading to uneven cooking. The batter is not spread evenly, resulting in either being too thin or too thick in some areas. The spoon also often leaves clumps in the batter, which cause irregular shapes resulting in undercooked or burnt pancakes.
To make this food perfectly, it is recommended to use a spatula or a large spoon to spread the batter evenly and smoothly. Alternatively, according to Lifehacker, using a squeeze bottle will deliver batter with a consistent pour rate and sizing, ensuring that each pancake has the same consistency and thickness with no drips.
Blunder: Cooking Pork Without Using Water
Using water while cooking pork is a unique and effective cooking method that has several benefits, yet many people don’t do it. Chefs say that this method makes the pork more juicy and succulent by retaining its moisture. And the water temperature regulates the heat, preventing it from getting too hot and burning.
Additionally, the water helps to render the fat from the pork and eliminates the need for any extra oil, resulting in a healthier and leaner dish that is less greasy. Considering all these benefits, using water while cooking pork should be the norm rather than traditional cooking methods.
Blunder: Overboiling Eggs
Overcooking egg is a common mistake that results in rubbery or dry yolks and whites. This occurs when the heat is too high, or the eggs are left cooking too long. To avoid it, it’s recommended to use low to medium heat and to keep a close eye on the cooking process.
For soft-boiled eggs, boil for about three to five minutes; for over-easy or sunny-side up, heat for two to three minutes on each side; and for scrambles, fry until just set but still moist. Another helpful tip is to remove eggs from the heat just before they’re fully ready, as the residual heat will continue to cook them.
Blunder: Making Pancakes Without Using A Scoop
Making perfect pancakes can be a breeze with the right tool. A measuring cup is not ideal for this task, as it doesn’t provide a consistent portion or pour. Instead, chefs recommend using an ice cream scoop for the perfect pancake. The scoop allows for even portioning of the batter and a smooth pour into the pan, resulting in an evenly crispy pancake every time.
Not only is the scoop great for pancakes, but it is also a handy tool for portioning biscuits, cookie dough, and other side dishes. So, ditch the measuring cup and opt for an ice cream scoop for the perfect pancakes.
Blunder: Always Eating Ready-made Foods
Ready-made foods, although convenient for saving time, are not the best option for a healthy and balanced diet. These foods are often high in preservatives, sodium, and added sugars, contributing to various health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Additionally, these foods tend to be low in nutrients, as the processing and cooking methods used to preserve them often result in the loss of valuable vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, home-cooked meals allow individuals to control their eating, leading to a more balanced diet. It’s best not to rely on ready-made foods as a regular source of nutrition.
Blunder: Staying Away From All Fats
It is a common misconception that all oils harm our health. However, it is essential to differentiate between unsaturated and saturated fats. Unsaturated fats in foods such as avocados, nuts, and fatty fish, benefit our health in moderation. They can ease inflammation, improve blood cholesterol levels and stabilize heart rhythms.
On the other hand, saturated fats, found in cheese and red meat, can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease if consumed in excess. To avoid unsaturated fats, it is recommended to limit the intake of processed foods and opt for whole, unprocessed foods rich in healthier oils.
Blunder: Not Adding Variety To Breakfast
Having a variety of options for breakfast is crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. It helps to ensure you get all the essential nutrients your body needs to start the day strong. Consuming different foods from different food groups can also prevent boredom and promote adherence to a healthy eating pattern.
A varied breakfast can also introduce new flavors and ingredients, leading to a more exciting and enjoyable meal. Mixing up foods is important for good health and reduces the risk factors for diseases. Moreover, it also improves good bacteria in the gut that helps with losing weight.
Blunder: Not Regularly Flipping the Bacon
It is not recommended to keep bacon simmering on one side until it’s fully cooked. Instead, it would help if you flip it repeatedly for a better result. Continuously flipping is a cooking technique that involves flipping the bacon strips frequently, usually every 15 to 30 seconds, until they are even and crispy on both sides.
It should be kept in mind that using tongs is better than using a fork for rotating the side of the bacon strips. The continuous flipping also helps prevent it from burning, as well as rendering out excess fat. However, it requires more attention compared to traditional methods.
Blunder: Eating Breakfast When Not Hungry
Eating breakfast when not hungry is a mistake because it can interfere with the body’s natural hunger signals. When we eat without feeling hungry, we may be ignoring our body’s signal to rest and digest, leading to overeating and weight gain. Additionally, it can also disrupt the digestive process, leading to discomfort and digestive issues.
By waiting until we feel hungry, we can ensure that our bodies are ready to metabolize the food we consume and help us feel more satisfied and energized after eating. To maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to listen to our body and eat when we are actually hungry.
Blunder: Overdoing Scrambled Eggs
Overcooking scrambled eggs can result in tough, rubbery, and dry eggs that are unappetizing. This is because heat causes the proteins in the eggs to denature and coagulate, resulting in moisture loss and a change in texture. To prevent that, it’s best to fry the eggs over low heat and stir them constantly until they are just set but still slightly runny.
This allows the eggs to cook evenly and retain their moisture and flavor. Another tip is to remove the eggs from the heat just before they are fully prepared, as the residual heat will continue to fry them.
Blunder: Making Coffee You Don’t Love
Experts have emphasized the importance of proper coffee grinding for optimal taste. Grinding coffee is an essential step in brewing the perfect cup. And the grind size determines the flavor, strength, and extraction time of the beverage. A fine grind is best for espresso, while a medium grind is suitable for drip coffee makers, and a coarse grind is for French presses.
It’s important to use a consistent grind for optimal extraction and a burr grinder instead of a blade grinder for a more consistent result. Experimenting with grind size and brew time can also help find the perfect taste.
Blunder: Immediately Peeling Eggs After Boiling
Peeling boiled eggs can sometimes be challenging, but following a few simple steps can make the process much easier. After boiling the eggs, immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water and let them cool for a few minutes. Don’t start peeling them right after cooking because the eggs will still burn inside their shells.
After icing and cooling them, the eggs contract slightly, making the shell easier to remove. Then, gently tap the egg on a hard surface to crack the shell. Roll the egg between your hands to loosen the cover, then peel it off from the large end.
Blunder: Exposing Coffee Beans to Air
The best way to store coffee beans to prevent exposure to air and preserve the taste and aroma is to use an airtight container made of a material that blocks light, such as metal or ceramic. Oxygen and light exposure can cause solubles in the beans to oxidize and reduce their flavor and freshness.
Store the container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. Keeping the container in a pantry or cupboard is ideal. Additionally, it is best to buy coffee beans in small quantities and to use them within a few weeks of purchase to ensure optimal freshness.
Blunder: Always Choosing Juice over Whole Fruits
Fruits are renowned for their nutritional components, particularly fiber, crucial for good health and disease prevention. Juice lacks the fiber fruits have and often contains added sugars, making them less nutritionally balanced. However, consuming juice can still be a part of a healthy diet in moderation, especially if made with various fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious ingredients, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
However, eating whole fruits is more beneficial than consuming them in processed forms like juices. Although these forms might taste better, excessive sugar can negatively impact tooth health and weight management, leading to many medical issues.
Blunder: Seasoning Scrambled Eggs At The Wrong Time
Scrambled egg preparation varies globally. Determining the perfect time to season scrambles can be challenging because it depends on personal preference and cooking methods. Some people season theirs before cooking, while others wait until after. But Bon Appétit suggests adding seasonings while whisking the eggs to enhance flavor and make them softer.
Although adding salt before cooking can cause the eggs to become rigid and rubbery, it does help them retain moisture. And the longer the eggs are left salted before cooking, the more moist and tender they can get. Another tip is to add salt to the whisked eggs 15 minutes before cooking for optimal taste.
Blunder: Not Washing Fruits Before Eating
Eating unwashed fruits can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria and other contaminants. These contaminants can be present on the surface of the fruit due to exposure to soil, water, and other environmental factors. To minimize the risk, it’s recommended to wash fruits thoroughly under running water before consuming them.
Some fruits with thick skin can be peeled to avoid consuming any surface contaminants. However, it’s still advisable to wash them first. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service note that dirt on raw foods such as fruits contains millions of harmful bacteria that can harm specific organs in the human body.
Blunder: Cooking Bacon on Scorching Heat
Make the most delicious bacon by slowly rendering its grease, and avoid cooking it on high heat, as experts advise. The key is to go slow for the best results. Cooking it on medium-low heat is the best approach because high heat risks burning the meal and causes the fat to render too quickly, making it shrink and become rigid.
On the other hand, medium-low heat allows the bacon to cook slowly, which helps it to fry evenly and prevents it from shrinking too much. Thin bacon strips only take three to four minutes per side, so there’s no need to rush. The lower temperature also brings out the flavor properly.
Blunder: Cooking Frozen Meats
The secret to juicy, flavorful, and delicious meat is to let it reach room temperature before cooking. Cooking frozen meat can lead to uneven cooking, as the outside may cook too quickly while the inside remains raw. Allowing it to reach room temperature lets the meat cook more evenly. But that simple step serves more purposes.
Besides ensuring evenly cooked meat, thawing helps restore its natural scent and taste. Additionally, it helps retain the nutrients lost if it is immediately put in the pan straight from the fridge. Not to mention that cooking frozen beef takes longer, which increases the risk of bacteria growth.
Blunder: Not Including Vegetables In Your Diet
For optimal health, it’s important to include vegetables in our diets. Vegetables provide numerous health benefits because they are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also low in calories and fat, making them an excellent option for weight management. Eating various colorful veggies can help ensure you get a balanced intake of nutrients.
In addition, studies have shown that consuming more vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Try adding them to salads, stir-fries, or roasted as a side dish. Make sure to aim for at least five servings of vegetables per day.
Blunder: Thinking The Oven Is Not Meant For Bacon
The idea that pan-fried bacon is the best is only accurate for small portions. When preparing for a large gathering, cooking it in the oven instead of a pan is a great option. Oven-baked bacon is convenient and saves time, as we can cook multiple strips at once.
To make it, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the bacon strips in a single layer and bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy. This method eliminates the need to stand over the stove and constantly flip the bacon, freeing up time to attend to other kitchen tasks.
Blunder: Believing Granola Is Always Healthy
Granola is a breakfast food made of oats, nuts, and sweeteners such as brown sugar or honey. It may also have puffed, toasted, or baked rice. The ingredients are blended during baking for evenness and to prevent burning. Granola is often marketed as a healthy option, but this is only sometimes the case.
Many commercially available granolas contain high sugar, fat, and calories, often in the form of added syrups and sweeteners. While it offers numerous benefits, excessive consumption can lead to weight gain. Additionally, some granolas are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, making them less filling and less nutrient-dense than other options.
Blunder: Not Salting Pasta Water Well Enough
To prepare flavorful pasta, avoid the mistake of undersalting the boiling water. The water should be salted generously, with about one to two tablespoons of salt per quart of water. Not salting it properly results in a bland and tasteless meal. The salt helps enhance its flavor and prevent it from sticking together while cooking.
When cooking pasta, it is crucial to bring the water to a boil before adding the salt and then the pasta. Properly salted water will have a slightly salty taste, similar to seawater. Without enough salt, the meal will not have enough flavor to stand on its own and may not absorb the sauce properly.
Blunder: Disposing of Leftover Bacon Grease
Many kitchens now have a jar of bacon grease, the residual fat from cooking bacon. Leftover bacon grease should be saved and used for cooking various dishes. It adds a rich and smoky flavor to anything it is used in. Some popular uses include frying eggs, roasting vegetables, and making candles.
It can also be stored in a container and kept in the refrigerator for later use. But it’s important to strain the grease to remove any bits of bacon before storing it, as these can become rancid over time. It should also never be poured down the sink because it can solidify and clog the pipes.
Blunder: Poaching by Breaking Eggs Directly into Water
Making a perfectly poached egg can be easy. Despite debates on the best method, many only fail because they crack the egg directly into the water. And experts do not recommend breaking them directly into boiling water. Doing so can cause the whites to scatter and become difficult to remove from the pot, making them harder to cook evenly.
When poaching an egg, keeping the white intact is one of the most challenging aspects. It is better to crack each of them into a cup or bowl and then gently lower them into the boiling water one at a time.