10 Common Kitchen Mistakes and How to Fix Them Slideshow
September 22, 2011
Not Setting Up Your Ingredients Before You Cook
If you have ever accidentally used confectioners' sugar instead of cornstarch or used salt instead of sugar, chances are you forgot to gather all your ingredients before you started cooking. The next time you start a recipe, make sure you have prepped properly and set up your mise en place. It will make you a more efficient cook and you can avoid using a cup of salt in your cake or scrambling around the kitchen trying to find the can opener.
Not Giving Yourself Enough Time to Cook
The quickest way to mess up a dish is to rush through the process. If you know that a recipe is going to take two hours from start to finish, do not start the dish an hour before dinner. Cook a meal that is going to take a shorter amount of time and tackle the more time-consuming dishes later.
Overcrowding Your Pan When Searing
The reason we brown meat is to add flavor, but if you overcrowd your pan, your meat will never brown. Because food releases moisture when it is cooking, foods that are left in a crowded pan will steam instead of searing. Cook your food in batches or use two pans so the process is faster.
Not Getting Your Pan Hot Enough
Another reason your meat might not sear properly is because you do not get your pan hot enough. If you want to properly brown your meat, make sure to get your pan hot before carefully adding your oil (make sure it is an oil with a high smoking point). Once your oil starts to shimmer, then you can add your meat to the pan. Also, make sure to pat your meat dry with a paper towel before you sear it.
Using Old Ingredients
It is tempting to keep ingredients like old dried herbs and baking powder that has been around longer than Greys Anatomy, but using old dried herbs or baking powder will make your food taste bland and prevent your cake from rising. Dried herbs should only be kept for about six months because after that they lose their flavor. Baking power that is kept in a cool, dry place lasts for about three to six months. Also avoid using frost-bitten meat, dried-out cheeses, and wine that has gone bad. In order to avoid throwing away food, buy smaller quantities.
Overcooking Your Vegetables
Overcooking vegetables can ruin a meal faster than guests who forgot to tell you that this week they are meat, gluten, and dairy free right before you serve your spaghetti carbonara.
You can avoid limp broccoli and soggy carrots by cooking them (separately) in a large pot filled with rapidly boiling, salted water. When the vegetables are finished (they should have a vibrant color and still be firm), shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process. This will prevent your vegetables from overcooking.
Oversalting Your Food
There are a couple of ways to make sure you avoid oversalting your food. The best method is to taste your food as you go and factor in salty ingredients like cheese before adding salt to your food. But even if you have taken these precautions and your food still tastes like a salt lick, there are a couple of things you can do to make your food seem less salty.
First, try to trick your tongue into thinking the food is less salty by adding acids like vinegar or lemon juice to your food. Another trick is to add a little sugar to your food. If you are making soups or broth, adding water will help. Do not bother trying to add potatoes to salty dishes because it does not work and picking potatoes out of your tomato sauce is not fun.
Cooking Cold Meat
If you are puzzled by why your meat is raw on the inside and overcooked on the outside, it is probably because you are cooking cold meat. Next time, bring your meat to room temperature before you start cooking. This applies to every piece of meat that you cook (and fish too).
Not Sifting Ingredients to Remove Lumps
There is nothing quite as disheartening as cutting into your beautiful cake and discovering clumps of brown sugar or cocoa powder in the middle. In order to avoid clumps in your cake and other baked goods, you should sift brown sugar and cocoa powder to remove all the lumps so that they do not bake into your pastries.
Here is a bonus tip: When it comes to sifting your dry ingredients together, you can probably skip this step and use a whisk or food processor instead. They are better at evenly distributing things like salt, baking powder, or baking soda into the flour.
Measuring Your Ingredients When Baking
If you cannot figure out why your cookies are soft and chewy one day and dry and brittle the next day, it is probably because you are not weighing out your ingredients. Weighing your dry ingredients is the only way to ensure that your baked goods are always consistent, because the weight of a cup of flour can vary by nearly two ounces. Scales are relatively inexpensive and they will make you a better baker.