8 Common Cooking Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

You’ll never have to throw in the towel again with these easy fixes to avoiding dinnertime disasters
How To: Use Your Knife

Chef Todd English shows you how to handle your kitchen knife.

8 Common Cooking Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)


An organized kitchen can prevent common cooking mistakes.

We've all done it… burned the dinner, forgotten to buy an ingredient or measured incorrectly.

Dinnertime frustration is no fun. By the end of the day, you just want to enjoy a home cooked meal and some quality family time. Luckily, some of the most frustrating moments in the kitchen can actually be avoided with a bit of a magic ingredient: organization. Fortunately, a few smart planning tips — from a well-placed wall decal to cleaning up old messes before making a new one — can ease your cooking process each evening.

The Missing Ingredient

Lea Schneider

With the help of a white board reminder, you will never forget another ingredient.

1.Problem: The Missing Ingredient

You’ve got the sauce simmering on the stove, but as you dig around in the pantry you discover that there isn’t any spaghetti. Now you have two choices: Scrap the whole thing, or turn off the stove and head to the store.

The Fix:
Keep a wipe-off board or chalkboard in the kitchen and use it to jot down your grocery list in real time. When you realize you’ve grabbed the last package of spaghetti in the pantry, add it to the list right then and there.

Posting a weekly menu is also a great help in the kitchen. If you plan for a whole week’s worth of meals instead of going to the store and grabbing whatever looks good, you’ll drastically reduce shopping time. The act of writing down the menu is a great trigger for remembering items to add to your shopping list.

2.Problem: Something Always Seems to Go Wrong with Recipes

From the chicken being undercooked to the rice getting burned, every cook has experienced something going awry. It’s the worst when you seem to have one issue after another.

The Fix:
It sounds terribly simple, but the solution is to read the recipe all the way from start to finish before doing a single thing. Too often we read in starts and stops. We read a line or two and jump into action without comprehending the details.

2.	Problem: Something Always Seems to Go Wrong with Recipes

Lea Schneider

Get organized by assembling your mise en place before cooking.

3.Problem: Forgetting to Add an Ingredient

There’s a lot going on in the typical kitchen. It’s easy to get distracted and forget to add an essential ingredient to a dish.

The Fix:
Adding a little French to your vocabulary will help you remember ingredients. The practice of “mise en place,” meaning “setting everything in its place,” will save the day. Before you start in on any recipe, gather and prepare the ingredients.

Problem: Confusing Your Measurements

Lea Schneider

This kitchen decal displays common measurement conversions.

4.Problem: Confusing Your Measurements

Probably one of the worst kitchen mistakes I ever made was confusing how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. Since I was working with cayenne pepper in a shrimp Creole dish, I set my guests on fire.

The Fix:
Post common kitchen measurements on your wall. This is a great tip for new cooks and for busy families. Having an easy-to-read chart handy will prevent any snafus like mine. Consider an attractive, premade wall decal you can place on the inside of cabinet doors or on the wall next to counters to have a quick reference always on hand.

5.Problem: Measuring Like a TV Chef

After watching cooking shows on television, you may come to the conclusion that a real chef doesn’t measure — so you don’t need to either. Just a dash of this and a touch of that… and you find yourself in flavor trouble.

The Fix:
You’ll have fewer kitchen mistakes if you use measuring spoons and cups and follow the exact amounts recipes call for.

Discovering Your Produce is Less Than Fresh

Lea Schneider

Store vegetables in your fridge's crisper drawer.

6.Problem: Discovering Your Produce is Less Than Fresh

You are happily preparing dinner, only to reach into the produce bin and discover the cucumber has turned mushy. Not only are you now frustrated about completing your recipe, but also you are mad about the wasted money.

The Fix:
Adjust your menu to your produce purchases. Make a plan to prepare meals early in the week that contain produce with a short shelf life. Use the longer-lasting produce later in the week. Be sure to store produce in a dry place. Check that your refrigerator crisper’s temperature is set for produce.

7.Problem: The Expiration Date Arrived

You’ve got a pantry full of food… or so you thought. You open up a package of food only to discover it looks really odd and aren’t sure if you should eat it. Food products have an expiration date for a reason!

The Fix:
Think like a grocery store and stock your pantry by placing new items in the back. You are more likely to remember to consume items in the front first.

There’s a Backlog in the Kitchen

Lea Schneider 

Clean as you go to keep kitchen messes manageable.

8.Problem: There’s a Backlog in the Kitchen

One kitchen mistake that can really keep you from cooking is having to clean up a mess before you even begin.

The Fix:
Load dishes into the dishwasher. Wash anything that didn’t fit. Wipe off all counters. Then, set yourself up for success next meal. While you cook, fill the sink with hot, soapy water and clean as you go. Wipe up spills and splatters. Scrub pots as you finish with them or place them in the sink of water to soak.


Lea Schneider loves to be organized, whether in the kitchen or elsewhere in her Nashville, Tennessee, ranch home. A nationally well-known storage maven, Lea writes on her expertise for Home Depot. To view Home Depot's selection of kitchen decals, including helpful organizational types discussed by Lea, you can visit Home Depot's website.