No matter the culinary skill you possess, mistakes in the kitchen are unavoidable — whether you are a novice cook just starting down the path of fire and flavor or a master chef with a knife collection worth thousands. Cooking is an art and an accumulation of skills, but no matter how much experience one has, you never stop learning how to cook.
There are however, a few foods that people tend to cook incorrectly, or at least not the very best way possible. These aren’t ironclad (or even all-clad) rules, however, and many of them do boil down to preference (looking at you, lasagna). So please, take these tips with a grain of salt (more if it’s steak) and discover how you’ve been cooking these particular] foods all wrong.
Almost everyone loves bacon, but are you cooking it correctly and allowing it to live up to its fullest and most delicious potential? Like so many things, there seems to be a million different ways to cook bacon properly, but which it the best? One method that some people swear by uses water — that’s right, water — in the pan as the bacon cooks and promises an end result of bacon that is perfectly crisp with evenly rendered fat and no disappointingly undercooked areas.
If cooking bacon in water is too outlandish for your tastes, and you’re in search of a method that assures your bacon will cook evenly and effortlessly, then take a tip from professional kitchens and use the oven rather than the stove. Simply lay out the bacon in a single layer onto a wire rack (over a foil-lined baking tray so you don’t make a mess) and cook the bacon in a very hot oven (preheated to 400 degrees F) for about 15 minutes, or until the bacon reaches your preferred level of doneness. And that’s all there is to it — easy peasy!
Yes, you are making baked potatoes all wrong. That may seem like an outrageous accusation, but it’s just a fact. If you bake your potatoes all wrapped up in foil, then you are simply not making the most delicious baked potato (one of the most perfect ways to cook a potato in the first place) possible. Sure the fluffy middle of a baked potato is fab, but if you aren’t enjoying a crispy, salty potato skin, slathered in butter, what’s even the point?
To get the most out of your baked potatoes, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F, and while it’s getting rip-roaringly hot, prep the potatoes. You want to use good baking spuds — russets are ideal! Wash each potato, prick it all over with a fork and then sprinkle generously with kosher salt — that will make your potatoes taste delicious and yield an unbeatable crispy skin that will be the highlight of the whole potato experience. Bake the salt-covered potatoes as they are, on a lined baking tray for about an hour, turning them over about halfway through to ensure even cooking, until the skins are dry and crispy and a when you give them a squeeze they feel soft and almost spongy. Enjoy with liberal amount of good-quality butter or your favorite toppings.
Boiled eggs are a staple in many a household, and for good reason — they’re a tasty, convenient on-the-go snack, and they’re easy to make… as long as you aren’t making some of these small but mighty mistakes. Sure you could just boil up some water, throw in a few eggs and hope for the best, but to make the best boiled eggs possible, stick to some easy guidelines. First of all, know what kind of egg your are seeking to make — soft-boiled, jammy or hard — and then take a few extra seconds to look up the cooking time if you are unsure how long an egg takes to reach that desired stage of doneness. Typically six minutes will yield a soft-boiled egg, 8 minutes a jammy egg, and 12 minutes will be perfectly hard-boiled. When it comes to boiling, make sure the pot being used is large enough and that the water is actually at a rolling boil before dropping in the eggs. All done? Great, now set a timer. The difference between a perfect egg and a disappointing one is literally a minute or two, so don’t leave anything to chance. Finally, if you aren’t eating the eggs hot, make sure to cool them down, once cooked, in an ice bath and avoid those unsightly grey rings around the yolk.
There’s a lot that can go wrong when cooking burgers — from buying the wrong kind of meat, to over-seasoning, overworking the mixture and forming it incorrectly — and that’s before you even begin cooking! Once the grill or cast-iron pan is fired up and ready to sear, make sure you aren’t fussing over the burgers and turning them every few minutes — you want to leave them and allow a tasty crust to form. And don’t even think about pressing them with all your might — that’s a sure-fire way to end up with a sad, dry and disappointing burger.
If you think chicken breast is boring and bland, chances are you’re just cooking it wrong. When handled correctly, chicken breast can actually be delicious. First of all, most people overcook chicken breast, so knowing how long to cook it is halfway to knowing the secret to juicy, perfectly cooked chicken breast.
Once you know everything there is to know about cooking time, start thinking about seasoning your chicken breast correctly. Generous seasoning is almost always the way to go when dealing with chicken, so don’t be afraid of using salt — and if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try a quick brine?
Defrosting food is as much a part of cooking as sautéing. When it comes to thawing ingredients or dishes, there’s actually more to it than simply leaving it out on the counter. There are different methods that each have their merits, and each method may be more or less suitable to turn to depending on the situation. Defrosting food incorrectly can lead to some seriously bad times, so make sure you know all the ins and out and know how to defrost your food the right way.
When cooking with garlic, you’re supposed to mince it into tiny pieces and then add it to hot oil, right? Nope! What you’ll end up with is a panful of hot oil and burnt garlic that will add nothing but a harsh acrid taste to the rest of the dish.
Instead add garlic to a warm pan without preheating the oil and allow both to come up to temperature together. The garlic will soften and infuse the oil with its delightful garlicky aroma and all will be right with the world. Do not wait for the garlic to be toasted and evenly brown in color; instead add your ingredients (whether it’s tomatoes for sauce or something else) as soon as the garlic begins to brown around the edges. If the garlic is already brown all over, it’s only going to carry on cooking by the time the rest of the ingredients are in the pan, and while it might not look totally burnt, chances are, it will taste as though it is.
Before you fire up the grill, take a minute to gather your thoughts and ask yourself if you really are grilling chicken correctly. Some cooks neglect to use a brine (which adds immeasurable flavor and juiciness) or to dry their chicken before grilling it. Some even under-season it — there’s more than one way to grill chicken the wrong way. Don’t settle for dry and tasteless poultry; follow these guidelines instead for some top-notch chicken.
Are you using your herbs correctly? There’s a strong possibility that you aren’t. Contrary to what you may believe, you shouldn’t just chuck in a handful of herbs whenever you please. Instead you should use them more judiciously and add them to dishes at the right time. Woodier herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme are strong enough to withstand cooking, so go ahead and add them while you cook. More delicate herbs like cilantro, chervil, tarragon and parsley can easily get lost, so make the most of them and add them at the very end.
OK now, this one might be rather divisive, but I insist you are probably cooking lasagna all wrong. “That can’t be so!” I hear you cry, but sadly, it is. Are you using a mixture of ricotta, eggs and Parmesan? Yes? Well, that’s all wrong. Instead make a delicious béchamel, one of the French master sauces and one that makes for an unbeatable lasagna! It’s creamy, rich, silky and altogether luxurious, and once you try using béchamel in your lasagna, you’ll never go back to that stodgy ricotta mixture again!
Well, maybe you’re not doing this wrong — but you are according to Tyler Florence! The Food Network chef changed the mashed potato game when he announced how he chooses to cook his spuds — directly in cream until they are cooked and ready to be mashed into perfect fluffiness. Into the cloud-like potatoes goes — you guessed it — that wonderful cream in which the potatoes cooked. Cooking the potatoes in the cream gives the resulting mash a delicate, minerally and almost more potato-y flavor which, combined with a generous dose of butter, sounds like it certainly adds up to unbeatable mashed potatoes.
How does one cook with olive oil wrong? Don’t you just… well… cook with it? Wrong! Well, wrong and right. It all comes down to the kind of olive oil you are using. If you are cooking with a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, stop! Instead use a lower-quality virgin olive oil for cooking and use the fancy stuff as a finishing oil only.
Not using a large enough pot, adding olive oil to your water and not reserving some of that precious, starchy pasta water are just some of the ways you are probably cooking your pasta all wrong. Don’t despair, with a few simple tips you’ll soon be churning out platers of pasta that will rival the most scrupulous Italian nonna.
Honestly, scrambled eggs are a rather personal dish, right? Some people prefer soft eggs, others prefer a hard scramble, some add milk or cream, and others add nothing but a pinch of salt. At the end of the day, all scrambled egg opinions are valid, though if you are looking for new and excellent techniques and recipes, perhaps consider how Gordon Ramsey, Ree Drummond, Alton Brown and other celebrity chefs cook their favorite scrambled eggs.
When it comes to steak, there’s a lot that can go wrong. It can begin in the supermarket by purchasing the wrong kind of steak — that’s before you even get to cooking! Even if you’ve chosen the right meat, if you aren’t generously seasoning your steak and then cooking your steak in a ripping-hot pan, you’ve got a few things to learn. Consult the ultimate steak guide and learn everything you need to know about cooking the perfect steak.
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