Cooking Mistakes to Avoid
If you’re a rookie in the kitchen, there’s no way to avoid some mistakes as you begin to put together meals. However, it is possible to learn from history – particularly from the experience of expert chefs who have identified some of the most commonly repeated cooking mistakes. Here’s their advice:
Know your oven. The recipe says 350 degrees at 30 minutes, but every single oven in the world may not produce the same results. In fact, experts say even expensive ovens can have hot spots or other calibration quirks. The sooner you learn about these the better. Put five pieces of white bread on a piece of foil in different spots in your oven’s middle rack. Pre-heat to 350 degrees and then leave the bread in for 3 minutes. Inspect the bread to see if any were more significantly singed than others. If so, you have located a hot spot in your oven. All ovens don’t heat up to the temperature marked on the dial, but that is easily handled by using an oven thermometer.
Always taste your food. You’re putting together a complicated meal and now you’ve forgotten: Did you put in 1 or 2 teaspoons of salt in the pan? Sometimes, recipes leave out crucial information or may not be followed properly. The way to fix all of those potential problems is by tasting your food as it is cooking. This is particularly important with soups and sauces, but imagine cooking pasta and not testing a few individual noodles to make sure they are cooked al dente. The result could be a soggy or sticky mess.
Read the recipe. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in the other preparations for a special meal and know only the basics of recipe you are about to follow. In fact, cooking experts recommend going over the recipe very carefully to make sure you have all the ingredients ready in advance and know exactly what you’ll be doing. You don’t want to be two hours from meal time and read for the first time that the meat you are preparing should have been marinated overnight, for example.
Boil and simmer. Of course, you first need to understand the distinction between the two. Boiling only happens when the water is at least 212 degrees. You’ll know you’ve reached that point because the pot will be filled with bubbles. Food simmers at about 180 to 200 degrees. If you see more than a bubble or two at the same time, the water is too hot. If you boil food that should be simmered, the end result won’t be what you expect. For example, you would end up with meat that is chewy and tough.