Ever wonder why sometimes our food doesn’t look or taste as good as someone else’s? Or even be different from the last time you made it?
Whether you’re a beginner or have been cooking for years, there’s plenty of cooking mistakes we make over and over again.
Here’s what we’re doing wrong:
1. We don’t read the recipe all the way through:
We look at the recipe, get the ingredients and then get started. What we don’t do is read the recipe all the way through to see any prep work that needed to be done beforehand.
To avoid this, read the recipe all the way through and look for things that need to be done. Does anything need to be at room temperature? Does anything need to be brined, marinated, or pre-soaked? Do all your chopping first before cooking.
2. We put too much into the pan:
We try to do everything in one go. The problem with overcrowding the pan is that instead of browning and searing the meat, we steam it. Steaming the meat doesn’t lock in the flavors, get a nice char on it, or keep it juicy.
Instead, either use two pans or cook in batches. Allow a few inches between the meats to allow heat to circulate. If you’re cooking in batches, put the first batch on a plate or cooking sheet in the oven at a low temperature.
3. We’re Not Preheating the Pan
We don’t let the pan get hot enough to cook properly. When this happens, food sticks to it, doesn’t brown properly, and can get soggy.
To be sure the pan’s preheated, just sprinkle a few drops of water in and watch for it “dancing” across the surface. Then you can add your butter or oil. When the butter starts bubbling, or the oil starts shimmering, the pan is ready for your food. If you’re using a non-stick pan, put the butter or oil in first before heating it up as an empty non-stick pan releases contaminants when heated.
4. We’re not tasting while we’re cooking
We throw all the ingredients in according to the recipe, but we’re not tasting the food as we go along. Food ends up being either bland or too spicy.
While chopping, taste the food (except raw meat) to see if it’s fresh. Taste the pot for flavor combos and saltiness.
5. We’re not letting food rest
We pull the meat out and cut it up and serve it right away. We take out casseroles and other dishes out and bring it to the table.
When this happens we end up with dry meat or a runny casserole. Allow time for the meat or dishes to rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes to adsorb juices and to firm up.
6. We’re turning the food too often
We have a tendency to turn, flip and poke our food before it’s ready. When we do this, the food won’t get a nice sear, get crusty, sticks to the pan, or lose its coating.
When you poke the meat with a fork or prongs, this releases the juices and thus the meat gets dry.
Leave the food alone in the pan for the stated amount of time. It’s ready when you can slide a spatula clearly under it without sticking.
7. We check on the food too often
When the food is covered, or in the oven, we open the lid or oven door to check on the food often. When this happens you lose precious heat or steam. Food then ends up being underdone.
Save the checking to only once or twice closer to the end of the cook time instead.
8. We’re doing the math wrong
When the recipe has a large serving size, such as serves 6, but want to cut it down to only 3 servings, we often get the measurements wrong.
Fractions sometimes throw the best of us off. To remedy this, look up and print off a recipe fraction chart, such as this one from Pinterest.
9. We’re overcooking
We tend to overcook our food. Overcooked vegetables tend to get mushy, lose their flavor and color. Overcooked meat gets tough, chewy and chalky.
To preserve vegetables fresh flavor, taste a bit throughout the cooking time, also most vegetables can be eaten raw, so it doesn’t hurt to leave it a bit on the firm side.
To ensure meat is cooked thoroughly, but not overcooked, is to use a meat thermometer. Pull the meat off the heat when it’s a few degrees underdone. The residual heat will finish it off.
10. We’re not using fresh ingredients
We sometimes wonder why our recipe taste alters the different times we’ve made it.
This can be due to not using fresh ingredients. Frozen vegetables doesn’t offer the same taste or texture as fresh ones do. Sometime vegetables that aren’t so fresh have lost or changed their flavors.
Sometimes our spices on our spice rack don’t get used as often and becomes stale and that alters the taste of the food too.
To avoid this problem, keep an eye on expiration dates, use fresh food quicker, and even use fresh herbs and spices instead.
Following these tips will go a long way to having a great meal experience and less surprises.
"One finds limits by pushing them" ~ Herbert Simon