30 Common Cooking Mistakes That Amateurs Make That Annoy These Chefs
How much do you know about cooking? Can you poach the perfect egg? Could you craft a beautifully puffed soufflé? Or are you subsisting on more of a “cereal and frozen foods” diet?
Regardless of whether you came into this world holding a whisk or if you manage to burn your eggs every morning, unless you’re actually a professional, we could all stand to elevate our cooking skills. That’s why we’ve gone through some of the best tips chefs have shared on two Reddit threads of things amateurs keep doing wrong in the kitchen and the easiest ways to avoid common mistakes, so we can all impress our friends and family at our next dinner party. So tie on your aprons, preheat your ovens and take a bite out of this list of recommendations from the experts. Be sure to upvote your favorite culinary pointers, and then if you’re inspired to learn even more about cooking, check out Bored Panda’s last publication on the same topic right here.
All that brown stuff on your pan after you brown some meat or veggies? Use it! That's called fond - it's f*****g amazing and will make your sauces have way more depth. You can easily get it off the bottom of the pan with a little wine, which is called "deglazing."
Everyone has a different relationship with cooking. Some view it as an artistic hobby or a way to connect with their heritage, while others see it as the bane of their existence. Learning how to cook can be a life-long journey for those who are passionate, but if you’re looking to just pick up the basics, you can start small and practice with the tips from this list. Even if being in the kitchen scares you and your fridge currently only holds takeout boxes, you have to admit that you enjoy eating delicious meals. So why not figure out how to make them yourself?
There are plenty of reasons to learn cooking basics, one of them being that safety is actually a concern in the kitchen. Boiling water, hot oil and sharp tools can lead to a host of injuries, so it’s important to understand exactly what you’re doing. It may seem like a no brainer, but learning how to properly use your knives (and knowing the purpose of each knife) can help you avoid turning a lovely dinner into a trip to the emergency room. It's actually safer to have freshly sharpened knives too, as you're more likely to cut yourself with a dull blade.
Sharpen your knives. It's easier and actually safer. You are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. Learn how to properly and safely use your knives, and what each knife is even used for. It's game changing
If I see one more person press down on a burger while it's on the grill, I'm flipping that grill over.
EDIT: To everyone saying "Smashburger", you know what kind of person I am talking about. The self-proclaimed BBQ grill king who loves to squish the burger and asks your temp but everyone gets a hockey puck. It happened this weekend and every single time, I want to flip their grill over.
EDIT 2: Since I'm getting criticism about the well done burger... changed "well done burger" to "hockey punk" to further emphasize my example.
There are various tips on this list about how to safely slice and dice your foods without losing a finger, but certain foods pose more risks than others. You're likely to be cautious when dicing an onion, but don't throw caution to the wind when you're making guacamole either. According to OSF HealthCare, avocado-related incidents send nearly 9,000 people to the hospital every year. This is because many of us hold the avocado in our palms when plunging the knife in to get the seed out.
I must admit, I’m guilty of this method of avocado cutting, and I did it almost every morning for years while in the throes of an avocado toast addiction… But Dr. Ramsey Ellis told OSF HealthCare that it’s much safer to set the avocado on a flat surface, like a cutting board, when going to remove the pit. She also notes that, “There are a variety of special tools on the market that are between three and five dollars that allow you to safely cut and then stab the pit of an avocado and remove it, and that can prevent a lot of injury.” Purchasing a specialty tool for this purpose may seem unnecessary, but it would definitely be less expensive (and traumatic) than a trip to the emergency room.
If your dish is 'missing something' chances are it is acidity. Now this doesn't apply to everything but I think a lot of people just don't think to add some lemon juice to a sauce or a stew for example and it can make all the difference. I always keep some fresh lemons at home because lemon juice in a bottle is usually just a chemical product.
My pro chef and former chemist friend gave me an earful for putting my tomatoes in the fridge.
He explained how the cold temp. changes the chemical composition and makes them taste s**ttier.
I no longer put my tomatoes in the fridge and they are tastier.
Hello, I am the chef at a 5 diamond hotel in San Francisco. The biggest thing to learn when just starting to cook, is mise en place. "Everything in its place." This is ultimately to get food timings correct and precise, and for safety and control reasons. The second biggest thing to learn in the kitchen is safety. I once had a cook with 25 years experience get complacent and splashed hot oil on his face. Now we call him twoface. Cooking is a creative release when done outside of a professional kitchen, so take your time and don't hurt yourself. The third biggest thing to learn, and I tell all my cooks this everyday, is taste, season, taste. Taste your food, season it, and taste it again. Most people (whether they believe it or not) have the same taste thresholds, so what tastes good for you will taste good for someone else. Last thing I can add if you want to improve your cooking, is to cook more! Cook everyday, because practice makes perfect. Eat. Eat everywhere and anything.
We tend to be worried about cuts and burns when cooking, but another common mishap that can lead to devastating effects is a kitchen fire. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, between 2014-2018, cooking incidents were the top cause of fires in American households. Most of them were small, limited to the toaster or oven and easily put out, but when they become unmanageable, these kitchen fires can turn fatal. Holidays are the most common times for these fires to happen, with Thanksgiving having 250% more than the average day in 2018, but even on a normal day, nearly 500 cooking fires are reported in the US. To stay safe in your kitchen, or backyard if you’re grilling, it’s important to always turn off equipment immediately when you’ve finished using it and use great caution when cooking with hot oil. Avoiding common cooking mistakes can help you eat more satisfying meals and even save your life.
Pastry Chef here. USE GODDAMN SCALES.
It's sO much easier and you won't lose count of how many cups of flour you've added
Plus measuring by volume with dry ingredients can be so inconsistent due to different scooping styles, a more aerated flour etc
Don't come running to me asking what happened with your baked goods when you've been measuring using cups
Keep your fingertips behind your knuckles, your knife in front of your knuckles, and keep your blade on the cutting board. Your fingers will thank you.
Aside from keeping you safe, improving your culinary skills can turn into a fun hobby. If you’re stuck in a rut making the same meals over and over again, as many of us are, branching out and trying a new recipe can be something to look forward to. Expanding your palette can also be exciting, as you may not be as familiar with the cuisines of other cultures. Do you know how to make authentic Mexican chilaquiles? Have you ever prepared Pad Thai from scratch? The more adventurous you become in the kitchen, the more likely you are to want to keep experimenting. One tip many chefs share is to learn techniques first, and then you’ll be well equipped to prepare any recipe. So to master some of the culinary basics, we consulted Oxo’s list of Basics of Home Cooking 101: 12 Skills and Techniques for Beginners.
I know one mistake I used to make was to buy canned mushrooms and use those for recipes. The first time I used fresh mushrooms for something, I realized the dreadful error of my ways, and I haven't bought canned mushrooms since!
Always use fresh mushrooms, people!
Not a pro, but wash your damn rice! It's easy and it makes the rice so much better.
Any spices you have, do not store them in sunlight or over top of your goddamn stove. Heat and moisture are bad to just about anything. This kills the flavour.
Basic knife skills are expected for any chef to know like the back of their hand, but they’re great for amateurs to understand as well so we can properly follow a recipe. When the instructions use lingo like “chiffonade”, don’t run away out of fear. Simply memorize what these terms mean (or Google them every time, we don’t judge!), so you can confidently prepare your meals without any added stress. Slicing calls for thin, flat pieces, while dicing requires small squares that resemble dice. Mincing is cutting foods even smaller than diced pieces, think minced garlic, and chopping is for larger chunks of foods like potatoes and carrots in a stew. Julienned vegetables are in long, thin strips, and to chiffonade is to “finely cut herbs or leafy vegetables”.
When baking - make sure your butter and eggs are all room temperature.
Read the whole recipe before you touch anything including the directions. Then get all the ingredients together and measured before anything touches heat. Chop vegetables slice meat mix spices. Cooking is so much easier when you do the prep first and then just worry about what's in the pan when the heat is on. What do you think the kitchen does all afternoon between lunch and dinner service, get things together so the actual cooking is way faster and easier.
The vast majority of people think that the terms "icing" and "frosting" are interchangeable. This is not the case. Icing is made with sugar and liquid and is generally (there are a few exceptions, such as fondant) pour-able. Think pound cake and donuts. Frosting is made with sugar and fat, such as butter or shortening, and is generally fluffy and spreadable. Varieties of frosting include buttercream and cream cheese.
While you’re at it memorizing cooking jargon, you might want to learn some terminology for your stovetop too. To sear something is to quickly brown the outside of a piece of meat on a high-temperature pan to keep the juices sealed in. Sautéing involves cooking food in a little bit of fat, like oil or butter, on high heat and moving it around the pan frequently. A stir-fry requires a little more fat than a sauté and is done at an even higher temperature. Then we have steaming, which is pretty self-explanatory, as it calls for placing a basket or colander over boiling water to allow only the steam to cook the veggies or seafood.
Reuse the boiled water from a pasta pot. That starchy salty s**t is amazing as a sauce base, or a great sub for any other water needed in the recipe.
After you are done working with garlic, rub your hands along your stainless steel sink vigorously. This will remove to odour for the most part. Finish by washing hands you filthy animal.
Lisa Milbrand notes in her list of cooking tips on Oxo that knowing how to properly roast meats and vegetables can be a game changer in the kitchen as well. Roasting can be one of the easiest ways to prepare food, as you get some time to relax once it’s in the oven, and it can provide mouth watering results with the right combinations of oil and spices. Every food will have a slightly different cooking time, as root vegetables take much longer than asparagus for example, but Lisa reassures readers that, “No matter what vegetable you’re roasting, you’ll be able to tell when it’s ready by sticking a knife into the center of a piece. If the knife goes in easily and the edges of the vegetable are a nice golden brown, it’s done.” Personally, I think some nicely roasted and heavily sesasoned cauliflower and sweet potatoes have to be among the most delicious foods in the world.
Not drying your meat before you sear it.*
*Not a professional chef, but this advice is so basic, and so rarely followed, that it bears repeating.
Over sauteed garlic... Don't need to brown it, a minute in the pan with the onions is enough.
The veggies in your sauces and stuff- cook that s**t first. Do not add raw onions to already simmering tomato sauce and expect it to taste good. Also, huge amounts of random spices make food taste bad. Learn what they are and where to use them.
Grains and pasta are also essentials to master when elevating your cooking game. They can be super simple, as the basic idea is boiling them in water, but a few tricks can go a long way. First, remember to rinse your grains like rice and quinoa before cooking them to remove excess starch and ensure they don’t turn too mushy. Always remember to add plenty of salt when boiling grains or pasta as well, and don’t try to squeeze anything into a pot that’s too small. You can also save a cup of your pasta water to use later in your sauce, as it will be full of salt and starch that will add the perfect touch to your final dish.
Buy a Microplane, it makes the veggies and accent cheeses that you grate both look and feel better. Smaller pieces have less of a focus on texture and more of a focus on flavour. I.E - Grana Padano being grated onto a Caesar salad, or lemon grated into a lemon in salad dressing.
Tossing pizza dough makes it extremely flat on the bottom and typically too much crust. Simply hold it with two hands like a wheel and rotate it :) Enjoy
I would add when your baking follow the recipe exactly. When it says 1 teaspoon, it means 1 teaspoon. Not "ah that looks like a teaspoon." Baking requires exact prep work otherwise your finished product won't be right.
Lastly, Lisa mentions that stocking your kitchen properly can make a huge difference when you’re cooking as well. The most important knives to have are a chef’s knife, a serrated bread knife and a paring knife, but you don’t need much else for everyday purposes. Be sure you’ve got some decent containers for storing leftovers too, with a variety of sizes, so you can keep your food fresh and safely preserved. Then when it comes to cleaning supplies, do a bit of research on what is appropriate for the specific pans and dishes you own. Depending on the material, certain cleaners and brushes can do more harm than good, and not everything should be tossed in the dishwasher.
Put a damp napkin or towel underneath your cutting board to keep it stable. You can wail on whatever you want however hard you want with the peace of mind that your cutting board won't go flying off the counter along with your food and *sharp knife
Make sure you have good ingredients. That box of baking soda from 5 years ago is not going to work that well anymore.
Don't cook meat straight out of the refrigerator. It cooks better and tastes better when it starts at room temperature, actually.
While this list may seem overwhelming if you're a novice in the kitchen, even remembering a few of these skills and tips can go a long way. Cooking should be enjoyable and pleasurable, so don't stress yourself out. But I hope this helps you avoid some common errors in the future and inspires you to experiment with a new recipe instead of grabbing your usual takeout this weekend. Enjoy reading the rest of these pointers, and remember to upvote your favorite responses. Then let us know if you have any helpful tips you'd like to share with your fellow pandas in the comments down below. Bon appétit!
Beware of the densities of different types of salt, e.g. table salt is much denser than kosher salt because of how the grains pack together. It's easy to make something way too salty by not accounting for this.
Don't just dump a load of salt and pepper into the mix at the last minute.
Season every single thing, the veg, the meat, the sauce. and if you're unsure of how much to use. just keep adding in small pinches and taste it.
Just being impatient in general.
Not waiting for pans to heat up,water to boil or preheating ovens.
Cutting into things to check if they are cooked after 5mins in the oven. You want to know if your roast is cooked? Get a meat thermometer. Seriously they cost less than $10
Thats my other big peeze... using the wrong equipment for the job. You dont dice chicken with a steak knife. You dont slice tomatoes with a steak knife. Steak knives are for cutting steaks on your plate. thats it. A fork is not a whisk, its a fork. A coffee cup is not a measuring cup. It may be 250ml but dont assume it. Dont drain your pot of pasta by tipping it into the sink holding the wooden spoon over the lip and try to stop pasta falling out. Just use a fricken colander.
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