As creative and intuitive as cooking may seem, there’s a lot of science behind getting crafty in the kitchen. Even the most advanced chefs can have a failed dish if they fall prey to one of these common cooking mistakes.
1. Pre-heat the Pan: Not waiting for the pan to become fully heated is a common mistake for novice or rushed cooks. Before you put anything — even oil — into the pan, give it a few minutes to get hot. Not waiting until the pan is properly heated can make food stick to the pan, heat unevenly, or not sear properly.
2. Read the Entire Recipe: Step away from the kitchen and read the entire recipe two or three times before starting anything. A seasoned chef makes sure they have every ingredient prepped, chopped, and peeled before even turning on the stove. There’s nothing worse than being halfway through a recipe and realizing you are missing an ingredient or kitchen tool.
3. Don’t Overcrowd the Pan: As food — both vegetables and meat — cook, they release water. When a pan gets overcrowded, the excess moisture can lead to soggy food which isn’t properly browned. Leave enough room in the pan for food to breathe to ensure it cooks properly and achieves the crusty, seared flavor you desire.
4. Leave it Alone: Flipping and fussing with food too often interferes with the cooking process. Foods don’t achieve the proper sear, they stick, and any breading or filling falls out. Learn to let your food cook — undisturbed — for the correct amount of time before turning or poking.
5. Follow the Recipe: If you consider yourself a beginning chef, don’t stray too far from the recipe. Measure things as accurately as possible and don’t get too adventurous with substitutions. This is especially critical for baking and whenever a recipe calls for fresh (not dry) spices. Helpful Hint: Baking soda and baking powder are NOT the same thing.
6. Sharpen Your Knife: Blunt knives are a recipe for disaster in the kitchen. They not only tear at meats and don’t properly cut through veggies, but are also more prone to accidents.
7. Total Defrost: Before you start cooking anything, make sure it’s completely defrosted and brought up to room temperature.