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13 Common Cooking Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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Whether you’re a professional chef, or are still learning to boil water properly, everyone makes mistakes while cooking. Some mishaps will go unnoticed, but others can spoil a dish and will leave you ordering take-out.

We’d like to help take your cooking skills to the next level. We’ve compiled some of the most common cooking mistakes and how to prevent each of them from happening in your kitchen.

Mistake #1: You didn’t read the entire recipe before cooking

Before you prepare a dish, you should confirm that you have the correct ingredients and verify the proper cooking time. If you don’t read the full recipe, you could miss critical marinating or resting times for your meal.

Follow this tip: Be prepared before beginning your meal. It’s not worth dirtying the dishes if you’re pressed for time or don’t have the correct ingredients to perfect your meal.

Mistake #2: You boil instead of simmer

Stews and soups benefit from a slow simmer rather than an intense boil. Don’t try to hurry your meal along by bringing it to a boil. Boiling dries meat out and makes the vegetables too soft.

Follow this tip: Simmering helps make the meat tender and allows flavors to blend. Allow enough time for your meal to properly simmer on the stove or utilize your slow cooker. Adding your ingredients to your slow cooker in the morning lets your stew or soup simmer throughout the day, eliminating the need to rush in the evening.

Mistake #3: You don’t know your oven’s real temperature

Not all ovens heat evenly or accurately – even the pricey brands. You may think you are baking your cake at 350 degrees, but your oven’s true temperature is actually lower or higher. Even a slight difference could lead to a cake that’s raw in the middle or burned on top.

Follow this tip: Use an oven thermometer to ensure an accurate oven temperature reading. Then you will know if you need to raise or lower the heat to hit the proper cooking temperature.

Mistake #4: You don’t accurately measure ingredients

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Depending on the dish, this isn’t always a big deal, but when baking this can ruin your cake or cookies. Packing flour into your measuring cup causes cakes to be dense and tough, while using too much butter can make cookies flat.

Follow this tip: The most accurate way to measure your ingredients is to measure them by volume with your EatSmart Precision Digital Kitchen Scale. Using your kitchen scale, weigh food items and recipe ingredients directly on the scale platform or utilize the scale’s tare (zero) function, which eliminates the weight of a plate or bowl and makes cleanup a snap. You will get superior results when you have the correct ratio of ingredients.

Mistake #5: You put cold meat in the oven

Cooking very cold meat leads to uneven results. The chicken may be perfectly browned on the outside but pink and raw on the inside.

Follow this tip: Let the meat sit out a few minutes to take the chill off.  Your meat will cook much more evenly when it’s closer to room temperature.

Mistake #6: You overcrowd the pan

Overcrowding leads to soggy and unappealing meats and vegetables. Meat won’t brown and vegetables won’t crisp or caramelize if there isn’t room for moisture to evaporate.

Follow this tip: Give your food some space by either cooking in smaller batches or using more pans. Spreading the food out will give you the texture you’re longing for.

Mistake #7: You keep poking the meat

Repeatedly flipping your burgers while grilling or constantly poking your meat lets the juices escape, resulting in dry meat.

eatsmart-food-thermometerFollow this tip: Leave your meat alone during the cooking process. Use a food thermometer, such as our Precision Elite Thermocouple Food Thermometer, toward the estimated end of your cooking time to determine when the meat is cooked to perfection. The 1.5mm probe leaves a very small puncture so juices stay within the meat, and it records the temperature in seconds.

Mistake #8: You don’t heat the pan enough

Adding cold oil to a cold pan and topping with cold food can throw off texture and lead to gummy results.

Follow this tip: Food should sizzle when it hits the pan. Be sure to adequately heat the pan and the oil before adding your ingredients.

Mistake #9: You don’t get your ingredients together

You have to stop prepping the meal to find an ingredient and then you need time to chop it up. Or, worse, you are missing necessary items to complete your recipe.

Follow this tip: Gather, measure, and prep your ingredients beforehand to make cooking and assembling meals quick and effortless. It takes much less time to prep ingredients than to chop them up as you go along. It also ensures you have the ingredients you need while cooking.

Mistake #10: You use a non-stick pan for everything

Non-stick pans are great for breakfast foods such as eggs, French toast, and pancakes but they don’t get as hot as a regular pan. You cannot properly sear a piece of meat in a nonstick pan, nor will your vegetables get that crispy edge.

Follow this tip: Cook your stir fries, meats, and vegetables in a traditional pan, especially if you desire a crispy texture.

Mistake #11: You don’t allow the meat to rest

Cutting your meat immediately after taking it out of the oven or off the grill allows all the juices to run out; resulting in dry and tough meat.

Follow this tip: Let your steak or chicken breast rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to distribute evenly throughout the meat. A roast, pork loin, or whole chicken will need 20 minutes, so keep it warm by loosely covering with foil.

Mistake #12: You use the same knife for each task

A paring knife is great for smaller vegetables but isn’t up to the task of cutting open a butternut squash. On the other hand, a large knife can be awkward when mincing small items, such as garlic cloves.

Follow this tip: Chose the correct sized knife for the job. You will be more efficient and reduce risk of cutting yourself.

Mistake #13: You didn’t taste the dish as you go

Neglecting to taste the dish can lead to bland, boring food or over-seasoned, inedible food. More than one cook has grabbed salt instead of sugar, used too heavy a hand with spices, or forget to add pepper.

Follow this tip: Taste your dish while cooking to ensure a perfectly seasoned meal. And, please, wash your spoon in between tastes.

Some of these common mistakes are the result of bad habits. By making a few tweaks to your cooking routine, you can serve consistently delicious meals to your family.

Do you have a cooking question? Tweet it to us at @eatsmartscales.

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