We polled our staff on the most valuable kitchen truths they’ve obtained (the hard way) over the years, in hopes that you can learn from the error of our ways. Here are 10 common culinary missteps we’ve made or witnessed, so you don’t have to.
To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of MyRecipes's existence this week, our staff is sharing round-ups (by the 10's, obviously)—including some of our most useful tidbits of wisdom, favorite recipes, and amusing tidbits—every day.
So far this week, we’ve covered some of, what we feel are, the best things to do in your food life, things like our smartest money-saving tips for the grocery store and our best strategies to make meal planning easy—but today, we’re focusing on what not to do. Here are 10 mistakes to stop making in the kitchen ASAP (we know, we’ve because we’ve made them).
1. Buying All.The.Things.
You don’t need 100 crazy tools to make your life easier; you need a solid set of basics, such as a good knife set, mixing bowls, and casserole dishes with lids. Are cupcake stands awesome? Yes. Are they a pain to store? Also yes.
2. Twisting your biscuits.
No, that’s not an innuendo or vague life lesson. When cutting biscuits, don’t rotate the cutter. It seriously messes with the flakiness of the layers. Straight down, straight up—the end. And if you're sick of your biscuits falling flat, you can find the key to gloriously taller ones in your freezer.
3. Pouring water on a grease fire.
It seems like the intuitive action to take, but do not throw water (or dish towels, or aprons) on grease fires to extinguish them. The most efficient way to put out a small grease fire is to throw flour on it. So, little pro-tip… if you’re deep frying or otherwise working with a lot of hot oil, keep a large container of flour handy. Let this also be a friendly reminder to make sure your kitchen is equipped with a functioning fire extinguisher. Thank us later.
4. Basting grilled meat with marinade you used for the raw meat.
Do not do this. Ever. Unless you’re into that whole “food poisoning” thing.
5. Rushing your cooking.
Higher heat and not letting your foods fully cook or rest after pulling them off of the heat doesn’t mean the same result in less time, (looking at you, slightly crunchy onions and no-longer-juicy steak). There are smart ways to make dinner prep move faster, but cutting corners on cooking something correctly isn’t worth the couple minutes you save.
6. Using the wrong knife/surface for the job.
When it comes to knife skills, don’t do as Mama did. Slice your tomatoes on a cutting board with a sharp, preferably serrated knife—not in your palm with a butter knife.(Three stitches later, lesson learned.) And keep in mind, not everything is meant to be cut with a paring knife—in fact, most foods aren’t. When it comes to surfaces, use a good, solid, clean, wooden or plastic cutting board… which brings us to a another really important point:
- 6B. Being a person that owns a glass cutting board.
These hold literally no purpose in life.
7. Not sharpening your knives.
Since we’re talking knives, one of the most common mistakes home cooks make is expecting their knives to stay functionally sharp forever (and overlooking the fact that they don’t). It’s important to invest in a decent set of knives from the get-go—if you have the budget for it, a set of really high-quality knives will serve you well and last you forever if properly cared for—but no matter how much you spend on a knife, it has to be sharpened on a regular basis in order to perform well. For the average home cook, sharpening your knives about once every 3 months should be a part of your kitchen maintenance routine. If you don’t have the equipment at home, a number of specialty kitchen stores, such as Sur La Table, offer knife sharpening equipment/services in the shop. Just remember, you’re far more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one.
8. Overcrowding the pan.
When you pack a sauté pan to maximum capacity with mushrooms or other veggies, you’re going to end up steaming them rather than sautéing—give your veggies space to breathe, release their juices, and do their thing.
9. Storing tomatoes in the fridge.
Just don’t. General rule of thumb: The temperature you bought it at is the temperature you should store a food at.
10. Flipping and Stirring too often.
Obviously barring recipes that specifically instruct you to stir “frequently” or “constantly” (such as a custard) you don’t need to incessantly fuss over and prod at what’s in the pan as long as you’ve got said pan over the right heat level for its contents. The heat in the pan is what cooks your food… not your tongs or spatula. If you’re searing meat in a screaming hot pan, you need to leave it alone for a few minutes so that it won’t stick. If you’re trying to get a nice browning on anything, constantly stirring or flipping it simply won’t get you there. Just calm down, and give your food some space.