Common Cooking Errors: Live and Learn

Every cook, being human, errs, bungles, botches, and screws up in the kitchen once in a while. If you have not “caramelized” fruit in salt rather than sugar, you have not suffered the most embarrassing mistake made by one of our editors. We did not have to look much farther than our staff―and their encounters with readers, friends, and relatives―to compile a list of common, avoidable culinary boo-boos.

The creative cook can often cook her way out of a kitchen error, but the smart cook aims to prevent such creativity from being necessary. Here are 25 ways to be smarter every time.

1. You don’t taste as you go.
Result: The flavors or textures of an otherwise excellent dish are out of balance or unappealing.

2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.
Result: Flavors are dull, entire steps or ingredients get left out.

3. You make unwise substitutions in baking.
Result: You wreck the underlying chemistry of the dish.

4. You boil when you should simmer.
Result: A hurried-up dish that’s cloudy, tough, or dry.

5. You overheat chocolate.
Result: Instead of having a smooth, creamy, luxurious consistency, your chocolate is grainy, separated, or scorched.

6. You over-soften butter.
Result: Cookies spread too much or cakes are too dense.

7. You overheat low-fat milk products.
Result: The milk curdles or “breaks,” yielding grainy mac and cheese, ice cream, or pudding.

8. You don’t know your oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Result: Food cooks too fast, too slow, or unevenly.

9. You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.
Result: Dry, tough cakes, rubbery brownies, and a host of other textural mishaps.

10. You overcrowd the pan.
Result: Soggy food that doesn’t brown.

11. You mishandle egg whites.
Result: The whites won’t whip up. Or, overbeaten or roughly handled, they produce flat cake layers or soufflés with no lift.

12. You turn the food too often.
Result: You interfere with the sear, food sticks, or you lose the breading.

13. You don’t get the pan hot enough before you add the food.
Result: Food that sticks, scallops with no sear, pale meats.

14. You slice meat with―instead of against―the grain.
Result: Chewy meat that could have been tender.

15. You don’t use a meat thermometer.
Result: Your roast chicken, leg of lamb, or beef tenderloin turns out over- or undercooked.

16. Meat gets no chance to rest after cooking.
Result: Delicious juices vacate the meat and run all over the cutting board, leaving steak or roast dry.

17. You try to rush the cooking of caramelized onions.
Result: You end up with sautéed onions, which are nice but a far cry from the melt-in-your-mouth caramelized ideal.

18. You don’t shock vegetables when they’ve reached the desired texture.
Result: Mush.

19. You put all the salt in the marinade or breading.
Result: Fish, poultry, or meat that’s underseasoned.

20. You use inferior ingredients.
Result: Sigh.

CLICK HERE to view the slideshow for helpful tips on how to recover from these common mistakes. Get out there and start eating!

Courtesy of Cooking Light

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