TASTE
01/17/2013 09:33 am ET Updated Jan 18, 2013

How We Handle Cooking Disasters And What We've Learned

Simply Recipes

You might think that because all we do all is write about, think about and get excited about food we are fail-proof in the kitchen. Why do you think that? Please stop thinking that. It is making us anxious. Cooking disasters happen to everyone, and to co-opt a more famous phrase, how your kitchen treats you is its karma; how you react is yours.

Before we get into all that, a brief survey: have you ever been so excited to cook something, so meticulous about its pairing and preparation and so trepidatious about screwing it up that when you do, somehow, screw it up you have to sit down on the floor of the kitchen and practice yoga breathing in order to not explode into a fit of toddler-like proportions? Yeah, us too. In fact, we do it all the time, sometimes with the same ingredients over and over again. For me, that ingredient is a pork chop.

I love pork chops. I might be in love with pork chops. I love pork chops so much that I even kind of like dry, overcooked, messed up pork chops. Which is lucky for me, because although I am capable of completing just about any other task in the kitchen, dry, overcooked, messed up pork chops are what I usually produce. The pork chops I dream of are the thick, juicy, heritage chops on the bone that I've been served in restaurants and by capable loved ones. I know that those pork chops are within my grasp, but I've had to learn some lessons along the way.

Once, I dropped a pretty penny on a double-boned Mangalitsa pork chop. I considered its preparation for more than a day. I read every recipe I could find. And then, when it came time to cook it, I panicked, split it into two single-boned chops and roasted them into oblivion. These are them. They are sad.

overcooked pork chops

The mantra I repeat to myself over and over again when these things happen: "This is how we learn." More specifically, don't cook on auto-pilot, don't split up a beautiful double-boned chop into two single ones at the last minute for no reason, pork chops are notoriously hard to cook correctly and meat thermometers are actually important.

Sometimes I get so riled up about honoring the ingredients, doing justice to the hard work that the producers of this pork have no doubt undertaken that I need to be reminded that, at the end of the day, they are just pork chops and I can try again next week. A few other of our favorite lessons to help you manage the angst we all feel when kitchen disaster strikes:

  • Don't panic. It is not brain surgery, and no one is going to die.
  • It might not be perfect, but it's usually edible. For that matter, don't expect perfection -- it comes when you least expect it in a totally normal, everyday tomato sauce you've made 600 times. Enjoy the hell out of that.
  • Always have a back up plan, just in case you've actually made something inedible. Maybe keep some pasta and a can of tomatoes around for a totally normal tomato sauce you've made 599 times.
  • If you need to sit down on the floor of the kitchen for just a moment to compose yourself, you're in good company.
  • The pork chop you cook next time might also suck. The one after that will inevitably be better. And the next. This is how we learn.

Hungry for pork chops after all that? Get a great grilled pork chop recipe from Simply Recipes.

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