I've been cooking dinner as a grownup for more years than I care to say. And I've made just about every mistake you can possibly make. It's one thing if dinner turns to disaster when you're single and childless. But when you have hungry children waiting? Ugh, the worst. I've compiled just a few of the biggest dinner-cooking mistakes I've made. And seriously? This post could have been twice as long. Here's what NOT to do in the kitchen.
1. Not using the right-sized pots and pans. I make this mistake all the freakin' time. Maybe it's all those years of making do with less in all other aspects of my life? Anyway, that ethic backfires in the kitchen. Use the big stock pot, the widest pan, the largest cookie sheet. Food almost always cooks better when it has enough space.
2. Winging it. I mentioned failing to read the whole recipe before beginning in my baking mistakes post. Some more complicated meals require some planning: What you'll start and when. Failing to plan can cause kitchen mayhem, when one dish goes cold while you're still cooking another.
3. Forgetting that I'm cooking. Sometimes I'll have a sauce or some pasta going on the stove that doesn't need tending, so I'll wander away to read something, fold laundry, check Facebook, and then -- OMG, what is that smell?! I can't be counted on to pay attention, so now I just set a kitchen alarm to remind me to get back into the kitchen and finish cooking dinner.
4. Boiling over. How many times have you let something boil over, creating a mess all over the stove? Hate that! Control that pot -- if you're supposed to bring something to a boil, be ready to turn down the heat immediately after you get that boil.
5. Not tasting as you go. Sometimes I cook on autopilot and just assume everything tastes fine. Sometimes I forget that I've already added salt. This is why it helps to taste while you're cooking.
6. Not separating the noodles. You really do need to give your pasta a little stir, so the noodles don't all cook into one solid blob. Sadness.
7. Cooking cold meat. When it comes to roasting, you need to let your meat (especially big cuts) sit out for about 10 to 20 minutes and reach room temperature first. Recipes are written with that step in mind, even if they don't say so. So failing to do this can yield an unevenly-cooked or under-cooked roast.
8. Tearing into the meat too soon. I know that roast chicken or steak looks scrumptious, but let it rest a few minutes before digging in! Cutting into cooked meat too quickly will let the juices run and dry out your meal.
9. Unevenly-chopped veggies. Your veggies will not cook evenly if you've cut them all in 18 different sizes. Watch those cooking shows and observe how the pros manage to cut everything the same size and shape. Once you learn how, it's actually pretty easy.
10. Cooking everything on high. Almost everything you ever cook will cook more evenly and thoroughly on low or medium. You only ever need high to sear or brown, or if you're trying to bring something to a boil. High should never be your default temperature.
What are your biggest cooking mistakes?
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