Posted on April 16 2019
There are few things better than a home-cooked meal. Thanks to increasing awareness about nutrition and an ever-expanding market for meal kits and grocery delivery services, people are spending more time cooking at home than ever before. In fact, a 2016 study found that home cooking is on the rise with both men and women, and thanks to the ever-expanding market for meal kits and grocery delivery services, it’s only getting easier.
However, many home chefs—whether experienced or just learning the ropes in the kitchen—are making crucial cooking mistakes. From serving soggy vegetables to cutting into food too fast, we’ve rounded up the cooking habits you need to stop now.
Not preheating your pan.
Whether you’re cooking eggs on the stovetop or making roasted vegetables in the oven, starting with a hot pan is crucial. If you haven’t heated your pan before you add your ingredients, it will take longer for the dish to cook and will increase your risk of overcooking your food.
Overmixing your dough.
While finding little pockets of flour or baking soda in your baked goods is far from ideal, over-mixing is an equally egregious error. Over-mixing dough squashes the tiny air pockets that give baked goods their fluffiness and can cause the resulting product to become tough.
Leaving your spoons on the counter.
Think of all the things that make their way onto your kitchen counter: Curious pets, bleach-based cleaners, packages that have been sitting on your front stoop. If you’re resting your cooking utensils directly on your countertop, you’re likely ingesting tiny bits of all of those things.
And while eating off a spoon that’s come in contact with a household cleaner probably won’t put you in the hospital, wouldn’t it be better to not to ingest bleach or ammonia at all?
Adding dairy to your slow cooker recipes too early.
Making creamy soups is a tricky business, especially if you don’t know when to add your dairy ingredients. If you’re making a slow cooker recipe that calls for dairy, make sure you add it at the end. If you incorporate milk, sour cream, or cream cheese any earlier, you risk it curdling in the pot.
Using a dull knife.
Although it may seem like a dull knife is less likely to cut you, a sharp one is a safer bet in the long run. Sharper knives require less pressure to pass through food, meaning you’re less likely to overestimate the force you need and accidentally cut right through food and into your hand.
Not spinning your salad.
A watery salad is a sad salad. Before you serve another lackluster salad sitting in an inch of water, invest in a good salad spinner. Drying your greens with paper towels rarely wicks away moisture from your veggies, and a salad spinner can help you save a few trees in the long run, too.
Cooking food while it’s still frozen.
While it may seem like cooking food from its frozen state will save you time, all it will really do is make your meals mushy. If you’re cooking frozen food, you’re essentially steaming it in its own moisture first, causing it to be a soggy mess. For the best results, either defrost frozen food in the microwave or allow it to come to room temperature and drain any excess moisture before it hits your pan.
Letting food sit before refrigerating it.
If you’re waiting for your food to return to room temperature before putting it in the fridge, stop immediately. While some people claim that waiting for food to return to room temperature inhibits bacterial growth, letting it warm up before refrigerating it actually keeps it in a dangerous, bacteria-promoting temperature zone for longer.
Cooking wet vegetables.
If your freshly-washed vegetables are going into the oven wet, don’t be surprised when they result in a soggy meal. To make sure your vegetables roast properly, dry them off before they hit the pan.
Winging it when baking.
As they always say, cooking is an art but baking is a science. It’s true: Winging it while baking just doesn’t work. If you’re baking, using exactly the right amount of any given ingredient and following recipes to a T is the difference between delicious baked goods and inedible ones.