If you’ve been hanging out with us for the past several months, you might have noticed our Meet the Makers series. We interview certain men and women who are proud contributors to the world of “making”--they’re cooks, woodworkers, and artists. Some of them are professionals who make a living with their craft, while others are enthusiasts. All of them make what we at Hudson Durable Goods do more meaningful.
This time around, we would like to explore what makes makers, well, makers. We’re going to dive into the world of crafting, and we’re taking you with us.
The Heart of the Home (And all the times we almost gave the home a heart attack)
It’s just right that the kitchen is our starting point. After all, our home lives revolve around the kitchen. Many of our makers can do a mean barbecue and could probably put together a five-course meal from scratch.
Cooking is a life skill. Some of us are more gifted at it, but even the most talented came into this world unable to tell the difference between sugar and salt. As it turns out, love of good food isn’t the only thing cooks have in common. There are many cooking mistakes that most of us have committed while finding our way around the kitchen.
But, hey, mistakes are the spice of the learning experience (or, at least that’s what I tell my kids every time I goof up something that everybody else knows how to do).
9 Common Cooking Mistakes (and how to avoid or fix them)
Not Reading the Recipe
Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA production from Pexels
What? You mean some people actually don’t read recipes? Unthinkable! Believe it or not, it’s one of the most common mistakes rookie cooks make when cooking at home. Maybe it’s because we’re too excited, or maybe we never saw Grandma so much as glance at a cookbook and her meatloaf always turned out perfect, but a recipe is often ignored by rookies.
A recipe is a guide, and one written to make sure what we eat is edible. One day, we’ll get better, maybe even become expert cooks, and then we can just wing it when cooking. But until then, read the recipe, and read it all the way through. You can trust this advice–Grandma said so.
Understanding the Recipe
Yep, guilty as charged. How many of us here avoid recipes simply because, well, we don’t get them? Like all crafts, cooking has developed its own language, and it may not be beginner friendly. That’s okay. Just take your time figuring out what certain cooking terms, from the verbs to the measurements, mean. Write them down in a notebook with their definitions so you have something to refer to.
Sidenote: “Shock” the vegetables doesn’t mean you tell them some horrifying misadventure you had in college.
Not Prepping Ingredients
This is a funny one because it’s made mostly by those who have been cooking at home for a while and not rookies anymore. We get to a point where we want to cook as efficiently as possible, and that means shaving time off from steps we think aren’t crucial. That usually means prepping ingredients as we cook instead of before we start.
But prepping your ingredients and tools in the order and manner stated in the recipe could actually make the cooking process faster and easier. It keeps you from forgetting an ingredient or a step because they’re laid out in front of you.
Sidenote: Know what mise en place means? Me neither. It doesn’t really matter just as long as you prepare your ingredients before cooking.
I bet she’s never misplaced an onion.
Salt! Need we say more? Salt isn’t just seasoning, it’s what brings out the flavors of your dish. Some of us worry about over-salting, but a pinch before cooking and again as the final seasoning is a good guide. And, once more, we go back to reading the recipes through. Most recipes will state when to add salt and how much of it.
Sidenote: Would you rather underseason or overseason?
Overcrowding Your Pan
This is the sort of mistake that makes us go, “Well, doesn’t everyone do that?” Oh, yeah, everyone has at one time when cooking at home. Sometimes, we’re in a rush, and we don’t want to wait for what’s sizzling in our pan to cook before loading the fresh batch. It just seems like a waste of good space.
But jampacking a pan results in the uneven distribution of heat, which means that some pieces will be half-cooked and others burnt. A little patience to cook in batches is ideal, but if you’re really in a rush, consider using a bigger pan.
Not Tasting As You Cook
It’s surprising how common this rookie mistake is considering taste-testing is a cook’s perk. But most rookies don’t mind following everything they read in a recipe to the letter. This is usually wise advice, but there are other factors that contribute to how a dish turns out. We may have to make substitutions to our ingredients, for example. Or maybe our tools are new and we’re not too familiar with them yet.
This mistake is also committed by those who’ve been cooking for a while now and have become very familiar with certain recipes. They’re confident it will turn out well. And while it’s a good thing to be confident that you know a recipe as well as the back of your hand, tasting as you go is still one of the best ways to figure out whether you need to make adjustments to what’s in your pot. Otherwise, you might end up with something that tastes like the back of your hand.
Not Letting Meat (or Fish or Poultry) Thaw Out
It's the thaw that counts. Our pals @thekitchen845
Ever cook meat straight out of the freezer? This is another common mistake and one usually based on the idea that meat has to be frozen to be safe for eating, which, of course, it does. It makes sense, but cooking meat without letting it thaw first is a recipe for overcooking your meat on the surface and undercooking it inside. It will also take longer to cook frozen meat.
The good news is that meat remains safe for eating after being taken out of the freezer. Put it on a plate and let it thaw inside the refrigerator, or you can keep it in its leak-proof packaging and let it sit in cold water. You can also go the microwave route, but it may be best to cook it immediately after thawing it this way.
Flipping Too Often
Don’t even try to deny it. You know you’ve done this when cooking at home. You’ve put all the ingredients in the pan and you know you’re supposed to just let it sit there for a while and let it do its thing.
But. You. Just. Can’t.
You have to flip it, turn it, stir it. You just can’t leave it alone. The result? Achieving that nice, crispy brown crust is next to impossible. Much of the meat is sticking to the pan.
Just have a bit of patience. You’ve done your part, now let fire and your ingredients do theirs. Trust the process.
Grab a beer. Those chops will be fine. Just ask Mike from @the_brewmance.
Taking Safety for Granted
Cooking is something everyone does on a daily basis. It’s so common and so familiar that we forget how dangerous it can be. We’re dealing with fire, sharp objects, and ingredients that, under the wrong circumstances, could turn to poison.
But the risks can and should be minimized. We should always be vigilant–keep the heat under control, clean out our cupboards often to make sure all ingredients are well within their best-by dates, and always know where the knives are.
Our friends @4xploring know the breaks
Food for Thought
Yes, cooking is an invaluable life skill and it may seem like all chefs or expert cooks started learning at a young age and maintained the enthusiasm all throughout their lives. But not everyone has the same interests or enjoyed the benefits of home education. In fact, many of us may never develop a fondness for cooking, but we do learn to respect its importance.
If you’re a rookie cook or just someone who’s always struggled in the kitchen, chances are you know how embarrassing it can be when your lack of skills are revealed. It doesn’t help that kitchen blunders are prime joking material, especially when you have a home of your own already. But, when we really think about it, we eat well into old age. So why should we think it’s too late to start learning to cook just because we’re in our twenties or thirties?
Pointing out these common mistakes is our way of showing support for all who are starting to get to know their kitchens. It’s proof that making mistakes is universal and that we can always learn from them.