The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

AAA Print

We all make mistakes. While not the end of the world, a mistake made while cooking might be the end of dinner. Prevent your own culinary disaster by avoiding these common kitchen blunders.

Mistakes Made Preparing to Cook

  • Not reading the recipe: Before you start to cook, take the time to read all the way through the recipe. You don’t want to get halfway through before realizing you are missing a crucial ingredient, or have skipped a step.
  • Not preheating the oven or the cooking oil: If your oven is below temperature when you set dinner inside, you are going to end up with partially cooked food, or a dried out meal if you leave it in the oven longer to make up for the lack of preheating. If cooking oil isn’t allowed to heat thoroughly before adding food, your dinner is likely to stick to the pan, or not cook properly.
  • Pouring oil into the pan when cooking pancakes: No need to suffer with oily or burnt pancakes. Instead of pouring oil into the heated pan, pour a little oil on a paper towel, and use the towel to rub the oil around the pan. This gives a thin, even coat of oil, leading to evenly cooked, perfectly golden pancakes. (For easy pancake recipes, see The Best Pancake Recipes).
common cooking mistakes common cooking mistakes

Mistakes During the Cooking Process

  • Overfilling the pot or pan: Don’t pile food into the cooking pot or pan. An overly full pot is likely to overflow, and does not allow steam and heat to circulate properly. (For the list of the essential pots and pans you need in your kitchen, see The Best Cooking Pots & Pans For Your Kitchen).
  • Not using enough water when cooking rice: Start with more water than you think you need, and pour some out when rice is approaching the desired consistency. Too little water leads to sticky, gummy rice.
  • Turning food too frequently: When cooking meat in a pan, resist the temptation to turn it over frequently. Let the meat sear to a crust before flipping to sear the other side.
  • Serving meat right out of the oven: Meat needs to rest for several minutes before slicing and serving. This allows juices to spread throughout the meat, and will provide a more flavorful entrée.
  • Neglecting to taste test: Taking a taste now and then while preparing food is important. Don’t just add salt or other seasonings without tasting first. Remember that it is easy to add more seasoning, but hard or impossible to take away what you have already added.

Temperature Mistakes

  • Taking meat straight from the fridge to the oven: Meat should be allowed to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before going into the oven, the broiler or the grill. Setting cold meat into a hot oven will give you a roast that is undercooked on the inside, overcooked on the outside.
  • Not thoroughly preheating cooking oil: If you are deep-frying or pan-frying, the oil needs to be hotter than 350 degrees Fahrenheit before you add the food. If it is below that, your food will turn out greasy.
  • Boiling instead of simmering: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can boil food when the directions call for a simmer to speed up the cooking time. You will end up with overcooked, tough food.
  • Not using a meat thermometer: When cooking a roast of beef, turkey or chicken, don’t guess if it is done. A meat thermometer keeps you from over- or undercooking your roast.(For directions on how to cook a turkey, see Easy Instructions On How To Cook A Thanksgiving Turkey).

Careless Mistakes

  • Forgetting to set the timer: It’s easy to get distracted and forget to set the timer when sliding dinner into the oven or setting your rice to simmer. That’s likely to lead to overdone or burnt food. Keep your timer right in sight so you don’t forget to set it.
  • Slicing meat the wrong way: For tender cuts of beef, slice against the grain, not with it.
  • Forgetting to plug in the slow cooker: It’s easy to fill your slow cooker with all the ingredients for a delicious dinner, then walk away without switching it on. Always double check before leaving for the day. (For easy slow cooker recipes, see The Best Slow Cooker Recipes).
  • Eyeballing measurements: If you are following a recipe that requires accurate measurements, take the time to measure the ingredients carefully. Failing to do so can lead to dry cake, liquid brownies or tough cookies.

Substitution Mistakes

  • Substituting ingredients that seem “close enough”: Milk might seem like a reasonable switch for buttermilk, or cooking oil might seem like a good stand in for butter, but take care with substitutions. Just because the name or appearance is similar doesn’t mean it’s okay to substitute in your recipe. This may cause your recipe to taste or feel dramatically different.
  • Using dried herbs instead of fresh: You cannot always equally substitute dried and fresh forms of herbs. Some herbs are much stronger when dried, such as oregano, and some herbs are weaker when dried, like basil.

You spend precious time in the kitchen cooking meals every day. Don’t let a lack of preparation, carelessness or other cooking mistakes ruin your meal. Take the extra minutes to do things right, and you will soon be serving a delicious, perfectly cooked meal to your family.

Last Updated: January 28, 2012
AAA Print

About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

Note: The information provided on this site may be provided by third parties. The owners and operators of this site do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, and compliance of the content on this site. Such content is not and shall not be deemed tax, legal, financial, or other advice, and we encourage you to confirm the accuracy of the content. Use is at your own risk, and use of this site shall be deemed acceptance of the above.