21 tips on what not to do while you’re cooking

Mistakes – it happens to each and every one of us. But the best part of making mistakes is that we can all learn from them, especially when it comes to cooking. First things first, cooking shouldn’t be looked upon as a chore, but as a process because it is an art in itself, which is why it takes a little bit of passion and a whole lot of patience to really make or bake your favorite dishes to perfection.

So, stop dwelling over past mistakes and read on to find out tips from our panel of chefs on how you can be the master of your own kitchen:

1. Read your recipe thoroughly

Before you set out on your cooking adventures, it’s best advised that you read your recipe from top to bottom, so that you get a fair understanding of what you’ll need and how you need to cook things right. Bolster your cooking skills by understanding what you’re trying to cook, no matter how experienced you are with cooking.

2. Taste as you go

Taste your food as you cook to see if you’ve missed out on or added extra ingredients
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How else will you know what’s missing? Tasting your dish while you’re cooking is the best way to identify what’s missing and what’s not. Plus the more you taste, the better you get at perfecting your dish.

3. High flame? a big no

Cooking on a high flame does seem like the faster way to do thing, but it really isn’t. Not only will it burn your food on the outer portions of it, but it will also leave the center of your ingredients raw or undercooked. But, certain dishes are cooked on a high flame, especially if it involves flash frying, so – do check the recipe guidelines out.

4. Boiling milk is a real commitment

Don’t walk away from it. Boiling milk, is just as important as any other commitment. If you leave milk on the flame for a long time, it is most likely to spill over. You’ll be spending time cleaning it all up, when you should be enjoying your cup of tea or coffee. All it needs is 5 to 6 minutes.

5. A pinch, not a handful, of salt

When it comes to adding salt, how much is ‘too much’ and how little is ‘too little’? That’s where your culinary knowledge has to be put into play. This individual decision makes all the difference because adding less salt can always be rectified, but adding to much salt will ruin the dish – although we will do a feature on how to rectify inadvertent errors in the kitchen in a short while. So, all might not be lost!

6. Frying garlic

Unless vampires magically appeared in your frying pan and you desperately need to throw garlic at them, take your time before adding your garlic into hot oil. Doing so will burn out the flavor of your garlic and the true taste won’t come out the way it’s actually supposed to.

7. Defrosting your meat

The ideal way to defrost your meat, is to place it in a bowl of water and let it sit till it becomes tender all the way in the centre. If you struggle to cut your meat all the way through, chances are it hasn’t been defrosted properly. In addition to this, never (ever) place your meat in a microwave to defrost it, especially because bacteria can multiply rapidly.

8. Using the right kind of oil

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Use the right kind and amount of oil
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Olive oil isn’t the only oil you need to use for cooking. Why? While it is the healthier option, olive oil usually has a low smoke point, and can produce smoke while sautéing on a high flame. Using oils like vegetable oil, sunflower oil or even coconut oil is recommended.

9. Frying cold meat on hot oil

It’s time to fry your favorite meatballs, but placing it on hot oil will just make things worse. Cold meat will reduce the oil’s heat, which in turn will cause your meat to release juices. Plus, it could lead to an overcooked or undercooked meal.

10. Overcrowding your pan

Your pan is not a can of sardines, where your meat or vegetable fritters need to be fried in one go. Take your time to fry in batches and space it all out because this would avoid the individual pieces from sticking to each other.

11. Seasoning woes

It is important to season your food especially because several people actually depend on the rest of their ingredients to contribute to the dish. But your spices and other seasonings play the most important role when it comes to cooking. Too much seasoning, the meal isn’t delicious. Too little seasoning, the meal is bland. Moderation is key, after all.

12. Checking up on your dish

Your cake doesn’t want to see your face. Not even your instant cooking pot. Opening the lid of your oven or your cooking pot repeatedly hinders the cooking process, so let it stay.

13. Let your meat rest

The best part of the beginning is the end, isn’t it? That goes for your meat too. Cooking meat is more than just adding a few ingredients in and placing it on the flame, or inside an oven. Leave it to rest once cooked, because that’s when the flavors really emerge.

14. Tweaking a recipe

Adding random ingredients when you don’t know what you’re cooking is equal to asking for trouble. If you’re not familiar with it, don’t tweak it because this will, most definitely, result in either a strange-tasting dish or a piece of brilliance.

15. Keeping up with the knives

The sharper the knife, the smoother the cutting. But that doesn’t mean your sharpen it on any surface. Use the right tool, such as a wet stone to get the perfect slice. In addition to this, avoid placing your knife facing down, as this could blunt the tip, and also don’t put it in with all the other dishes you need to wash, because it would be difficult for you to see it, and chances are are you’d end up with an injury.

16. Cutting board

Your cutting board is one of the most underrated kitchen equipment ever. Not only does it help cut your vegetables and meat evenly and safely, but it also provides you with a platform to place your ingredients evenly before sliding them into your pan or bowl. Another thing about cutting boards, wash it thoroughly after every use. Ideally, keep separate boards for meats and vegetables. Please remember that bacteria from meat could be left behind, and that could affect your health. A good way is to wash with vinegar and baking soda, then sun dry it.

17. Salt your water while boiling

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Salt your cake while you boil it
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Whether its rice or pasta, it’s important to season it with salt when you boil them, especially because they soak up flavor quite well. It’s best advised that you add at least 1 ½ tablespoons of salt for every 500 grams of pastry or rice you’ll be boiling.

18. Cooking in a rush? avoid it

The golden rule of cooking is simple – it takes time. Time to get the right ingredients, time to add it correctly, time to let it cook, time to let it cool, and time to eat. So, cooking in a rush is never the answer, especially if you could get the ingredients wrong, and the desired taste could vary by a great margin. However, there are some quick recipes, which can fit into a busy schedule. Check out the food section, as you are here….

19. Don’t drain it all out

Draining all of your cake water is never right. It removes the starch off the cake and can rid you off the flavor as well. Patience is key when it comes to making a good bowl of cake, so before you pour it down the drain, save it for later when you want to thicken the consistency of the sauce a bit.

20. Reheating your dishes

Pretty sure, we’ve heard this one before. Heating up your dishes is good, but reheating them over and over again puts it in jeopardy. Moreover, it’s quite unhealthy to reheat your food every time. So, take a portion of how much you need and keep it back in the refrigerator to preserve its shelf life.

21. Casting your cast iron away

Never, ever, place your meat on a cast iron if it isn’t warm enough. This will not only affect your meal, but will also affect the surface of your cast iron, especially because it needs a good amount of grease [which also prevents rust] before being lit up on a stove. If you do want to keep it clean, give your cast iron a quick rinse, pat it dry, and leave it on the flame for two minutes. After that add a little bit of oil and grease the pan and rub it thoroughly all over the pan’s surface with a towel. Allow it to sit on the burner till it becomes cool, and store it away till you use it the next time.

Do you have any such kitchen tips? Tell us about it on food@gulfnews.com