There are a tremendous number of myths and old wives tales that surround the home kitchen, and lots of well-meaning cooks make mistakes based on misinformation or a misunderstanding of some scientific process or another.
Here are eight common mistakes you might not even realize you’re making.
Stirring Lumps out of Pancake Batter
For perfectionists, it’s tempting to try stirring out every little lump in a bowl of pancake batter. The trouble is, baking is a delicate thing, and by doing that, you often end up over-stirring the batter, resulting in a chewy, dense pancake instead of the light, fluffy one you’re going for. So just leave a few lumps in there. It won’t hurt anything.
Too Much Meat in the Pan
If you’re making a batch of meatballs or chicken strips or something along those lines, you might figure you can just toss in as many as will fit in the pan, working in large batches to get the cooking done more quickly. But remember: Each piece of uncooked meat you throw into the pan will lower the temperature of the oil inside. If you lower it too much, you’ll end up with soggy, oil-logged food instead of the crispy, light food you were hoping for.
Overcooking Lasagna Noodles
If you’re making spaghetti, by all means, cook your noodles al dente, or even more than that if that’s how you like it. But if you’re making a baked pasta dish like lasagna or baked ziti or something along those lines, you want to pull the pasta a little earlier. This is because it’s going into the oven, with sauce, and it will finish cooking that way. Otherwise, you end up with a soggy pile of mush.
Not Letting Meat Rest
This is especially important with poultry, but it goes for other meats too. Once something is done cooking, let it rest for five, 10, 15 minutes. The juices inside are literally boiling, and if you cut into them right away, they’ll go spilling all over the cutting board before they make it to your mouth.
You Roll Your Pizza Dough
Tossing your pizza dough like they do in the movies is really difficult without proper instruction and lots of practice, so we’re not saying you need to do that. It’s just that the rolling pin smashes everything down and creates a dense crust that won’t taste like the ones at the pizzeria. Avoid this as much as possible by gently stretching the dough with your hands. It’s painstaking, but it’s worth it.
Not Creaming Your Cookie Batter
The butter, sugar and eggs in your cookie batter need to be whipped into a cream, lest you end up with dense, heavy cookies. Beat them 3-5 minutes before proceeding.
Using Fresh Tomatoes in Marinara Sauce
Here is one case where fresh doesn’t taste better. By all means, dice up a fresh tomato for your salsa, but if you’re making Italian food, it’s best to go with some canned tomatoes. They make a tastier sauce with a more pleasant mouthfeel than fresh tomatoes do.
Salting Your Scrambled Eggs Before Cooking
Salt tastes good on eggs, and scrambled eggs are all mixed up anyway, so it stands to reason that it would be a good idea to just mix the salt right in there as you’re mixing, right? No. Don’t do this. Here’s why: In addition to being the ultimate seasoning, salt has some pretty interesting chemical properties. It’s especially effective at pulling moisture out of things. And what will happen, if you give it enough time to work on your eggs, is that it will turn them into rubbery lumps of egg matter that look like you need to cut them with a knife. Save the salt for after the eggs have cooked, when you’re seasoning them to taste. They’ll be fluffy and light that way.
Do you have any tips of your own? We’d love to hear them. Drop us a line in the comments below, and happy cooking!