Look, you can’t always just order take-out. Or at least you shouldn’t probably?
Sooner or later, you’re going to need to cook something though, and u/takingitoffhereboss is here with an Ask Reddit question that’s going to save you a lot of time, energy, disappointment, and money when it comes to cooking at home. He/she/they ask:
“Professional Chefs of Reddit; what mistakes do us amateur cooks make, and what’s the easiest way to avoid them?”
Here are some of the best, most highly upvoted answers:
Too much or too little salt. Salt is one of the most magical ingredient known to mankind. It can make all the ingredients of the dish shine like stars. It can also f**k up all your hard work by overpowering the other ingredients. Cooking, like every other thing in the world, is about balance. It is the art of balancing flavors that compliment each other
Taste as you cook. Continually adjust seasoning (salt level) as needed. Acidity is also a very overlooked aspect of seasoning. Tons of dishes light up with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
Clean as you cook. Most dishes have some downtime while cooking them, use that time to clean up the mess you made.
If you don’t have a good feel for how done meat should be, use a thermometer. Ignore any recipe that gives precise cooking times, because they’re rarely going to be correct.
Don’t overcrowd the pan
SLOW THE F**K DOWN! Just because you saw Gordon Ramsay chopping s**t at a thousand miles a minute on a youtube video doesn’t mean that you can do that. Cut first, go slow, and speed will get there.
Pastry cook here, on the sweet side of things, my biggest piece of advice is to follow the recipe exactly if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Baking is basically science and if you don’t calculate substitutions right, it’s never going to come out right. Also make sure you have good ingredients. That box of baking soda from 5 years ago is not going to work that well anymore.
Not a professional chef, but if you’ve put enough salt in your dish and feel that putting anymore would over-season it, but you still feel it’s lacking in taste, add some sort of acid.
Lemon juice/zest, lime juice/zest, balsamic/red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar – you’ll be surprised at how much this lifts the dish!
When I was getting interested in cooking, I would skip the acid completely because I honestly couldn’t be bothered. I would always chuckle and joke at how much lemon/lime/vinegar chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Alton Brown put in their cooking.
Then I tried it once.
Now, every dish I make has some sort of acidity in it because it’s just not the same without!
Hello, I am the chef at a 5 diamond hotel in San Francisco. The biggest thing to learn when just starting to cook, is mise en place. “Everything in its place.” This is ultimately to get food timings correct and precise, and for safety and control reasons. The second biggest thing to learn in the kitchen is safety. I once had a cook with 25 years experience get complacent and splashed hot oil on his face. Now we call him twoface. Cooking is a creative release when done outside of a professional kitchen, so take your time and don’t hurt yourself. The third biggest thing to learn, and I tell all my cooks this everyday, is taste, season, taste. Taste your food, season it, and taste it again. Most people (whether they believe it or not) have the same taste thresholds, so what tastes good for you will taste good for someone else. Last thing I can add if you want to improve your cooking, is to cook more! Cook everyday, because practice makes perfect. Eat. Eat everywhere and anything.
The most dangerous piece of equipment in a kitchen is a dull knife.
One really common mistake people make is putting food on a cold pan. You should let the pan heat up a bit before you put anything on it.
Start with salt and pepper and get those right first. Seasonings make or break your food, but if you’re just throwing s**t in because it sounds good you’re gonna have a bad time. Also, keep in mind that you can pretty much always add more later but you can almost never take it back out.
Pressing burgers to make them cook faster. Don’t you ever do that again.
Also, sharpen your knives. It makes them safer and way less frustrating to use.
Seriously though don’t you ever press that f***ing burger again you bastard.
My pro chef and former chemist friend gave me an earful for putting my tomatoes in the fridge.
He explained how the cold temp. changes the chemical composition and makes them taste s***tier.
I no longer put my tomatoes in the fridge and they are tastier.
Now, this one is a weird one, but everyone is guilty of it, even some professional chefs. Stirring. Everyone has been stirring stuff wrong for generations. If you have a large pot of something like stew, soup, or sauce, you probably stir in a circular motion, usually clockwise or counter-clockwise, right? Perhaps along the edge of the pot, or in a spiral, either going inward or outward?
Well, you’re doing it wrong. When stirring, do in one of two manners: First, in small circles, working from the outside and going inward. Similar to how you might draw a cloud or petals on a flower. Or, stir in a figure-8 motion. This is especially useful if stirring in an oval or square-shaped container. Also, stir upwards. How? Angle your spoon so that basically, you’re bringing the part of the food that’s closest to the heat source, up to the surface, and vice versa. This allows for a quicker and more even heat distribution. Also helps to prevent burning.
You don’t weigh your ingredients. I cannot stress enough how important it is to weigh out all of your ingredients (all ahead of time, if you really want to bake like a pastry chef) on a digital scale. One cup of feathers does NOT weigh the same as one cup of pebbles, ya know? It’s so easy to find volume to mass conversions online, and your baked goods will not only turn out better, but they will be more consistent.
After you mix your cookie dough, REFRIGERATE IT so that the fat hardens and doesn’t melt like cookie brittle or brownie bark — unless you like it that way!
A recipe is just a suggestion, not the law. If a recipe calls for garlic, and you don’t much care for garlic, leave it out. Or, reduce the amount.
You probably aren’t mixing certain things as much as you should be, like creaming butter and sugar isn’t just combining them, you need to beat them until they’re fluffy. The same goes for adding eggs…you’ll get better cookies and brownies if you beat again until fluffy when adding eggs to your creamed butter and sugar. However, you don’t want to over-mix once you add the flour, just mix until no more dry flour is visible. Over-mixing the flour can make your end product tough.
You frost hot cakes and always end up making a huge mess. Just stop. Be logical — if you apply icing to a hot surface it will melt. The cake should at the very least be room temp or even cold if you are doing more intricate decorating.
You take preheating the oven as a suggestion rather than a requirement. it can really affect the texture and appearance, as well as the timings. not preheating can lead to flat/hard cookies and dense/unevenly cooked cakes, among other things.
Using too much water when making top ramen
Source : Single Male
So many baking issues are solved by simply knowing what ingredients you need and when you’ll need them. And unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t mess with the recipe! Seemingly small changes — like decreasing the amount of sugar or substituting a different type of flour — can have huge effects on the finished product. I always recommend that the first time you try a recipe, you make it exactly as written. After you’ve done that successfully, THEN and ONLY then can you think about changing it up!
You throw all your ingredients together at once and mix them without thinking about their order. If you see butter (or any fat) and sugar listed first in a recipe, it’s a creaming method — which means you mix together the fat and sugar first, until it’s light and kind of airy. When you add the eggs, add them one by one to make sure they mix in well and so that your batter keeps its light texture.
Always sift your dry ingredients. This is especially important for powdered sugar when making buttercream, because you want the butter and powdered sugar to mix seamlessly.
If the recipe says an ingredient is supposed to be room temperature, make sure it’s room temperature! Eggs are particularly important for this rule — room temperature egg yolks break more easily and incorporate better into whatever you’re mixing. And for something like cheesecake, or anything else with high fat content, cold eggs can actually harden the fat and make your mixture lumpy.
I know one mistake I used to make was to buy canned mushrooms and use those for recipes. The first time I used fresh mushrooms for something, I realized the dreadful error of my ways, and I haven’t bought canned mushrooms since!
Always use fresh mushrooms, people!
When you put something in the oven to bake, its very tempting to peak inside. Try to do this as little as possible. When you open the oven door, all the hot air escapes, thus lowering the temperature of your oven. It’s OK if that happens a couple times, but if you keep checking…it’s going to take FOREVER to finish. Finally, invest in an oven thermometer to know the true temperature of your oven. Some ovens just aren’t accurate when reading temperature.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE MICROWAVE. Those cooking shows only show the highlights of cooking. Think of the food network as the facebook of cooking. You don’t see the bad s**t that happens, only the highlights.
Underseason your food, taste it, then reseason to what you think tastes good. THEN RETASTE IT AGAIN. There’s a reason there aren’t salt and pepper shakers on higher end restaurants. The plate put on your table is what it SHOULD taste like.
Cover image: Shutterstock, Iheartnaptime