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Culinary Lesson #16 - 52 Common Cooking Mistakes and 30 Cooking Tips

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

While I do my best to dissect specific cooking questions that readers might have, there's no way I'll ever be able to cover every topic out there.   So rather than the usual one-subject lessons that I offer, enjoy the following list of a combined 82 mini-lessons for this week's Culinary Lesson:

  1. The (52) Most Common Cooking Mistakes by Cooking Light and
  2. 30 Small Cooking Tips that Pack a Big Punch in the Kitchen by The Kitchn.

I strongly believe that cooks of all levels could take away something positive from these lists, whether it's a smart tip you've never heard of or just a helpful reminder of something you're aware of, but don't always follow through with.
Image from Cooking Light.
And with that, here is a list of a couple tips and mistakes that stood out the most to me:
  • Freezing cookies.  Have you ever made a batch of cookies (or brownies for that matter) that were amazing the first day, but definitely lost their freshness a few days down the line?  There are two easy solutions for this common problem.  You can either freeze the dough and then bake individual servings whenever you feel like it, or else bake the entire batch, let them come to room temperature, and then package and freeze in a freezer bag.  After a 30 minute rest out of the freezer, they'll taste as they did the day they were baked.  Any time I make my favorite large batch, I go with the second option and enjoy for weeks to come!

  • Freezing bread.  OK, this may be a repeat of the previous bullet point, but I can't overemphasize enough how the freezer can be a food saver.  Whether it's a fresh loaf of bread or a fresh baguette, slice and properly freeze right away to ensure fresh bread in the future.

  • Freezing fresh herbs.  This was a new one to me, but it makes total sense.  As the article states, when we buy fresh herbs for recipes, we typically have a good deal of leftovers.  They go into the fridge, manage to get hidden, and then reappear once they've gone bad.  Read here for a simple solution.

  • Over-softening butter.  We've all been there.  You need softened butter for a recipe, but completely forgot to let the butter sit out ahead of time.  Microwave to the rescue!  Right?  ...Wrong.

  • Test your oven.  I've already gone over the importance of Knowing Your Oven using an oven thermometer, but what about finding where local hot spots are?  Read more to find out how bread can help you out.

  • Overcrowding a pan.  Whether you're cooking up a batch of ground beef, mushrooms, or steak, overcrowding is definitely a no-no.  When there's too much in a pan, water is released and essentially trapped, giving your food no chance at browning.  Rather you'll have a rubbery outcome due to the fact that you've boiled your food rather than sauteing it (and releasing natural sugars through searing).

  • Turning food too often.  This is one thing that I see a lot when people are searing steaks or chicken.  Many people are worried that since the food might stick to the pan seconds after being introduced, it's key to constantly move the meat around.  The opposite is actually true.  When searing meats, gently lay into an oiled pan, give it a little shake with your hand, and then let it be until cooked just over halfway through.  At this point, a crust will have formed, creating not only a layer of flavor, but a natural release from the pan.  Flip once, finish cooking on the other side, and you're done.

  • Shocking vegetables.  We've all seen it.  Green beans that turn into brown beans or broccoli that goes from bright green to a dull mess.  If you don't plan on serving vegetables immediately after they're done blanching in a pot of boiling water, transfer them to an ice bath to preserve their bright color (and texture).  When you're ready to serve, just saute with a little butter for a minute or two, and you'll be good to go.

And that's only nine tips out of the combined 82 tips covered!  If you've learned a thing or two already, I encourage you to read over the other tips outlined in the two articles.

For those of you who had a few minutes to do some skimming, were there any 'aha moments'?  Are there any other tips you felt should be added to the list?  Or to my list of Culinary Lessons?

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