12 Actionable Steps
Top 12 Mistakes Beginner Cooks Make
1. No Mise En Place
Now, I know you might be looking at this word like huh but this is a French term taught in culinary school that means “in place”. You have to get your mise en place in order before you start cooking. Get everything out that you need before you start cooking. If you want to take it to the professional level cut and measure out your ingredients before cooking, thus everything will be in place. If you are guilty of looking for each ingredient as you need it, doing this will get you better organized and shorten your steps in the kitchen.
2. Improper Manipulation of Fire
When you’re cooking, you want to control the fire and make it cook your food how fast or slow you want. If you want to boil some rice you need high heat, if your heat is low it’s going to take forever to come to a rolling boil. If you’re frying anything on low heat the batter will absorb the oil and just become soggy and not crispy. When cooking a steak, you want high heat so you can sear the meat to get a beautiful brown crust. When baking the right temperature helps active your ingredients to puff so you can have a moist and fluffy cake. If you’re braising short ribs you want to start with high heat then cut your fire down to low so it can cook the ribs low and slow which will helps tenderize the meat.
3. Bad or wrong tools
“You need the right tools for the job.” Is something my dad always says. How can you grate a carrot with no cheese grater? How do you make a cake without a cake pan? (Those disposal foil pans are supposed to be used for finished products not baking) How do you boil pasta in a skillet? Although, you can substitute some tools for others, having the right tools helps create a successful dish but also makes your life easier. That’s why I created my best equipment list to help home cooks have the best tools?
4. Using a Dull Knife
A dull knife is one of the most dangerous tools in the kitchen. Always keep it sharp by honing and sharping it at least twice a year. You can buy a sharpening stone or go to a shop where they specialize in knife sharpening. I found my knife sharpening guy at my local farmer’s market.
5. Buying Unacceptable Ingredients
I understand, everybody’s budget is different. I also understand sometimes you have to make good use with what you currently have. I also understand that some nameless brand products are made by big name brands, sometimes it’s the exact ingredients. I say all that to say, make your budget work for you but if you’re going to splurge by meat that’s free of no antibiotics and added hormones. If you can find locally source ingredients it’ll be great!
6. Free Styling a Recipe
You’re supposed to be confident in the kitchen it’ll definitely come through in your food but if you have never made a recipe, do not freestyle. Cook the recipe as it is and don’t ever allow missing one or two ingredients stop you from cooking a recipe. You can freestyle with a recipe after you’ve made it a few times. My rule is cook the recipe at least once to get the vision of the author then find ways to add your twist to it but never ever freestyle a recipe, that could be the reason why no one tries your food at the potluck.
8. Ignoring Your Senses
There’s several ways to confirm when an ingredient is finished cooking. You can see it, touch it, smell it or hear it. You have to trust your senses, this is something you will lean more on with time. I make my dad a German Chocolate cake every year for his birthday, the recipe for the coconut icing says cook for 15 minutes. The problem with that is the icing should have a light brown color to it with a mild nutty flavor and that take 40 minutes to achieve. As I stated earlier make the recipe at least once before making adjustments.
9. Being Impatient
The phrase “practice makes perfect” should be the mantra for novice cooks. To many novice cooks believe they will get a recipe to come out perfect the first time. It doesn’t matter how great of a recipe you have your kitchen equipment, humidity, ingredients and a variety of things can throw off any recipe. You have to cook a recipe a minimal of 10x’s before you “get it”.
10. Scared to Fail