10 Top Cooking Mistakes That Turn Dinner Into Disaster

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cooking mistakeI've been cooking dinner as a grownup for more years than I care to say. And I've made just about every mistake you can possibly make. It's one thing if dinner turns to disaster when you're single and childless. But when you have hungry children waiting? Ugh, the worst. I've compiled just a few of the biggest dinner-cooking mistakes I've made. And seriously? This post could have been twice as long. Here's what NOT to do in the kitchen.

1. Not using the right-sized pots and pans. I make this mistake all the freakin' time. Maybe it's all those years of making do with less in all other aspects of my life? Anyway, that ethic backfires in the kitchen. Use the big stock pot, the widest pan, the largest cookie sheet. Food almost always cooks better when it has enough space.

2. Winging it. I mentioned failing to read the whole recipe before beginning in my baking mistakes post. Some more complicated meals require some planning: What you'll start and when. Failing to plan can cause kitchen mayhem, when one dish goes cold while you're still cooking another.

More from The Stir: 5 Tips From 'Extreme Chef' to Bring to Your Own Kitchen

3. Forgetting that I'm cooking. Sometimes I'll have a sauce or some pasta going on the stove that doesn't need tending, so I'll wander away to read something, fold laundry, check Facebook, and then -- OMG, what is that smell?!? I can't be counted on to pay attention, so now I just set a kitchen alarm to remind me to get back into the kitchen and finish cooking dinner.

4. Boiling over. How many times have you let something boil over, creating a mess all over the stove? Hate that! Control that pot -- if you're supposed to bring something to a boil, be ready to turn down the heat immediately after you get that boil.

5. Not tasting as you go. Sometimes I cook on autopilot and just assume everything tastes fine. Sometimes I forget that I've already added salt. This is why it helps to taste while you're cooking.

6. Not separating the noodles. You really do need to give your pasta a little stir, so the noodles don't all cook into one solid blob. Sadness.

7. Cooking cold meat. When it comes to roasting, you need to let your meat (especially big cuts) sit out for about 10 to 20 minutes and reach room temperature first. Recipes are written with that step in mind, even if they don't say so. So failing to do this can yield an unevenly-cooked or under-cooked roast.

8. Tearing into the meat too soon. I know that roast chicken or steak looks scrumptious, but let it rest a few minutes before digging in! Cutting into cooked meat too quickly will let the juices run and dry out your meal.

9. Unevenly-chopped veggies. Your veggies will not cook evenly if you've cut them all in 18 different sizes. Watch those cooking shows and observe how the pros manage to cut everything the same size and shape. Once you learn how, it's actually pretty easy.

10. Cooking everything on high. Almost everything you ever cook will cook more evenly and thoroughly on low or medium. You only ever need high to sear or brown, or if you're trying to bring something to a boil. High should never be your default temperature.

What are your biggest cooking mistakes?


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Rootbear Rootbear

I used to cook for a living. I still cook everything on high and jack the oven up to 500 degrees. It drives my boyfriend nuts because apparently I'm some kind of machine and "normal people don't cook like that". But I just like to get things done and cooking and be speedy about it.

paige... paige8608

I usually always burn rice. 

Miche... MichelleNYC

@paige, I used to also but here's how to do it: 1 part rice, 2 parts water drop of oil and salt. Bring to boil and the second it boils, put on low. Cooking time depends on type of rice. But the trick is catching it the minute it boils and then letting it do its thing on low - and dont go mixing it until it's ready.

Shandi80 Shandi80

My biggest mistake is not getting a label maker for dry ingredients. Powdered sugar instead of flour to thicken up soup? Yep, that was me. A few sprinkles of cayenne pepper on my french toast instead of cinnamon? Guilty, indeed. The french toast turned out okay, if you like your pastries spicy, but the soup took a lot of salt to even out the sugary flavor. Yuck.

caral... caralicious

@Rootbear cooking everything on high is why you used to cook for a living....Somethings need time to cook evenly or for their flavours to come through.  You were not being "speedy" you were being stupid.

Megan Johnson

@Shandi, you sound like me, only with me it was confusing baking powder with baking soda. I was young and uneducated in the ways of the kitchen, and trying to make drop biscuts from scratch (Since i was out of Bisquick).  At the time I didn't know the difference...the recipe called for baking powder and I used baking soda....Totally inedible biscuts. :-p

nonmember avatar greta

Caralicious.... as someone who is currently, and has been in the F&B industry for several years.... most food in restaurants IS cooked at 425+ and on high heat.

With the exception of baked items, pastries, bread, etc... which is a completely different science... a la carte food is cooked on high heat, otherwise you will be sitting at your table complaining that the food takes longer to come out than it already does now.

What's stupid is being misinformed, uneducated, judgemental, and sanctimonious.. ring any bells?

candy... candyw210

WOW @CARALICIOUS  That was a bit rude don't you think and completely uncalled for. I worked for a fancy restaurant as well and yes most food is cooked on super high temps to get the food out quicker otherwise people would be waiting about an hr for their food instead of about 20 min. How do you think you are served so fast at a restaurant????  So don't you sound dumb for your comment?

caral... caralicious

@ candyw210 and greta shes talking about food at home that shes cooking on full blast!  And btw most food as restaurants is precooked somewhat thats why it can be cooked on high so fast and get to the table at top speed.but you would know that from working at fancy restaurants.

the4m... the4mutts

Are yall seriously arguing over FOOD?? First world problems at their finest.... smh

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