FOOD  |  11.3.15  |  by Terra Wellington

food plate

Photo: instagram / misslulun

We always wonder what a professional chef would think if he or she entered our kitchen.  Most assuredly there would be found a mountain of mistakes!  Hopefully not too many on the food safety side, but overcooked, wrong knife, making a mess, improvising without knowing the outcome … the list grows long.  Most moms are trying to make it all work without having to spend hours in the kitchen.  But maybe if we knew a few more “tricks” of how to avoid common cooking mistakes our food would look and taste a bit better?

Here’s 7 easy fixes for common food mistakes 

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7 Easy Fixes for Common Cooking Mistakes

1. Messy cook?  The recommendation from professionals is to clean as you go.  You can have a bowl right next to your cutting area for food scraps (you can compost them!), and a used bread bag for any meat grissle to throw out — less trips to the trash, and it keeps everything organized.  Wipe down the counter with a spray bottle of soapy water or cleaning spray as you go.  Start with a clean dishwasher so that you can load dirty dishes as you food prep instead of stacking them in the sink or counter.

2. Need a lot of appliances and tools?  Some people actually don’t cook because they think they must have a certain tool or appliance.  Professionals will say to learn how to improvise or choose things to make that don’t require those tools.  For example, with a basic whisk or even a fork you can become the human mixer.  Heating up food on the stove or in the oven can work just as good as a toaster or microwave —  just requires a little more patience and sometimes a basic cast iron pan.

3. Waiting for that last dinner item?  This speaks to poor planning.  This is a hard one, because so many moms are so busy and barely have enough time to think about what they are having for dinner let alone planning the cooking order.  But, if you can take a few minutes to plan ahead, it can make all the difference.  For example, turning the oven on sooner makes it possible to stick your item in as soon as you’re ready.  Figure out how long it might take to get each food item completed and which one needs your attention first — it’s a bit of organization mixed in with cooking experience.  If you don’t have that much food prep experience, it will be harder for you to figure out how to cook everything at once — so choose simple meals at first or prepare some items ahead.

4. Doesn’t taste good?  Easy one.  Taste as you go so that you can minimize a surprise when you’re done.  Some of this speaks to experience as well.  No completely relying on recipes is another tip — for example, maybe your family prefers the cilantro flavor over parsley, so swap it out of the recipe.

pumpkins and pomegranites

Photo: instagram / ulugyucesoy

5. Pasta overcooked?  This is a common mistake and one of the easiest to fix.  You want to cook pasta to the “al dente” level.  On Barilla‘s site, al dente is described as “a slight resistance when you bite into it or cut it with a fork.”  If the pasta is a melt-in-your-mouth experience, then you’ve cooked too long.  So, pull out bits of the pasta to bite into as it cooks so that you can stop and drain the pasta as soon as it’s ready.  Don’t rely on the number of minutes it says to cook on the package.

6. Bound by the recipe?  Try experimenting with seasonings and herbs, or swapping out vegetables or meats.  Don’t experiment with temperature so much as you could run in to food safety issues (see tip #7).  If the recipe calls for chilling, more than likely it’s necessary.  But otherwise, learn how your own choices and tastes affect the outcome — you’ll enjoy your time in the kitchen more.

7. Undercooked meat?  Use a meat thermometer.  This is all about food safety.  Don’t rely on a recipe’s cooking minutes / hours — it can be a guide, but your meat thermometer should be your main determining factor.  Here’s an extensive internal temperature cooking chart from   And here’s a video showing you how to use the thermometer.  We prefer a digital thermometer like in the video because it’s so much more exact.

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