Let’s be honest, we all make mistakes in the kitchen. Whether you’re a novice or an accomplished chef, you’re bound to commit a cooking gaffe or two at some point. Believe it or not, even experienced cooks and seasoned pros have their fair share of unspeakable slipups and commit the deadliest of culinary sins.
If it’s of any consolation, it happens to the best of us: whether we’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, feeling a little bit lazy, or are simply a newbie in the kitchen. Since Marina Club cares about you, we thought it best to share some of the deadliest culinary sins you can potentially avoid with a little bit of mindfulness.
These tips will help you become a better cook since we will advise you on how to avoid some of the most common errors, and learn what you should be doing in the kitchen.
1. Not following the recipe
Sure, you’re excited to get cooking, so you just want to get down to it and start. Reading and following the recipe as you go is always crucial, especially if it’s a new dish you’re trying. The problem is, some recipes aren’t written in the correct order, and there’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe only to realize you’re missing some ingredients.
So, to avoid this problem, your first order of business is to read the recipe all the way through before commencing your cooking escapade. This gives you a clearer idea of exactly what you’ll be doing, which in turn, gives you a chance to ensure you have all the necessary ingredients, utensils and equipment.
Remember, while a recipe is not set in stone, adapting a recipe and its ingredients’ proportions can often lead to disastrous results. After all, many recipes depend on the chemistry of ingredients and how they ‘react’ with one another. Sometimes it’s better to just follow a tried and tested recipe, especially for complex dishes.
2. Using the wrong knife
Before you take a knife out, think about what you’ll be using it for. Are you chopping something small, like garlic? Or, will you be working with something larger, like a whole chicken? You should also note that while you might enjoy working with your paring knife, understand it’s not an all-purpose tool and doesn’t work well when tackling large foods. Always use the right sized knife for the job.
Essentially, you can think of your chef’s knife as an ‘all-purpose’ knife. In home kitchens, this is the tool to turn to when you’re cutting meat, slicing fruit and vegetables, and mincing herbs. When it’s time to slice through a baguette or other chunky loaves, however, reach for a serrated bread knife.
3. Underestimating the danger of Cross-Contamination
Cross–Contamination is the process when bacteria or other microorganisms are inadvertently transferred from one substance or object to another, with a harmful effect on both the food as well as its consumption.
This effect could lead to food contamination and worse still, food poisoning if transferred to food that’s already ready to be served. If you just handled raw chicken (which could potentially have Salmonella bacteria) on a cutting board, for example, all the equipment used should be thoroughly cleaned. You definitely don’t want to start chopping fresh veggies for your salad right over the raw meat remnants. Food safety isn’t something that should be taken lightly.
4. Not having an organised worktop
Avoiding your kitchen top to get messy will not only help you work in a more organised fashion, but also help you work more efficiently. When you have a messy workspace, this increases the chances of cross-contamination with your food occurring. Moreover, keeping a clean work area shouldn’t be undervalued since it allows you to save time in the long run. Another useful thing to do is to keep a garbage bowl next to your cutting board and cleaning as you go are also huge helps.
5. Adding ingredients to a cold pan
More often than not, it’s better to heat up your pan, then adding oil and food. Of course, there are some exceptions, like adding bacon in a cold pan. Many people add oil and food to a pan, and then turn on the stove. Needless to say, this is a cardinal mistake.
Food should never touch a cold pan. Instead of getting a nice sear, the ingredients will soak up the oil or butter, and will probably end up sticking to the pan. Make sure the pan and oil are hot before adding any ingredients to the pan. A hot pan is key to preventing your food from sticking, and for getting that aesthetically desired sear, which ultimately make the food being cooked all the more flavoursome.
6. Not tasting the food as you’re cooking
Even if you’re following a recipe, taste early and often. Cooking without tasting as you go is akin to writing a book without proofreading it. If you wait until dinner is on the table to taste your dish, you’re risking the danger of having unbalanced flavours and lack of seasoning.
On the other hand, when you taste as you cook, adding more seasoning and spices where necessary, avoids this blunder. The trick is to taste again and again, until you’re happy with the end result. While it’s good to have confidence in your cooking, not tasting your food is a big no-no.
7. Overcrowding the pan
When you cram too much food into a pan, not only does the temperature lower, there’s also the presence of too much moisture, which results in the food getting steamed instead of seared. Funnily enough, it’ll actually take longer to cook if you overcrowd your pan, rather than spacing out the food.
What’s more, your food won’t heat evenly, which consequently results in uneven cooking. Therefore it’s important to use the right size pan for the amount of food you’re cooking. Consider using a larger pan, two small pans, or if necessary, cook the food in batches.
Whether you’re just learning how to cook or you’ve been doing it for eons, it’s inevitable that you’ll make your fair share of blunders in the kitchen – no matter how big or small.
In saying all this, we understand that we’ve probably stressed you out with this post, as trying to wrap your head around becoming a decent cook is no easy feat! So instead of thinking which deadly culinary sins you’ve committed, why not take a break from the kitchen and come eat a delicious meal at Marina Club, situated at the breath-taking Valletta Waterfront?