After years of watching food network, reading magazines, and getting tips from family members, I have learned how to fix most common cooking mistakes. I know there are a lot of people still out there that are making these common mistakes. I wanted to give some advice that I didn’t have when I started cooking.
1. Over Cooking Pasta
Have you ever cooked pasta and it turned out mushy? Especially the next day. If you answered yes then you are cooking your pasta way too long. The best way to eat pasta is “al dente” or firm to the bite. Cooking pasta al dente typically takes about 8-10 minutes or 5 minutes if the pasta is fresh. No, the pasta won’t be hard it will have a bite to it which is the best way to eat it. By cooking the pasta like that you will be able to truly taste what the pasta should taste like. Then you can add your favorite sauces and meats.
2. Over Boiling Potatoes
When cooking potatoes they should be fork tender which means they should easily be pierced with a fork when they are done. If you over boil the potatoes then mash them you end up with a watery mess that no amount of spices and butter can save.
To boil better potatoes you need to cut all of your potatoes the same size so that they will cook evenly.
Put the cut potatoes in cold water, that’s right cold water, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. By putting the potatoes in cold water it allows all the pieces to cook and be done at the same time. After about 20 minutes you want to test the potatoes with a fork.
If you can poke the potatoes with a fork and pull it out easily they are done. If they are not done, let them boil for 3-5 more minutes. Make sure to drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot they were cooked in. The hot pot will help any excess water to evaporate. Preventing watery mashed potatoes. Season with your favorite spices, add butter, and a little cream and you will have perfectly cooked mashed potatoes.
3. Over Sauteing Garlic
I love cooking with garlic but I have made some really bad mistakes while cooking with it. I had chopped some garlic and needed to saute it for some homemade garlic bread. Yum! After putting the garlic in the pan I turned around for what seemed like less than 1 minute. When I looked back at the pan the garlic started to turn brown. I thought no problem might taste great. Oh boy the taste was horrible.
Garlic can easily be over cooked. It needs less than 1 minute to saute. Your nose will also know when the garlic is ready. If you ever see garlic turn brown just throw it away and start over. I am telling you the taste is horrific.
4. Over/Under Cooking Rice
Rice is easy to mess up. For example if you add too much water you end up with gummy or mushy rice. If you cook rice too long you end up with burnt rice. If you under cook your rice you end up with what feels like small pebbles. If you search the internet, books, magazines and TV shows, you will end up with a bunch of people telling you a bunch of different ways to cook rice.
Every cook has preferences when it comes to rice. Rice is also cooked differently in different cultures. Being Puerto Rican, rice is a staple in our food culture.
The way I prepare rice has been passed down to me by my mom whom was taught by her mother and so on and so forth. I use medium grain rice, I use my index finger to determine if there is enough water. The first line on my index finger is my guide. If the water passes that line I have too much water. I boil until the water is absorbed into the rice, then I put the temperature on low, cover the rice and cook for 30 minutes.
You may want a more exact method of cooking rice, and you can find an excellent one here.
5. Boiling When You Should Simmer
There is a big difference between simmering and boiling. If you boil when you should be simmering, you can ruin the dish you are preparing this is especially true when making caramel. When simmering liquid, what your looking for is a bubble popping on the surface every 3-4 seconds. If you see bubbles popping more aggressively then that you are boiling and that’s not what you want. Pay close attention to what the recipe is telling you to do.
6. Not Allowing Meat To Rest
So you just grilled a beautiful mouth watering t-bone steak but your not sure if it is done to your liking. Don’t poke a hole in your steak! Thats a big no no. Doing so will let all of the delicious juicy goodness run right out of it.
Let your meat rest. When you are cooking any kind of meat you need to make sure you let it rest before cutting into it. You can be cooking meat on the stove, oven, or grilling it. Once the meat is done cooking you have to let it rest for about 10 minutes. When the meat is being cooked, the juices run towards the center, if you cut the meat as soon as it is finished cooking, all of the juices will run out of it.
By letting the meat rest you are allowing the juices to run back through the meat. This prevents the meat from being dry. No body likes dry meats especially steaks. To determine how to grill steak the way you like it check out this amazing bbq guide. Just remember well done doesn’t mean cooking meat until you feel like it is done.
7. Over Boiling Eggs
Over boiling eggs. I have cooked a lot of eggs to figure out the right process. My family likes medium boiled eggs. When you are ready to boil eggs, put the eggs in a pot with cold water until the eggs are covered. Then turn the stove on high, once the water comes to a boil you turn the stove off and put a lid on the pot. Let the pot sit for 10 minutes. You will have the perfect eggs.
When you over cook the eggs and start to crack it open the yolk will have a green hue. Sometimes the entire yolk can have a green hue which doesn’t look appetizing. The yolk should be bright yellow and the flesh should be smooth. Follow this process and you too can enjoy the perfect boiled egg. Alternatively, you can boil eggs in the microwave.
8. Not Seasoning as You Cook
Season as you go. You should always be seasoning as you are cooking. Any time you add a new ingredient or “layer” to the dish you should season it. By doing this you can make sure the end result comes out flavorful. If you don’t season as you are cooking then once the meal is done you will be thinking what did I miss, and the meal will not taste as good as it could have been.