When Ina Garten shares common cooking mistakes, we listen up. In her new book, Cook Like a Pro ($16.04, Amazon), Garten dishes on bad kitchen habits that separate the home chefs from the experts — and how to fix them ASAP.
1. Forgetting the salt and pepper
There's a reason salt and pepper are the king and queen of the spice rack! Sadly, they're often overlooked in favor of more flavorful condiments or spicy sauces. That said, you'd be amazed at how just a sprinkle of salt and pepper can enhance a dish's flavors and emphasize different ingredients.
But be careful about going overboard with these two. Start with just a pinch, and then taste your food before adding more.
2. Disregarding measurements
It's tempting to forgo the measuring cups in favor of eyeballing it because "that's how Grandma used to do it." But recipes were written for a reason, and you risk potentially ruining the dish by getting the measurements off — even by a little. “There are so many ways to measure ingredients and a few extra tablespoons of flour or too little can make all the difference between a good outcome and one that is disappointing,” Garten writes.
You don't have to stress out about getting the measurements exactly right, but you should be doing your best to get as close to what the recipe calls for as possible. That means using dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and wet measuring cups for liquids. Also, look closely at the wording in recipes; "2 cups chopped nuts" is different from "2 cups nuts, chopped."
3. Overcooking the meat
No one wants to risk food poisoning by undercooking meat, but overcooking leaves you with a tough, chewy hunk of protein. All you need to ensure this never happens again is a meat thermometer ($9.99, Amazon). Then, remove your beef tenderloin just before it's done (the thermometer should read 125 degrees Fahrenheit for the perfect medium-rare roast). The meat will continue to bake because of its internal temperature, but it won't end up overcooked as would happen if you left it in the oven.
4. Not taking care of the knives
We're all guilty of using kitchen knives to occasionally open a box because we couldn't find the scissors — but that behavior really has to stop. Good knives work best when they're properly cared for and stored. That means washing them by hand instead of tossing them in the dishwasher and storing them in a holder so they don't rattle around in your drawers.
Now that you know what habits have to stop, why not get a head start on those New Year's resolutions?