Holding knives wrong
Wrapping your whole hand around the handle or resting your pointer finger on top of the blade is unsafe and impractical. Try holding your knife with your thumb at the side of the blade, pointer finger on the other side and remaining three fingers wrapped tightly around the top of the handle.
Intentionally burning your food
Those who like blackened or burnt toast (they exist), start turning down your toaster. Burnt food can create carbon, which is considered carcinogenic and shouldn’t be eaten. Carcinogens have been linked to cancer development, so reduce your risk by cutting out the consumption of burnt food.
Adding ingredients in the wrong order
You need to follow a recipe for a reason, so that flavors can develop correctly. For example, garlic and onions release flavor when they’re browned first, and certain fresh herbs should be added last to a dish to avoid overcooking them and ruining their flavor.
Not sharpening knives regularly
It’s recommended you sharpen your knives 3-4 times a year, especially if you cook at home daily. You can go and get them professionally sharpened to avoid spoiling them by doing it yourself. Dull knives are actually a lot more dangerous to use when preparing food as they can slip easily.
Using a food processor instead of a mixer
Food processors and mixers have two different purposes that create two different effects. A mixer is used to create batters or doughs as it helps with not over mixing or pulsating the ingredients. A food processor can either blend or chop ingredients, which isn’t ideal for making bread or cupcakes for example.
Buying a fancy knife set
Knives can cost up to hundreds of dollars, so it’s worth asking yourself what knives will actually be used in your household. It’s recommended to buy knives individually as and when you feel you need them more regularly. Have you used that costly meat cleaver more than a few times since buying?
Putting hot liquid and foods in the blender
The steam that gets trapped inside the blender can cause you to burn yourself more easily than you realize. Not only that, depending on the blender model, the pressure from the steam could cause the blender to explode or burst. If you need to blend fast in a rush, hold a tea towel over the lid and blend slowly at first.
Leaving knife blades uncovered
Leaving knife blades exposed, especially loose in kitchen drawers, can be a safety hazard as you can easily catch your hands. Knife blades are also thin and can sometimes be brittle, so leaving them exposed can increase their vulnerability to damage from other utensils hitting against them.
Ready to eat foods touching raw foods
You should have separate chopping boards for veggies and meat to avoid cross contamination. This is because raw foods that need cooking to be safe can spread bacteria to the foods that are fresh and don’t need cooking, which can increase your chances of food poisoning.
Cutting meats before veggies
If you don’t have the space for multiple cutting boards, make cooking easier and less time consuming by prepping your vegetables first. This means you don’t have to clean the board in between thoroughly enough to get rid of any raw meat bacteria, saving you time when preparing your meal.
Prepping ingredients as you cook
If you want to save time and make the process smoother, prep your ingredients before you add any heat. This can make each step easier to follow, and also could prevent burning food or making mistakes by being distracted when the stove is on prepping other things.
Forgetting to read the whole recipe
Skimming over the recipe before you start can make you easily mess up whatever you’re cooking. If you don’t read the recipe properly you may realize mid-cooking that you don’t have a certain utensil or an ingredient that can make or break the whole dish.
Storing meats on the top shelf of the fridge
Meat should ideally be stored at the bottom of the fridge, because this position reduces the risk of juices leaking onto other items around it. A leaking package can cause a health risk to anything directly below the shelf, and can end up with you having to throw away otherwise perfectly good ingredients.
Never cleaning your fridge
Bacteria can grow quickly in spills or moldy food, so it’s a good idea to clean your fridge weekly. If you are too busy or don’t usually have much food in the fridge, do a deep clean at least once a month. Spills should be cleaned when they happen to avoid cross contamination.
Fruits and veggies: in the fridge vs on the counter
Fruits and veggies will last generally a few extra days when in the fridge, but it can affect the flavor of some fruits. Bananas, for example, don’t get as sweet when kept in the fridge, but apples may taste nicer to you if they’re cold and crispy. It’s all about your preference.
Buying produce in bulk
Unless you have a large household and food goes pretty quickly anyway, buying bulk produce isn’t always the best move. Storing it in the fridge to make it last longer can change the flavor and it might not taste as fresh as when you should have eaten it at its peak.
Not tasting foods
Tasting your food is the best way to ensure you know the direction it’s going. It helps you tell if it needs more seasoning, more sauce or more liquid added, as these can all change how the dish tastes at the end. Obviously only try foods that are safe, usually sauces or cooked dishes.
Seasoning all at once
Season each item individually so you know what needs more later. It’s recommended to season in layers to ensure every part of the dish is balanced with flavor – not just the top layer of food right at the end. Certain seasonings should only be added at the end regardless to avoid burning.
Overcrowding the pan
When using a pan, all food should have space to touch its surface, but not be overcrowded. If the pan is too small for all your ingredients it may take longer for the ingredients to cook, resulting in a loss of flavor or increased risk of mushy textures.
Thawing meats on the counter
Leaving frozen meat on the counter to thaw is not recommended, as bacteria start to form when the meat gets over 40 degrees. The safest way to thaw out meat is always in a bowl, either in the microwave on low, in the fridge or in cold water. Meat should always be in a container when thawing to avoid juices leaking.
Using the same sponge repeatedly
Bacteria builds up very quickly in sponges as they are often damp and warm from the washing up. It’s recommended to replace a sponge after every 30 uses and/or at least once a month. You don’t want to be cleaning the dishes you eat off with something full of bacteria.
Putting food in the oven before it’s preheated
You need to be patient and wait until your oven is at the right temperature. You wouldn’t cook meat in low heat, so why let the oven heat up whilst it’s in there? A change in temperature can also ruin certain baked goods as they need consistent heat in order to rise properly.
Making the oven too hot
Cranking up the heat 100 degrees higher won’t make your dish cook faster, it will just burn the outside faster. Food needs heat to cook the middle of it, which is why oven temperature is important for certain ingredients, but if the temperature is too high it will burn and also be raw, the worst combination.
Underestimating the time it will take
If you’re not skilled with a knife, chopping veg might take way longer than you realize, and then you’re running behind with the actual cooking process. If you’re trying out new skills or recipes, give yourself enough time to prepare and cook so you don’t end up rushing before your dinner guests arrive.
Putting nice dishware in the dishwasher
Why spend potentially hundreds on collecting china pieces, just to have them get scratched or broken in the dishwasher? Always hand wash delicate pieces and use a sponge, not a metal scrubbing scourer. This will also keep expensive knives sharp and means that they’re less likely to get nicks in the blades.
Under salting foods
Don’t be afraid of salt. Salt isn’t necessarily there for a ‘salty’ flavor, but for enhancing other flavors. Taste your dishes to see if they seem quite bland and add small amounts of salt to determine the difference. Obviously don’t over salt your food, but use it in small amounts when cooking.
Placing hot food in the fridge
Burning hot foods shouldn’t be stored directly in the fridge or freezer. Bacteria can grow as the temperature cools down to an environment where they can thrive. As a result, other areas of the fridge are negatively affected. Instead, let foods cool for up to two hours and then place in the fridge.
Mixing in a too small bowl
It’s better to have a bowl too big than too small. Mixing up a batch of brownies or cookies can get incredibly messy if flour and sugar keeps flying out the sides, especially if you’re using powdered sugar to cook with. Always start with a bowl you think is bigger than you need to avoid spilling ingredients.
Forgetting to coat the pan
If you’re not using a really good non-stick pan, you should always coat the pan with some form of grease. Butter or olive oil are the best choices as they can add a nicer flavor to the food too. Having food stick to the pan makes it more likely to burn, as the heat can’t be moved about easily.
Sautéing wet veggies
Most veggies have quite a lot of water in them already, so not drying them off after cooking or defrosting can make them go mushy in the pan. The extra water and oil can create a lot of steam which will soften the veggies too much and they will lose that sautéed texture.
Not letting meat rest before it’s cut
It can be so tempting to want to cut into that perfectly cooked piece of meat especially when hungry, but don’t ruin the process. Meat should be rested for 10-20 mins covered in foil after cooking, because this allows it to retain more juice and keep it from going dry.
Not letting the pan get hot enough
Not letting your pan get hot enough before you start adding ingredients can potentially end up with them being cooked unevenly. If the heat isn’t high enough you can still burn your food because it may look like it needs to be left in the pan longer. This can also dry out food more easily.
Adding dressings too early
Dressings often have a lot of moisture in as they provide a sauce element to the dish. Adding the dressing 10 minutes before anyone is eating can make your salads or pastas soggy or mushy because they will absorb the moisture over time. If you meal prep salads, add the dressing when you plan to eat it.
Using the same knife
This isn’t just to avoid cross contamination as you cook, but also to make cooking more efficient. Using a giant meat knife won’t be practical for cutting up tiny chives and vice versa. Using knives fit for their job can make the food cuts better and also prevent you slipping and hurting yourself.
Rinsing meat off
Many people still think they need to wash meat, but it’s actually more harmful to do so. Washing meat, especially chicken, can cause the spread of bacteria over the sink or draining area, which may be missed when cleaning. It can also increase the water content of the meat and make it tougher when cooking.
Not cleaning the sink
Just rinsing away food isn’t good enough. The sink can harbor a lot of nasty bacteria, especially if it’s recently been used with warm water. Cleaning chopping boards or knives that have handled raw meat can spread in the sink, and it shouldn’t be left without soap or antibacterial cleaning after cooking.
Skimping on the meat thermometer
This tool can make it easier to cook meat to a perfect texture, but also make it safer. Not using a thermometer is fine if you don’t have one, but it can be tricky solely checking meat by eye to see if it’s cooked properly. Chicken, for example, needs to have reached 165 degrees in order to be safe to eat.
Leaving groceries out
It can be tiring making the list, maybe visiting multiple stores, perhaps having kids in the back and finally getting home to put all the groceries away. But fresh food and meat can only be left out up to 2 hours before they start becoming dangerous. Frozen goods should be put away as soon as you set the bags down.
Not setting a timer
Baking is generally more rule based than cooking. Timers are required to make sure your baked goods turn out well. Cakes can go from being almost done to burnt in very little time, so having a timer set to remind you to check should be a staple in the kitchen.
What you think a teaspoon of baking powder looks like might look very different to what it actually is. Certainly with rising agents or strong spices, it’s best to just use measuring tools to avoid bad tastes or ruined bakes. Imagine adding double the amount of chilli powder by accident just because it looks like a small amount!