10 Common cooking mistakes
1. Moving meat about in the pan
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Very rarely does cooking meat require you to move it in the pan. If you are one of these people that move your steak while cooking – STOP!
When cooking meat you want a caramelisation on the outside this is called the 'Maillard' reaction.
It is the amino acids and the sugars in the meat caramelising therefor adding more flavour, that lovely brown on the outside is the best! Moving the meat stops the heat which prevents the caramelisation process.
This is a great example - look at the lovely browning!
2. Bringing meat to room temperature
· Cooking meat straight from the fridge stops the meat from cooking evenly. It is especially important if you are cooking things that need to be medium/rare etc. It also helps to have even cooking of the meat.
3. Under seasoning – season EVERYTHING!
· Seasoning is one of the most important things as a chef to do. When I say season everything I mean everything (with exception to sweet things, although somethings are improved by seasoning) – porridge is a great example, season porridge and you will understand my point. Salt is a flavour enhancer that is all it does. It will just improve everything and once you taste something seasoned and unseasoned you will notice a difference I am certain!
4. Wrong tools!!
using the wrong knife for the wrong job – my mum phoned me recently as she was cutting up a swede with a paring knife...(a vegetable knife, the small ones!) she said 'oh is there an easier way to cut up a swede.' The chef knife the largest one you have is the go-to knife – the knife should do most of the work. It should also be sharp. Keep a knife sharp and it will keep for years! After most uses sharpen.. this will make it easier for you.
5. Soggy salad!
· If you have a slightly limp salad, submerge it into cold water and spin with a salad spinner, this should 'shock' the life back into it. When you buy the salad if you store it with a wet (cold, obviously!) piece of kitchen roll will help to keep it fresh too! Pre dressing a salad also wilts the leaves. Leave salad dressing until last minute!!
6. Using the right oil for the right job
· Different oils have a different smoke point this means burning point. Olive oil, rapeseed, coconut oil and butter all have very low smoke points so are ideal for salad dressings, and sweating things down. If you are frying/searing you would need sunflower, vegetable or peanut oil.
7. Ending up with unintentionally sticky rice!
· Rinsing your rice is one of the biggest factors in cooking rice. Rinsing your rice gets rid of the starch before cooking, if the starch is not rinsed away when cooking it becomes this gloopy mess, also overcooking is a factor to bear in mind. You still want the texture of the rice and you don't want it to be mushy and watery.
8. Egg whites leaving the egg when poaching
· Many factors need to be considered with this, the most common ones are – swirling the water too fast and old eggs. To resolve this issue, don't swirl the water too much. If you do - wait until you have a slow flow of the water this is just a guide to help the egg form in their shape, it's also not vital. White wine vinegar is a huge saviour with poached eggs. Add about 1 tbsp into 500 ml water and you are almost guaranteed perfect poached eggs! The vinegar helps the eggs to coagulate (basically helps the egg whites too form and hold the shape)
9. Overcooking fish – I see this SO much on my social media!
· Overcooking fish is so easily done but so easily corrected. Take salmon, for example, a popular fish – when you start to see strands of white on the fish. This is an indicator that it has been overcooked, the proteins are starting to come out. Fish is so delicate and it requires cooking gently. Poaching/steaming or gently pan-frying are the best options. When cooking a flatter fish... (sea bass, cod, haddock etc..) in the frying pan although these are called 'round fish' they are still thinner fillets than salmon. Cook mainly on one side, put a little bit of butter in the pan and baste the fish rather than frying both sides and causing the fish to dry out. The fish should just flake apart you can cook the fish 85% on the one side, again you want the Maillard reaction to happen if possible. So a hot pan then lower the heat to gentle.
10. Using a hot pan!
· Use a hot pan pretty much every time you cook, this just starts the cooking process off to a good start rather than 'warming' the food gently. This causes things like vegetables to go soggy and meat to 'boil' rather than sear. If you are cooking meat with lots of fat, i.e duck breasts you want to start them off in a cold pan and then heat the pan gently, this process is called 'rendering' it turns the solid fat to liquid and then you would either discard or cook the meat in this fat.