Have you ever done this? You find an awesome recipe with a beautiful picture. You get all the ingredients, put in a ton of effort to get the perfect result—and then it just doesn’t turn out right. You check the ingredient list twice, you reread the steps and you can’t figure out where you went wrong.
Before I went to culinary school and cooked every day for my job as Associate Food Editor at EatingWell Magazine, this used to happen to me a lot—what I thought was a perfect execution ended up with a flawed result. Now I know there are a few pitfalls that you have to avoid while cooking.
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Here are 4 bad cooking habits you should try to break:
Bad habit #1: You dip and sweep the flour
When measuring flour, plenty of people fill their measuring cup by dipping it into the bag, leveling it off and dumping it into the bowl. This is a common mistake. Here’s why it doesn’t work: The dipping motion packs the flour into the cup, giving you more than you really need. The result? Dense baked goods.
How to do it right: The correct way to measure flour is scooping it lightly into the measuring cup with a spoon and leveling it off at the top.
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Bad habit #2: You cook or store acidic food in reactive pans
Aluminum is often used in cookware because it’s a great conductor of heat, but isn’t so good in your food. How would it get there? Cooking or storing something acidic in reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can eat away at the metal and impart an off color and/or off flavor in your food. Use a nonreactive pan (stainless-steel, enamel-coated or glass) when cooking with acidic foods like lemon juice or tomatoes to prevent the food from reacting with the pan.
Bad habit #3: You crowd the pan
If you’re looking for a nice, brown crispiness to the outside of your food, don’t put too much in your pan at once. When cooking meat or tofu, adding too much to the pan at once causes the temperature of the pan to drop quickly, resulting in the food sticking to the pan. In the case of vegetables, if you add a pile of them to a hot pan, they are more likely to steam and become soggy as opposed to browned. So consider cooking in batches to avoid sticking and steaming.
Bad habit #4: You don’t properly preheat your cooking surface
When you’re hungry, “Preheat the oven or grill” may seem like a step someone added just to torture you. But it’s necessary. Baking or roasting in an oven that hasn’t been properly preheated will throw off the cooking time or may cause your food to cook unevenly or even burn. Ditto with the grill. Adding food to an improperly heated grill grate causes sticking and eventually burning.
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