In the Pantry: 8 Common Cooking Mistakes (and How to Stop Making Them!)

Tired of spending time in the kitchen working on a meal only to have it taste ho-hum? Maybe the problem isn't what you're cooking, but how you're cooking it. This week on In the Pantry, Aida Mollenkamp takes a look at eight of the most common cooking mistakes made in the kitchen and how they impact the food you're dishing up. Mollenkamp also offers easy solutions to these problems.

Mistake: Under heating pans before cooking. "A pan is a metallic surface so you need the metal to expand in order for you to have even heat, and a good non-stick surface," Mollenkamp explained. "You really want to make sure that you're heating the pan adequately before you even begin cooking."

Try this: Let the pan heat up for two to three minutes before you begin cooking.

Mistake: Overcrowding food in pans. If you are cooking something where you're looking for a good brown--like sautéing mushrooms, or browning chicken before you braise it--then you're going to make sure you don't over crowd the pan.

Try this: Make sure you have one even layer of whatever you're cooking, with a little space in between each ingredient.

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Mistake: Baking with ingredients that aren't at room temperature. Mollenkamp said that when it comes to baking the biggest no-no is to have your ingredients at the wrong temperature. "All your dairy, your butter, your cream, your eggs, you want them at room temperature."

Try this: If you don't have time for certain ingredients to come to room temperature on their own, you can speed it along. For butter, you can cut up into small pieces. You'll know it's a room temperature when it's soft enough to easily spread on toast--but not melting. Put eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes. For milk or cream, you can heat briefly them in the microwave.

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Mistake: Cooking pasta in a small pot with a low amount of water.
What happens when you put a cup of water in a small pan with a bunch of pasta? It turns out as a glue-ish, gross mess.

Try this: Mollenkamp recommended adding a four cups of water for every half-pound of pasta. When it doubt, read the directions on your pasta package. "Make sure it [the pasta] can move around, and that will allow you to have perfectly cooked pasta," she said.

Mistake: Not letting meat rest before you cut it. "When you're cooking meats, anything from searing a piece of meat all the way through grilling or even roasting a turkey, you need to let it rest before you cut into it," said Mollenkamp. "If you don't, you're going to get all the juices that you've sealed in there in cooking just spilling out." Also? You'll end up with dried-out meat.

Try this: Instead, take a whole piece of meat, tenting it with foil, letting it rest a couple minutes and then cutting it up and serving it.

Mistake: Not salting as you cook. People often add salt (and other seasonings) towards the end of a cooking time. But if you wait until the end, you lose out on flavor, especially with ingredients like beans and potatoes that actually absorb salt as they cook.

Try this: Salt as you cook and taste as you cook.

Mistake: Washing good cutlery and pans in the dishwasher. If you have invested in a really good knife and pans, do not put them in the dishwasher. "Doing that pretty much is you just washing dollars down the drain because you're going to lose the edge on the knife and you're going to mess up the surface of the pan," said Mollenkamp.

Try this: Hand wash your knives and cooking pans.

Mistake: Measuring ingredients with the wrong tool when baking. "You want to use the right thing to measure the right ingredient," said Mollenkamp. "It might not seem like a big deal, but it will be when it comes to baking."

Try this: Measure ingredients with the proper measuring tool. Use a liquid measuring cup or carafe for milk, water, oil, and any other wet ingredients. Use measuring cups and spoons for dry ingredients like sugar and flour.

For more cooking tips and tricks, check out host Aida Mollenkamp's book, Keys to the Kitchen.

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