20 Things You’re Probably Doing in the Kitchen That Chefs Wouldn’t
Chefs spend almost every day in the kitchen perfecting recipes and creating new ones—so they know how to make a great meal. Here are some common kitchen and cooking mistakes chefs try NOT to make.
The cooking advice you actually need
We all want to be better cooks in our own kitchens if for no other reason than to cook ourselves insanely delicious food every night. But, there are definitely a few things we novice home cooks are probably doing that could be done better—read on to hear from the pros on what you definitely should stop doing in your kitchen for homecooked meals that are better than ever.
Dropping food into hot oil
“A common mistake that people make in the kitchen is when they are about to sear a meat or fish. They tend to drop the meat or fish right into the hot oil and the oil can splatter and burn them. The best method to fix that is to tilt the pan to keep oil on one side and put the meat where there is less oil and then just tilt it back slowly. Also, do not move the pan too much to avoid flames. Have patience!” —Chef Saul Montiel, Executive Chef at Cantina Rooftop. Also, avoid these cooking mistakes that ruin your food.
Following the recipe word for word
“The biggest mistake a home cook can make that a professional chef wouldn’t is following the recipe to the letter! Home cooks treat recipes as non-negotiable contracts. To most chefs, they exist as guidelines. At home, you likely do not have a pantry of 100 items to choose from, which means you have to be able to think on your feet. For example, home cooks can switch out zucchini for butternut squash, or champagne vinegar for white wine vinegar… that’s where the fun and creativity of cooking comes in to make a recipe more suitable to your family” —Chicago chef, Greg Biggers of Margeaux Brasserie
Buying or making too much food
“Most people make or buy too much food. You should serve the 10-12 oz of protein per person, 8 oz. of vegetables, and 8 oz. of starch, and a cup of salad per person.” —Celebrity caterer, Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs Caterers. These are the foods that professional chefs would never order.
Not preheating your pan
“Not only is this a timesaver while you prep, a chef always has everything hot before ingredients go in. It is especially important when cooking meat.” —Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox
Getting cheap ingredients to save money
“One mistake that home cooks can make is settling on poor ingredients for the sake of convenience. Purchasing sauces that are canned or substituting fresh vegetables with frozen may seem easier but they compromise quality from their meal. Researching basic ingredients and cooking techniques for your meals may be intimidating but with proper practice, anyone can make an ordinary meal extraordinary.” —Chef de Cuisine Allen Schumann at Miami Beach’s Lobster Bar Sea Grille. These brilliant kitchen shortcuts will help you with your next recipe.
Using ingredients that aren’t in season
“Another common mistake people make is using ingredients that are not in season. Not only is it more expensive but they won’t taste the same. Use ingredients that are in season they are less expensive and taste way better.” —Chef Saul Montiel, Executive Chef at Cantina Rooftop
Cooking meat and seafood straight from the fridge
“Don’t cook meat or seafood straight from the fridge without tempering it. It’s always best to remove from the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes to make sure it’s tempered. This will promote more even cooking. When fish is too cold, the outside will cook and the inside will not.” —Executive Chef Robert Sisca at Bistro du Midi in Boston
Not tasting the dish while cooking
“Chefs know to taste at every stage of a recipe, but home cooks often do not taste until a dish is finished, when it is too late to add any depth of flavor.” —Ariane Resnick private chef, best-selling author, and certified nutritionist. These are professional chefs least favorite foods.
“People have a tendency to overlook their veggies. Veggies should be firm al dente. If serving broccoli or cauliflower, for example, cook them so that they still have a crunch.” —Celebrity caterer, Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs Caterers
Using non-stick pans
“Don’t use non-stick pans! Basically the only thing [chefs] use a non-stick pan for in our professional kitchen is egg cookery. I know people that cook almost everything in non-stick, which is a flavor killer. Nothing beats a high-quality stainless steel or cast iron pan. If you’re worried about protein sticking, get your pan VERY hot before adding oil, and you won’t have problems with sticking, plus you’ll get a much better sear leading to greatly improved flavor. ” —Chef Jim Heflin of Chicago’s Centre Street Kitchen
Leaving a mess as you cook
“A professional chef would also clean as they go! They will have everything prepped out which will allow them time to do this.” —Tracy Wilk, Lead Chef and Recipe Editor (Recreational Program) at the Institute of Culinary Education. Also, avoid these common kitchen mistakes you’re probably making.
Using a microwave
“I got rid of my microwave a few years back and haven’t looked back. If I want to re-heat food, melt butter, or boil water I use my stovetop. Most chefs I know are in alignment with doing this as well.” —Melissa Eboli, owner of Via’s Kitchen, a personal chef and catering company
Using the same cutting board for everything
Use a different cutting board for each ingredient in your recipe, especially if you’re cutting raw chicken because chicken can carry a bacteria called salmonella. Always use different cutting boards for meat, vegetables, and fruit. —Chef Saul Montiel, Executive Chef at Cantina Rooftop. If you do run into a common cooking disaster, here’s how to fix it.
Not considering cooking times
“A chef always begins with the item that takes the longest first and progresses to the fastest things last. It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people will chop vegetables before starting the pasta water.” —Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox
Not reading the entire recipe
“The first thing many cooks at home don’t do is read the complete recipe. I always start out in the kitchen doing this. Not only the list of ingredients, but the step by step instructions on how to prep, cook, and plate a recipe. They should make sure they have the proper equipment and utensils to complete the recipe. If they’re unsure of any product or cooking technique, do some online research to complete the recipe before continuing!” —Executive Chef Jim August at popular Chicago neighborhood bar and restaurant, Cortland’s Garage. These are some baking mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
Making fish ahead of time
“If you are serving fish as an entree don’t make it ahead of time and then reheat. It’s best to prepare and season the fish and cook it right before you serve it. The quality will be much better.” —Celebrity caterer, Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs Caterers
Spicing food after it has been made
“I have seen friends cook a whole meal, and not add spices until the very end to flavor it. This is a big mistake as the food needs to cook with the spices. Especially if making a dish that has oil and fat with a sauté in the beginning of preparation, it is best to sauté let’s say onions and garlic with the spices, then add meat and anything else that may be going into the dish for optimal flavor. When the spices mix with the oil it helps to get all aromas out, and then it also binds to the food and flavors the dish.” —Melissa Eboli, owner of Via’s Kitchen, a personal chef and catering company
“Tip: do not oversalt food! If you are preparing a dish with multiple components that are seasoned separately then served together, beware of the overall salt content of the dish as a whole” —Avi Burn, Owner of Pinks Cantina. Avoid these common grilling mistakes as well.
Not prepping the ingredients first
“One thing I notice home cooks do while following a recipe is that they prepare things while they are cooking. This creates a DISASTER in the kitchen and doubles up on clean up time as well as resulting in forgotten and burnt food. I admit it gives me anxiety to watch. If you prepare each ingredient the recipe calls for and have them ready beforehand it helps keep you stay organized and clean, plus your family will love you!” —Chef Matthew Olley of Silver Light Tavern in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Putting knives in the dishwasher
“A professional chef would never put their knives in a dishwasher. This leads to dulling and the blade would never be the same. A professional chef also has their knives sharpened constantly.” —Tracy Wilk, Lead Chef and Recipe Editor (Recreational Program) at the Institute of Culinary Education. Now that you’ve perfected your cooking, learn about the things you should never do to your oven.