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25 Cooking Mistakes That Ruin Your Food

Make sure to avoid these cooking mistakes to ensure your dish is as close to perfection as possible.

Overweight woman hands adding salt to raw chicken breasts. Dieting, healthy low calorie food, weight losing concept

Adding too much salt

Adding too much salt to your dish doesn’t only make you want to chug a glass of water, it’s also really unhealthy. Add a little sprinkle of salt as you cook your food and taste it to know when you’ve added the right amount.

Woman sifting flour into bowl on table
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Not sifting the flour

If you don’t sift your flour when cooking it can lead to lumps. People often run into this problem when making gravies and sauces. If your sauce has a lot of lumps, throw it in a blender to smooth it out.

Macaroni in boiling water
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Overcooking pasta

Nothing ruins a dish like mushy pasta. If you let the water boil for a little too long, run your pasta under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking process and contract the starch. When you add your sauce it will make the pasta warm again. If your mushy pasta is beyond repair, add it to a batch of minestrone or chicken noodle soup. As for that pasta water, did you know you should be saving it?

cooking rice, risotto
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Adding too much water to rice

Adding too much water to your rice when cooking can make it turn out soggy. But don’t worry; your meal isn’t completely ruined. Add some cooked shrimp or meat to it, make little balls, and fry them or wrap them in wontons and steam them.

Udon stir-fry noodles with shrimp and vegetables in wok pan on black burned wooden background
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Forgetting to stir

If you forget to stir your stew—or whatever dish you’re cooking on the stove—the bottom of the pan can burn and become completely black. You can save your stew by transferring the part that isn’t burnt to a new pan. Make sure to do this as soon as you notice some has burned, though, because it could ruin the taste of the whole dish.

Brushing baking pan with butter. Making Potato and Leek Filo Pie. Series.

Not greasing the cake pan

Forgetting to grease the cake pan before pouring the batter in can lead to a crumbly mess when you take it out of the oven. It won’t be able to easily slide out of the pan and onto the drying rack. If you’re crafty you can try “gluing” the pieces of the cake back together with frosting.

Freshly baked cookies on tray rack
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Not using parchment paper

Putting your cookies directly on the pan instead of using parchment paper is slightly easier, but if you want whole cookies, use parchment paper. Without parchment paper, the cookies will get stuck to the pan and break apart. If this happens, try using them as a cookie crumble to top a cake or add to an ice cream sundae. You’re probably making these 50 common kitchen mistakes.

fried vegetables

Overcooking veggies

If you accidentally overcook your vegetables it can make them dry and bland. Cool them in ice water and then reheat briefly in hot stock to make them edible again. To make your veggies last longer, try these 12 tricks.

7 year old boy adding sugar to cottage cheese in a bowl. Prepares mini cheesecakes with strawberries

Adding too much sugar

If you add too much sugar when cooking it can make your dessert extremely unhealthy. If you have a sweet tooth, try satisfying it with fruit-centric desserts. Ever wondered if brown sugar or white sugar is healthier?

Sliced Avocado on Board
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Using the “low-fat” option

Choosing the low-fat option to cook with isn’t very healthy; there is such a thing as good fat. In fact, not adding enough fat when cooking is a mistake. Fat is an important energy source and helps your body with the absorption of vitamins. P.S. Avocados are a renowned source of essential fats.

Ignoring the commas

If you don’t read a recipe closely it could ruin your dish. For example, if a recipe says “1 cup walnuts, chopped” this means measuring one cup of whole walnuts and then chopping them. “One cup of chopped walnuts” means that you would chop the walnuts before measuring. Watch out for these baking mistakes you never knew you were making.

Young housewife looking at cheesecake into oven in kitchen. View from inside of the oven. Woman holding the oven door.

Checking on your food while it’s in the oven

It’s very tempting to open the oven to check on your food and get a whiff of what’s to come, but it could cause your food to be undercooked. Every time you open the oven door it releases enough heat to change the temperature. If you want to be able to check your food, turn on the light and look through the oven window.

Young man and his daughter making pastry in the kitchen

Using cold ingredients

It’s very important to use room temperature ingredients when baking (unless the recipe calls for otherwise). Warmer ingredients are not only easier to mix together, but it will also make the end result fluffier.

Baking muffins in the oven. Horizontal image.

The oven temperature is too high

If your oven temperature is too high, it can cause the outside of your meal to burn and the inside to still be undercooked. It’s important to keep an eye on your food as it cooks because the temperature display on the oven isn’t always accurate, especially on older models. If you want to cook your food faster, read these tips.

You use the wrong pan

Darker pans, like cast-iron, absorb more heat and stay hotter longer, which could cause your food to burn on the bottom. Vigilance is required! These are the only types of cookware you should be using.

Cookies Lined up on Baking Sheet
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Not waiting for baking sheets to cool  

Even though you might be in a time crunch to make 80 cookies for your bake sale tomorrow, not waiting for the baking sheets to cool between batches can ruin them. If you put the dough on a warmed cookie sheet it will cause that batch to be browner than the previous one.

A chef boiling capellini pasta in the pot

Using a small pot to cook pasta

If you add a large handful of pasta to a small boiling pot of water it can cause the water’s temperature to drop fast, and it will take longer to start boiling again. As the noodles sit in the lukewarm water they will start to get mushy and clump together. This is the biggest mistake you can make when cooking pasta.

Golden roasted turkey on baking tray with a meat thermometer
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Skipping the meat thermometer

Even if you’re a grill master, you probably can’t accurately tell when meat is ready just by looking at it. If you poke it with a fork to check the inside, you risk releasing some of the flavor. Use a thermometer instead to make sure your meat is finished and safe to eat. This is the safest internal temperature for cooked chicken.

Cleaning outdoor gas grill before next grilling.
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Never cleaning your grill

Cleaning a grill can be tedious, but it can make your meal that much better. If there is built up debris on your grill it can cause the meat to adhere and tear. It’s important to clean the grill after each time you use it while it’s still hot. Even grill masters make these mistakes when cooking a steak.

Grilled chicken burns on dish.

Purposely burning your food     

Some people like to burn their food for that extra crunch, but it can actually be bad for your health. The blackness on your food is actually carbon, a known carcinogen, substances that raise the risk of cancer.

Father And Daughter Baking Cookies At Home Together
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Adding ingredients in the wrong order

Recipes have you add ingredients in a specific order for flavor development. If you add them out of order it could ruin your dish or taste different than the original recipe.

Food processor to kneading dough for bread. Manufacturing process of sweet cake

Using a food processor when the recipe calls for a mixer

Blenders, mixers, and food processors are designed to do different things. A blender is used to mix and puree food; a mixer stirs, whisks, or beats food; and a food processor is a hybrid of a mixer and a blender. Using the wrong machine can give your food the wrong consistency.

Raw garlic (Allium sativum) being chopped on a wooden chopping board

Prepping ingredients as you cook

To avoid ruining your food you should have all of your ingredients pre-measured and prepped before you start. If the recipe calls for minced garlic and you take the time to mince the garlic mid-step, it could ruin the recipe. It takes the same amount of time to prep your ingredients, and you’ll feel like a proper chef. Read up on these cooking tricks that are only taught in culinary schools.

Housewife tasting food being made in modern kitchen

Forgetting to taste as you cook

You should be tasting your food every step of the process. This will help you to make sure that you’re following the recipe and that nothing has gone wrong.

grilled eggplants with tomato and cheese on cooking pan

Adding too much food to the pan

Each piece of food that you put in the pan needs to have enough room to cook evenly and thoroughly. A good rule of thumb is to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Putting too much food in the pan will increase cooking time and cause the food to become mushy. Once you master how to avoid these cooking mistakes, check out these brilliant kitchen shortcuts.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan Cutolo is a former senior production editor at Trusted Media Brands. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine, where she lives, and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.