The Most Common Cooking Mistakes You Need to Avoid

When it comes to food, the best option is to always cook at home. That way you can control how healthy your food is. But when it comes to cooking, there are many common cooking mistakes you can make.

And many of them you probably don’t even realize you are doing.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a pro to fix or stop from making these mistakes.

Half the battle is knowing they are issues and why they are issues. From there you just need to pay attention when you cook so you do not continue to make the same mistakes.

As you read through this list of the most common cooking mistake you need to avoid, think about if you make any of these errors and note them for the next time you cook.

You will become a much better cook for it.

Why Learn About Common Cooking Mistakes

Common Cooking Mistake - Scrambled Eggs with Milk

I want to take a moment and explain why you want to read through this list in its entirety.

Most people, when they open a blog post just scroll to find the answer they want. The only problem with that is you miss so much other good information that can really help you in the long run.

There are many cooking mistakes in here that you probably overlook all the time. You don’t even know they are a mistake.

For example, do you add milk to your scrambled eggs? Or follow a recipe exactly? We will talk about these later.

The point is you want to take the time to carefully read over each of these errors. I bet you find something you didn’t know before.

When you cook and something doesn’t turn out or taste as good as you expect, it can be discouraging. You want to cook good food so you can stay motivated to continue to cook at home.

If you really want to become a better cook, learn why you shouldn’t do these things and make the choice to change it.

Most Common Cooking Mistakes

Common Cooking Mistake- Lady Tasting Bad Food

Let’s get to the real reason you are reading this post. To learn what common cooking mistakes are out there and how you can avoid them.

I have compiled a of what I have found to be the most common errors out there. These are not only from professional chefs but also from my own experiences as well.

Being Too Serious

Common Cooking Mistake- Chef Being Too Serious

I think this is one of the biggest common cooking mistakes people make. People get in the kitchen and feel they have to do things exact for their food to turn out.

But cooking is fun and can be used to express yourself. Don’t take it so seriously where you don’t enjoy doing it.

That is the biggest mistake people make and because they do this, they end up not cooking. And that’s a shame.

My husband has so much fun cooking because he tries different things all the time. Different seasonings or rubs.

I have had a harder time with this, but I have been working hard on trying to branch out more. Now I can whip up a dip without having to find one on Pinterest.

What I always tell my husband when we test out something new is this. If it doesn’t turn out, plan B is pizza. Or sometimes tacos.

Not everything has to turn out 100% of the time. Again, when you try new things you learn more. What goes well together, what can be better next time, what not to do.

If you don’t try you will never know. So, don’t take your cooking to seriously and try to have some fun the next time you are in the kitchen.

Cutting Meat Before Veggies

Common Cooking Mistake- Cutting Meat Before Veggies

This seems like one of the most basic concepts and yet it is still one of the top common cooking mistakes.

You never want to cross-contaminate your food. It can cause you to get sick.

The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to mark one of your cutting boards for meat only.

Then make sure you only use it for cutting meat.

If you only have one cutting board, I suggest investing in another. If that is not an option right now, make sure you get in the habit of washing your cutting board really well between chopping your foods.

Don’t Read The Entire Recipe Before Cooking

Common Cooking Mistake -Not Reading The Recipe- Tablet with Recipe on it

I don’t know why people do this. It’s like you look at a recipe and you tell yourself it looks good, so you skim it and decide that is what you’re going to make.

I know I am guilty of this. But I can also say I have learned from it.

When you don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking, you can miss a lot.

First, you might not have all of the ingredients you need for the recipe. It sucks to be cooking only to find you have to make a trip to the store so you can finish. And hopefully it is a dish that can be put on pause while you make that trip.

Second, it might have terms in it that you aren’t familiar with. Check out my post on Common Cooking Terms And Techniques and print off my glossary to keep on hand for situations like this.

If you read the recipe ahead of time, you will have the time to look up what the term or technique is before you begin. This saves you the headache later on.

Finally, you might not realize there are items you should have pepped beforehand. Now, I always suggest prepping all of your ingredients before you begin cooking, but some people don’t do that.

If you don’t really understand what meal prepping is, check out my post 6 Ways To Make Eating Healthy Easy. This will give you guidance.

With some recipes, you don’t have that extra time to take chopping vegetables or prepping your meat because you need to keep an eye on items that can easily burn, boil over, or need to be continuously stirred.

Don’t make this common cooking mistake anymore and read your recipe in its entirety. I would even go as far as saying read it twice, so you know you don’t miss anything!

Don’t Get All Ingredients Together And Prepped First

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Prepping Ingredients-Counter with Prepped Food

This goes with the last common cooking mistake and we touched on it a little bit.

But it is such a big mistake you don’t want to make that it gets its own section.

Prepping your ingredients incudes chopping foods, having meats marinating or rubbed, and having all of the ingredients out for the meal you are going to make.

Prepping your ingredients ahead of time is going to save you a lot of time and headaches.

If you have never prepped all of your ingredients, I want you to give it a try when you make your next meal.

You will see that the cooking process goes so much smoother and it actually makes it more enjoyable because you aren’t rushing around to gather ingredients.

If you are reading this, you want to make cooking easier on yourself. I would say this is #1 when it comes to that. Give it a try and see for yourself.

Not Cleaning As You Go

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Cleaning As You Go-Messy Kitchen

I love when my kitchen is clean. It just makes me feel better knowing that I don’t have a huge mess. I am guilty of maybe going overboard on this common cooking mistake.

To be fair, my husband is one that prefers to clean up afterwards. I choose to believe I just overcompensate for him not cleaning as we go.

Now, what I mean when I say clean as you go is, don’t leave everything lay out as you cook. Take the time to throw away wrappers and wipe down the counter.

I’m not saying things have to be spotless, but make sure if you get any egg or raw meat juices on the counter, to wipe it down. It will not only save you from cross-contamination but from feeling cluttered by the mess as well.

It is much more enjoyable to cook this way!

Don’t Taste As You Go

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Tasting As You Go-Lady Tasting Sauce

It is important to taste as you go so you can properly season your dish.

There is nothing worse than sitting down to eat just to find that your food is bland. So, you get up to grab some salt of pepper.

By seasoning your food as you go, you can develop much more depth in your flavors. If you are not in the habit of seasoning as you go, try it tonight at dinner. I bet you will be surprised at the difference.

Only Season Once

Common Cooking Mistake- Only Seasoning Once- Person Seasoning  Food

This common cooking mistake goes with not tasting as you go. So many people just season at the beginning or the end of cooking. That is not the approach you should take.

Some spices and herbs are best to add at the beginning and some are better added at the end, but that doesn’t mean that should be the only time you add some flavor.

Go back and read the previous error people make because, like I mentioned, these go hand in hand.

Taste as you go so you know what your food is tasting like, so you can add the best seasoning throughout cooking your food.

Don’t Know Your Ovens Quirks

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Knowing Your Ovens Quirks- Cinnamon Rolls in an Oven

Everyone’s oven is different and cook different. Some hold heat better than others, or have certain spots that don’t cook food as fast as others.

It is a good idea to get to know your oven. This can be a little tricky and can have some trial and error to it.

Take notice if food is cooking faster than what a recipe says. Or where to best place the racks in your oven to ensure your food cooks evenly.

If you really want to know your oven, make some cookies. Follow the recipe for the cookies but watch them so you can note any differences your oven might have. You will be able to better understand cook times for your oven and will see what areas may cook faster.

Thawing Meat Wrong

Common Cooking Mistake- Thawing Meat Wrong- Microwave

Most people thaw meat wrong. Some might not realize they are, and others might not care.

I know I have been guilty of this, but this is one of the most vital common cooking mistakes to understand.

It is easy to just throw your meat in the sink at night, so it is thawed for tomorrow. We like easy but that doesn’t mean it is what we should do.

When meat reaches 40 degrees, it starts to grow bacteria. This is something you want to avoid!

Instead, you should be keeping your meat in the refrigerator overnight (or however long until it defrosts).

If you need your meat to thaw faster, you can put it in a sealed plastic bag and set it in cold water for 30 min per pound. If it needs more than 30 min, be sure to replace the water.

Or you can follow the directions on your microwave to thaw your meat.

There are plenty of other, safer, options to thaw meat, so just be sure to stop leaving it out on the counter.

Not Organizing Your Fridge

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Organizing The Fridge- Fridge with Food

You might be wondering why the organization of your refrigerator is considered one of the common cooking mistakes. It seems silly, I know.

But once I explain you are going to want to organize your refrigerator as soon as you are done reading this.

I want to start by having you think about how often you clean out your fridge and have to throw away spoiled food.

Is there some in there now?

Most people will say every time they clean out their refrigerator, they throw items away. That is because they do not have an organizational system.

By organizing your fridge, you will reduce the amount of food you throw out. When you just put away food wherever it fits, you push other things to the back. Then forget about them. We have all been there.

So, take the time to come up with a system.

And while you develop that system, keep in mind you should pick an area that is only used for meats. This will help stop cross-contamination of your foods.

For example, you could designate the top shelf for fresh produce, the middle shelf for leftovers, and the bottom shelf for meats. However, you decide to organize it, I do suggest making the bottom shelf for meat shelf because if you have any juices leak, it won’t drip onto your other fresh foods.

I will be honest and say I used to not really organize my fridge, but when I researched for this post, I did organize it.

I must say I love our refrigerator organized. It is easy when I am looking to see what we have for shopping because I have a designated shelf.

I don’t have to rummage the whole fridge. Plus, we always know where the leftovers are so we can see what we have.

Not Branching Out

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Branching Out-Poached Eggs with Avocado on a Pancake

It is a shame if you are a victim to this cooking mistake. We talked about this a little bit earlier when we discussed not being so serious when you cook.

You don’t always have to follow a recipe recipe exactly. If you think something would be a good addition, try it. Learn what happens when you put certain thing together.

And you don’t have to follow a recipe at all if you don’t want to. My husband and I do this with certain things, like making a rub for meat or a dip. We throw together what we think will be good.

So, make sure to try something new. That is how you will grow and enhance your skills.

Buying Fresh Produce In Bulk

Common Cooking Mistake- Buying Fresh Produce in Bulk- Basket Full of Greens

Buying fresh produce is great. It means you are trying to make healthy choices. I am all for that. But the common cooking mistake people make is they buy too much.

You need to be mindful when shopping, so you only buy what you need. It is best to meal plan before you go grocery shopping to help ensure you only buy the amount needed for your meals.

To learn more about meal planning, take a moment to read this post.

Meal planning cuts down on waste and saves you money! Plus, you will be using the freshest produce instead of trying to use up the stuff that is going bad.

Using Low Quality Knives

Common Cooking Mistake- Using Low Quality Knives- Knife on a Cutting Board Next to Food

There are a couple common cooking mistakes that have to deal with knives. They are just that important to your cooking.

First, is using low quality knives.

Now, I understand knives can be expensive. I think it is crazy how much you can spend for just one knife and I am not telling you to go out and buy a super expensive set of knives.

I just recommend that you invest in a decent set of knives. If you are looking for a nice affordable set, or any other kitchen tools, check out my post, Essential Cooking Tools Every Beginner Needs To Be Successful

If you have the cheapest set of knives found at Walmart (I had those when I first moved out), and you upgrade to a nice set, you will be asking yourself why you didn’t invest in something better to begin with.

It really does make a world or difference and makes cooking much more enjoyable. If you don’t believe me, at least check out the set I recommend and decide if it is something you want to try to see if it is true.

Not Sharpening Your Knives

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Sharpening Knives- Knife Next to a Knife Sharpener

This is another issue people tend to do. Or I should say, not do. They neglect their knives.

You should be sharpening your knives 2- 4 times a year.

You can learn to sharpen your knives or get a simple knife sharpener that doesn’t take much work on your part.

Here is a great easy to use knife sharpener and it only costs $5.99. Can’t go wrong with that price.

Buy Here

Not sharpening your knives is dangerous because it takes more pressure when cutting food. This is the result of the majority of cuts from knives.

So, take the time and sharpen your knives for your safety and for a better cutting experience.

Not Using Proper Knife Skills

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Using Proper Knife Skills- Lady Chopping Cilantro

The final common cooking mistake with knives is not knowing how to use them properly. Check out my post, Common Cooking How To’s, to learn more about this and other things you should know about cooking.

This is a vital skill you should learn. It will take some practice, but it is one of the most useful cooking skills.

If you are going to cook, you will be cutting a lot of ingredients. To be safe and successful, use proper knife skills.

Not Heating The Pan

Common Cooking Mistake- Not Heating The Pan- Frying Pan

Have you ever watched a cooking show and they put something in the pan, and you hear that sizzle as the food hits the pan? That is what you should hear at home too.

People forget that they have to properly heat their pan before adding food to it.

If you want your food to cook evenly, you need to start doing this. And if you do start doing it, you will notice the difference.

So, envision being a TV chef and get that pan hot first!

Adding Ingredients in the Wrong Order

Herbs and Spices in Jars

This is an important common cooking mistake you should keep in mind. It is probably something you don’t really think about when you cook, but timing is everything.

If you are following a recipe, follow the recipe. It is having you add ingredients in a certain order for a reason.

Even if you are cooking and making it up as you go, you should keep this in mind as well.

Some fresh herbs will lose flavor if they are added too soon, some dried herbs will not build their flavor if they are added too late.

Also, certain veggies won’t cook all the way through if you add them too late or could end up mushy if you throw them in too soon.

An easy way to combat this is to follow the recipe or think about the end result of each ingredient before you add it.

Boiling and Simmering

Boiling Water with a Hand Holding Pasta

This is something that confuses a lot of people and they do not understand that there is a difference between the two. This causes them to boil when they should simmer and vice versa.

Boiling water is going to cause bubbles that are going to continuously break the surface of the water. Simmering on the other hand will produce bubbles that will rise but only occasionally break the surface.

Simmering is used when you want to cook food on low and slow in liquid. This is great for broths, soups, and stews.

Boiling on the other hand, is best for making pasta and blanching vegetables.

If you are following a recipe, it is going to tell you what you should be doing. And now that you understand the difference between boiling and simmering, you can ensure you use the right method.

Not Using A Meat Thermometer

Meat Thermometer Sticking Out of Meat on a Pan

I consider this to be one of those very common cooking mistakes but it is such an easy one to overcome. And it really only takes a few seconds.

You can find my recommendation on a handy meat thermometer in my post, Essential Cooking Tools Every Beginner Needs To Be Successful

By using a meat thermometer, you will know exactly what the internal temperature of your meat is. This is especially important for meats, such as chicken, where you never want to eat it undercooked.

You might be thinking you could just cut it open to see if it is done, but that is a mistake as well. When you do that, you are letting all of the tasty juices and moisture out of your meat.

This also brings me into the next common cooking mistake.

Not Letting Your Meat Rest

Person Cutting a Piece of Meat

What I mean by letting meat rest is not cutting it open immediately after cooking it. This goes hand in hand with using a meat thermometer.

When you let meat rest, the internal temperature will continue to rise slightly.

So, you want to remove it from heat just prior to reaching your desired level of doneness.

It’s helpful to have a thermometer to do that.

And when you let meat rest, it gives time for the juices in the meat to redistribute throughout the meat. When you cut it right away, as I stated earlier, they just drain out without keeping the rest of the meat moist.

The amount of time you let meat rest is going to depend on its size. For example, a roast you would let rest for about 10-20 minutes, which a steak or pork chop would only rest for about 5 minutes.

Take the little bit of time to check the temperature of your meat and give it that time to rest. To give it that time, clean up around the kitchen and plate any other items while you wait.

You will be able to taste the difference.

Overcrowding the Pan

Pan Full of Food

This might be one of those things that you don’t even realize you are doing.

No one wants to do multiple batches of something, so they throw it all in the pot or pan at once.

The problem with this is that your food is not going to cook evenly. And because there is more food to heat, it will actually take longer to get it all cooked rather than doing it in batches.

On top of that, it is much easier to make a mess by stirring your food when it is too full.

So, be conscious time you are adding food to a pan and make sure you have enough space in the pan to allow your foods to cook the best.

Stirring or Flipping Your Food Too Much

Person Stirring Stir Fry

This is one of those common cooking mistakes I know I have done. But now that I am aware of it, I can easily make sure I don’t do it.

Unless you are sautéing something or it is called for continuous stirring in the recipe, this is not going to help much.

By stirring and flipping all the time, you aren’t allowing the food to heat evenly. Or get crispy.

Think about the last time you made shredded hash brown. If you don’t make them, maybe this is an experiment you want to try.

How do your hash browns turn out? Crispy or soft, maybe even mushy?

You know if you are stirring too much if they come out soft or mushy because you never let them heat long enough in one spot to get crispy.

This might sound silly to you, but I have actually tired this. I wouldn’t suggest it otherwise. The first time I tried it my hash browns did not turn out as crispy as I hoped. The next time I did it, knowing this common cooking mistake, I would say I made awesome hash browns.

Just some food for thought.

Not Using the Right Tools

Kitchen Utensils

When you are just learning to cook, this is a very common cooking mistake. Unfortunately, if you get in the habit, this can be hard to break.

Many people struggle picking the right tool for the job. They grab too small of a pot or pan and fill it too much.

Or they use a spatula when they should be whisking ingredients.

It is important to pay attention to what the direction on the recipe say and to look at how much it will yield.  

This is going to help make sure you are picking what is right.

Relying On Cooking Time Too Much

Kitchen Cooking Timer

If you are just getting in the swing of cooking, this is one of the common cooking mistakes that you can fall into. Luckily, once you realize it can be an issue it is easy to correct.

Whenever you are cooking you should be checking your food.

Cooking times are a good guideline but should just be takes as that. A guide.

For example, when you cook pasta you will notice there are cooking instructions on the box with how long you should cook the noodles for. Pasta should be tested before the recommended cook time to ensure its cooking properly.

And you for sure want to check it before draining it because you don’t want to find out after you drained it that it isn’t done.

Or worse, when you’re eating your meal.

This is also good to keep in mind when it comes to meat. Your meat might be thicker in spots, so you want to make sure it is cooked properly.

Recipes can’t really account for those differences. But if you keep this tip in mind, you will know to continue to check your food and not rely just on cook times.

Not Paying Attention

Someone Looking at Their Cellphone

This one gets a lot of people. I have fallen prey to this myself. It is one of those things I think we are all guilty of this at some point.

I have been washing dishes or looking at my phone (I need one of those slapping head emojis), and the next thing I know my pot is boiling over.

Focus on your food so this doesn’t happen.

Many times, distraction equals burning or overcooking your food.

So, set aside your distractions.

Put the phone down and enjoy just cooking.

You might find it is a great time to clear your mind.

Not Salting The Water You’re Are Cooking With

Steaming Pot of Water

This is an error that I am continuing to work on. It is just one of those things for me that I remember sometimes and other times I just don’t think about it.

When you salt water that you cook with, your food will absorb some of that salt and help to flavor your food.

This is not going to be something that is going to break or make your dish. But it can really help make sure your dish turns out a little more flavorful.

Try it the next time you are cooking something in water and see if you can taste a difference.

Using The Wrong Oil

Bottle of Olive Oil with Olives Next To It

So many people are into using EEVOO (extra virgin olive oil) because Rachel Ray made it so popular. She made it so popular EVOO is now in the dictionary.

But most people don’t realize that it has a much lower burn temperature and should only be used for delicate dishes like fish.

Make sure you are using the proper tool for the job. Using regular olive oil will suffice in most cases and save you from burning food.

Sautéing Wet Vegetables

Mushrooms and Onion Sauteing in a Pan

If you do not cook often this is an easy common cooking mistake to fall into.

If you are going to sauté vegetables, they should be dry. Or dry them with some paper towel if you just washed them.

When you sauté wet veggies, they just turn to mush because there is too much excess water. Keep this in mind when you cook, and you will easily be able to overcome it.

Measuring Wet Ingredients In A Dry Measuring Cup

Wet and Dry Measuring Cups

Measuring ingredients is important to a recipe because too much or too little of something can have a drastic difference on how your dish turns out.

If you measure wet ingredients in a dry measuring cup you aren’t going to get as accurate of a measurement.

This is huge especially when it comes to baking.

If you need a refresher on measuring, check out Basic Cooking How To’s Everyone Should Know.

Common Cooking Mistakes-The Wrap Up

Stop Sign

There are many common cooking mistakes that you might be making without realizing it. Many new cooks fall into these, and because they do understand they are making these mistakes, they continue to make them.

We have just gone over the mistakes that happen most often.

From not tasting and seasoning as you go, to using the wrong tool for the job, and everything in between.

Take the time to read over this list and think whether you are making any of these errors.

By taking the time to read this, you will have a much great chance of fixing these issues and becoming a better cook.

Common Cooking Mistakes Are You Making Them?
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Published by Amy

I have always had a strong passion for health and fitness, as well as helping others. So much so, that I went on to receive my Level 1 Precision Nutrition Certification. My goal is to help others feel at their best! I know it can be a struggle to reach your fitness goals, whether it is losing weight, getting in shape, or improving your overall health. I want to help you reach your goals and find what works best for you so you can stick to it! Let's work on making you Happy Healthy and Strong!

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