15 Common Cooking Mistakes & How To Fix Them!

common cooking mistakes

I should probably more accurately have called this post “MY 15 Most Common Cooking Mistakes” because I am guilty of ALL of them! :-)  I have actually made a couple of DOOZIES lately which have shaken my self-confidence in the kitchen a little bit. But since one of my mottos is “Never Give Up!”, I guess I need to get over these kitchen goofs and move on.

I ran across this article by Cooking Light with 50 of the most common cooking mistakes that people make overall and I could relate to almost all of them, but these are the ones that I personally am most guilty of! (Keep in mind…the word “You” in these headings is ME referring to ME.)  :-)


common cooking mistakes

You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.

OR you think you KNOW the recipe so well you don’t actually need to LOOK at it. I did this just yesterday! We were out of my Honey Butter Ambrosia and I started to panic a little bit. :-) (I’m telling you…that stuff is addicting!) So since I had all 3 ingredients on hand…I decided to whip up a quick batch. Then last night when I went to make my evening snack of toast and honey butter ambrosia I realized I’d done something wrong. It wasn’t the sweet nectar I was used to. As I thought about it I realized that the “3 ingredients I had on hand” should have been FOUR ingredients. I had forgotten the 1 cup of sugar. ugh. So tonight I made another batch. Waste of ingredients…but absolutely necessary.  :-)

A wise cook reads the recipe well before it’s time to cook. (I’m afraid the chances of me becoming “a wise cook” are pretty remote, so I’m not sure this advice applies to me.)


common cooking mistakes

You over-soften butter.

I do this all the time! When will I ever learn?? I figure just a few seconds in the microwave will be just fine. But with butter, just a few seconds is all it takes to make even COLD butter into MELTED butter.

Too-soft butter means your cookie dough will be more like batter, and it will spread too much as it bakes and lose shape. Butter that’s too soft also won’t cream properly with sugar, and creaming is essential to creating fluffy, tender cakes.

Better to let it stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes to get the right consistency. You can speed the process by cutting it into tablespoon-sized pieces.


common cooking mistakes

You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.

I am notorious for scooping flour or whatever into a measuring cup and just eye-balling wheather it’s the right amount. You are SUPPOSED to lightly spoon flour into the correct sized dry measuring cup, then level with a knife. “Lightly spoon” means don’t pack it in. OK…lesson learned.


common cooking mistakes

You overcrowd the pan.

Once again, guilty! It seems I’m always in a hurry when I’m cooking and I’m usually cooking for lots of hungry boys/men. :-)  So I will throw too much chicken or ground beef in a pan to cook altogether and it always results it too much liquid…or a soggy mess. You never end up getting that nice caramelization (or crusty, brown bits) you’re looking for.

Leave breathing room in the pan, and you’ll get much better results. If you need to speed things up, use two pans at once.


common cooking mistakes

You turn the food too often.

This is where my impatience is my undoing! But it’s just SO tempting to turn, poke, and flip! Problem is when you DO that, things like breaded chicken or steak won’t develop a nice crust.

One sign that it’s too early to turn: You can’t slide a spatula cleanly under the crust. It’ll release from the pan when it’s ready.

Easier said than done! :-)


common cooking mistakes

You don’t get the pan hot enough before you add the food.

You mean you’re supposed to PREHEAT the pan??? :-)  Once again….terrible at this one! Once again…always in too big of a hurry!

A hot pan is essential for sautéing veggies or creating a great crust on meat, fish, and poultry. It also helps prevent food from sticking. (As long as you don’t turn it too often!)  :-)


common cooking mistakes

Meat gets no chance to rest after cooking.

Hmmmm….I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging in all my kitchen mistakes!  In a hurry…too impatient! I think I need to re-examine my cooking values. :-)

When you roast, grill, sear, or sauté meat…you need to give it time to rest at room temperature after it’s taken off the heat. That cooling-off time helps the juices, which move to the center of the meat when cooking, to be redistributed.

With small cuts like a steak or boneless, skinless chicken breasts, five minutes is adequate. A whole bird or standing rib roast requires 20 to 30 minutes. Tent the meat with foil to keep it warm.


common cooking mistakes

You don’t shock vegetables when they’ve reached the desired texture.

That’s sounds a bit violent doesn’t it? I actually NEVER do this. No wonder my veggies are always on the mushy side.

After cooking vegetables in boiling water for three to seven minutes, if you don’t “shock” them by plunging them into ice water (or at least rinsing under cold running water) to stop the cooking process, the carryover heat will continue to cook them to the point that they turn mushy.


common cooking mistakes

You pop meat straight from the fridge into the oven or onto the grill.

Yep…another “in a hurry, impatient” blunder I’m guilty of. Combine that with the fact that I can never REMEMBER to take the meat out early enough to let it come up to room temperature and I almost ALWAYS get his one wrong!

A roast that goes into the oven refrigerator-cold will likely yield a piece of meat that is overcooked on the outside and undercooked at the center.

Meats will cook much more evenly if you allow them to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the size of the cut) to take the chill off.  I guess I need to start setting an alarm on my phone for this. :-)


common cooking mistakes

You Incinerate Chicken on the Grill

I never have figured out how NOT to do this….so I usually avoid cooking chicken on the grill. Period.

But apparently to achieve grilled chicken with crispy, brown skin and juicy meat, it’s all about learning to manipulate the heat.

First, establish two temperature zones: Set one side of a gas grill to medium-high and the other to low, or build a fire on one side of a charcoal grill. Start the chicken skin-side up on the low- or no-heat side, and cover the grill. After a few minutes, when the chicken fat starts to render, flip the meat, skin-side down. Point the breasts’ thicker ends toward the hot side to help them cook evenly. Cover and grill for about 25 minutes. When the meat is done (165° at the thickest part of the breast), crisp the skin on the hot side for a minute or two, moving it as needed to avoid flare-ups. Wait until the last few minutes to brush on barbecue sauce: The sugars in the sauce will char quickly.


common cooking mistakes

Your Rice Gets Gummy

Unfortunately my rice is either one of two extremes….under-cooked or over-cooked!  Who knew that the solution was SO SIMPLE!

The solution is USE MORE WATER. Basically cook the rice like pasta until it reaches the proper consistency, then drain. The pasta method keeps rice from rubbing together too much as it cooks; draining ensures it won’t suck up more water than it needs. GENIUS!


common cooking mistakes

Pancakes Overdone On The Outside, Underdone On The Inside

Inevitably when I am cooking pancakes, I end up throwing out at least the first two or three because of this! Little did I know…this is not a heat problem or a batter problem: It’s a pan-prepping problem.

Don’t pour oil directly into the pan. Hot oil will spread, pooling in some areas, leaving other parts dry.

Heat a skillet (any variety) over medium heat, then grasp a wadded paper towel with tongs and douse it with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Brush the pan with the soaked towel.

Add batter, flipping only when bubbles form on the surface of each pancake, about two to three minutes. Resist the urge to peek, (once again, EASIER SAID THAN DONE!) which breaks the seal between the pan and the batter; that seal is what ensures even cooking. Swab the pan with the oiled paper towel between batches to keep it properly greased.  Definitely trying this next time I make flapjacks!


common cooking mistakes

Your Fish Sticks to the Grill

Another thing (along with chicken) that I usually just avoid even TRYING to cook on the grill because of sticking issues! There is nothing more frustrating than losing an entire piece of expensive fish because it breaks into little pieces when you try to flip it and falls through the rack!

First of all make sure you’re buying a FIRMER fish when attempting to grill it. Skip delicate, flaky fish like tilapia, cod, or flounder, and go with salmon, tuna, or swordfish.

Second, you need to prep the grill. Set the rack over a hot fire for five minutes to burn away debris, then scrub thoroughly with a grill brush. Carefully lift the rack and coat with cooking spray. Don’t spray into the fire. Let the fillets cook undisturbed for a few minutes. When they’re ready to flip, they’ll release cleanly.


common cooking mistakes

You put all the salt in the marinade or breading.

I am guilty of this by default because I had never even heard of this one!

Chicken marinating in citrus juice and salt will only absorb a tiny amount of the marinade. When you toss out the marinade, you also toss out most of the salt and its seasoning effect.

It’s better to use a little salt in the marinade, then directly sprinkle the majority of the salt on the chicken after it comes out of the marinade. The same goes for breaded items. Sprinkle salt directly on the food and then coat it with the breading.


common cooking mistakes

Your Thawed Berries are a Mushy Mess

This one has got to be one of my biggest kitchen pet peeves! I have never thawed berries without ending up with a mushy mess on my hands.

I like to buy blueberries when they are on sale and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer until I have a craving for blueberry pancakes, or something else blueberry-y. But apparently I’m doing it all wrong!

When you throw all the berries in there together, it takes them longer to freeze, which results in larger ice crystals. These big ice crystals destroy the cell walls inside the food, so when it thaws, it loses structural integrity and turns mushy. Big frozen-food companies use special equipment to flash-freeze berries individually

To do this method at home, spread berries in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet, and place the sheet in the back of your freezer. The extra space allows more exposure to the cold, freezing the fruit faster and preventing it from clumping. THEN transfer frozen berries to plastic bags.

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Hopefully we have all learned something here today…..if nothing else…..that we’re not alone when it comes to kitchen bloopers, boo-boos and blunders!

What’s your “best” kitchen calamity?


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  1. Christine says

    First, I LOVE your blog. Thank you for inspiring me. And, secondly, have you been in my kitchen watching all of my cooking mistakes? This post could have been titled, “Christine’s Cooking Mistakes.” I plan to use your tips to become a better cook, and my family will thank you.

  2. Rebekah says

    I have on at least ten different occasions forgotten to put the noodles in the pot when making spaghetti! I get so focused on the sauce! But I’m guilty of flipping my flapjacks and everything else too early.
    Cheers to practicing patience!

  3. silverdust says

    The “putting salt directly on meat” one gets me. I used to do that until a cooking magazine advised that salt drew the juices OUT of the meat while it cooked! I’m so confused…

  4. Alex says

    I was recently given a copy of ‘The Science of Good Cooking’ by Cooks Illustrated. They explain the hows and whys of most of these concepts and more. They also provide excellent recipes to demonstrate each of their concepts. I highly recommend it for novices and more advanced cooks.

  5. Maria says

    Sitting here smelling my latest disaster… the Buffalo Cauliflower Bites turned out great… the eggplant slices I forgot were in the broiler (old gas stove, broiler is the bottom drawer) made an impressive gust of smoke… cough cough.

  6. Cindy says

    A local registered dietition said that butter should NEVER be microwaved to soften when making cookies because it changes the molecular structure of the butter. That’s why it turns out more like batter than dough. Makes sense. I used to nuke my butter for everything—-not anymore. Now I’ve gotten very creative in softening butter in a hurry—-like sitting it on the floor on a dish in front of the heat vent (covered, of course). But I doubt that method would ever be suggested in a food magazine. :)

    • Rita Montague says

      Microwaving changes the molecular structure of every thng. That’s why I quit using it.

      A test was done whereby plants were watered with microwaved water and other plants watered with un-microwaved water. Guess which ones didn’t grow?

      Everyone thinks I’m weird for not using the microwave for anything but sanitizing sponges.

      They were outlawed in Russia way back (don’t know about now) because of what they did to food, let alone possible radiation leakage around the door!

  7. Tammi says

    I have an electric stove top and many times get my pan too hot..burn the oil and have to start over again. Talk about a patience test. :) I’ll have to remember to use the paper towel and tongs to distribute the oil…and stop setting the burner on high. LOL

  8. Anastasia says

    I find rinsing the rice first then adding a bit of acv to the water for cooking it makes it nice and fluffy. I also use a rice cooker, so I’m not sure if there is any difference cooking it on the stove top.

  9. Jennifer says

    Love all these tips! One I would like to say about prepping the grill…don’t use spray. Too dangerous. After you let the grill heat up for 5 minutes (or a tad more), saturate a paper towel with veggie oil and use tongs to wipe on the grill. No need to try to pick up a hot grate and try not to burn yourself while trying to spray.

    • CTY says

      For cleaning the grill–my son heats it up to burn stuff off, then he cleans the rest with 1/2 an onion. No chemicals involved and the compost heap gets a bonus. We were talking about this and agreed 1/2 a lemon would also work. Either could be dipped in vinegar too.

  10. JUNE says

    If I accidentally over soften my butter (in the microwave – usually means that i have some spots that are melted but the rest holds its shape) – I mix the my cookie dough, or batter anyway, and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes so it can solidify again. It seems to work just fine on the many occasions this has happened – - even when making frosting.

  11. Shauna says

    Omgosh, this really hits home. I just did the butter thing last night. I was so disappointed when the frosting did not fluff up. Now I know why! Thanks so much for this ;-) Your blog is great!

  12. Denise says

    As always, great post.
    I’m guilty of all except the measuring of flour.
    Thanks for all the great information that you continue to search out for us. You’re the best and that’s why I voted for you!

  13. says

    Might I suggest investment in a quality rice cooker? It can do so much besides making sure that the rice turns out perfect.

    I use mine to make oatmeal, rice & beans, rice pilaf, porridge, grits, congee, mango sticky rice. The Zorjirushi Zutto is the one I currently use. It is a piece of art and workhorse all wrapped in one.

  14. Lori says

    I was afraid to open this one in that I am NOT a good cook since I don’t do it enough. Therefore, I don’t get enough practice so when I do, I’m not confident enough and the wheel goes round and round!

    As I read these I realized that it IS because I’m rushing the process and not enjoying it like my best friend always has. Wow, what a revelation! Slow down Lori. The more you rush, the easier it is also to make a dumb mistake!

    The funny thing is, I know most of these things but until they were all put together, I didn’t realize how similar in the process they all were. From now on I’m going to give myself more than enough time before everyone is so hungry and get it right the first time. (Then my son can say HIS mom is a great cook!)

  15. Katie says

    Hi Jillee!

    My husband and I love this blog and all of the good ideas you have.

    I love to cook, and I have 2 comments to make about this blog.

    1. With pancakes, the top needs to bubble and all the bubbles should pop before flipping. This is hard for me to do, but it makes a difference.

    2. I’ve also put berries into empty ice-cube trays (with no water) to freeze them individually. Less space is needed, and it separates them so that they don’t roll together. A muffin pan would separate them too, but again, that is much bigger than an ice cube tray. Seems like berries fit there perfectly!


  16. Peggy L. says

    Thank you! I make a lot of these mistakes at home when I’m not thinking, but worse-I do food demos. The meat resting is the hardest-try explaining that you have to let the meat rest to a bunch of people that want their sample NOW. I shamefully never knew the reason why I was resting it, now I am prepared.

    Thank you!

  17. Brenda says

    Thanks, Jillee! I was thinking about shocking the veggies, and the reason for doing it, and, well, I wonder if it wouldn’t work to just slightly under cook them. (I have a small kitchen, and limited energy, so I don’t want more things to clean.) It seems to me that while the shocking will prevent mushiness, it would cause the veggies to be cold by the time people started eating. IMO, a bit mushy would be preferable to cold – unless you were making a cold dish, of course. Hmm, now where’s my chart for how long to cook each type of vegetable…. ;-) Oh, here’s one (that can’t be pinned, nor conveniently printed – hint, hint, hint):


    A cooking mistake I’ve seen on YouTube in instructional videos, is not using the correct measuring tools for the job. There are liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups, and there are measuring spoons and flatware spoons. Especially if you’re baking – a chemical process – measuring correctly is more critical. I did my own test on measuring spoons vs. flatware, and I think many would be surprised to learn that a flatware teaspoon holds more than a measuring teaspoon, and a flatware tablespoon holds more than a measuring tablespoon. These are not expensive tools, but they can make a difference.

    • Brenda says

      Oops! I just looked at my measuring vs. flatware photos again, and a correction is necessary: a flatware tablespoon is significantly less than a measuring tablespoon. Also, a flatware serving spoon is larger than a measuring tablespoon. I apologize if I’ve confused anyone!!

  18. says

    Thanks for your wonderful blog full of great tips and ideas!
    I know of another tip to soften butter quickly: cut in chunks and plunge into luke-warm water (body temp) and they will soften in no time. Just drain into kitchen paper before using to remove the excess water.
    Also, for baking I always weigh my ingredients rather than use a cup or measuring glass, it’s more accurate that way.

  19. Trixie F says

    I, too, am an EPIC fail at grilling bone-in, skin-on, chicken. In fact, I almost caught the patio cover on fire just the other night. Haha. Shortly after that event, I saw an episode of a cooking show on PBS that said we should grill our whole chickens flat (cut out the backbone with kitchen shears – kind of like a butterfly). They said to place the chicken on the cold side of the grill skin side down and cook (FOREVER) approx. 45 minutes, never flipping the chicken but then moving it over to the hot side for 3 to 4 minutes at the end to crisp the skin. I thought it bizarre to not flip the chicken but they swore it was fabulous. The other thing they said was to point the FEET of the chicken toward the hot side of the grill because it takes dark meat longer to cook than white meat. So, basically, it was in direct contradiction to your source, Jillee. It’s just so confusing. I think I’ll just keep baking my birds. LOL. I’d love to hear feedback from anybody who tries/had tried either of these methods of grilling chicken. :)

  20. Comet says

    @SILVERDUST–The salt goes on the meat just before you cook it–in the broiler; on the grill; or in a pan–so it doesn’t have time to “draw out the juices”. If you saw how MUCH salt goes on foods in a commercial kitchen you would be shocked–but sometimes that is one of the big reasons “their” steaks etc taste better than “Our” steaks etc!

    When you WANT to get the juice out–to Kosher (Kasher) meats you have to put a thick layer of salt on the surface–all surfaces!–and then allow time for the meat on a rack to drain. That is also why sometimes Koshered meats are tough; this takes some practice to learn how to work with the product.

    I have also read that whacking the butter with a rolling pin or otherwise “working” it–but not with your hands that will make it partly melt!–will soften it up properly.

    Another use for salt–sprinkle a generous amount in your pan–esp cast iron–before adding meats to avoid grease pops and splatters. Works esp well with hamburgers and steaks and helps give them a nice crust.

    Forgetting to remove the broiler pan AFTER use–that is the big issue around here! Can’t tell you how many times we have turned on the oven to pre-heat and gotten the lovely scent of pork chops or steaks or—-and lovely clouds of smoke! The pan is too hot and the kitchen too small to have any place to put it after we take the food out so it often gets forgotten. And this is also the reason we have TWO broiler pans—in case one is found in there and we need to broil something else! We can cook—it’s apparently some of the after care we are slackers on!

  21. CTY says

    Great tips!
    So funny–even the “seasoned” cook (pun intended) can have a calamity now & then. I burned some French Onion sandwiches a while back, instructions below (for the sandwiches, NOT a how-to for burning them;) Naturally I was having company for lunch. Anyway–I asked my 26 yr old son if he ever remembered a time we had a meal I burned. He quickly said “Never! Because we always threw them out (wiseguy)”. Seriously though we could not think of an instance. But the sandwiches I charred beyond repair. So I made another set. I’m still not sure what happened–so if you make these–be on the lookout.

    French Onion Sandwiches (Great for lacto ovo vegetarians, but not vegans)
    French Onion Soup –all broth drained but save for another meal (I use homemade soup but canned would work)
    Gruyere Cheese (Swiss works too)
    Thick sliced, toasted sturdy bread (5 minute artisan or store bought French/Italian loaf)
    Olive oil or butter
    Directions: Toast, then oil/butter the bread, assemble in hot pan– 1/2 the toast (oil side down), cheese, drained onions (I preheat the onions), cheese again & remaining toast (oil side up). Grill like grilled cheese. Use a bacon/grill press if you have one; Cook until cheese is melted & bread is crusty.

    I served Granny Smith apples slices with these and one of our guests put apple slices on the sandwich–then we all put apples on our sandwiches. Raspberry Sorbet & with hot fudge sauce for dessert.

  22. CTY says

    Dagnabbit–I was thinking so much about those sandwiches I forgot to mention my pitfall from the List of 15.
    Too much food in the pan. My solution–I nest my skillets upside down in the cabinet. So smallest one, on the bottom- upside down (so they “nest”), then medium (same way), then large (same way). Then when I am in a rush and grab the top skillet–all is well. When they were nested the other way–I would just grab the top one and “make it fit”. My mini skillet is kept separately.

  23. KimH says

    One of the best tips I can recommend is to throw away every last container of canola oil! Its a GMO item and it has no place in a home where you are trying to live a productive good life.

    Cook with olive oil, (different grades for different uses), bacon grease, lard, tallow, palm, & coconut oils.

    • Rita Montague says

      I agree!!! Just learned about primal diet a few weeks ago and am practicing it for health reasons. I don’t use any liquid oils now except olive oil though I’ve read that macadamia nut and avocado oils are fine. Maybe some others. But not corn, canola, soy, peanut, etc. Such a learning curve.

  24. Paula says


    I love your blog. I think my worst cooking blunder occurred in front of my grandchildren. I opened some frozen pizzas and put them into the oven. When I tried to serve them, I realized I had left the cardboard underneath both of them. My grandchildren had such a laugh at Grandma. The next time I made them pizzas they reminded me to remove the cardboard. I told them I had remembered. When we cut into them, we discovered I had only removed the cardboard from one of the two pizzas.

  25. Jackie says

    Wow, I’ve probably done all these except, by accident, the flour. I have had old flour and sugar scoops from Tupperware parties years ago! So I accidently did that one right! Now maybe I can learn some patience and do better! Thanks!!

  26. Rebecca Ednie says

    I assume shocking the veggies is only for cold preparations right?

    BTW, when leveling your measuring cups, use the BACK of the knife! That wasn’t mentioned ad may seem obvious but if someone isn’t doing it already, it may not be. And some newer butter knives are not flat across the back. Make sure yours is. Otherwise, buy one specifically for this purpose.

  27. says

    I’ve had lots of kitchen issues over the years but probably the most recent was my daughter trying to make a cream cheese chocolate chip bread. I let her make it all by herself but it didn’t rise at all (it’s a sweet bread so I didn’t expect major rising) but we still ate it! I’m not sure if it was the recipe or her technique (I probably shouldn’t have given her a new recipe to try).

    For freezing blueberries, I haven’t tried this but Amy at Mom Advice swears by it http://momadvice.com/blog/2010/07/freezing-blueberries-in-3-easy-steps
    I need to try your suggestion for strawberries, I haven’t been successful at all in freezing them. :)

  28. sue says

    Thank you! Thank you! The tips that you have given should help make me into a better cook! Like you, I’m always in a hurry! Just need to slow down and enjoy the cooking experience! Thanks again! Just love your blog! Can’t wait til your book hits the stores!


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