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5 Common Cooking Mistakes You Might Be Making

by Alif Azizan |

Let’s face it, we have all been there. At some point in our life, we failed miserably in the kitchen while trying to channel our inner Gordon Ramsay or Chef Wan. However, do not be discouraged because the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While mistakes are essentials in helping you improve for the better (and trust me you're going to make a lot of mistakes and errors along the way), a little know-how here and there would be useful in showing the ropes for the newbies out there. Here are 5 common cooking mistakes you might be making:

1. Not following the recipe properly

Unlike its Malay counterparts, western (or other immaculate) dishes don't really subscribe to the idea of “agak-agak” (What you think is enough). How much is “agak agak”? Some recipes require an exact temperature or the exact amount of substance or specific materials for it to work, such as pastries and most baked food. If the recipe calls for an all-purpose flour, use all-purpose flour and not wheat flour. Never (and we mean ever!) substitute the materials for other alternatives (unless the recipe says you can), not only that the outcome might be different, you might also be left with a sour taste in the mouth - both figurative and literally.

2. Not tasting the food as you cook

There’s a good reason why chefs or cooks take a sip of their cooking when they are on the scene. Do keep in mind that your cooking will taste different at different times. Therefore, it is important to constantly keep tabs on the taste so that you will have the desired end product. This is because liquids tend to dry out when you cook and some ingredients would need some time for it to work its magic. Thus, do adjust accordingly to the changes in taste as you cook. If they just don’t have the kick, don’t be afraid to use seasonings! There’s a reason why the term “secukup rasa” exists.

3. Not being aware of residual cooking

Now, if you are a cooking noob like me, you would find yourself scratching your head, what in the world is residual cooking? Residual cooking happens when the residual heat from your recently made food keeps on cooking it even after its removal from the stovetop. This might be the main culprit behind your overly done scrambled eggs or the rubbery texture of your cheese topping. Similar rules apply for oven baking as well. Ever wondered why a lot of recipes ask you to rest or cool your food after removing it from the heat before it is served? Some recipes call for removal from heat a wee bit earlier before it cooks so that the residual heat would tailor it to *chef’s kiss* perfection.

4. Dumping all sorts of different ingredients at one go

We have one word for you, “Don’t”. Just don’t do it. Each type of meat and vegetable has its own sweet cooking time. Thus, tossing all of them at one go would risk overcooking or undercooking (or worst-case scenario, both) some of them. Hop on the net and do some research on your cooking materials. Always place protein and veggies that take the longest time to cook first then follow it by adding in the ones that have shorter cooking time. Generally, red meat such as lamb, pork, beef takes the longest. This is followed by white meat – poultry, chicken, fish, etc. As for the veggies, starchy ones (potatoes and peas) and non-leafy vegetables (carrot, broccoli) take quite a while to tenderise, followed by leafy greens like spinach and other soft-textured veggies such as tomatoes.

5. Not taking personal hygiene seriously

Last but not least, always take your personal hygiene very seriously when handling food or cooking. This comes as a no brainer but some people might lack the common sense to do so. Failing to do so would result in very undesirable situations, think nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach aches. We wouldn’t want to suffer from eating a delicious meal, and then paying the price of suffering because of contamination, now do we?

In conclusion, the method in food preparation should always be given the spotlight because ultimately, it is the very foundation of cooking, and knowing the little tricks can go a long way. Be sure to handle the basics well, because, without a solid foundation in cooking, one will find it hard to cook their heart out!

You can learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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