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10 Mistakes Not to Make in Cooking

November 4, 2020

Ten Mistakes Not to Make in Cooking

Most of these are mistakes I’ve made—and some of them turned out well anyway, even better than hoped!

  1. The pie where I used only ¾ cup of flour, not a full cup. I made two apple pies last week; one for my husband and me (and a piece to share with a friend). I also made a gluten free pie for my daughter’s family who have a son with celiac. In the pie I made for us, the crust ended up being extra tender and flaky. The dough stretched to be just barely enough for a top and bottom crust in a nine-inch pie pan. While cleaning up and washing my dishes, I noticed I had used not the 1 cup measuring device of my Pampered Chef stacked cups (which includes 6 stackable cups with quantities of almost any amount a recipe might call for: 1 cup, ¾, 2/3, ½, 1/3, ¼. Instead, I had grabbed the ¾ cup size to measure the flour for the pie. So the dough was short a whole ¼ cup of flour for the crust! No wonder I struggled in stretching the crust, but as I said, the crust was great. Not quite phyllo thin, but delicate and light enough to top off the yummy flavor of the apples. You know how with some pies you abandon eating the tough crust and just gobble down the filling? This was the opposite of that: the pie’s flavors all melded together for a delicious pastry good enough for a bakery in Paris. Maybe. 

2. The pie where I forgot to lower the heat after 10 minutes of baking. At some point, a recipe I had said to bake the pie at 425 for the first ten minutes, and then lower the temp to 350 for 50 more minutes, so as to not burn the outer ridge of the crust. First of all, use a pie crust guard. If you don’t, that’s your first mistake in making a pie. (You can use foil but for a couple dollars, you can save yourself a bundle of struggle trying to put strips of aluminum foil around the edge.) But there is also a teeny problem of forgetting to set the timer for the first ten minutes. After making the delicious crust two days earlier which I’ve described above, I was chagrined when I realized that on my gluten free pie, I had not remembered to set the timer and baked the whole pie at a high 425 degrees! Yikes. I was surprised it didn’t burn or brown, but when I pulled it out, it looked extra glazy and hard. Not good. So I told the family not to bother eating the crust, just focus on the yummy apple slices inside.

  • 3. The cookies when my sister used a cup of instant coffee granules instead of a cup of liquid coffee. I’m not faulting my sister, at all, a lovely baker of many goodies over the years, especially now with many grandchildren and even great grandchildren. But these cookies were so hard that even the dog refused them, or so the family lore goes. After I shared the recipe in this post my cousin’s wife commented that if a recipe is unclear about something, she avoids it rather than mess up precious ingredients.
  • 4. When you almost ruin the Lions’ Club reputation for splendid sausage gravy, “roux” this. Several years ago a couple of us had to sub in for our famed sausage gravy maker, when he was called to other duties as district governor at a state Lions conference the same weekend as our Pancake Days. I wrote about that gravy and recipe here (one of my most viewed posts ever). Our problem the second year when I was head gravy maker was at some point we had a run on customers and needed to hurry up the gravy. I didn’t have time for the normal process which took about an hour. A former restaurant owner in our club suggested making a roux, (French for a thick sauce) as in a Béchamel sauce. I was going, “Roo what? Becha who?” But Dianne jumped in and as I quickly fried the sausage for the gravy, she masterminded the roux in a different skillet and saved the day as we put it all together in maybe half the time.  
  • 5. Where I learned the wisdom of letting boneless chicken breasts come to room temperature before cooking. My sister-in-law Barbara and her daughter Anna introduced us to a splendid variation on “fried chicken,” which is Chicken breasts rolled in butter, crumbled Ritz crackers and sharp grated cheese. I didn’t have any problem making it the first time or two and then one time I got in a hurry and tried to quickly use frozen chicken breast strips. As I rolled the frozen pieces in the melted butter, the butter congealed on the pieces, and the cracker crumbs and grated cheese don’t adhere very well. The answer is to let the chicken come to room temperature before you try to roll it in the butter and crumbs, and then bake it.
  • 6. When you’ve got way too much yeast roll dough for your mixer. I had a favorite roll dough recipe that I made ever since high school, and one day I was really ambitious and thought I would use my newish (then) Kitchen Aid mixer with its handy dandy dough hooks for kneading the dough. It didn’t quite power out under the strain, but I decided I should never do that again, as the dough insisted on riding up the dough hook unmanageably. Just don’t.
  • 7. When you accidentally use tablespoons instead of teaspoons in cornbread. If you make a mistake in cooking, always write the correction or reminder on your recipe—whether it is in your recipe box, or in a cookbook. Not sure where you can write reminders if you are of the generation that only uses recipes you find online. At any rate, I had totally forgotten about the time I accidentally used 4 tablespoons of baking powder instead of 4 teaspoons in a quick batch of cornbread I made to accompany our chili soup one evening. In case you wonder, the cornbread was totally not fit to eat.
  • 8. What food not to make at home. Sometimes, you just need to give up, right? I’ve tried making angel food cake from scratch and from a box and although I finally conquered making one—(and then turning it upside down on a bottle or funnel which you need to do after the cake has baked). Read about my trials with angel food cakes below. And then, maybe resolve not to punish yourself that way. Afterall, they only cost a couple bucks in most grocery stores, right? And P.S. “Why Did My Angel Food Cake Fall” is another of my top posts, so at least misery has company.
  • 9. When I kept having fails at the Butterscotch Brownies (which my oldest sister rocks so well). I share this because it applies to other recipes too, especially in the cookie category. I always wondered, well what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder. When I googled these questions here is what I got: “Baking powder is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods. It works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and thus leavening the mixture.” Allrecipes.com adds regarding margarine: “Margarine, which can contain more water and less fat, may make thin cookies that spread out while baking.”
  • 10. When the gluten free cupcake recipe turns out fine, but then the next day you get sicker than a dog. Dare you serve the cupcakes to the birthday boy a week later? This past post tells a long story but especially if you have kids or grandkids or anyone in the family who must eat gluten free, it may be worth the read as my husband and I got to finally eat and enjoy (immensely) the cupcakes. And we didn’t get sick from the cupcakes! This also reminds me that many times, there are rescues for what you fear is a failed recipe. Don’t be too quick to throw out those hard hard cookies—might make a topping for ice cream, eh?

What were your biggest or worst mistakes in cooking?

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Did you have a major “save” you are bursting to share?

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Herald Press still sells my book of recipes as well.

Whatever Happened to Dinner?

From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

8 Comments
  1. Elaine permalink

    There’s a recipe for Molasses Crinkles in my Betty Crocker cookbook that has a red underline mark for the 1/4 tsp salt. If I remember correctly (years ago) I put in 1 tsp instead of 1/4 tsp because that’s normally what recipes call for! It pays to read and re-read a recipe. 🙂

    • Yes it does! I just finished baking 2 loaves of bread this morning and I’ve learned to keep track of how many cups of flour I’ve used by using my little refrigerator magnet/marker board and make tallies for each cup that goes in. There have been too many times I’ve pondered, uh, have it put in 4 or 5 cups. We can all use the reminders!! And no, you don’t often see a recipe calling for just 1/4 tsp. salt. Thanks for commenting, Elaine.

  2. The coffee snafu sounds like a complete throw-away. Some of your examples do sound salvageable though, a good thing.

    My biggest mistake is getting distracted when something is cooking on the stovetop or baking. I trust myself too much without setting a timer, and go off looking at a blog or doing housework. The scorched scent brings me to my senses, sort of like smelling salts – ha!

    It sounds as though your house is warm and cozy with bread-baking today. 🙂

    • You know, I thought of one major distraction many years ago when I left the kitchen with hot grease heating up on the stove, in an apartment I shared with a friend. I came back to the kitchen where flames were leaping up out of the pot. I quickly covered the pan with a lid but wow was that scary. And P.S. the bread today turned out just lovely. I was minding my timers! Thanks for your confession and may we all stay safe in the kitchen.

    • Elaine permalink

      Marian, I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit! It’s scary and I use the timer as a safeguard, too.

  3. The best lessons are the ones we learn this way!

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