5 Simple Things That Every Bad Cook Does Wrong

Quite a few of you reading this are just now entering a phase in your life when you're expected to be able to actually prepare food that doesn't involve simply combining water with some kind of powder. Due to a lack of practice, most of you will be terrible at it.

I know I was, at least. But, over the last couple of years, I've thrown myself into cooking -- not just because I'm a gluttonous white devil, devoid of willpower and basic self-control, but because it's a major release valve for personal stress. At the end of a long line of increasingly edible dishes, and after watching hundreds of hours of Gordon Ramsay screaming the word "twat" at people in white aprons, I've accumulated a list of rookie cooking mistakes everyone seems to make. See if you can't catch yourself ...

#5. Cutting Meat Too Soon After Cooking It


What New Cooks Tend to Do

You've spent 30 minutes preparing the perfect dish, and your stomach is growling. The smells are just too much, and you're not sure how much longer you can wait because you have the self-control of a 4-month-old puppy. So you pull the meat out of the oven, and thank God, it's finally done. You cut into that shit, and meat juice flows out everywhere. That's a good sign. Juicy meat is awesome. But when you bite into it, something is slightly off.

How in the hell can the meat be so dry when you just saw half a gallon of brown juice ooze out of it? Well, that's the problem -- the juice is now on your plate instead of in the meat. You didn't let the meat "rest" before cutting into it.

Why That's a Bad Idea

What, you thought that those warnings to let the food sit for five minutes before eating was just to let it cool so you wouldn't burn your mouth like a dumbass? There's a bigger reason: Once the meat heats up during the actual cooking process, the juices inside start to "boil" from the inside outward. What's actually happening is that as the meat cooks, the muscle cells contract, and the juices get squeezed out, like ringing out a dishrag. It's why you can put a piece of meat into the oven, dry, and it develops a small puddle by the time it's done -- that's not all melted fat.

Sometimes, it's the tears produced by our soul-crushing lives.

When you pull it off of the heat, it will continue to cook for a few minutes. The residual heat from the outside of the meat will try to gain equilibrium with the cooler inside, so the center heats up while the outside cools down. A roast will typically rise another 10 degrees in temperature as it rests. That's important because as the meat rests, the equilibrium process will reach a peak before finally cooling as a whole, and at that point the muscle cells start to relax, turning into a sort of sponge and soaking up the liquid that was squeezed out earlier. Much like your bear costume at a Craigslist swap meet.

When you cut into meat before it's had a chance to relax and reabsorb the moisture, you're spilling the juice, leaving the fiber of the meat drier than if it just sat undisturbed for a few minutes. A good rule of thumb for resting a roast is 15 to 20 minutes on top of a turned-off stove, where it's still warm but not hot. Or loosely covered in foil, so it doesn't get cold. Smaller cuts of meat like steak or chicken only take five to 10 minutes. If the witch from "Hansel and Gretel" knew what she was doing in the kitchen, you could expect her to rest large cuts of meat like children anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

"Dude, I cook them whole -- turds and all. So I'm not too concerned about technique."

#4. Using High Heat on Everything


What New Cooks Tend to Do

It sounds obvious to the point of being insulting to include "don't burn the shit out of your food" on a list of cooking tips, but too much heat is still probably the most common cooking mistake in the world. After all, you're hungry as hell, and you only have 15 minutes before your stolen copy of The Karate Dog finishes downloading. So in anticipation of hearing Chevy Chase awkwardly slur out his lines as the voice of a dog that doesn't do karate for 99 percent of the movie, you chuck a big ass slab of meat into a frying pan, crank up the heat to "hell" and begin cursing at and degrading the food (insulting your meat is like spiritual marinade). Shouldn't take five minutes at that temperature, right?

Yeah, just 30 more seconds, baby. I'm like a cooking pit crew.

After all, fire is a loyal friend, and it would never, ever betray you.

Why That's a Bad Idea

The reason so many novice cooks get fooled by this is that high heat is a great way to make food appear to be cooked. A couple of minutes on high heat will make a piece of chicken look as golden as the one on the cover of a restaurant's glossy menu. Then you bite into it and realize the inside is still pink and carrying lots of still-living bacteria.

The reality is that there are only a few specific foods that ever require high heat. High-end pan-seared steaks like T-bone and New York strip. Flash-fried sides like zucchini. Certain breeds of European dog. Basically, any food that you want to be cooked more on the outside than the inside. Try that with chicken, and your ass could end up in the hospital, shitting out your soul.

Diagnosis: Wings.

In the case of more delicate food like eggs, it scorches the hell out of the edges and bottom, turning it crunchy while leaving the middle too runny, like deep-fried semen. No, most foods will use medium to medium-high because the lower the heat, the more control you have over the process. Lower heat tends to cook food more evenly because the outside of the food is rising in temperature at a rate more consistent with the inside.

If you've ever done the dishes and had a bullshit pan that required scraping or two hours of soaking before you could get it clean, it was cooked too hot with not enough lubrication between the food and the surface. The same is true when you've cut into a pork chop or fried chicken that's started to char on the outside and is still pink in the middle. The best way to make sure you're doing it right is to not only look up a recipe before diving in, but find a video that demonstrates the technique. And also be Scottish:

Of course, none of that matters if you make the mistake that many "just moved out for the first time" college students make ...

#3. Not Knowing Your Pans


What New Cooks Tend to Do

A pan is a pan. It's just a container to hold the food while I kick its ass with fire. Just throw the shit in, turn on the burner, and let's cook this bitch!

Why That's a Bad Idea

I'm not going to give you a rundown on what each pot and pan is used for, but there's a reason you don't see many people making a grilled cheese sandwich in the bottom of a kettle. Yes, certain pans were made for certain types of cooking, and it's not just nitpicky bullshit that finicky chefs harp about just to be elitist. They save the dick measuring for their actual food. A chef can't get away with using a single pan any more than a mechanic could get away with using a single crescent wrench. Different jobs require different tools.

Ironically, the problem with that car is that there's a cake stuffed into the engine.

Put a cast iron skillet on the hottest flame you can muster, and it'll be fine. Do the same thing with a nonstick frying pan, and your house is going to be full of smoke on a fucking Cheech and Chong level, minus the awesome effects. Sear off and fry potatoes in a frying pan, and you'll get that nice, crispy texture you're going for. Try the same thing in a big pot meant for boiling water, and its deep sides are going to trap and hold steam, giving it the consistency of limp dick.

It's the same with size. If you try to cook pasta in a pan that barely holds the noodles, they will give off so much starch in the confined area, they'll become gummy. You need a bigger pot that allows for more water and room for the noodles to cook without touching each other too much. You'll see the same result when browning too much shit in one pan. It gets overcrowded, and the released juices saturate and stew the actual contents, ruining the texture. So to get around the size problem there, you'd need to break down the contents into two separate pans.

Or suspend half of the food in midair until the other half is finished cooking.

But make no mistake, the pans do matter because it's all about texture. And if you don't think texture is important, imagine eating your favorite food as a gelatin. Everything about it tastes exactly the same, flavor-wise, but in the form of mucus.

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