"It Still Haunts My Dreams": Home Cooks Are Sharing The Worst Mistake They've Ever Made In The Kitchen, And Let These All Serve As Reminders
"The first time I made a Thanksgiving turkey I messed up the gravy badly. I kept adding more flour to the pan drippings and stirred like crazy, but it wasn't thickening or even lightening in color. Instinct finally told me to taste it..."
Whether you love or hate to cook, we can all agree that there's a serious learning curve, and it takes some time and practice to develop your skills and comfort level in the kitchen. And everyone is bound to make a few mistakes along the way. So redditor u/Embarrassed-Mouse-49 asked, "What cooking faux pas did you make when you first started to cook?" Here's how people responded.
1. "The first time I made a Thanksgiving turkey I jacked up the gravy. I kept adding more flour to the pan drippings and stirred like crazy, but it wasn't thickening or even lightening in color. Instinct told me to finally taste it. Turns out I was using powdered sugar. We had chicken gravy from a jar so it wasn't the end of the world, but that turkey fat frosting still haunts my dreams."
2. "I was trying to duplicate a chicken dish I’d eaten at a restaurant in Mexico. I coated a few chicken breasts with spices and chile oil, tossed them into a hot skillet, and went about browning the skin. What this did was create tear gas, which filled the house and my lungs with smoke that burned like hell. My house reeked for a week."
3. "I bought ingredients to make my first Thai dish. Turns out cream of coconut is NOT the same as coconut cream!"
4. "Overcooking fresh fish. When I moved to Hawaii I started cooking fresh local fish. I started keeping a notebook to record how long I cooked various types. Each time I made fish, I reduced the cook time by a minute. I finally got it down to 90 seconds per side, which was perfect. It took me a couple months to figure out how to cook fish properly."
5. "My husband and I once made homemade mac 'n' cheese, but used condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. Canned milk is all the same, right?! Yeah, no. Not at all."
6. "I forgot to prick my potatoes before baking them. The oven was a mess."
7. "When I started cooking, for me the burners had only two settings: off and high. Turns out, not everything should be cooked over high heat."
8. "When I was younger, I made mac 'n' cheese for the first time for my family. I forgot to drain the macaroni from the pasta water before adding the milk, butter, and cheese powder. My dad decided we were not going to throw it away, so we added some fresh cut broccoli florets and sliced up hot dogs and turned it into soup. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me how to roll with the punches."
9. "I made pumpkin soup once and followed the recipe exactly. I mean, I did everything right, but I couldn't figure out why it tasted funny. Turns out I used pumpkin pie filling instead of pumpkin puree. The flavor was so, so, SO wrong."
10. "When making risotto, I didn't measure the rice. I just used the whole box and cooked it with hot water without any stock or seasonings. It resulted in a vat of bland, overcooked risotto. I didn't make it again for several years, but when I finally followed a proper recipe, proper risotto utterly changed me."
11. "I forgot to take the ‘goodie bag' out of the chicken cavity before I roasted it. Oops."
12. "I was living in the UK in the early '90s, and I knew of pumpkin pie from books, but not so much how it was made. Pumpkins arrived on our shores around Halloween time, and I, being keen to make something American, made myself pumpkin pie...by chopping the flesh into chunks and baking it under a pie lid as if it were apple pie. It was vile."
13. "I used to cook everything in crappy nonstick pans, and I went through so many over the years. Now I exclusively cook with stainless steel pans and a cast iron skillet, and it's been life changing. They're admittedly more expensive up front, but given how long they last they certainly save money over time."
14. "I was being lazy and used the lid of a pot to strain my pasta. The lid slipped and I watched a full box of cooked spaghetti slide down the drain. I use a colander now. Every single time."
15. "I wanted to make mashed potatoes but didn’t have a masher or electric mixer. So I decided to whip my potatoes in the blender. It turned into what was basically potato glue, and it was very embarrassing."
16. "I thought I could use water to thin out a homemade chocolate dipping sauce. Oh boy...what a mess."
17. "I spent all day making a soup from scratch, and I got to the last step, which was adding heavy cream. I wasn't paying close attention and poured a bunch of expired, chunky cream right into my whole pot of soup. The moral of the story is that I now pay close attention to my ingredients and double check them if they've been sitting in the fridge."
18. "I thought one clove of garlic meant a bulb. I made chicken Parmesan from scratch, which called for two cloves. I, however, used two entire bulbs. Suffice to say it was definitely not a first date meal."
19. "I tried to microwave an egg in order to hard boil it. It exploded everywhere."
20. "Once upon a time I didn't prep my ingredients prior to cooking. Now I realize that when it comes to stovetop cooking, the timing of ingredients is really important. If you get aromatics in the pan but need to measure out all the additional seasonings before you add in your meat or broth, you’ll likely burn your aromatics or at the very least caramelize them enough to change the flavor. Mise en place is key."
21. "I hate to even admit this, but when I first started making sourdough bread I scored the top of the bread before I let it rise, and then wondered why it didn't rise. For non-bakers, the reason you slash the loaf just before you put it in the oven is to help it rise evenly with the high heat of 'oven spring' and not split in some random place."
22. "I used a Pyrex dish on the stove. I heard a little whistle and then turned back to the stove and BAM! It was an explosion of glass that melted the linoleum floor."
23. "Not reading the entire recipe first before you begin cooking. I'd be happily cooking until I got to the part that says, 'And now freeze for six hours.' WTF!"
24. "Waiting until I finished cooking before actually tasting the food. I've had to teach myself to taste my food as I cook it. That way I know whether or not ingredients must be added to achieve the right flavor (more salt, more hot pepper, a bit of acid)."
25. "Not letting the oil get hot enough before frying something. If the oil isn't hot the food will soak it up, and it totally ruins the taste. Conversely when the oil is too hot you run the common risk of burning the breading."
26. "Crowding the pan. If you're frying, sautéing, etc, there needs to be room for the moisture in the food to escape; otherwise, it just gets steamed, and it won't brown nicely."
What's a mistake or faux pas you committed in the kitchen as a beginner that makes you laugh when you think back to it? Tell us in the comments!
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.