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12 Cooking Mistakes You're Probably Making (And How To Avoid Them)

Because everyone makes mistakes.

We get it, mistakes happen — especially when it comes to cooking. But learning from those mistakes is what matters.

So we rounded up 12 of the most common cooking mistakes and what you can do to either prevent them, or fix them.



1. PROBLEM: You added too much salt to your dish.

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SOLUTION: Try adding an unsalted liquid such as low-sodium broth or stock (or even water) to thin it out a bit. You can also try adding an acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) to tone down the flavor, but this will only mask the salt, not remove it. Despite what you've heard, adding chunks of potatoes to "soak up the salt" isn't a real fix. While the potatoes do soak up a tiny bit of salt, the amount they soak up is so small it will barely make a difference.

Learn more: Check out 11 helpful tips for perfectly salting your food.

2. PROBLEM: You cut into your chicken and it's still raw in the middle.

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SOLUTION: Well, you need to keep cooking it! But how you cook it can be the difference between it coming out dry or moist. The sad news is that once you cut into the chicken, you're letting a lot of the juices out. So, to avoid any further moisture loss, you'll want to add the chicken back to your pan cut-side down to sear the exposed interior and continue cooking it until it's done. Next time, use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature. It should read 165°F in the thickest part.

Learn more: Get a recipe for baked chicken breasts.



3. PROBLEM: You burnt the bottom of your pot.

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SOLUTION: If there's still food in your pot (such as soup that's still cooking), you'll want to transfer it into a new pot right away. The longer your food stays in the pot, the more burnt flavor it'll take on. Once it's out, fill your burnt pot with a thin layer of vinegar and baking soda and scrub the burnt bits off. (The mixture will fizz up a bit, so be careful!) Next time just turn the heat down and make sure you stir your food frequently to prevent burning.

Learn more: Get step-by-step instructions for cleaning a scorched pot.

4. PROBLEM: Your fresh greens are wilted and sad.

SOLUTION: Fill a large bowl with ice water and submerge your wilted greens in it for about 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the leaves, dry them in a salad spinner (or with paper towels), and they should be nice and perky. To prevent your greens from wilting in the future, try storing them with a paper towel to absorb some of their excess moisture.

Learn more: See how to revive wilted greens.



5. PROBLEM: Your pasta sticks together.

SOLUTION: Make sure that your water is at a rolling boil. If it's not boiling, your pasta is more likely to stick together. (It's also more likely to stick together during the first few minutes of cooking, so make sure to give it a few good stirs when you add it.) If your pasta sticks together after you cook it (while sitting in a colander, for example), gently break it up and toss it in a thin coating of olive oil.

Learn more: How to prevent pasta noodles from sticking together.

6. PROBLEM: Your ground meat isn't browning.

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SOLUTION: Make sure to dry the ground meat with a paper towel before adding it to a hot, lightly oiled pan — and after that, don't touch it! Giving the ground beef time to actually brown before breaking it up is the key, so be patient and leave it alone! Once you see the edges start to brown and crisp up a bit, you can go ahead and break it up.

Learn more: Get step-by-step instructions for browning ground meat.



7. PROBLEM: The juices from your meat run all over your cutting board.

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SOLUTION: You need to let your proteins rest for five to seven minutes after cooking before you cut into them. (This mostly applies to steaks, chicken breasts, and pork.) If you cut them right away, they'll lose a ton of moisture and dry out a bit. (This is the pool of juices you sometimes see on cutting boards after you cut them.) Be patient, give them time to rest, and your steak should turn out nice and juicy.

Learn more: Read more about why you should let your steaks rest.

8. PROBLEM: Your hard-boiled eggs have a weird grey-green ring around the yolk.

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SOLUTION: Simply cook them for less time. While the greenish ring may be unsightly, the eggs are still perfectly fine to eat. To avoid it in the future, cook your eggs in a single layer in a pot (don't stack them), then cover them in cold water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit in the water for 15 minutes. Immediately drain them and pop them into ice water to stop the cooking process.

Learn more: Read more about the science behind the green ring that forms around overcooked egg yolks.



9. PROBLEM: Your melted chocolate turns out dry and clumpy.

SOLUTION: Chocolate that has lumped together in a crumbly, dress mess has seized — which is just a fancy term for chocolate that has come into contact with water. (Because melted chocolate + water do not mix.) To prevent this, make sure you start with dry tools and try your absolute best to prevent any water droplets from splashing into the chocolate. If you do end up with seized chocolate, add one tablespoon of boiling water at a time until it smooths back out. (Which sounds counterintuitive, but actually works. You just won't be able to temper it or use it for coating, but it'll be good enough for most baking projects.)

Note: Chocolate that has overheated and burned can also clump up and look dry. Unfortunately, at that point there is not much you can do with it. To prevent that in the future, make sure to melt your chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 10-second increments.

Learn more: How to fix seized chocolate.

10. PROBLEM: Your cookies always turn out dry and crispy.

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SOLUTION: Decrease the amount of time you bake them for and don't let them cool on the hot cookie sheet. For example, if a recipe tells you to bake them for 12 minutes, check them after 10. They should still be very soft and barely golden. (They will firm up once they cool.) Also, don't let your cookies cool on a hot sheet pan. The heat from the pan will continue to cook them long after you take them out of the oven. Instead, transfer them onto a cooling rack.

Learn more: Learn how to make the best chocolate chip cookies.



11. PROBLEM: Your sauces and gravies turn out lumpy.

Belchonock / Getty Images

SOLUTION: If your gravy turns out lumpy, the easy solution would be to strain it. In the future, try adding your liquid to your roux slowly (adding it too quickly can lead to lumps) and make sure the liquid you're adding is warm. Adding cold liquid to a hot roux increases the risk of it clumping together. As you're adding the liquid, whisk constantly to help incorporate the roux and you should be A-OK.

Learn more: Check out five tips for preventing lumps in your gravy.

12. PROBLEM: Your garlic always burns.

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SOLUTION: The next time you cook with garlic, add it to the pan later in the cooking process. The most common reason people burn garlic is because they add it way too early and it has too much time to cook. Also, keep in mind that garlic does not do well with super high temperatures, so don't add it to a pan that's ripping hot. Another trick is to switch from minced garlic to sliced garlic. Sliced garlic can withstand a longer cooking process, although you may not want whole slices of garlic in all of your dishes.

Learn more: Check out even more tips so you never burn garlic again.

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9 Restaurant Cooking Tricks You Can Use In Your Own Kitchen

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