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36 Little Cooking Habits You Should Actually Ditch ASAP

Plus, what to do instead.

Cooking is both rewarding and challenging. Whether you're just starting out or have been honing your kitchen skills for a while, there are likely some mistakes you might still be making. 🔪

From throwing out the pasta water to buying the wrong cuts of meat, here are cooking and baking mistakes you should avoid if you want to get to the next level in the kitchen. (Plus, how to fix those mistakes for next time!)

1. You overcrowd the pan.

Pan filled with cauliflower and squash

2. You undersalt the water.

Adding salt to water

3. When cooking pasta, you don't reserve any of the pasta water.

4. You rinse pasta after you drain it.

Woman rinsing pasta

5. You only season food at the very end of cooking.

6. You forget that acid is often just as important as salt.

Hands squeezing lemon juice on a vegetarian salad of quinoa, tomato, carrot and spices

7. You use a nonstick pan no matter what.

8. You don't fully preheat the pan before adding ingredients.

9. You buy the wrong cut of meat.

raw beef meat steaks for grilling with seasoning and utensils on marble background

10. You move your food around too much as it cooks.

11. You always default to using olive oil.

Olive oil dispensers

12. You never sharpen your knifes.

13. You put lots of hot food directly into a cold fridge.

Close-up shot of woman putting a food container into the fridge.

14. You don't read the recipe all the way through before you start cooking.

Cartoon that shows someone who didn't read the whole recipe before cooking.

15. You don't prep your ingredients ahead of time.

Woman prepping veggies.

16. You don't deglaze your pan.

17. You don't use a food thermometer to see if your meat is ready.

Thermometer placed in a steak

18. You don't let your meat rest for a few minutes after cooking.

Cooked steak

19. You don't use the "3-2-1" rule when making pie dough.

A wooden rolling pin rolls the dough sprinkled with flour.

20. You don't use the "fluff, sprinkle, and scrape" method when measuring flour.

Cups of flour

21. You don't use a scale to measure out your ingredients when baking.

Woman measuring chocolate for a recipe

22. You don't line your cake pans with parchment paper.

How to line a cake pan with parchment paper.

23. You prep your cake pan *after* making the batter, instead of before.

Child spreading butter at the bottom of a bundt cake pan

24. You don't cream the butter and sugar together long enough while preparing dough or batter.

25. You don't sift your dry ingredients — even when the recipe calls for it.

Sifting flour

26. When baking, you don't scrape down the bowl.

Bowl of batter

27. You open the door of the oven while your cake is baking.

Smiling woman checking food in the oven.

28. You start decorating your cake while it's still slightly warm.

putting the finishing touches on a homemade cake

29. When baking, you don't add a bit of salt to doughs and batters.

Woman sprinkling salt in flour before mixing

30. You use cold or melted butter when the recipe specifically calls for room temperature.

Butter at room temperature

31. When grilling, you oil the grates instead of oiling what you're grilling.

BBQ grill

32. You don't dry your protein before cooking it.

33. You don't preheat your oven.

34. You don't toast nuts and seeds.

Toasted pine nuts in a cast iron skillet on a black tea towel.

35. The pot you use to make pasta is too small.

Cooking pasta in a large pot of water

36. You add sauce to your pasta, instead of adding your pasta to the sauce.

What's a common kitchen mistake you wish you had learned to avoid sooner? Share in the comments!