If you eat pasta, there’s a good chance you’ve been making it wrong. Yes, this simple noodle that most of us think only requires boiling water and a strainer is not being cooked the way it was intended. But it’s not just pasta we’re totally screwing up – there are all sorts of colossal mistakes being made in the kitchen.
The good news is, all it takes is a few easy fixes, and your favorite foods will be chef-approved and all the more tastier – if your ego will allow it. Take a look at the eight common foods you didn’t know you were cooking completely wrong.
1. You’re overcooking pasta
Bet you didn’t know you’re supposed to reserve some of the water you boil your pasta in. That’s right: one mistake you’re making in the kitchen is cooking pasta completely, adding it to the sauce, and then discarding the pasta water. Robert Irvine, of Robert Irvine’s Public House at Tropicana Las Vegas, says pasta should be cooked very al dente and then added to the sauce still very firm.
“Reserve one cup of the pasta water and add to the pasta with the sauce to continue to cook the pasta, and to also keep the sauce at the right consistency. This allows the pasta to bond with the sauce with much better flavor,” he explained.
2. You’re adding sugar to your marinara sauce
When making marinara sauce, some people add sugar because of the acidity of the tomatoes. Chef Steve Martorano, of Martorano’s Italian Restaurant at Harrah’s Atlantic City and Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, says this is a major cooking foul. Instead, he recommends using a great tomato like a San Marzano and the sugar will be unnecessary.
3. You’re burning your garlic
Garlic is one of the most used ingredients, partly because it has such amazing health benefits and it tastes great. But did you know that garlic should be browned to a light brown color when cooking? Martorano said it should not be cooked until it’s black, as it will make the food bitter.
4. You’re cooking your rice by the bag
Did you know that the directions on the back of the bag of rice are totally wrong? If you follow them to a letter, you will end up with rice that clumps together and sticks to the bottom of the pot like glue, as Ben Canary, head chef and co-founder of HercuLean Meal Prep, says. It’s actually no coincidence, because the extra starch surrounding grains of dry rice has been used as glue for paper making for centuries.
Simply wash the rice, soak it, adding water to cover the grain, then drain one more time. When you’re ready to cook the rice, just cover in water and add two finger lengths extra. Add spices if you’re looking for extra flavor.
5. You’re putting your fish in a cold pan
If you’re having problems with fish sticking to the pan when you’re pan frying, you’re probably cooking your fish at the wrong temperature. Irvine said when searing fish there, are two very important parts for success: the pan has to be at a very high heat, smoking point, and the fish has to be dried with towels. He recommended wrapping the fish in paper towels while the pan is still getting hot.
“If the moisture soaks through, wrap again. Once the fish is dry, season with salt and add a high heat oil to the pan. Lay the fish in the hot oil carefully and let sit for two to four minutes depending on thickness. Do not move the fish. After the time, lift the fish and carefully turn over and fishing cooking the fish. Finish with lemon.”
6. You’re overcooking scrambled eggs
The common-sense thing to do when scrambling eggs is to watch the pan, cook them until they’re just right, and then slide them onto our plate. The problem is, eggs trap heat and continue to cook, even after you take them out of the pan. Therefore, to achieve perfect eggs just the way you want them. You have to ever-so-slightly under-cook them to get them perfect.
It takes a bit of experimenting to get the hang of this technique but when you nail it, you won’t be able to resist cooking eggs for your friends at every opportunity.
7. You’re cooking bacon on the stove
Ben Canary says: “As a general rule, lining a sheet with aluminum foil (no need for oil spray!) and cooking at 400 for about 15 minutes will get you in the ballpark; however bacon of different thicknesses can take a little longer or shorter, and you can adjust the time if you want it more or less crispy.” Another great thing about baking bacon is that it allows for more creativity: you can rub them with spices, brown sugar, or even overlap the pieces into a weave.
8. You’re chopping asparagus
“The first time I cooked asparagus I didn’t even know the woody base of them is supposed to be chopped off (although I quickly learned),” said Canary. “Then after years of guessing where exactly to chop, somebody clued me into the fact that asparagus will naturally bend and break at just the right spot.” Try it for yourself: simply take a spear, hold it with your thumb and forefinger at either end, and bend down. It’s like magic.
Correct these wrongs, and you may just find yourself being booked for every meet-up your friends have the entire year. Alternatively, you can keep your newfound secrets to yourself, and just try to make having four rounds of pasta a habit.