As with any discipline there is in the world, the only way to refine and develop your skills in the kitchen is to continuously learn. However, unlike most disciplines, learning your way around the kitchen is quite a curious thing. While some of us learn through practice alone and figuring it out as they go, there are also some of us who learn as we are shown the ropes by the experts. Regardless of what your learning process might be, keep in mind that there is ALWAYS more room to expand your knowledge. No matter how much you think you might have mastered a discipline, there is always still so much to learn--and some of them are surprisingly quite basic.
With that in mind, here are just some of the most common kitchen mistakes you might be unknowingly committing:
1.) Killing your fresh herbs
There is no point in including fresh herbs in your dish if you are simply going to keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If you wish to store them better and preserve them for much longer, remove them from the bag and trim the root ends just a bit and dunk them in a container with water as you would with fresh flowers. For herbs such as cilantro and parsley, place a plastic big loosely over the top and rubber-band it into place before storing it in the refrigerator. For basic herbs such as thyme, mint, sage, rosemary and other herbs, keep them in their container out in the counter and at room temperature.
2.) Refrigerating EVERYTHING
While the fridge is an excellent way to store items, it is not always good for everything. There are things that are often refrigerated when they do not need to be. Even worse is when there are things that go bad once refrigerated. One particular example of a food staple that does not do well in cold temperatures is potatoes as they suffer on the molecular level and lose much of their flavor and texture. The same goes with tomatoes.
3.) Manhandling your mashed potatoes
Perfectly made mashed potatoes are light and fluffy while gluey pasty ones are bungled and gross. Unfortunately, potatoes are incredibly complex considering they are starchy beasts. When they are overcooked, under-drained or mashed harder than they should be, the starch becomes too much starch. As a result, you have something that resembles the gooey consistency of paste. In this regard, cook your potatoes until they are tender but not falling apart before you drain them. From there, mash them with a masher, ricer or food mill--not with an electric mixer or food processor. For best results, use russet potatoes for smooth mashed spuds.
4.) Rinsing the noodles
Rinsing pasta right after you cook it washes away the starch that makes the sauce stick to it. Keep in mind that pasta wears sauce like a nice jacket and rinsing away starch results in a slippery pasta where sauce would not hold.
5.) Crowding the pasta
When it comes to cooking pasta, it is recommended to use a pot that is big enough for all of your noodles. If you are trying to save on water or energy, you may be constrained to using a smaller pot but you are going to end up with gummy noodles if you do so. If you can, always go with a bigger pot to cook your noodles. Fill it with 5 to 6 quarts of the water and salt it liberally. Have it come to a rapid boil and add your pasta then follow the packet directions as instructed.
6.) Not letting food rest
While the term "fresh out of the oven" seems like an excellent way to serve your food, your dishes need to rest too. After taking out your baked dishes and meats from the over, they need to sit a few minutes just before you serve them. For meats, it is imperative to let them rest as it prevents the juices from running amok while for baked dishes such as lasagna and casseroles, it helps the liquids be reabsorbed into the food.
7.) Crowding your pan
Sure, you want to maximize the size of your pan as much as you can. Unfortunately, a pan packed too tightly often means a pan full of food whose flavor is not distributed equally and does not brown. When it does cook, it releases water which then turns into steam that needs to escape. However, pans that are tightly packed cannot release steam. If you wish to steam the food, pack the pan but if you are looking to brown it, give it some room and if possible, use two pans.