- From sauteing and steaming to boiling and searing, a stovetop can be your best friend in the kitchen.
- But it also can be your worst nightmare if you don’t know how to use it properly.
- Many people ruin their food by putting cold food in the pan, flipping too frequently and using the wrong kind of pans.
- INSIDER asked several chefs to share some of the most common stovetop mistakes they’ve come across that all can easily be rectified.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
You followed the recipe perfectly, but you still ended up with a dinner disaster. You may be guilty of making some of the most common stovetop mistakes, which can ruin your food in a snap. Though it seems simple enough, one misstep can make cooking that much more difficult.
To help you avoid these major mishaps in the future, INSIDER asked two chefs to share some common stovetop mistakes that nearly everyone makes. And fortunately all of them are easily correctable.
You put cold food in the pan.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when cooking on the stovetop is pulling food directly out of the fridge and placing it directly onto the pan, according to Chef Marisa Churchill, former “Top Chef” competitor, certified nutritionist, cookbook author, and host of ” My Sweet & Skinny Life.” Pulling food directly out of the fridge and tossing it into the pan, especially for meats, can easily produce underwhelming results, Churchill said.
“To help ensure that your stove has a fighting chance, pull meat out of the fridge and allow it to sit for 20 minutes before cooking,” Churchill told INSIDER.
You don’t use the range hood.
“Most people with a gas stove never bother to turn on the range hood. So, all the smoke, steam, and gas fumes that should get sucked up are instead hanging out with your food,” Churchill told INSIDER.
Next time, you cook, turn on the hood, she suggested.
You don’t dry food properly before cooking it.
“Even if you buy the most expensive stove, you’re not going to get the best results if you don’t properly prep your food before it goes into the pan,” Churchill said. “This doesn’t just mean seasoning veggies and meats. It also means drying them.”
The reason being that tossing wet vegetables or meat into a hot pan will cause the oil to splatter, making a big mess, Churchill explained. It will also result in soggy, slightly steamed meat and veggies. Make sure vegetables and meats have been dried before seasoning and cooking.
If you’re trying to feed the whole family and save some time, you may be adding too much food to your sauté pan. But that could be to the detriment of the meal. Overcrowding the pan can cause your food to cook unevenly, steaming on the bottom, while the top layer is barely cooks, Churchill told INSIDER.
“Luckily, there’s a simple solution. Pull out two sauté pans and keep your cooking less crowded. If you don’t have two pans, try cooking in batches. It may take a bit longer, but the results will be worth it,” Churchill said.
You flip meat too quickly.
For many home cooks, perfectly cooking meat can be an intimidating task. You’re not sure when that piece of salmon or that steak is ready to be flipped. More often than not, you end up moving it around in the pan or worse, turning it too early, causing the meat to stick and tear, Churchill told INSIDER.
“When cooking meat, less is more. Let the meat cook, untouched, until the bottom is golden brown. When you think the meat is ready, lift one of the corners,” Churchill said. “If it doesn’t stick, it’s ready to be flipped. Along these same lines, once the meat has been flipped, avoid continuing to flip it back and forth.”
You don’t actually remove the pan from heat.
Another mistake people commonly make on the stovetop is not properly removing their pans from the heat source when a recipe says “remove from heat.” Often times, people will simply turn off the burner instead of removing the pan or pot from the burner, according to Chef Shelley Blechar, chef and owner of Elegant Eats a personal chef service in Dallas, Texas. The residual heat from the burner can continue to cook the food which can ruin it, she said.
“Have a trivet off to the side so that you can immediately and safely move the hot pan off the stove,” Blechar told INSIDER.
You’re using the wrong burner on the gas stove.
“It’s a common mistake for people to misuse the different size burners on a gas stove. The different sizes are used for different sized pans,” Blechar said.
It’s easy to scorch food if you’re using a smaller pan than is appropriate for the burner, Blechar explained, and if the burner is much smaller than the pan, it will take much longer for the food to cook correctly. Pay attention to the size of the burner versus the pan.
You use cheap pans to cook on the stove.
The cookware you use also has an effect on the food you make over the stove, and if you don’t use quality pots and pans, you can easily ruin your meal, according to Blechar.
“Poor quality stainless steel pans cook unevenly and scorch food. Cheap non-stick pans quickly, lose their coating, and can even become dangerous to your health as the chemicals leach into the food,” Blechar told INSIDER.
She recommended investing in high-quality pots and pans that you’ll actually use. No need to purchase a full set, just the essentials for your household, she added.
You’re using the wrong kind of pans.
Along with that, what many people fail to think about when cooking is that certain pots and pans are designed for specific jobs.
“If you want nicely seared meat or crispy potatoes, choose a stainless steel pan. If you’re looking to softly scramble an egg, or make light and fluffy pancakes, choose a nonstick pan. For sauces and gravy, choose a deep saucepan,” Churchill told INSIDER.
You’re not accounting for how your particular stove works when cooking.
Electric stoves take time to change burner temperature, according to Blechar, so if you don’t take that into account when cooking, your food will suffer.
To avoid this mistake in the future, you’re better off switching to a different burner and setting it to low if a recipe calls for reducing the heat from medium-high to low, Blechar said.