Overcrowding the pan
If you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table, it can be tempting to throw all your steaks or chicken breasts in the pan at the same time to get them cooked faster. However, this affects the airflow and traps the heat under the food, creating steam and leading to soggy, limp dishes. It’s better to cook large amounts of food in batches – or, if you’re desperate to get it all cooked at the same time, use multiple pans.
Cooking pasta in a small pot
Been suffering through sticky, chewy pasta? You’ve probably been cooking it in a pot that’s too small, and doesn’t contain enough water. When pasta is added to a small amount of water, the temperature of the water drops significantly – meaning it takes longer to come back to the boil, and the pasta is left to sit in non-boiling water getting gummy and clumpy.
Next time, fill a large pot with water and bring it to the boil. Then add salt and the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s al dente.
Not pre-heating your pan
If you don’t properly heat your pan, it won’t do its job properly. The cooking surface needs to be hot enough to sear the protein and seal in the juices – and food also tends to stick to pans that are too cold. Allow your pan to get hot enough so that a few drops of water dripped into the centre will sizzle and quickly evaporate. Then add the oil and allow to heat for a few minutes more before adding any other ingredients.
Not letting meat rest
When you’re hungry and just want to dig into your meal, it can be hard to wait. However, it’s important to let your meat rest before serving. If you slice the meat when it’s hot, all the juices wind up on the cutting board – so you need to leave the meat to stand after cooking so juices stay where they belong. For smaller cuts like a steak or chicken breast, five minutes or so is adequate. However, for a large turkey or a rack of lamb, 20-30 minutes is required. Cover loosely with foil to keep the food warm.