62 Professional Cooks Explain What Common Mistakes Amateurs Make And How To Avoid Them

Eating is loads of fun, but in order to do that, you’ve got to get off the couch and cook (let’s pretend that ordering pizza isn’t an option). The good news is that cooking can be incredibly enjoyable and it will put your creativity and dexterity to the test. The bad news is, watching Gordon Ramsay shout at amateur cooks for the 100th time on YouTube won’t make you a brilliant chef if you don’t hone your skills like a cuisine samurai.

Luckily, the internet is full of helpful professionals. These cooks are sharing some of their wisdom with amateurs and helping them avoid the most basic, common mistakes that some of us are guilty of. Personally, I overcrowd the pan. No wonder cooking’s harder than it should be.

Bored Panda has collected some of the best bits of cooking advice to improve your (and our) food making skills, so scroll on down and upvote your fave tips. Remember to share your own cooking advice in the comments, Pandas!

#1The most dangerous piece of equipment in a kitchen is a dull knife.
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#2Taste as you cook. Continually adjust seasoning (salt level) as needed. Acidity is also a very overlooked aspect of seasoning. Tons of dishes light up with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
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#3Clean as you cook. Most dishes have some downtime while cooking them, use that time to clean up the mess you made.
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Some people who are new to cooking might not realize that they can add salt to boiling pasta water instead of sprinkling it over it when it’s cooked. Pro-tip: this works with everything you boil. Rice—check. Broccoli—check. Buckwheat—check.

If you end up over-salting things, don’t worry—be happy (and add more water or decide that everything’s messed up and chuck a bucketload of potatoes and other veggies inside to make a really weird soup). Meanwhile, if you oversalt a soup or a sauce that you’re making, you can always chop up and add more ingredients to balance out the flavors.

#4Don't overcrowd the pan
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#5One really common mistake people make is putting food on a cold pan. You should let the pan heat up a bit before you put anything on it.
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#6If you don't have a good feel for how done meat should be, use a thermometer. Ignore any recipe that gives precise cooking times, because they're rarely going to be correct.
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The Everygirl suggests that when chopping onions, you should keep the root intact to make all the slicing and dicing easier.

Personally, I chop off both ends of the onion and slice it in half to make it easier to peel. I usually end up crying because a) onions make me cry; and b) I realize that I’ve once again forgotten to chill my onions which prevents a) from happening in the first place.

#7SLOW THE F**K DOWN! Just because you saw Gordon Ramsay chopping s**t at a thousand miles a minute on a youtube video doesn't mean that you can do that. Cut first, go slow, and speed will get there.
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#8Pastry cook here, on the sweet side of things, my biggest piece of advice is to follow the recipe exactly if you don't know exactly what you're doing. Baking is basically science and if you don't calculate substitutions right, it's never going to come out right. Also make sure you have good ingredients. That box of baking soda from 5 years ago is not going to work that well anymore.
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Too much or too little salt. Salt is one of the most magical ingredient known to mankind. It can make all the ingredients of the dish shine like stars. It can also f**k up all your hard work by overpowering the other ingredients. Cooking, like every other thing in the world, is about balance. It is the art of balancing flavors that compliment each other

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Meanwhile, Insider suggests that you keep a close eye on the shelf life of the ingredients you use for cooking. From produce to spices, you want everything to be as fresh as possible. Don’t use black pepper that expired 5 years ago just because you don’t want to put on your anti-corona gear and go to the shop. Fresh ingredients make all the difference (and a pandemic is no excuse to eat poorly)!

Oh, and if you want to feel like a Michelin star chef (and know what to avoid doing), check out Bored Panda’s earlier posts about quarantine baking fails here, as well as hilarious cooking fails here and here. Isn’t it great how skilled we suddenly feel?


Start with salt and pepper and get those right first. Seasonings make or break your food, but if you're just throwing s**t in because it sounds good you're gonna have a bad time. Also, keep in mind that you can pretty much always add more later but you can almost never take it back out.

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#11Pressing burgers to make them cook faster. Don't you ever do that again.

Also, sharpen your knives. It makes them safer and way less frustrating to use.

Seriously though don't you ever press that f***ing burger again you bastard.
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You don't weigh your ingredients. I cannot stress enough how important it is to weigh out all of your ingredients (all ahead of time, if you really want to bake like a pastry chef) on a digital scale. One cup of feathers does NOT weigh the same as one cup of pebbles, ya know? It's so easy to find volume to mass conversions online, and your baked goods will not only turn out better, but they will be more consistent.

#13Your stove has temperatures other than On and Off. Most people who just start out turn their burner on high and start throwing things in; that's ok for boiling water, but learn what works best with other things and get acquainted with your equipment (different range tops and cookware cook fairly differently).
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#14My pro chef and former chemist friend gave me an earful for putting my tomatoes in the fridge.

He explained how the cold temp. changes the chemical composition and makes them taste s***tier.

I no longer put my tomatoes in the fridge and they are tastier.#15Now, this one is a weird one, but everyone is guilty of it, even some professional chefs. Stirring. Everyone has been stirring stuff wrong for generations. If you have a large pot of something like stew, soup, or sauce, you probably stir in a circular motion, usually clockwise or counter-clockwise, right? Perhaps along the edge of the pot, or in a spiral, either going inward or outward?

Well, you're doing it wrong. When stirring, do in one of two manners: First, in small circles, working from the outside and going inward. Similar to how you might draw a cloud or petals on a flower. Or, stir in a figure-8 motion. This is especially useful if stirring in an oval or square-shaped container. Also, stir upwards. How? Angle your spoon so that basically, you're bringing the part of the food that's closest to the heat source, up to the surface, and vice versa. This allows for a quicker and more even heat distribution. Also helps to prevent burning.
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#16After you mix your cookie dough, REFRIGERATE IT so that the fat hardens and doesn't melt like cookie brittle or brownie bark — unless you like it that way!#17

You frost hot cakes and always end up making a huge mess. Just stop. Be logical — if you apply icing to a hot surface it will melt. The cake should at the very least be room temp or even cold if you are doing more intricate decorating.

#18Not a chef, but many of my friends are. Knives are what they drilled into my head.

You don't need a drawer full of different kitchen knives, or one of those stupid giant knife sets. Spend at least $75 on one good kitchen knife. Buy it at a store where you can try different knives and find a blade and handle you like.

Don't put it in the dishwasher and don't rub it with a scour pad. That will dull the blade. Also get a sharpening tool and or take the blade in to get sharpened when it feels dull. Also, get a protective sleeve for it.
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You take preheating the oven as a suggestion rather than a requirement. it can really affect the texture and appearance, as well as the timings. not preheating can lead to flat/hard cookies and dense/unevenly cooked cakes, among other things.


You throw all your ingredients together at once and mix them without thinking about their order. If you see butter (or any fat) and sugar listed first in a recipe, it’s a creaming method — which means you mix together the fat and sugar first, until it’s light and kind of airy. When you add the eggs, add them one by one to make sure they mix in well and so that your batter keeps its light texture.

#21If the recipe says an ingredient is supposed to be room temperature, make sure it’s room temperature! Eggs are particularly important for this rule — room temperature egg yolks break more easily and incorporate better into whatever you’re mixing. And for something like cheesecake, or anything else with high fat content, cold eggs can actually harden the fat and make your mixture lumpy.#22When you put something in the oven to bake, its very tempting to peak inside. Try to do this as little as possible. When you open the oven door, all the hot air escapes, thus lowering the temperature of your oven. It's OK if that happens a couple times, but if you keep checking...it's going to take FOREVER to finish. Finally, invest in an oven thermometer to know the true temperature of your oven. Some ovens just aren't accurate when reading temperature.#23Using too much water when making top ramen

Source : Single Male
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#24Cooking steaks low and slow. You should set your oven on its highest setting, put a cast iron pan on high until it's smoking, sear your room temp steaks 3-4 minutes per side. Finish in the oven to your desired temp, just a couple minutes to get a nice med-rare. Remove from oven, tent with foil, allow to rest for 15 minutes. Here's last night's steak, although that was using the sous vide method.
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#25Unless you're cooking eggs, don't use a non stick skillet. Season the god damn pan properly and use it how you like.
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#26DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE MICROWAVE. Those cooking shows only show the highlights of cooking. Think of the food network as the facebook of cooking. You don't see the bad s**t that happens, only the highlights.
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#27Underseason your food, taste it, then reseason to what you think tastes good. THEN RETASTE IT AGAIN. There's a reason there aren't salt and pepper shakers on higher end restaurants. The plate put on your table is what it SHOULD taste like.
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#28Prepared garlic. Once you use fresh garlic there's no going back.#29Use fresh produce when available for that season. "Fresh" strawberries in January.... Pass.
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#30So many baking issues are solved by simply knowing what ingredients you need and when you’ll need them. And unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t mess with the recipe! Seemingly small changes — like decreasing the amount of sugar or substituting a different type of flour — can have huge effects on the finished product. I always recommend that the first time you try a recipe, you make it exactly as written. After you’ve done that successfully, THEN and ONLY then can you think about changing it up!#31You have to spoon the flour into the cup, then level off. If you dunk the measuring cup into the flour it packs more flour by volume into the cup than what the recipe calls for, throwing off the recipe.#32Always sift your dry ingredients. This is especially important for powdered sugar when making buttercream, because you want the butter and powdered sugar to mix seamlessly.#33Grease and parchment-line basically every pan you use. For cakes, cut out a circle the size of the bottom of the pan and put it in after greasing the pan. For square pans, have it overhang on the side so you can grab it and lift your brownies/blondies/whatever straight out. It makes life infinitely easier and things almost never get stuck in pans.#34Hello, I am the chef at a 5 diamond hotel in San Francisco. The biggest thing to learn when just starting to cook, is mise en place. "Everything in its place." This is ultimately to get food timings correct and precise, and for safety and control reasons. The second biggest thing to learn in the kitchen is safety. I once had a cook with 25 years experience get complacent and splashed hot oil on his face. Now we call him twoface. Cooking is a creative release when done outside of a professional kitchen, so take your time and don't hurt yourself. The third biggest thing to learn, and I tell all my cooks this everyday, is taste, season, taste. Taste your food, season it, and taste it again. Most people (whether they believe it or not) have the same taste thresholds, so what tastes good for you will taste good for someone else. Last thing I can add if you want to improve your cooking, is to cook more! Cook everyday, because practice makes perfect. Eat. Eat everywhere and anything.


1. Mise en place

2. Safety

3. Taste, season, taste

4. Cook more! Practice! And EAT!#35According to Gordon Ramsey, amateur chefs always try to use that god damned f***ing black truffle oil which is never to be used by anyone with self respect.#36Don't be afraid to screw up, and beware too much advice. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to cooking, both on how to do it and what it should come out like. Learn to make food you really enjoy eating first, and then you can branch out into tweaking it to please guests.#37Not a professional chef, but if you've put enough salt in your dish and feel that putting anymore would over-season it, but you still feel it's lacking in taste, add some sort of acid.

Lemon juice/zest, lime juice/zest, balsamic/red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar - you'll be surprised at how much this lifts the dish!

When I was getting interested in cooking, I would skip the acid completely because I honestly couldn't be bothered. I would always chuckle and joke at how much lemon/lime/vinegar chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Alton Brown put in their cooking.

Then I tried it once.

Now, every dish I make has some sort of acidity in it because it's just not the same without!#38A recipe is just a suggestion, not the law. If a recipe calls for garlic, and you don't much care for garlic, leave it out. Or, reduce the amount.#39When trying a recipe for the first time, do follow it precisely. However, if it didn't turn out right, don't get discouraged. Try again. Try to take notes and determine what went wrong with the recipe. Too much garlic? Not enough? Too spicy? Too bland? Did it burn? Overcooked? Undercooked?#40Always ask for feedback from anyone else who will eat the dish you prepare. Be prepared for both praise and criticism. If your kid says, "This sauce tastes too spicy", take note and adjust the spice. Perhaps ask them to taste it while you're preparing it. Ask what they suggest.#41When it comes to spices, many home cooks tend to mix them in, one at a time. I'm often guilty of this myself. But I learned an ancient secret: Use a mortar and pestle. Combine all your spices in the bowl, and grind them up. Not only does this release the oils, but it will blend the spices together, creating a more even distribution of all flavorings in the dish. Whether you're making a homemade marinara, stew, or even a roasted chicken, blend all of your spices together before applying.#42Working in filthy or messy areas. It is amazing how much better your concentration is when you cook without clutter and mess. Clear bench=clear mind.#43Sometimes less is more. Being a Sous chef for 4 years after obtaining my bachelors degree in culinary arts, I have seen a lot of mistakes in a kitchen or in someone's home. Just because you bought a spice rack with every spice known to man, doesn't mean you should use them. Learn to taste and balance your seasoning before getting carried away with spices.#44Mother sauces. Learn them. Perfect them. Use them to your advantage. They are a "must" when it comes to working in a kitchen. Every other sauce is a spin off of any mother sauce.#45Haven't seen it here yet, but get familiar with using vinegar. It can take a dish from good to fucking awesome. Same goes for fish sauce. Go easy, but it tastes way better than it smells, so don't be afraid.#46Have basic ingredients in house; garlic, olive oil, lemon, onion, herbs and spices, flour, rice and pasta. Most of the stuff is cheap, and lasts forever.#47I can't stress enough how you should never crack an egg on the side of the bowl. Fastest way to get egg shells in your batter. Always crack them into a flat surface then open them over the bowl. And if you're still nervous about getting shells in, then crack the eggs into a separate bowl before adding them to your batter.#48A lot of cakes require butter and sugar to be beaten together until pale and fluffy. You will never get the right consistency using just a wooden spoon/spatula. There are so many different mixers out there (hand or stand mixers) and you can use them for so many different things. You will really notice the difference in your cakes once you’re getting that extra air in there.#49You probably aren’t mixing certain things as much as you should be, like creaming butter and sugar isn’t just combining them, you need to beat them until they’re fluffy. The same goes for adding eggs...you’ll get better cookies and brownies if you beat again until fluffy when adding eggs to your creamed butter and sugar. However, you don’t want to over-mix once you add the flour, just mix until no more dry flour is visible. Over-mixing the flour can make your end product tough.#50Not all butter is created equal. There isn't a set regulation for how much salt is added to salted butter made by different companies. One brand can have more salt in its butter than the next. Say your recipe calls for unsalted butter and 1 tsp of salt and you decide to use salted butter, which could already have 1 tsp of salt in it — you could be adding too much salt and throwing off the chemistry of your bake.#51When it comes to cakes, always lightly soak your layers with a simple syrup to keep them moist instead of having dry cake with your frosting. Also, crumb coats are your best friend when decorating your cake. Apply a thin layer of frosting on your cake (smooth it out just like it is your final product) so it can catch all the crumbs that would otherwise ruin the beauty of your finished cake. After you’ve applied it, chill the cake in your fridge or freezer and apply your final coat of frosting.#52All my frostings have a healthy pinch of salt in them and people are amazed that they’re never too sweet.#53Just dumping a bunch of food coloring into your frosting will ruin the texture and leave you with dyed teeth. Add a little dye to your frosting, let it sit a few hours (in the fridge if it has eggs, on the counter if its American buttercream), and if it needs more to get the color you need, add more and repeat the process. Or, for really dark colors (like black), start with a chocolate frosting base.#54I know one mistake I used to make was to buy canned mushrooms and use those for recipes. The first time I used fresh mushrooms for something, I realized the dreadful error of my ways, and I haven't bought canned mushrooms since!

Always use fresh mushrooms, people!#55When making something that reduces they salt to taste before reduction. When it reduces it becomes way too salty. Working in a restaurant the new guys that try to cook stuff on their own do it all the time.#56Often times home cooks tend to let something cook for too long or take too long to prepare dinner. One major reason is they don't think to prep before cooking. Things go a lot smoother when you have all your ingredients measured up, chopped, sliced, or otherwise prepared before actually cooking the meal. If the dish calls for chopped vegetables, do it all first. No time? Do it in the morning, or better yet, the night before. I often chop up all my vegetables and place each one in a paper bowl. If I do it the night before I actually cook the meal, I'll put them in plastic zipper bags and toss them in the fridge. I do the same thing with my sauces for stir fry. I'll mix up my sauce, usually in a plastic bowl with a lid, and put it in the fridge. Then, when I'm ready to cook, I just take everything out, and all I have to do is throw everything together. Unless the recipe specifically says otherwise, you can mix all your dry ingredients together and your wet ingredients together. If a recipe calls for different spices, measure them all out in one small bowl. If it calls for various liquids, unless the directions say to add separately, mix them all in one bowl. Make sure to read the directions carefully before attempting this shortcut.#57Moving things around too much when trying to brown them. Leave it the hell alone, if you're looking you're not cooking!#58Taste is directly linked to smell in your brain. Having any sort of unpleasant or overpowering odor in your home can completely destroy the taste of a meal for many people.#59Put something under your god damn chopping board.

Even a dry tea towel is better nothing. The amount of people I see chopping with a moving chopping board is crazy.#60You don't need all those fancy food processors and kitchen gadgets, the only thing I have is a small mini blender which I rarely use. Almost everything else only generates more washing up than it's worth. (And I have a dishwasher!)#61I SEE THIS ALL THE TIME AND IT MAKES ME REALLY SAD: People will get a decent knife, like a Victorinox and then using cutting surfaces harder than the knife's edge. Every time the knife strikes the cutting surface, it will mess up the blade.

Please please stick to soft(er) plastics and wooden cutting boards#62Tiered cakes need boards and supports! You can’t just stack eight layers of cake and frosting on each other with all their weight, and expect it to hold itself! Do your research before you DIY a wedding cake and don’t balk then at why bakeries charge what we do for them. #700-page #ProCooksTeachAmateurs #WhatNotToDoInTheKitchen #CookingMistakesAmateursTendToMake #Food
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