For a novice cook, a kitchen, a recipe and assorted foodstuff can become a veritable culinary minefield. As a cooking instructor, I’ve seen firsthand many of the pitfalls beginning cooks fall victim to. And it’s not pretty. For the next few days, I’ll be sharing five of the most common cooking mistakes I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing and five tools to help you avoid them.
Mistake #4 – No Taste
Next to actually cooking the food, tasting as you cook is arguably the most important part of cooking. Seriously, cooking without tasting would be like painting a picture without looking at it. I’ve watched cooks shepherd dishes from a mere scattering of raw and unrelated ingredients to plated works of art that, when tasted, suffer from unbalanced flavors, lack of seasoning or worse, no taste at all. Yes, we all eat with our eyes long before the food ever hits our taste buds and I’m all about presenting beautiful plates, but aesthetics aside, the point is to eat (and enjoy) the food. So make it taste good.
Tool #4 –Season & Taste. Repeat.
And how will you know it tastes good without tasting it? Tasting and seasoning your food as you go should fast become a regular part of your routine while cooking, regardless of what your recipe says. I’m not giving you carte blanche to double dip with your tasting spoon or fork or to dump loads of S & P willy-nilly into everything, but tasting is a critical part of preparing food. Trust me, if you season and taste as you go, your food will taste better. Add small pinches of salt and pepper, give them a minute or two to cook into the food then taste to see where you are.
Get used to seasoning food in stages. When you’re sweating vegetables, adding a big pinch of salt as soon as they begin to soften is a good time to start. If you’re simmering your dish, season towards the end of the simmering time to keep the salt flavor from concentrating too much and overpowering your dish.