Cutting corners to save time in the kitchen will damage your cookware, ruin your food, and suck money out of your wallet. The June 2012 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, lists 14 costly kitchen mistakes and the best ways to avoid them. Here’s a sampling.
7 Costly kitchen mistakes and easy fixes
1. Putting kitchen knives in the dishwasher
It’s fast and convenient to toss your cutlery in the dishwasher after a meal, but the high heat of the machine’s drying cycle can cause the blade and handle to expand and contract. This can lead to a warped blade or cracked handle, which puts you at risk of getting injured.
Kitchen fix: Wash knives by hand in hot, soapy water, and dry immediately to avoid rusting or spotting.
2. Lining the oven with aluminum foil
Even if you know food is going to spatter or you’re worried it’s going to spill, lining your oven with foil is a no-no. It can trap heat, throwing off the oven’s performance, or melt, damaging the oven or even causing a fire. Your warranty may even be voided if the oven has a foil warning.
Kitchen fix: Use heavy-duty foil on the rack below the food that’s cooking – a sheet that’s a few inches bigger than the pan over it can catch drips and still allow heat to circulate properly.
3. Using nonstick pans over high heat
Higher heat may cook food faster (although not necessarily better), but very high temps can break down the coating and create fumes that can kill pet birds and possibly cause flulike symptoms in people.
Kitchen fix: Use nonstick pans on low or medium heat. Most pans indicate the maximum temperature on their label (usually 350-400 degrees F). Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
4. Running cold water over hot pots, pans, and baking sheets
Over time the repeated expanding and contracting of the materials can cause permanent warping and cracking.
Kitchen fix: Let cookware cool before removing stuck-on stuff from the bottom of a pan. For stubborn food, add a little water to the pan and warm over a low flame, scraping up any browned bits.
5. Refrigerating tomatoes
Cold temperatures actually kill the flavor of tomatoes, create a mealy texture, and stop the ripening process.
Kitchen fix: Keep all tomatoes (even fully ripe ones) on the counter. Always place them stem side up to prevent bruising.
6. Ignoring instructions to rotate baking pans
I’ts certainly easier to put food in the oven and forget about it until the timer goes off, but many baking and casserole recipes suggest rotating pans during cooking to make sure the dish is uniformly cooked because home ovens might have pockets where one area gets hotter than another.
Kitchen fix: Follow directions and rotate pans 180 degrees. If you’re cooking multiple items, swap the pans onto different racks.
7. Boiling instead of simmering
Even when you’re crunched for time, it’s important not to rush the cooking process. Foods will cook unevenly if boiled instead of simmered, and the food at the bottom of your pot is likely to burn.
Kitchen fix: Keep adjusting the heat to keep the simmer steady – you should just see tiny bubbles covering the surface of the liquid. If you start to see bigger bubbles and hear them pop, turn down the heat.
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