We got the experts to weigh in on what you’re doing wrong in the kitchen and how to fix to fix these all-too-common cooking slip-ups. 

By Kelly Vaughan
April 17, 2019
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No matter how many cooking shows we watch or food blogs we read, sometimes our dishes just never measure up to what the professionals create on a daily basis. While we know some of the basics, we turned to the experts to find out what common cooking mistakes home cooks make over and over again. Five professional chefs from across the country weighed in with their advice on how to improve our home cooking game and create restaurant-quality dishes.

Mistake #1: Not Using a Sharp Knife

“Sharp knives are a must! Often home cooks are scared of sharp knives, but dull ones are actually the ones that will do the most damage. Buy yourself one good chef’s knife and find a shop that will sharpen it for you! It will improve your cooking and make it more enjoyable as well!” –Chef Karen Akunowicz, Owner and Executive Chef of Fox & the Knife, Boston, MA

RELATED: The Three Knives Every Home Cook Needs

Mistake #2: Using Old, Dried Herbs Rather Than Fresh Herbs

“Use fresh herbs whenever possible. Nothing brings flavor and sense of place to a dish like fresh herbs. A handful of basil or cilantro can transform a dish completely. If you are using dried herbs, make sure to swap them out often. Oregano that has been sitting in your cabinet for years won’t add anything to a dish.” –Chef Karen Akunowicz, Owner and Executive Chef of Fox & the Knife, Boston, MA

Mistake #3: Using Old, Dried Herbs Period

Spices really lose their flavor over time and just don’t pack the punch they are supposed to. Garlic and onions, too. Older ones that are sprouting on your countertop are super pungent and overpowering even after cooking them. If you have a bunch of spices in the cabinet that are older and you don’t want to waste them, I always think a quick dry sauté in a hot pan helps bring out the flavors. And for older garlic and onions, always remove any green that might be sprouting through the middle of the allium.” – Caroline Glover, Owner and Executive Chef of Annette, Aurora, CA

Mistake #4: Only Adding Seasoning at the End

“Often, home cooks don’t season their dish until the end. Seasoning as you go with salt and pepper is the most important tip I can give. Pro-tip: do the same with the herbs and spices in a dish and you take it to the next level.” –Chef Karen Akunowicz, Owner and Executive Chef of Fox & the Knife, Boston, MA

Mistake #5: Relying on Prepared Food

"Buying fresh ingredients is extremely important. A lot of people think that buying prepared food is the way to go. I believe buying food in its raw form is the only way to guarantee the food you buy is fresh. It takes a little more time but the end result is worth it." –Chef Michael Glazier, Executive Chef of A’Vert Brasserie, West Hartford, CT

RELATED: The Surprisingly Common Mistake You’re Making With Roasted Vegetables

Mistake #6: Overcooking Meat and Not Allowing It To Rest

“So many people take their chicken out to their grill and cook it until it's a charred mess. Buy a good meat thermometer and know what temperature to cook your chicken, steaks, chops, etc. And always let your meat rest for at least 10 minutes after it's done cooking.” –Chef Michael Glazier, Executive Chef of A’Vert Brasserie, West Hartford, CT

Mistake #7: Not Following the Recipe Exactly (Especially When Baking)

"A common mistake home cooks make when baking is skipping steps, like putting cookies in the oven before the oven is fully pre-heated to the specified temperature. Following a recipe's exact steps in the pastry world is imperative and is key for the success of the tasty treat. If the recipe is calling to preheat the oven or bake at a certain temperature, this is a very important step that must be taken.” –Executive Pastry Chef Rabii Saber, Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort

Mistake #8: Using Room Temperature Ingredients When Making Pie Crust

“In order to make super flaky, buttery pie crust without needing to add shortening or lard, make sure that your butter and water are very cold. I like to cube my butter and then stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing it in my flour. I also recommend putting ice cubes in your cup of water (measure out your water after it has chilled, as the ice may melt.)” –Maya-Camille Broussard, Owner of Justice of the Pies, Chicago, IL

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