What are your biggest cooking mistakes that others can learn from?

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Joined Jun 7, 2021
My 2 most outstanding mistakes happened at my Mother In Law's home.

1: I was making spaghettis with a meaty ragu where all ingredients, except the meat, and garlic, came from the garden. The tomatoes, onion, basil, and oregano
were at their peak. This was supposed to show off my cooking skills. The only thing I didn't have was fresh garlic. I reached into the spice cupboard and grabbed a bottle labled granulated garlic. Perfect. I tipped the plastic container to sprinkle in the garlic. To my horror, about a tbsp. of ground cinnamon erupted and fell into my ragu, completely ruining it. I'd heard of cinnamon used in some Mexican sauces, and so tried saving it. It ended up in the trash. Moral of the story, If working in someone else's kitchen, verify everything, as like my MIL, they may re-purpose containers, or not have the right tools for what you are doing.

2. The Webber Kettle was properly filled with a load of lump charcoal I ignited it, and prepared some ribeyes purchased from a meat market called Iowa Meat Farm Outlet. They sold premium, wet aged beef in vacuum sealed plastic. Supermarket meat usually required tenderizing. My standard tenderizing method was to liberally sprinkle on Adolph's Meat Tenderizer, and price the meat repeatedly with a fork, then let it sit for 15 minutes before grilling. I did this with these ribeyes. That was a mistake, as the steaks were already very tender. After cooking to a perfect medium rare, I served them to my family. The texture was like meat paste, not a good thig.
Lesson to be learned: don't assume anything. Know what you are working with so that you can obtain the results you desire.

I hope these shown mistakes can help new cooks not make them.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
 
4,312
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Joined Dec 18, 2010
Okay... I'll play...

Biggest mistake that I make occasionally is to follow a recipe that, in my gut, I know is wrong.

Next biggest mistake is to adapt a new recipe to "make it my own" before validating that the recipe is good and works.

A big mistake that sometimes I make is to forget to set timers when baking.

And since you mention cooking in someone else's kitchen... not bringing my own knives is often a bit of mistake too.
 
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Joined Jan 8, 2010
Making gulyas, grabbing the paprika powder and adding lots of it.
Except ...
It was chili powder :(
Now, I like hot food, but this was too much. Salvaged it by throwing every bit of vegatable in it do dilute!
These were student days. No way was I going to toss the meat!
 
2,533
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
The mistake I make is trying to make a dish with someone else helping. It's my recipe and way of doing it, just do as I ask. It's not that I do 50% of the meal and you do 50% of the meal. This is why I'm a PITA to work with........
 
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Joined Jan 31, 2012
My spousal sitting next me when I read this, I casually turned to her and asked,
"I havent really made any big cooking mistakes have I?
she replied, "No...nothing stands out.... wait, there is the fact that several times youve set my dish towels and potholders on fire, and youve melted a few plastic dishes too. Id call them mistakes."
Trying to regain some dignity, I said " But not COOKING mistakes."

Actually I do recall in the Banquet room, midday my boss was going home to clean up before the dinner service. Wed be serving about 80 guests. As she departed she said "Watch the dinner rolls, take em out in 20 minutes." Which i did. When she got back I said " yeah, I took them out. "
To my horror, she bent down to the oven below the RANGE, and extracted a sheet of way overdone rolls.
I had no idea she had rolls down there as well. She was pretty upset, and though it was poor communication it was still my responsibility to stay aware of everthing in the kitchen.
 
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Joined Jul 13, 2012
I've done the salt/sugar thing, the red pepper/paprika thing, the baking power/baking soda thing - I read labels now.

One thing I've never done is burn a roux. My grandmother did once and the house stunk of burnt flower for a week. Also a wise chef once told me - "always pee before you start your roux" - LOL
 
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Joined Jun 11, 2013
For me, I believe my earliest big cooking mistakes were assuming the seasoning and herb quantities outlined in a recipe defined by someone else would be suitable. Arrrggghhhh!

Early on it was important to learn to taste as you go. You can add more, but dealing with too much of many ingredients can be tricky to fix. For example, finishing your pasta carbonara only to find there's way too much salt in it to the point it was inedible is tragic . . . especially when you're watered up for it.
 
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Joined Oct 24, 2021
1. First one occurred when I was making waffles at home; I hade made the recipe plenty of times before, but this time I misread the recipe and accidentally read the amount of baking soda as tablespoons rather than teaspoons. The batter was so salty that it was completely unusable.

2. Second one occurred during my first or second week at my current restaurant. I had done my second or third double shift that week and I was so tired at the end of the shift that when I was refilling the sauces at my station, I mixed two sauces (which bear absolutely no resemblance to one another and are absolutely not compatible with one another). When I asked one of my more senior coworkers what I should do, he just said to leave it. My exhaustion- addled brain didn't think to argue the point, so I just left it. Fortunately, I had an episode of common sense the next day before service started, so the offending sauce was tossed out and replaced.
 
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Joined Nov 9, 2020
I mixed two sauces (which bear absolutely no resemblance to one another and are absolutely not compatible with one another). When I asked one of my more senior coworkers what I should do, he just said to leave it. My exhaustion- addled brain didn't think to argue the point, so I just left it. Fortunately, I had an episode of common sense the next day before service started, so the offending sauce was tossed out and replaced.
I think your coworker was hoping you followed their advice, and your boss would toss out the one threat to their "senior position" - e.g., you. Some chefs in some kitchens are really petty, and consider anyone else a threat to their position. When it comes to your cooking, you have to know what's right, and do it... so he won't leave you wondering how the pound of salt ended up in the bernaise...
 
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Joined May 4, 2020
Someone wanted me to smoke some camel on-site at their camel farm for an event.
Stupid me forgot to ask things like "how old is the camel this shank came from?" and "do you have basic kitchen equipment on-site in your commercial kitchen?"

The camel was ancient. Tough as leather.

Lesson learned.... always bring 100% of my own kit unless I've inspected the place first. And ask about the age of the camel lol
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Made a large pot of gumbo for a local tavern. A Big lump of cayenne pepper fell in and sat on top. I coulda, woulda, shoulda scooped it out. Everyone agreed it was delicious but even the two visiting Cajuns had trouble with the heat. I season much more cautiously now and no longer tip the spice container directly over the pot.
 
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Joined Jan 9, 2019
Many years ago.. baked extra greasy meatballs on a rack, on a roll cake pan. (duh!)
Took it out of the oven - in one hand, with a short glove.
I tilted the pan & grease spilled back onto my arm, then back down.
Had a red "hot rod flame" tattoo/ burn on the inner arm for many months.
 
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Joined Dec 12, 2021
Melting sugar for Creme Caramel and nearly done when the phone unexpectedly rang. It pulled me out of my concentration so abruptly that I accidentally lost my grip on the wooden spoon and then hit the handle downward. The spoon came up and splattered my arm with caramelized sugar. I had to peel of the fairly large teardrop shaped pieces of sugar off to stop the burning and then be able to put ice on it.

Had just put a dozen eggs into the pate a choux I was making on a gas stove when my 2 year old son suddenly came in from his nap. It was ruined. Had to go get a new dozen and restart the following day.

I generally screw up things that are simple but need time to cook because I'll go do something else while I wait, to alleviate the boredom, get lost in thought, then forget about it until I smell the burn. It's a particular problem with grilled cheese. (My kids laugh at me about that last one.)
 

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