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Volume III
August 16, 2013

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Burning Water is Possible:

Things That Can Go Wrong in the Kitchen

By Whitney Saupan

Technically I lied; burning water isn't really possible because it just evaporates. But you can make a kitchen smell horrible and make a huge mess if you accidently let the water boil over the side of the dish, hit the burners, and evaporate on the stove top. Sound familiar? Don't feel bad: it takes talented people to "burn" water.

Normally I like to focus on amazing dishes but to mix it up I want to focus on different things that can go wrong in the kitchen. Of course I will include tips on how to not let your dishes turn into failures. But the main point of this article is to point out that failures do happen and it doesn't mean anything about your cooking. Not everyone can cook right off the bat, and I applaud anyone who attempts to cook. It can be easy or it can be very difficult.

These three examples of what can go wrong are being told to encourage all of the new and old cooks alike, to not get discouraged but to keep on cooking! Please note that these three are the things I struggle with the most. More experienced cooks probably have problems trying to get their souffl?s to stay up, but for beginners these are the three common problems.

Stop Burning Things!

So maybe you've never burnt water, but I bet you've burnt something else. We've all been there. I can count at least five times I've overcooked something to the point that it burns. It's never a pretty site. But there are ways to prevent things from burning.

  1. Use quality cooking dishes. You might think that there isn't really a difference between high quality pots and pans and cheaper pots and pans, but there are and you should splurge a bit to get the better quality dishes.
  2. Use nonstick pots and pans. If you don't have them use cooking spray or something to prevent sticking.
  3. Clean your stovetop and wipe down the exterior of your pots and pans before cooking.
  4. Preheat the oil before adding the food.
  5. Use a burner that fits your pot and pan.
  6. When cooking sauces heat them slowly and stir often.
  7. Rotate your pot or pan.
  8. When baking, test the time it takes to bake the recipe.
  9. Use cooking spray or aluminum foil to cover the bottom of the cooking sheet.
  10. Most importantly, DON'T FORGET THAT YOU'RE COOKING SOMETHING! (I've done this, burnt my cookies to a crisp!)

Stop Undercooking things!

We've all had a recipe that we think takes way too long to bake, so we cut the time in half, or a quarter, or whatever. Then when we go to take out our dish that looks cooked on the outside, only to find it isn't cooked on the inside. For this problem I only have a few tips.

  1. All ovens cook differently; know your appliance and how long it generally takes to bake things.
  2. Follow the directions on the recipe, at least until you've made it a couple of times.
  3. It's really important to cook foods thoroughly, there are a lot of food borne illnesses that come from undercooked food, so be sure to test that your dish has been cooked thoroughly before serving.
  4. Noodles can also be undercooked. What I like to do with them is test a few, after they've been cooking for a bit I take one out of the pot and taste it. If it is too hard I put back in until it reaches my desired level of softness. This works for rice as well.

Stop Burning Water!

Okay I know I said you can't actually burn water, but you can have it boil over and make a mess. Here are my tips, from experience, on how to prevent this surprisingly common kitchen problem.

  1. Add the right amount of water into your pot. Don't overfill it.
  2. When the water starts bubbling watch it closely; don't walk away. It's like the water knows that as soon as you glance at something else, it's the signal to boil over.
  3. If you sense that the water is about to boil over turn the temperature down. The water's boiling so it'll cook your food just as well at a lower temperature.

I hope you got a little laugh out of these examples of what could go wrong in the kitchen. I'm sure there are other things that can go wrong and probably have. Just remember cooking should be fun, so even if you fail keep on going and you'll be great!


Whitney Saupan
Weekly Newsletter Contributer since 2013

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