10 Bad Cooking Habits And How To Break Them

14/08/2014 16:49 | Updated 22 May 2015

10 guilty cooking habits and how to break them

When you're cooking for the family after school, racing in late from work or putting dinner together whilst helping with homework, taking the bins out and doing the washing, standards inevitably slip.

But they really don't have to! Here are easy ways to break your bad kitchen habits - we promise you it's worth it.

1. Softening butter in the microwave

When you grab butter from the fridge and find it rock hard, your first thought will probably be the microwave. After all, nine seconds of heat wont hurt, right? Well, wrong. You will nearly always over-heat it, despite it still looking solid, making it difficult to cook or bake with.

Try this instead:

A top tip from the Bake Off's Mary Berry herself - cover the butter in grease proof paper and gently roll with a rolling pin, like you would pastry. When thinned out, cut into pieces and use as normal.

2. Not pre-heating your oven

An easy one to forget when you're preparing food, but by not doing so you cook your food at a lower temperature. This is because your oven takes so long (between five and 15 minutes depending on the brand and age) to heat up. If you're cooking a casserole or slow-cooked dish it might not make much of a difference, but for short bursts you will almost certainly notice a difference in the taste and cooking time.

Try this instead:

Aim to turn your oven to your desired temperature 15 minutes before you put your dish in. Oven thermometers are a cheap and easy way to check your temperature, especially if you have an older oven. Try this one from Lakeland for £3.99.

3. Over and under-seasoning

Too much or too little salt and pepper can make a big difference to your dish, as can when you add it in and how long something cooks with seasoning in it.

Try this instead:

For slow cooked dishes, season early on in the process, and taste before serving. The easiest way to get your seasoning spot on is to take out a small spoonful, season and taste, before adding the equivalent amount to your larger dish.

4. Over-heating oil

It's easy to whack oil in pan and start something else in the kitchen while it heats up. This inevitably means you will leave oil on a heat that is too high for too long, sometimes until it smokes. Oil that is heated to its smoke point changes flavour, and wipes out any beneficial antioxidants.

Try this instead:

The ideal oil temperature for frying food is between 350-365 degrees. To make sure yours is at the perfect temperature for cooking, you can drop a popcorn kernel into the pan (and see if it pops), or put one drop of water in - it should spit. However the safest - and easiest - is to gently put the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. The oil is ready when it bubbles around the spoon.

5. Not leaving meat to rest

It's always tricky having the willpower to wait an extra 10 minutes when your roast comes out of the oven. It just sits on the side looking all delicious - sometimes I swear it winks. But allowing it to rest - if only for 10 minutes - allows its juices to redistribute throughout your meat. If you carve it up and wolf it down straight out of the oven it won't be half as juicy and tasty.

Try this instead:

Rest smaller cuts of meat, for example steaks, for around five minutes, and try for 20 (we know!) for larger roasts. Cover the meat loosely with foil, and crack on with gravy, steaming veggies or having a large glass of something to take your mind off the time.

6. Leaving open tins in the fridge

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