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You're probably making these cooking mistakes—here's how to avoid them logo 10/18/2019 Amanda Tarlton
You're probably making these cooking mistakes—here's how to avoid them © People Images/Getty Images You're probably making these cooking mistakes—here's how to avoid them — By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.

The list of things I can cook well is basically toast, pasta, and brownies (from a box, of course). A.k.a I am not a good cook by any means. And I'm not the only one who struggles in the kitchen, according to a recent study which revealed that three in 10 people are embarrassed by their cooking skills. Even more than that, 64 percent admitted that they've made a major mistake while preparing a meal.

a hand holding a fork and knife: Pan © WhiteOrchid/Getty Images Pan

Below are the five most common blunders people make when they're cooking, along with our own expert's advice on how to prevent them. Bon appetit!

1. Overcooking food

a close up of a person cooking food in a bowl: Pot © Aidinyr/Getty Images Pot

If you're a beginner cook, it's all too easy to burn a piece of expensive steak or a bunch of fresh vegetables. And while perfecting your skills takes both patience and time, one way to immediately improve your next meal is by switching to a non-stick pan. "When you use a non-stick pan, the food becomes more 'well-behaved' and easier to control," our kitchen and cooking writer, Valerie Li, says.

She adds that for grill enthusiasts, finding the right spatula is key, too. We like the OXO Good Grips spatula because it's lightweight and comfortable to use and gives the perfect control when flipping burgers or scooping up pizza.

a hand holding a cup: Boil © Daisy-Daisy/Getty Images Boil

2. Burning pots and pans

a kitchen with a lot of smoke around it © South_Agency/Getty Images Smoke

The secret to not ruining expensive cookware is getting to know your pots and pans better, Valerie says. And keep in mind that some cookware is just more prone to burning than others. "For things that can get easily burnt and scorched, like steaks, I recommend investing in a durable, heavy-built cast iron skillet as opposed to stainless steel pans," she explains. Don’t get me wrong—I love stainless steel skillets as well and they do a great job with different kitchen tasks. But for people who aren’t as experienced as professional chefs, I think cast iron is a good start."

a person cooking food on a stove: Salt © LjubaPhoto/Getty Images Salt

3. Over boiling a pot

To be honest, there are few times when I'm making pasta that the pot doesn't boil over onto the stove. An easy solution to the common struggle? "Simply put a wooden spoon on top of the pot instead of a lid to effectively pop the bubbles when the water boils," Valerie says.

You can also swap out your current pots and pans for stainless steel ones, which are more reliable for boiling water and other kitchen tasks. Our favorite cookware set is this Cuisinart stainless steel set because it's easy to handle and has great heat conductivity.

4. Setting off the smoke detector

Even our own cooking experts are guilty of this one. "As my own broiler has set off the smoke detector before, I have since only used my toaster oven for toasting bread and other quick-broiling tasks," Valerie confesses. She recommends our number one toaster oven, the Breville Smart Oven Pro, for anyone with a small kitchen that has a sensitive smoke detector. It's energy-efficient and the best at cooking food quickly and evenly (without burning it!).

5. Using too much salt

As someone who used to dip her fries in salt the way other people do ketchup, I'm a bit of a salt fanatic. However, it's understandable that not everyone shares that love. To reduce your sodium intake, Valerie recommends kosher salt rather than table salt (because the crystals are larger, you'll end up using less salt in your cooking). "I switched to Jacobsen kosher sea salt because of its clean, briny flavor without a bitter aftertaste," she says, adding that she also found that the Skinnytaste cookbook is a great source of recipes and instructions on how to add salt to your food.

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