Inna, Emeril, Giada. Mashama, Vivian and Kwame. Today, we’re all blessed with an endless library of free online cooking lessons from world-famous chefs, and they only need one name. But long before these celebrity chefs graced our small screens, most of us learned our first home cooking lessons from other chefs with the same name: Mom and Dad.

I am forever grateful for the cooking lessons taught me by our home cook, my mother, who tirelessly managed to get a balanced meal on the table for a family of six almost every night for decades.

But in the years since, food trends have come and gone. Scientific studies have taught us a lot about germs. Persistent urban legends have been debunked. Within seconds, we have access to cooking tips and tricks from the world’s best chefs on every TV, laptop and phone screen at our disposal.

So it stands to reason that we may still have some ancient cooking practices inherited from our well-meaning parents…that are actually wrong. Here are the most common bad habits, plus how to turn them into better habits for better-tasting, healthier cooking.

#1: Defrost meat and poultry on the worktop

Growing up, I remember coming home from school and seeing chicken breasts or packages of ground beef thawing on the kitchen table for dinner. Others may have learned how to speed up the thawing process of meat by soaking it in hot water.

But these days, we are more aware of how quickly harmful microorganisms multiply at room temperature. (And no, cooking can’t destroy them all.) The USDA warns that using these methods to thaw frozen meat is not safe because the outer layer of the meat will reach the “danger zone” of 40 to 140 degrees F (where bacteria multiply quickly). , while still waiting for the frozen meat center to thaw.

The best habit

Thaw meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator overnight to ensure they don’t sit at temperatures where harmful bacteria can thrive.

#2: Neglecting your kitchen knives

Seeing a full set of shiny kitchen knives displayed in a fancy wooden block on the kitchen countertop is a relatively recent trend. A few decades ago, the average home cook would likely have a few budget-friendly knives that they could add to the dishwasher to clean, then casually toss in a cluttered kitchen drawer for storage.

Today’s knife sets can be a big investment, so you want to make sure you take care of them to make them last for years. This includes not only how to wash and store them, but also how to maintain them.

The best habit

Start using a sharpening steel every time you use a knife to keep the knife aligned, and be sure to sharpen your blades regularly to maintain their edges. Here are some additional indicators:

  • Handle with care. Hand wash all kitchen knives, then dry them thoroughly to prevent rust and other damage to the blade. (It may be easier to throw them in the dishwasher, but spending an hour or more on the high-heat dishwasher cycle will wear out the blades much faster than cleaning by hand.)
  • Don’t let them linger. Never leave the blades sitting on the bottom of the sink, where food residue can build up, and the blades can easily break or crack from heavy dishes or pans.
  • Store properly. Knives should be stored in a wooden knife block, magnetic tape, individual sheaths, or other storage method that keeps individual knives separate and away from other tools that may collide with them and dull their blades.

No. 3: Press the meat onto the grill grates

Maybe you saw your mom or dad doing this while barbecuing, or maybe it was because of all those TV series and commercials. But somewhere along the way, we learned that getting an audible “sizzle” by pressing juicy burgers onto the hot grill grates is a good thing.

And that sizzling sound can be strangely satisfying, right? The truth is, any time you hear liquid sizzle over the grates, charcoals, or grill flames, you’re sending the juices that make your burgers, steaks, and other meats, poultry, and seafood so juicy and delicious straight into you. Flames.

The best habit

To avoid dry meat, resist the urge to press your steaks and burger patties into the grill grates. For best results and the best sear, let them sit still until they are ready to flip.

No. 4: Throw away the pasta water

Until recent years, only professional chefs and knowledgeable Italian grandmothers preserved pasta water. Now thanks to TV shows hosted by celebrity chefs and online cooking classes, word has spread: This most humble liquid can help transform pasta sauce thanks to the starch that leaches from spaghetti, penne, or ties during cooking. So stop sending all that liquid gold down the drain.

The best habit

Just before draining the pasta, use a coffee mug to scoop the pasta water from the top of the bowl. Then pour the liquid into your sauce a little at a time until you get the desired consistency.

#5: Wash raw chicken in the sink

Who knows where this bad cooking habit started? But if you were a child of the ’80s or ’90s, you’re probably no stranger to seeing a parent awkwardly grappling with a raw chicken or turkey under running water in the kitchen faucet.

Not only is it easy to catch a slippery bird trying to spin it under the tap, but this habit actually does more harm than good. Store-bought raw poultry does not benefit from being rinsed before cooking. Doing so actually spreads the messy, germ-ridden raw chicken from your hands to the sink, faucet, and handle (ick) as well as surrounding surfaces and any other food components nearby (double ick).

The best habit

If cooking a whole bird, remove any wrapping material and giblets from the cavity. Cut up whole chicken, turkey or poultry parts, then continue preparing your meal without submerging the germs under the kitchen faucet.

#6: Forget to use a meat thermometer

Whether my dad was grilling his famous pork chops or my mom was cooking everything else, I never saw either of my parents use a meat thermometer growing up. Instead, they examine it or cut it into a piece of meat to check the readiness of the center.

But it doesn’t take much to cook an expensive piece of filet mignon. Also, cutting up a piece of chicken or steak straight from the oven or grill makes you lose those precious juices.

The best habit

Using two meat thermometers is better than using one: That way, if you’re in the middle of a dinner party and realize one of them has died on you, you’ll have a backup. Although they are a bit more expensive than older instant-read thermometers with larger dials, it is better to choose the digital type since they are faster and more accurate.

No. 7: Adding oil to pasta water

Many home cooks subscribe to the common myth that adding oil to a pot of boiled pasta will prevent the pasta from sticking together. It’s not just that the oil that floats on the surface of the water doesn’t prevent sticking. But the slick oil prevents the sauce from sticking to the pasta when mixed.

The best habit

Stir the pasta regularly during the first few minutes of cooking to prevent strands or individual pieces from sticking together.

#8: Believe in the five-second rule

Maybe it was a childhood friend — not your older, wiser parents — who told you about the “five-second rule,” the decades-old belief that when food falls on the floor and you pick it up in less than five seconds, it’s still safe to eat.

In fact, this idea is so popular that several studies have been conducted to determine whether the “rule” is fact or fiction. Researchers at Rutgers evaluated the effect of different types of food dropped on surfaces including ceramic tile, wood, and carpet. While results varied depending on the type of ingredient and surface tested, the results proved beyond a doubt that bacteria can be transferred to food instantly. In less than one second, it can pick up enough dangerous bacteria to make food sick.

The best habit

If you tip something over in the pan and it ends up on the floor (or any other potentially contaminated surface), just throw it away. It’s better to be safe than to take it and risk getting sick.

Allison Micksh

No. 9: Treat cast iron like the rest of your cookware

Cookware is durable by definition, and most pans and pots benefit from being soaked with suds after cooking.

Maybe you were lucky enough to have a parent or grandparent teach you that cast iron requires a little special care. But the rest of us may not realize that there are some “no go” things when it comes to cast iron. Soaking them in water, using soap to clean them, and scrubbing them with an abrasive tool can corrode the “seasoned” surface of the pan and lead to rust.

The best habit

While cast iron may require a little extra care compared to other pans, it’s even heat distribution and unparalleled searing ability make it absolutely worth cleaning and special maintenance.

If you follow our easy primer and clean it with water – or water and a very small amount of soap – and maintain its surface with regular seasoning, your reliable cast iron skillet can last for decades. You may be able to pass it on to your children.

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