Stop Ruining Your Food

You've probably been cooking these foods all wrong — and today, it needs to stop. Friends don't let friends eat crunchy rice.

We don't want you to suffer through chewy eggplant ever again. Use these tips and your kitchen will be fail-proof and flavor-filled.

1

The food: Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs

What you're doing wrong: A lot! You're adding liquids, not whisking enough, cooking on high heat and overcooking.

Do this instead: To get perfect scrambled eggs, let air in by beating the eggs with a whisk just before you scramble. Also, you don't have to add milk or water. We know you've been doing this your whole life, but you've probably had wet eggs your whole life, too. Scramble the eggs over low heat to avoid overcooking, and be sure to stir. Get the full rundown on how to make fluffy scrambled eggs here.

Bonus egg tip: For perfectly peeled hard-boiled eggs, add one teaspoon of baking soda to the boiling water. This helps release the shell from the egg, creating an effortlessly easy removal.

2

The food: Dry beans

Dry beans

What you're doing wrong: Rushing

Do this instead: If you're a lover of canned beans but you want to master the dry-to-cooked method, you're going to have to be patient. Soak the beans overnight for at least 12 hours and rinse and drain them several times in the morning. Add salt and other seasonings only once the beans are cooked all the way through. Make sure to keep beans cooking at a simmer so they cook evenly. The cooking time will depend on the bean variety. If you like your beans soupy, add a pinch of baking soda to the water when you start cooking. Another must: Make sure you're using fresh dried beans, and throw away the ones you've been storing in the pantry for the last five years. Try these slow cooker refried beans using dry pintos.

3

The food: Homemade hash browns

Homemade hash browns

What you're doing wrong: Leaving them wet and cooking on a skillet

Do this instead: To make crispy hash browns, squeeze the shredded potatoes to get rid of excess liquid. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take a baking sheet and cover it lightly with your choice of oil, spread the shredded potatoes in a thin layer and top with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook to your desired crispness, for about 15 minutes. Get your fill of crispy potatoes with this quiche with hash brown crust.

4

The food: Eggplant

Eggplant

What you're doing wrong: Cooking it like every other vegetable

Do this instead: Eggplant needs special treatment. The most important steps are making sure to salt your cubed or sliced eggplant and then leaving it in a colander to drain. This pulls out excess moisture and creates a palatable texture. After 30 minutes, rinse the salt off, pat the eggplant dry and roast, saute or bake it — cook it in whatever way you love. Voilà! No more chewy eggplant. Making these oven-baked eggplant fries is a perfect way to introduce eggplant to picky eaters.

5

The food: Caramelized onions

smothered cheese fries

What you're doing wrong: Crowding the pan, rushing and, therefore, burning

Do this instead: Use a large pan and keep your heat on medium. Do not be tempted to speed up this process by using high heat. You will only guarantee one thing: burned onions. Scrape all that gorgeous brown buildup off the bottom of the pan and incorporate it back into the onions. And just be patient — depending on how many onions you're caramelizing, this could take up to an hour. Making these decadent smothered cheese fries is a great way to use those amazingly flavorful onions.

6

The food: Frozen vegetables

couscous and vegetable soup

What you're doing wrong: Microwaving on high and getting soggy, limp veggies

Do this instead: For crispy, fresh and perfectly cooked frozen vegetables every time, skip the microwave and use a steamer. It takes only a few minutes longer, and you'll seal in the freshness (and flavor) without adding any fats. We used frozen veggies in this hearty couscous and vegetable soup.

7

The food: Fresh herbs

hearty vegetable and fresh herb dumplings

What you're doing wrong: Not using enough and adding them at the wrong time

Do this instead: Dried herbs are fine, but there's nothing quite like fresh. Since dried herbs are more potent, you'll need more of the fresh stuff when you substitute it in a recipe. Generally, you'll need three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry. When adding fresh herbs to your dishes, heartier herbs like rosemary can handle a longer cooking time, but more delicate herbs like basil and cilantro are typically added at the end. Try this recipe for hearty vegetable and fresh herb dumplings.

8

The food: Chicken

easy and delicious flavor-packed marinades

What you're doing wrong: Overcooking and underseasoning

Do this instead: The only thing that's worse than salmonella is dry, overcooked chicken. Pay attention to your meat by investing in a meat thermometer or measuring doneness by touch. This guide is super-handy, whether you're cooking chicken or any other meat, and once you know your meat temps, you'll never go back. As far as flavor goes, the biggest thing is this: Don't forget it! Add salt, pepper or oregano, or soak beforehand in one of these easy and delicious flavor-packed marinades.

9

The food: Fresh mushrooms

Mushroom bruschetta on crunchy cheese toast

What you're doing wrong: Crowding the pan and getting slimy 'shrooms — yuck!

Do this instead: Take a tip from the master, Julia Child, on this one. Her method produces beautifully browned mushrooms every time. Heat a pan on high with some butter and oil. When it's good and hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Let them cook, stirring and shaking the pan so they absorb the oil. Then sear to perfection, giving you slightly chewy but never slimy or rubbery mushrooms. Making mushroom bruschetta on crunchy cheese toast is a delicious way to showcase your seared 'shrooms.

10

The food: Baked goods

lemon loaf cake

What you're doing wrong: Overmixing the batter and using cold ingredients

Do this instead: Whisk those wet ingredients all you want, but as soon as you add the flour, dial it back. You want to just incorporate the flour or risk getting tough baked goods. Don't be tempted to eschew the room-temperature ingredient recommendations. Cold ingredients won't blend as well into your batter.

Bonus cupcake tips: Don't overfill the liners — they will rise! Reduce the baking temperature to 325 degrees F halfway through for extra-fluffy batter. Wait until they cool completely before frosting. Show off your baking chops with this lemon loaf cake.

11

The food: Roasted veggies

roasted veggies in meatless tacos

What you're doing wrong: Pretty much everything

Do this instead: For an even cook, chop heartier vegetables (like potatoes and carrots) into smaller pieces while leaving less-dense vegetables (like broccoli) in larger chunks. If you really want "roasted" vegetables, your oven should be set at no less than 500 degrees F. Make sure to coat your vegetables thoroughly in an oil with a high smoke point, like safflower. Lastly, if you've been cooking vegetables in a glass pan, move away! A baking sheet does a much better job of producing that delicious brown sear that makes roasted vegetables so tasty. Just be sure to keep the vegetables in a single layer to avoid steaming them. When you're done, use those roasted veggies in meatless tacos.

12

The food: Pasta

cheesy lobster spaghetti

What you're doing wrong: Throwing away the water and putting sauce on top

Do this instead: You should already know that you should be salting, not oiling, your pasta water. But after you take the pasta out, you should also save half a cup of the starchy water and mix it into your sauce, followed by the pasta. This helps the sauce cling to and seep into the pasta, meaning that the whole dish will be coated deliciously. Try this cheesy lobster spaghetti for a showstopping meal.

13

The food: Crispy sweet potato oven fries

coconut sweet potato fries with tahini dip

What you're doing wrong: Cooking them like normal potatoes

Do this instead: Make sure your fry sizes are consistent, and after you slice them, toss them in a little bit of corn starch and spices. Try black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, paprika or chili powder — the possibilities are endless! This makes the fries bake up to crispy perfection, and it adds an extra flavor. We love these coconut sweet potato fries with tahini dip.

14

The food: Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley and farro

quinoa veggie "fried" rice

What you're doing wrong: Measuring the water incorrectly and removing the lid

Do this instead: With all these grains in our kitchen, it's hard to remember how to cook each one. It's not always a 1-to-2 ratio. For 1 cup of brown rice and farro, use 2-1/2 cups of water. For 1 cup of barley, use 3 cups of water. For 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water. Combine the grains and water, bring the mixture to a boil and then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. And remember, no peeking! Use this guide to cooking times and test your new grain knowledge with this quinoa veggie "fried" rice.

15

The food: Low-fat ground meats like turkey, goat and buffalo

Asian turkey skillet

What you're doing wrong: Using high heat, overcooking and draining the fat

Do this instead: Cooking lean meat is different from throwing that pound of fattier beef in a hot pan. Use a lower temperature for lower-fat meats. The name of the game is low and slow. And while it goes against everything we know, don't drain the small amount of fat out of the pan after cooking. This helps keep your meat tender and moist. Try this easy Asian turkey skillet for a lower-fat version of a stir-fry.

More quick cooking tips

Top 10 cooking secrets for family meals
The secrets to healthy home-cooked fast food
Cooking tips for juicy, tender steak

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Comments

Comments on "15 Foods you've been cooking all wrong"

Martha Jones February 28, 2014 | 12:33 AM

Every pasta I've tried comes out perfectly just by bringing water a boil, add pasta, swish it around for a few seconds, then turn off heat. Leaving pot on burner or not, lid on or off doesn't seem to make any difference. Don't drain until last minute, stays hot in water for quite a while and doesn't overcook.

Sheri February 21, 2014 | 6:36 AM

Trisha - here are two tips that may help. First, if you biscuits are not rising, you may be cutting them wrong. Push your cutter through the dough, but do not twist. If you twist, you seal off the edges and the dough can't rise. Also, I found using frozen butter helps make them fluffier. I put the butter in the freezer until frozen solid. Then I grate the butter, half stick at a time, using a box grater and put the shavings in a bowl that is floating in ice. I usually pat my dough into a rectangle, fold and pat down rather than rolling. Work fast so the butter stays cold.

Trisha February 18, 2014 | 12:34 AM

Please tell me how to make homemade biscuits! My family loves them and I can NOT make them! I have tried every recipe that there is and they will NOT rise! My x mother inlaw made a biscuit dough at night and put in the fridge and would pinch off the biscuits in the morning and make the most beautiful biscuits in the morning! She would use that dough for 2 or 3 days. How can I do that? My grandmother always bought Hungry Jack. But I want to make some BIG FLUFFY BISCUITS! HELP!!! What am I doing wrong?

Brenda West January 30, 2014 | 4:56 AM

Dried beans don't have to be soaked for twelve hours or overnight. Start by putting your beans in a pot, and bring them to a rolling boil. Remove from stove and drain. This is suppose to remove whatever it is that causes gas. Don't know if it's true, but I do it. Add water to beans enough to well cover them. Return them to a rolling boil, put the lid on, and remove from burner. Let sit covered one hour, return to stove burner, and cook over med to low heat. Have a kettle of water heating, so when you have to add water, you add hot water. If you add cold water, "it sets them back", as my mama would say. If you add cold water, it has to go through the heating process. To make the juice thick, I take some beans out, mash them with a fork, and add them back to the pot. Your beans will come out perfect, if you do it like this. Mind do.

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