I used to think I was hot stuff in the kitchen. After working as the chef at a dude ranch, I thought I had perfected my cooking skills, and I made sure all my friends knew it. But after all that bragging, my roommate was dismayed to find out that I have quite a few bad cooking habits that I just can’t seem to shake. After asking around, I discovered some things that all college students tend to do in the kitchen that need to be stopped now.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve done most of this things on this list. We here at Spoon don’t judge (much).
1. Cooking with your tasting spoon
Getting your own germs in a dish that only you will eat isn’t a huge deal. But if you have a bad habit of re-using your tasting spoon, odds are you’ll forget when cooking for others. Do me a favor and keep your cooties to yourself.
2. Not wearing an apron
Aprons might not be the cutest clothing item in the world, but they’re mighty important. I can’t tell you how many shirts I’ve saved over the years by simply wearing an apron. Flour and other powders come out easily. But BBQ or molasses? Good luck with that.
3. Forgetting to toss old spices
Did you know spices have a specific shelf life? Yeah, me neither. Though spices never go bad, per se, they can lose their flavor over time. A good indicator of whether your spices are destined for the trash can is if they’ve lost their color, smell, and/or taste.
4. Not cleaning up your mess
Messy roommates are the absolute worst. My roommate is awesome, but she has a bad habit of cooking late at night and then leaving the kitchen an absolute wreck until she cooks again the next night. Don’t be that roommate.
5. Using too many dishes
More often than not, you can reuse the same pots and pans throughout your entire cooking process. Pans used to sear meats can be used for sautéing vegetables, for example. As long as you’re not cross-contaminating raw ingredients like eggs with foods that won’t be cooked, you can share pans in the kitchen.
#SpoonTip: Make sure you’re reusing pans with ingredients that compliment one another, as certain flavors will stick to the pan until you clean it fully.
6. Cross-contaminating cutting boards
Veggies should never be cut on the same cutting board used for raw meat – period. When you move into your first kitchen, buy two cutting boards in two different colors so you know which should be used for meats, and which should be used for everything else.
7. Not sharpening knives
Crappy knives are the worst. You’re as likely to hack off a finger as you are to butcher your produce when using dull knives, so be sure and sharpen them every month or so to keep them in good shape.
8. Forgetting to read the directions on the box before you throw it away
Yes, I know you’ve made mac ‘n cheese a million times, but don’t underestimate your ability to mess things up now and then. Waiting a few minutes to finish prepping your meal before tossing the directions will save you lots of tears in the long run.
9. Snacking too much while cooking
I know that food is tempting (especially when it’s of the baked good variety), but you really need to stop snacking when you’re cooking. Waiting for the final product can be frustrating, but it’s worth it in the end, promise.
10. Leaving crusty dishes in the sink
You tell your roommate you’re just leaving the dishes in the sink to soak “for a bit,” but we all know you’re just too lazy to wash your dishes at that moment. Too bad – you need to wash the damn dishes.
11. Undercooking food because you’re impatient
Patience is a virtue, or so they tell me. The number of times I’ve eaten crunchy pasta because I was too impatient to let it cook all the way is actually embarrassing. Wait the few extra minutes, or else you’ll hate yourself for it.
12. Overcooking meat because you’re scared of poisoning yourself
Been there, done that. When I first started cooking chicken for myself, I overcooked it almost every time. There are few things in life worse than tough chicken, so don’t be afraid to cut open your food to test for doneness.
13. Not leveling the flour when measuring it
So simple, yet so important. Your perfect batch of cookies depends on you leveling the flour, so don’t mess it up.
#SpoonTip: To level flour perfectly every time, use the back of a butter knife to scrape off any excess flour from the top of the measuring cup.
14. Cooking with your computer open
In the age of technology, it’s so easy to forget how breakable computers really are. If you use your computer to read a recipe online, write it down instead. If you like listening to Spotify while cooking, turn the volume up and put your computer on the kitchen table instead of the counter. If you cook with your computer right next to you, I guarantee you’ll spill food all over it.
15. Leaving the kitchen cabinets open while cooking
I have no clue why people don’t close cabinets after they pull something out of them, but many of my friends don’t for some odd reason. Prevent future brain damage by closing the cabinets, pretty please.
16. Forgetting to clean counter surfaces when working with raw meat
Raw meat is riddled with bacteria. Always remember to clean counters as you cook to avoid contaminating other foods you’re about to eat.