By now, if you’re a loyal BonAppetit.com reader, you’re probably very familiar with our Common Mistakes stories. We started the series in 2011, and since then we’ve warned you about everything from putting liquid into your scrambled eggs to seasoning the you-know-what out of your steak. And over the years, we’ve noticed a few trends—the most common “Common Mistakes,” if you will. There are four big things you need to watch out for, no matter if you’re making cookies, quinoa, salmon, or salad.
1. Buy Any Old Thing at the Supermarket
When it comes to everything, good-quality, seasonal products usually yield much better results. This goes especially for meat (which should be fed a healthful diet) and fish, which should be sustainably harvested and, ideally, wild-caught.
SEE MORE: 6 Ways to Screw Up a Salad
2. I Shouldn’t Use Too Much Salt, Right?
Salt is one of the most important ingredients in any dish—it brings out flavors, whether they’re sweet, salty, fatty, or sour. Everything from the steak on your grill to the lettuce in your salads to your oatmeal needs at least some (and in the meat’s case: A LOT). So don’t be afraid of salt!
3. Make Sure It’s Done—Cook It 10 More Minutes
We get it: With everything from omelets to pork chops, you want to make sure they’re done (those yucky bacteria!). But don’t overdo it! For meat, use a thermometer. With omelets and scrambled eggs, get them out of the pan right before they’re done—they’ll continue to cook, even on a room-temperature plate (see Common Mistake no. 4 below). And if you want your brownies nice and fudgy, take them out of the oven right when your recipe says to—not sooner, and not later.
4. Eat It While It’s Hot!
We know it seems natural to serve everything right off the grill, out of the oven, or hot from the pan. But it’s a good idea to let your food chill out for a minute—or 10 minutes. We’ve said it before: beef, pork, and chicken all need to rest for a while to let their juices redistribute after cooking. You don’t want all that glorious liquid to run out onto the cutting board. Quinoa and rice need to steam after you cook them, too—this is crucial to getting them nice and fluffy, so don’t even think about lifting that pot’s lid. Even brownies need to hang out in the pan for a bit, as they’ll continue to set as they cool, and will be much easier to slice and get out of the pan.
So, folks, if you just heed these four common mistakes before you cook anything, you’ll probably end up with much better results than if you hadn’t. Let us know if we missed any in the comments!