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9 Rules You Should Always Break When You’re Cooking

9 Rules You Should Always Break When You’re Cooking

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It’s OK to break the rules once in a while — even in the kitchen

9 Rules You Should Always Break When You’re Cooking

Break a few rules in the kitchen and you’re guaranteed to get better results.

Cook for the Amount of Time the Recipe Specifies

In general, the cook time in a recipe is a suggestion (that’s the reason it’s usually give in as a range). Start by cooking your food for the shortest amount of time recommended in the recipe and then monitor its progress. If your food reaches the correct internal temperature (or, in the case of a food where temperature isn’t an issue, shows other signs of doneness) it’s done — even if you haven’t reached the minimum cook time.

Don’t Open the Oven Door

We’re not saying it’s OK to continually open the oven door when you’re cooking (you’ll lose heat and lower the oven temperature) — and, all right, you shouldn’t open it at all if you’re making a soufflé — but in all other instances it’s OK to open the oven door once, halfway through a food’s cook time. In fact, you should: Most ovens don’t heat evenly, so your food won’t cook evenly unless the pans are rotated.

Drain Fried Food on a Paper Towel

If you want to place freshly fried food on a paper towel for a few minutes to absorb some of the oil, that’s fine, but don’t leave it there; the paper towel will trap steam and cause your food to get soggy. A better option is to put fried foods on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. That way, the grease can drip off and steam can escape.

Measure Exactly

While you certainly want to measure carefully when you’re baking (a cookie dough made with too much flour will be dry and crumbly, for example), you have more freedom than you probably realize when you’re cooking. Measure ingredients like spices and seasonings according to taste. You should also feel free to adjust the measurements of other ingredients based on visual cues; if, for example, your recipe tells you to cover something completely using ½ cup of liquid, you should make sure the ingredient is covered, even if it takes a little bit more than ½ cup.

Only Cook with a Wine You’d Drink


Don’t feel like you have to use your favorite bottle of wine when you’re cooking; in most cases, the wine is just one of many ingredients in a recipe, and an average bottle of wine will still yield delicious results. Unless money isn’t an issue, we recommend using a moderately priced bottle of wine that is drinkable rather than using one that you’d really enjoy drinking.

Only Flip Grilled Food Once

Prep All of Your Ingredients in Advance

Rather than blindly prepping all of your ingredients before you start cooking, read your recipe first. In some cases, it makes more sense to get a few ingredients ready right away and allow them to start cooking while you prep others. If you have something that needs to slowly cook for 20 to 30 minutes, for example, that gives you plenty of time to chop and measure ingredients that will be added later. And, if you have ingredients that oxidize (turn brown when exposed to air), don’t cut them until you’re ready to use them.

Salt to Taste

Our perception of saltiness changes with temperature, so “salting to taste” can be a tricky thing when you’re cooking. If you’re tasting something to determine whether it needs more salt, try to taste it at the temperature at which you plan to eat it. Otherwise, err on the side of slightly under-salting your food; most foods taste saltier as they cool down, and you can always add a bit more salt at the end if needed.