Tom Rutledge, former MasterChef contestant and managing director of , dishes up nine of the most common #foodfails and how to avoid them, next time you step into the kitchen.
1. Sad, soggy salad. It goes without saying that no one wants to feast on limp lettuce and lousy looking leaves, so you must treat your greenery with care, advises Tom. Tip: After washing, opt for a salad spinner to ensure your greens are dried thoroughly. When dry, place them in your salad bowl and remember to only dress your greens right before serving as oil quickly effects the surface of leaves, often making them turn dark green and droopy, says Tom. Finally, use less dressing than you think you'll need and to pour it down the sides of the bowl and gently toss with salad servers before serving.
2. Cooking with a cold pan. If you're a little too eager to get your food sizzling before your pan reaches optimal heat – you'll pay for it in your post-cooking wash up. If the pan and oil isn't hot enough, whatever you're cooking will stick, you'll risk parts burning and you'll have a nightmare scrubbing job once you're done, cautions Tom. Tip: Make sure you heat your empty pan for at least one to two minutes before you add butter or oil. You'll know when the pan is ready when you can hold your hand about three inches above it and feel the heat radiating from the surface. Oil will shimmer when it’s hot enough and butter will melt and foam, then you'll know it's time to get cooking, says Tom.
Photographer: Nigel LoughStylist: Emmaly Stewart
3. Taking on Pinterest. So you'd like to attempt those chocolate covered kiwi popsicles, while trying your hand at a tiered rainbow cake? Heck, why not chuck in some waffle iron cookies while you're at it? Tom reveals that one of the major food fails of all time is trying to replicate dishes you've seen on Pinterest or Instagram that are clearly way out of your league.
4. Slicing and dicing with the wrong tools. To become a master of the slice and dice, you need the right knife. From flattening baguettes to squishing tomatoes, the wrong knife can wreak havoc in the kitchen. Selecting the right knife ensures you have the upmost control of the blade and are the most efficient when you chop, says Tom. Tip: Invest in a good quality chef's knife to tackle most of your chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing jobs, opt for a small, slim paring knife for jobs such as peeling, pitting and select a serrated knife for bread and smooth-skinned items like tomatoes.
5. Using a pot that cramps your style. According to Tom, boiling pasta in a pot that is too small is destined for disaster. You don't want to be breaking down your noodles to fit them in the bowl. Regardless of the shape or size, if there's not enough room and water in the pot, your pasta will end up gluggy and sticky, says Tom. To ensure the perfect batch of pasta, fill a large pot with around five to six litres of water and bring it to a rapid boil. Add two tablespoons of salt, then the recommended amount of pasta according to the packet and stir intermittently until it is al dente.
6. Swapping up a storm. We've all seen recipes inviting the substitution of certain ingredients due to necessity or fancy; but such swaps do not always end well. Generally I'm in favour of free-styling in the kitchen but it’s good to have some idea of the likely outcome,” says Tom. Swapping herbs can lead to a pretty confronting end result, for example a Caprese salad with mint instead of basil is not so good!
7. Gluggy Rice. No matter how delicious your sizzling stir fry is, if you get the rice wrong, the whole dish can be a disaster. Tip: “Make sure you rinse your rice before you cook it to remove any additional starch and make sure you drain it thoroughly before cooking,” says Tom. He recommends using the absorption method when cooking rice where a measured amount of water is used so that by the time the rice is cooked, all the water has been absorbed and trapped steam finishes the cooking.
8. Too much action with the tongs. The more you poke, prod and turn meat, the more moisture it loses, so you should really only be turning it once or twice, advises Tom. People become over eager turning and moving their meat on the pan, which is the main cause for moisture loss. Tip: You'll know when your meat is ready for turning by giving it a little nudge. The meat will move freely from the pan when it's adequately browned. If it sticks, allow it to continue cooking and gently re-visit it in a minute or so," says Tom.
9. Rushing to the finishing line. Cooking should be fun and something you can easily weave into your everyday life, no matter how busy you are, says Tom. Opt for simple recipes that use fresh ingredients to maximise flavour and delegate, delegate, delegate. Get someone to help you chop the veggies while you prep the meat, or ask for help whipping up a salad while you focus on the main, says Tom. Tip: To really save time, drop the supermarket shop all together and have your groceries and recipes delivered to your door. Visit for more information.