Chopped: Top 10 Cooking Mistakes

The mystery basket ingredients aren’t the biggest problem competitors face in the Chopped kitchen. Count down the top 10 cooking mistakes that trip up even the most-experienced Chopped champions, and learn how you can avoid them at home.

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©© 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Janet Rhodes ©© 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Susan Magnanp

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Christopher Testani

Photo By: Susan Magnano ©Magnanimous Pictures

Cook Like a Chopped Chef at Home by Avoiding These Mistakes

Whether you are competing in the Chopped kitchen or rushing to get dinner on the table after a busy day, small slips in technique can cost you the prize.

10: Undercooking/Overcooking

Time (or the lack of it) is the real opponent in the Chopped kitchen. Have your ingredients diced, chopped and ready to go before you start cooking. Proper preparation will save you from the dreaded mistakes of overcooking proteins and undercooking grains.

9: Cross-Contaminating

Something as simple as flipping your cutting board after handling raw proteins can take your dish from being a competition champ to being deemed unsafe for the judges (or anyone else) to taste. Be sure to keep raw meat, like chicken, separate from the rest of your ingredients.

8: Crowding the Deep Fryer

The fryer is perfect for creating texture and boosting flavor quickly. With the clock ticking down, competitors sometimes give in to the urge to drop everything in at once. The result: a clumpy, soggy mess. Fry in batches to prevent overcrowding, which causes a rapid drop in the temperature of your oil.

7: Not Keeping the Lid on It

Beware the volcano effect — when hot liquid erupts from the blender carafe. Overfilling is usually the culprit. Hot liquids have lots of steam that needs room to escape. Fill your carafe halfway, and don’t forget to cover the vented lid with a towel before blending. 

6: Letting Out the Heat

A nervous baker, or someone competing for the title of Chopped champion, might be tempted to open the oven door — a lot. Leaving the door closed will keep the oven temperature steady so food bakes faster and more evenly.

5: Grinding with No Chill

Making your own meat blend is an impressive way to lend a personal touch to a dish. But it’s a labor of love that, by its nature, takes time. To avoid an unappetizing blend of mush, you need to chill the meat (and the grinder) before grinding. 

4: Using a Cold Pan

A pan at perfect temperature is a lot like Goldilocks' bowl of porridge — not too hot (smoking oil) and not too cold (no sizzle). In the rush to get cooking, too many Chopped competitors have been felled by this simple slip of technique. Wait until the oil is shimmery and dancing before you add your ingredients to the pan. If you wait too long and see smoke, dump the oil out and start over.

3: Churning Hot

Every time your favorite competitor heads to the ice cream machine, do you hold your breath? Too often, ice cream dreams turn to soup. Your ice cream base should be cold when it goes into the machine. Sometimes referred to as aging your base, the chilling process isn’t likely to change the flavor a noticeable amount, but it will improve the texture, because the base will require less churning to reach that ideal soft-serve consistency.

2: Rushing the Meat

It’s tempting to rush meat straight to the table when it’s finished cooking. But if you don’t give it time to rest, all that juiciness will be lost the moment you cut into it. About 15 minutes for steaks and up to 30 minutes for a whole chicken or turkey allows enough time for the juices to redistribute.

1: Underseasoning

A little salt and pepper goes a long way — something Chopped competitors often forget, according to judge Geoffrey Zakarian. Taste often and season as you go so you don’t wind up with a bland dish.

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