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What's your biggest fail as a home cook?

What's your biggest fail as a home cook?
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  • What's your biggest fail as a home cook?

    Post #1 - February 7th, 2021, 1:21 am
    Post #1 - February 7th, 2021, 1:21 am Post #1 - February 7th, 2021, 1:21 am
    Hi,

    Inspired by a query on facebook, I searched to find nothing paralleling it here. Here is my response:

    Whole hog roast that was done with absolutely no experience to call upon.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #2 - February 7th, 2021, 7:14 am
    Post #2 - February 7th, 2021, 7:14 am Post #2 - February 7th, 2021, 7:14 am
    Like most cooks, I flub a new recipe from time to time, especially in the baking department.

    And even after 20+ years in food service, I still can't brew a pot of coffee without looking up the ratios (I don't drink the stuff.)

    But my biggest shame is sauced, baked pasta dishes. They seem simple enough that I always assume I can wing it without following measurements in a recipe. Without fail, I never make enough sauce, especially factoring in the absorbing power of pasta as it sits in a hot oven. My family craves mac and cheese so often that I've got that down, but we prefer the stovetop style, which stays pretty saucy from heat to plate. But damn it, so many depressingly arid mostaciolis and lasagnas...
  • Post #3 - February 7th, 2021, 9:11 am
    Post #3 - February 7th, 2021, 9:11 am Post #3 - February 7th, 2021, 9:11 am
    Are we talking singular disasters? (Rather than persistent shortcomings as I posted above.) I know this thread is about home cooking, but I've got plenty of tales from the weeds in my work life, here's one on the topic of whole hog:

    A pig was burnt to smithereens on my watch. To my credit – I came down with a nasty bug and had to delegate the starting of the coals at 4 AM to a co-worker. He decided to drink through the night and put all five bags of charcoal on at once & when the blaze was nice and raging, he put the pig on. It was toast by the time I woke up at 8 AM.
  • Post #4 - February 7th, 2021, 9:59 am
    Post #4 - February 7th, 2021, 9:59 am Post #4 - February 7th, 2021, 9:59 am
    Sometime in April/May, I found some yeast when it was scarce and decided to make pizza. Totally forgot to put cornmeal down on the pizza peel and had a disaster in the oven and steel.

    Such a big letdown after waiting a couple days for the dough to proof, heating the steel for an hour, shredding the cheese and cutting up the pepperoni stick.
  • Post #5 - February 7th, 2021, 10:18 am
    Post #5 - February 7th, 2021, 10:18 am Post #5 - February 7th, 2021, 10:18 am
    I have a persistent fail. My mom used to make this really simple potato curry growing up. My brother and dad were really laconic so never said anything. I, OTOH, used to give mom compliments when she made things I liked. So it turned out, that she made stuff I liked more often than not. Pissed my dad and brother off, as they wondered why their favorites were not made as often.

    Anyway, I have been trying to get that right for going on 30 years now. Not nailed it yet. It may be the cooking vessel she used, I am guessing now. It was a 'kadhai'; but I don't like using that so I don't have it. I will keep trying. The problem now is that I don't eat as much potatoes after a change in my diet.
  • Post #6 - February 7th, 2021, 10:26 am
    Post #6 - February 7th, 2021, 10:26 am Post #6 - February 7th, 2021, 10:26 am
    Oh I've burnt toast to a crisp and had to throw it away. I can't remember any really big fails but I'm sure I've had some. I think the things I have had failures with are pancakes, where the outside appears cooked and the inside has raw parts, banana bread where the outside appears cooked but there is a small amount of raw batter on the inside, and cooking noodles in soup so all the soup is sucked up by the noodles. And a few bundt cakes that stuck to the pan creating holes in the top of the cake. Those were my most common failures.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #7 - February 7th, 2021, 12:05 pm
    Post #7 - February 7th, 2021, 12:05 pm Post #7 - February 7th, 2021, 12:05 pm
    Early in our marriage and before I became an accomplished cook, we had my brother and his wife over for dinner. I spent a ton of money and made a fancy crab chowder. It was so bad, we threw it out and ordered in pizza.
  • Post #8 - February 8th, 2021, 12:11 am
    Post #8 - February 8th, 2021, 12:11 am Post #8 - February 8th, 2021, 12:11 am
    I've always had troubles with cake frosting and decoration. I've read books, watched videos, purchased equipment, all that stuff and still have mediocre results at best, horrific at worst.

    Many years ago, there was a Christmas dinner episode with a rubber duck. Started with buying a duck rather than a duckling and went downhill from there.
  • Post #9 - February 8th, 2021, 8:37 am
    Post #9 - February 8th, 2021, 8:37 am Post #9 - February 8th, 2021, 8:37 am
    My most memorable oopses were at my previous house -- I've upped my game, learned my lessons.
    1) Trying to prep dinner without doing mise en place, the cream of onion soup was doing quite well, until the "now add the cream" step. I reached into the fridge, pulled out a carton... and poured in a whole pint of buttermilk. Not good.
    2) One of my first garden years resulted in a bumper crop of jalapenos, and I pickled several quarts. I was prepping the peppers while Thing 2 was crawling around on the floor, and a whole seed core fell to the floor and was scooped up by those curious fingers before I could react. Yup, straight in the mouth. About half his face turned bright red. No lasting damage -- both my sons are serious chile fiends like their dad.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #10 - February 8th, 2021, 11:07 am
    Post #10 - February 8th, 2021, 11:07 am Post #10 - February 8th, 2021, 11:07 am
    I just never mastered yeast. Nothing ever turns out exactly right.
  • Post #11 - February 8th, 2021, 11:26 am
    Post #11 - February 8th, 2021, 11:26 am Post #11 - February 8th, 2021, 11:26 am
    One was just being in an unfamiliar kitchen. I was visiting my friends in Budapest for Thanksgiving about fifteen years ago and was in charge of making the pumpkin pie. (When I lived there, we'd have a dinner with expats and locals for the holiday.) I had my pumpkin gutted, roasted, squeezed through a cheesecloth to get rid of all the additional moisture, and ready to go. I'm basically getting my custard ingredients together, whisking the pumpkin puree, the eggs, cream/milk, etc. together. I look for the sugar and I see a big bin of flour in the cabinet, and then a bin of sugar beside it. I measure out the 2/3 or 3/4 cup of sugar (no brown sugar in the house) and add it to my pie. As the sugar pours from my cup, something feels "off." The grain size and pour didn't quite feel right. Uh oh. It isn't, is it? Yep. Salt. Who the hell keeps that much salt around next to the flour!? Luckily, the open-air market wasn't closed yet for the day, so I was able to get some more pumpkins and start over.

    The second was during my first forays into smoking meats. I bought a cheap old Brinkman that simply was not ventilated properly. It was of the upright style of smokers like the WSM. My memory is either that the top cover did not have a vent or I kept the vent closed thinking "more smoke = better." I made a rack or two of baby backs for me and my brother. Everything smells great, we bring our racks of lovely looking ribs inside and bite into them. And we begin to cough. "Man, these are pretty smokey!" "Yeah, let's put some sauce on this." A few more bites. A few more coughs. We're both doing our best to convince ourselves that these are some damned good ribs but, holy crap, it felt like we just smoked two packs of unfiltered Lucky Strikes. A few more bites and we had to admit the truth. There is such a thing as "oversmoked."
  • Post #12 - February 8th, 2021, 7:42 pm
    Post #12 - February 8th, 2021, 7:42 pm Post #12 - February 8th, 2021, 7:42 pm
    I’m surprised the coals stayed lit long enough to cook the ribs without the top vent open.
  • Post #13 - February 8th, 2021, 8:37 pm
    Post #13 - February 8th, 2021, 8:37 pm Post #13 - February 8th, 2021, 8:37 pm
    Yeah, I'm looking online, and my memory is correct -- there is no vent on top so one of the common mods is to make one up there. The only venting is through the side door. It's a really odd (read: terrible) design straight out of the box, and I'm not sure why they made it, but for $40 at the time, it seemed a good idea. I can make it work fine now, with some mods, but I tossed it long ago.

    https://www.smoking-meat.com/modify-bri ... ecb-smoker

    As to how I got it to cook? I'm not sure. I don't remember it being difficult -- perhaps I babysat it more and just fed coals in. I don't know, because, as you say, the airflow in the thing was terrible without modifications.
  • Post #14 - February 8th, 2021, 10:00 pm
    Post #14 - February 8th, 2021, 10:00 pm Post #14 - February 8th, 2021, 10:00 pm
    I had a Brinkman too, got it as a company service award. Absolute garbage, could never get a stable temp on it. WSM FTW.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #15 - February 8th, 2021, 11:36 pm
    Post #15 - February 8th, 2021, 11:36 pm Post #15 - February 8th, 2021, 11:36 pm
    My biggest fail also involved ribs. This was about 15 years ago. My rib game was pretty solid and I'd successfully made them for large groups several times. But after having some really awful carry-out ribs at a family gathering, I boasted that I would be happy to make ribs, way better ribs, for everyone the following night. And I did make them. But for reasons that I never fully identified, they turned out terribly. They were chewy, dry to the point of desiccation and totally unpalatable. To this day, it was my only batch of ribs that went that far off the rails.

    Maybe there have been bigger fails but unless they involve injury or destruction of personal property, the ones that happen when you're just cooking for yourself or your immediate household don't resonate in quite the same way. There's something about letting a larger number of people down that amplifies those failures and makes them more memorable.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #16 - February 9th, 2021, 10:59 am
    Post #16 - February 9th, 2021, 10:59 am Post #16 - February 9th, 2021, 10:59 am
    I actually was a victim of the salt/sugar mixup. My excuse was that we'd just flown overnight and were jet lagged.

    We were in a AirBnB and I was making eggs for breakfast. Right next to the stove was the sort of bowl that people put salt in. Threw some in the eggs, served them, and it was sugar!! Who would put a little bowl of sugar next to the stove?? The salt was in the cupboard.
  • Post #17 - February 9th, 2021, 11:11 am
    Post #17 - February 9th, 2021, 11:11 am Post #17 - February 9th, 2021, 11:11 am
    Cayenne instead of cinnamon in a cake. Not sure how I didnt notice the color difference. I actually liked it but wasn't popular with the family.

    -Will
  • Post #18 - February 9th, 2021, 11:38 am
    Post #18 - February 9th, 2021, 11:38 am Post #18 - February 9th, 2021, 11:38 am
    WillG wrote:Cayenne instead of cinnamon in a cake. Not sure how I didnt notice the color difference. I actually liked it but wasn't popular with the family.

    -Will


    Ya know, a bit of cayenne in addition to (or even in lieu of) cinnamon in something like a spice cake does sound like a good idea! (The fact that I just thought of it certainly means it's been done a thousand times before and I'm just late to the party, but it's still a good idea.)
  • Post #19 - February 9th, 2021, 10:00 pm
    Post #19 - February 9th, 2021, 10:00 pm Post #19 - February 9th, 2021, 10:00 pm
    chicagojim wrote:I actually was a victim of the salt/sugar mixup. My excuse was that we'd just flown overnight and were jet lagged.


    Same, but no excuse bc it was in my own house!

    This was quite a while ago, after just moving into my first condo, and I didn't own a dedicated salt pig at the time. I did have some pig-sized containers for salt and (slightly bigger) sugar that were on the counter and, when making a round of Mint Juleps on Derby Day, I apparently went to the wrong one. Had no idea and served them up to my guests just as the Call to Post was playing....
  • Post #20 - February 10th, 2021, 6:57 am
    Post #20 - February 10th, 2021, 6:57 am Post #20 - February 10th, 2021, 6:57 am
    That triggers a memory. In college, we had a kitchen in the dorm basement. I was making dinner for several people and of course everyone thinks their mother makes the best spaghetti. ( my mother was actually a horrible cook, but I didn't know that then ). I asked her for her sauce recipe and she gave it to me and it included quite a bit of garlic powder and onion powder. So, I went to the store and not knowing any better bought garlic salt and onion salt which was added to the heavy amount of salt that the recipe called for. Needless to say, the spaghetti was inedible.

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