Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making While Using Your Stovetop

Stovetops are the leading cause of reported home fires and injuries in the United States, according to FEMA. In addition to safety concerns, many people are simply using their stoves incorrectly, resulting in food that’s cooked unevenly. Read on to learn about the ways you’re probably misusing your stove.

1. Leaving your food unattended

Never leave your stove unattended. | iStock/Getty Images

It’s amazing how many people think it’s OK to leave food unattended on the stove, especially when cooking on a low-heat setting. But, according to Prevent Fire, you should never leave your stove unattended while in use. Think of your stove as an active cooking device. When in use, you should be actively tending to whatever it is you’re cooking. It’s not like an oven where you can just pop something in, set a timer, and walk away.

2. Cooking with uneven heat

Cooking on the ring spiral electric stove top

Heat is not always evenly distributed. | VickyRu/iStock/Getty Images

Electric coiled stoves often don’t distribute heat evenly. If you’re preparing a dish on the stove and the heat is uneven, chances are your dish won’t be cooked properly. (Some of it will be overcooked while some of it will be undercooked.) It’s a pain, but if you have a stove that doesn’t distribute heat evenly, be sure to rotate your pot or pan every so often to make sure your food is getting the correct amount of heat all over.

3. Keeping flammable items near your stovetop

a pan on a gas burner on a stove

Keep anything flammable away from the flames. | John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

It’s common to hang potholders above your stovetop, or store wooden utensils nearby. But Mother Nature Network says it’s important not to store any flammable items near your stovetop. You never know when what you’re cooking is going to spark a little flame that can reach nearby flammable items. This goes for your pets, too. Keep them off kitchen countertops and away from the stove.

4. Putting frozen food in a hot pan

Defrost first. | iStock/Getty Images

A lot of people think it’s fine to throw frozen meat (or any type of food) on the stove, thinking the stove will thaw it out before cooking it. But putting frozen food on your stove is a great way to end up with a piece of meat that’s burned on the outside and frozen on the inside. “Take meat out of the fridge for at least 15 minutes (but less than an hour) before throwing it into the skillet. If using frozen meat, let it defrost in the fridge — not on the counter — then do the same,” advises Greatist.  

5. Wearing loose-fitting clothing when cooking on the stove

That’s asking for trouble. | iStock/Getty Images

Mother Nature Network also suggests wearing short, close-fitting clothing when cooking on the stove. You’d be surprised how many loose sweaters have caught fire just by accidentally grazing the burner. Be sure to roll your longer sleeves up in preparation for cooking, as well.

6. Using the wrong pot or pan

Silver pots boiling

Your cooking will improve without having to do much of anything. | Photo_Concepts/iStock/Getty Images

Many households don’t have different sets of pots and pans for different types of dishes, but they should. “Every kitchen should have at least one stainless steel and one nonstick frying pan, and at least one pot,” says Greatist. “Make eggs in nonstick, char potatoes in stainless steel, and let sauce bubble in a deep or wide saucepan. Your food will thank you.”

7. Too low or too high heat

Natural gas burner

Match your heat to your dish. | Image Source/Getty Images

Different dishes call for different amounts of heat. You wouldn’t cook an egg using high heat, and you wouldn’t cook meat using especially low meat. “Low heat is important for finishing egg dishes and simmering sauces, but keeping heat too low for certain dishes can can lead to sad, soggy food,” says Greatist. “When searing meat, try to get the pan as hot as possible for a few minutes without any fat. After the pan has reached the proper temperature, add butter or oil and swirl it around in the pan.”

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