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Kitchen habits you stopped after you realized they were questionable

Growing up we had a Crisco can on the stove with recycled grease that was used for weeks. It had about five inches of sludge at the bottom. (Yuck!) When I moved out on my own I continued this habit until I realized that the weird taste in fried foods was rancid oil. So I started straining and refrigerating used oil. Made a big difference. Now I may reuse a couple of times before discarding. Anyone else?

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  1. Great topic!

    Stopped using non-stick cookware/bakeware because of off-gassing.

    Stopped using olive oil for actual cooking due to low smoking point and chemical changes upon heating. I now only use it as a finish/garnish and cook with mostly coconut oil instead.

    Stopped cutting the visibly moldy part off of fruit, veggies, cheese. I just toss the whole thing. Mold has hyphae that extend beyond what's visible.

    Stopped storing espresso grounds in the freezer. Apparently this creates condensation, which reduces freshness.

    7 Replies
    1. re: topbanana

      I don't cut the mold off fruits or vegetables but I absolutely do off cheese.

      1. re: biondanonima

        I agree. I vaguely remember reading why it's OK when you're talking about cheese, but not OK when it's bread. Of course, the science escapes me now.

        1. re: danna

          as long as it's green or white, trim it off and eat the rest.

          If it's pink or orange (and these strains are flourescent/day-glo pink and orange) -- chuck the whole thing -- those are the nasties that have long "roots" and produce some pretty nasty toxins.

        2. re: biondanonima

          Ditto. Hard Cheese gets trimmed, produce gets tossed.

          1. re: biondanonima

            I used to toss moldy fruit, but now I just cut around the moldy spots, toss that, and eat the rest. A lot of produce is at its very best right before it goes over.

            1. re: EWSflash

              That's when i think fruit is best. There are some exceptions. Apples, melons, berries.

          2. re: topbanana

            Insightful post, topbanana. Learned new terms: “off-gassing” and “hyphae.”

          3. I stopped storing garlic confit (garlic slow-cooked in olive oil) in the fridge for ages. There's a lot of debate, but supposedly the low-oxygen, low-acid environment makes botulism a possibility, and even though I haven't died yet, it's probably not worth the risk. I store it in the freezer instead now!

            1 Reply
            1. re: biondanonima

              I made the exact same change - garlic/olive oil in the freezer.

            2. Years ago I'd think nothing of pulling frozen meat out of the freezer, placing on a plate and defrosting at room temperature while I was at work for the day.

              18 Replies
              1. re: meatn3

                My mom did that all the time too. My sister in-law still does it, drives me crazy!

                1. re: Jpan99

                  I do that all the time - my workday is on the short side, though, and my kitchen is generally cool. The meat is usually still cold and often still frozen in the center when I get home.

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    +1 I do this with most of my meat though often if I remember to take it out of the freezer in the morning I will put it in a bowl of cool water. I have never suffered any consequences, so it seems to be OK at least for me. Also, the meat is generally always still cold, and most often still partially frozen which is highly frustrating :)

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      I have to say I second the meat on the counter thing. Food borne illness can be a nasty thing but if our mothers and sisters in law have been doing it for years and no one suffered any ill consequences the risks can't really be that high.

                      1. re: delys77

                        Count me in, too. I wouldn't leave out meat long-term if the room temp was in the 80s, but "normal" temp and frozen meat--yes.

                        1. re: pine time

                          Me too. Kind of drives my wife crazy, but since I'm the cook, I have the final say.

                          1. re: pine time

                            I'm in the south - room temp in the summer is often in the '80's!

                            1. re: meatn3

                              Yeah, I only do that in the winter. On the other hand, I don't think that having it sit out frozen for two hours will poison you. Unless maybe it's chicken or other poultry, which brings another question- are duck, goose, turkey, et al as prone to poisoning you as chicken?

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                The point I stopped doing this I was cooking for a few people with compromised immune systems. One of those things where it is probably fine in most cases...In this case once I became aware of the possibility I stopped. Never really took it up again. Basically just got in the habit of putting it in the fridge a day or so prior depending upon the size of the item.

                                I would imagine grinds to have the most potential for problems. No idea about the other varieties of poultry.

                    1. re: meatn3

                      I defrost on the counter as well but mostly overnight when the kitchen is cooler. Of course you only need to plan before hand.

                      1. re: letsindulge

                        Generally if I take out something the night before and put it in the fridge it need less time when I get home from work.

                          1. re: letsindulge

                            Take it out of the freezer, transfer to a zip lock bag, and put it in a pot of cold water (on the counter or in the fridge)

                            This method will defrost a 1lb frozen brick of ground meat in two hours or less.

                            My only trick is to separate everything into servings before freezing - i.e. 2-4 chicken thighs, 2-4 pork chops, etc

                            1. re: mcap

                              That's what I do. Out of the freezer, into a bowl of cold water in the fridge. Usually I remember to do it when I get home from work and before I go to the gym, so the meat is thawed by the time I'm home for good. I'm cooking for one, so everything is single serve. If I'm pressed for time or the portion is larger, I will leave the faucet on slightly, so the water is constantly circulating and the meat thaws faster.

                      2. re: meatn3

                        I've defrosted many solidly frozen meat packs in the sink during the day. Still do from time to time, but prefer putting the meat in the fridge for a day or two.

                        1. re: meatn3

                          I use Alton Brown's method: put frozen meat in a ziploc bag (tightly sealed) and put in a sink with cold water just to cover. Weight it with something (I use a marble cheese-board/cutter) and then turn the water to its loooooowwwwest setting (barely dribbling). The motion (convection I think?) of the water that is dribbling DRAMATICALLY reduces the amount of time it takes to defrost the meat, and while it's defrosting the item keeps the surrounding water cold enough that it doesn't fall into the "danger zone" (where the outside is warm enough for beasties to grow).

                          Last night I defrosted a frozen-solid block of three boneless pork chops in about 45 minutes.

                          Only warning: don't let the sink overflow! Not that I've done that....

                          Oh -- and if you let the water run down the inside of the sink surface, you won't get that annoying, I-have-to-pee!-inducing dribbling sound.

                        2. Switched from teflon to ceramic and cast iron when I learned about the toxins non-stick cookware releases

                          For similar reasons, stopped using plastic containers and utensils which come into contact with hot liquids and in the microwave

                          Stopped putting bread in the fridge when I realized that caused it to dry out. Now when I buy bread, I freeze half the loaf and keep the other half at room temperature

                          Stopped putting all fruits and vegetables together. Separated ethylene producing and sensitive produce and separated those that require high and low humidity.

                          Stopped using a garlic press to mince garlic which tends to turn cloves into garlic juice. A microplane does the job better and faster than a knife.

                          Stopped using aluminum cookware. Alzheimer's concerns aside, they overheat quicker and impact a metallic taste to the food.

                          Stopped using pre-ground spices and grind whole as needed.

                          Stopped sauteeing garlic with onions. Now I throw in the garlic just before the onions are done so it doesn't burn and overpower the dish.

                          Stopped buying shredded cheese and shred my own now after having cream cheese sauces separate on me.

                          Stopped buying ground coffee. Instead I buy freshly roasted whole beans and grind the amount I need before brewing.

                          Stopped keeping dairy and perishables on the door shelves of the fridge where they would go rancid quicker. The coldest part of the fridge, the bottom shelf towards the back is where I put them and they last a lot longer.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Chi_Guy

                            Chi_Guy, I second many habits you stopped. Especially non-stick, plastic, and garlic cooking time.

                          2. This is going to sound horrible, but before I developed severe food allergies, I definitely applied the 5-second rule at least once in a while to things that had fallen on the floor.

                            Now, I am a pretty smart person. I realized then, as well as now, that the 5-second rule (or any second rule) has no actual basis in scientific fact. I just didn't worry about it. I still probably worry less about bacterial contamination than the average person who is immunocompromised (I'm on immunosupressants). But using an epi pen and having to go to the ER is just way to much of a pain for me.

                            1. Stopped believing that you could cook anything and everything in the oven at 350 degrees.

                              Stopped believing that if a medium heat on the burner was good, high was better "to get things started".

                              Stopped believing that if one spice and/or herb was good, more spices and/or herbs would be better (some disgusting results)

                              Stopped using pans just large enough to hold the amount of food to be cooked (same with mixing bowls)

                              Stopped cooking vegetables until they are "nice and soft" (mushy)

                              Stopped cooking meat rare

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: todao

                                What's wrong with cooking meat rare?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I used to like my hamburgers rare. When all those kids died from E coli a couple of years ago and with all the E coli and Salmonella recalls in recent years I just figured my preference for rare meat (and I liked it "rare") needed to be adjusted to accept internal temp. at 155/160 as rare for hamburger and about 145 for steak. My kids were more important to me than my ego.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Agreed. Granted, I don't like truly rare, but I do like medium rare.

                                      The deal with that outbreak a few years back from tainted hamburger meat was that all the cases were traced back to pre-ground, pre-formed, frozen, boxed patties. The oversight on those things, as I recall from an article in the NYT, is really bad. Meat is used from various slaughterhouses with little to no ability to really know what is in there and where it came from.

                                      You want to cook patties rare? Go to a good butcher (or meat counter), select the cut of steak you want to use, inspect it yourself, and have them grind it fresh for you. Not only is it infinitely safer, but the burger will taste much, much, much better.

                                2. re: todao

                                  My mother is also a fan of undersized vessels. Growing up we used to joke that a tall glass of water at our house came in a glass that could hardly contain more than 6 oz. Now that I am a bit older and I often cook with my mother at her place it isn't so funny anymore. If I ask for a bowl to mix or marinate something my mother will invariably hand me the smallest dish she can find. When boiling pasta the other day she grabbed a medium saucepan, I laughed to myself and reached under the counter to pull out the biggest pot I could find. She gave me a look and laughed! She is a great cook, who for some reason has gotten used to working with tiny vessels, why she does no one can say.

                                  1. re: delys77

                                    delys, this post made me laugh- I can relate.

                                    1. re: delys77

                                      Harold McGee wrote an article about how one can cook pasta with only a little water: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/din...

                                      1. re: drongo

                                        Here's a Chow Tip video of Harold demonstrating the method. As he says at the end, the remaining water is more like the starchy water that some chefs/restaurants use in sauces, but (unfortunately) I'm personally having a hard time breaking the "large pot of water" habit.


                                      2. re: delys77

                                        My mother is also a fan of undersized vessels.
                                        So is my husband and it sort of drives me a bit nuts. I think he believes that it is less work to clean a smaller dish/bowl/plate.

                                        1. re: delys77

                                          My mom does this too - it doesn't negatively affect everything, but it does mean that she often ends up steaming things instead of searing/sauteing/browning them. That 6oz water glass comment made me chuckle - we always used to make fun of my mom for drinking water out of a juice glass (which was actually a recycled 4oz pineapple cream cheese container - remember when that stuff came in glass?).

                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                            (which was actually a recycled 4oz pineapple cream cheese container - remember when that stuff came in glass?)
                                            Do I ever!

                                            My family was huge fans of that type of "continued use" packaging, the cupboards were jammed full of them.

                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                              Yes, I do remember & actually have some of the decorated ones in my china cabinet to save them from visitors who don't treat them with enough respect . . . LOL!

                                        2. As a new cook, I cooked meat at too low a temperature and vegetables at too high a temperature.

                                          I, eventually learned to layer seasoning as I cooked... that took a while.

                                          I discovered brining. I stopped thawing things on the counter when I discovered that almost anything can be thawed real fast in a sink of water.

                                          I still like my vegetables slightly softer than most chefs would call al dente.

                                          I discovered that the crockpot wasn't near as useful as I had thought.

                                          I, now own a cast iron skillet but I still don't use it for anything but searing. We will just have to disagree about how indispensable it is.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                            Lol Hank, I have discovered that the crockpot is so much MORE useful than I thought when I started cooking. Everyone's feet follow a different path. :)

                                            I did also learn to stop thawing meat for way too long on the countertop, though.

                                            I learned to stop oversalting; took a while but happy now.

                                            1. re: DuchessNukem

                                              I think my biggest problem with crockpots is:

                                              If you cook something 8 - 10 hours while you are at work, It is all going to taste the same. Being able to cook while I was at work was the biggest draw for me. If you are going to cook something that is supposed to all taste the same, the crockpot is great. It is great with beans, stock, Italian sunday gravy, and chili.

                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                Of course. I would never try to make a whole meal at once. One pot type meals are great. Just discovered using the CP to make chicken stock. So much more flavor than me using th stove.

                                                1. re: melpy

                                                  I use the crock pot quite a bit as well - I don't work, but I'm chronically ill, and some days I'm just too tired to whip up a regular meal.

                                                  I usually use for things like soups and stews, italian beef sandwiches, chicken or turkey stock, caramelized onions (can do this overnight instead of having to stay near the stove), or cooking a whole chicken or turkey breast.

                                                  I have used my large slow cooker to make a main and a side before. Put the main on the bottom, then topped with baked potatoes or corn on the cob wrapped tightly in foil.

                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    CP for chicken stock - do you just put the chicken in & leave it on a certain temp all day or what???

                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                      Pretty much. Throw in the chicken or turkey (I've made really good stock this way with a broken down turkey carcass) and a little bit of onion and celery and cook overnight or all day on low - I think I usually do at least 12 hours. Strain through a colander lined with a cheesecloth when you're done.

                                                      I'm pretty good at guessing the right amount of water, but keep in mind that the liquid won't evaporate off in the crock pot. That being said, if it tastes a little weak when you're done, you could always throw it in a pot on the stove and reduce it. I've never had a problem though.

                                                      1. re: cstout


                                                        Cstout... This thread has my recipe for crockpot chicken stock. All it really is is throwing some chopped onions and a lot of chicken including larg (thighs and drumsticks) bones in the CP and covering with water. Set it on low for 12 hours and forget it.

                                                      2. re: melpy

                                                        I can't believe it never occurred to me to use the CP for stock-making. Doi!

                                                        THANK YOU!!!

                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                          (headslap!) I can't believe I never thought of using the CP for stock!!!

                                                          THANK YOU!!!

                                                    2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      I agree with you on the Crockpot. I am still trying to like it. It seems like every recipe I find for the Crockpot starts with a can of cream of something soup!

                                                        1. re: Becca Porter

                                                          Thanks for the book recommendation. I just ordered it. I've been trying to like my Crockpot for a while...maybe this will help!

                                                          1. re: PanFreak

                                                            Good! I am sure you'll love it. It is 99% scratch cooking, and they really changed up the procedures to allow great results.

                                                        2. re: PanFreak

                                                          Look at Cooking Light's site for some good, healthy slow-cooker recipes.

                                                          I like doing a lot of Indian vegetarian dishes in the crock pot. I'm far from a vegetarian, but I am trying to do more non-meat dishes. I have several lentil dishes, as well as several chickpea dishes, that are great crock pot dishes.

                                                      1. Not so much questionable from a health standpoint, but I stopped mixing all of a sauce I made with an entire box of cooked pasta if I know there'll be left lovers. I make a large amount of sauce and then only mix part of it with a serving of pasta that will be eaten that day. Then for leftovers, I reheat the sauce and add to it freshly cooked pasta.

                                                        I've yet to meet already cooked pasta and sauce that has reheated well in the microwave or stove top.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          But pasta with sauce tastes so much better the next day!

                                                          1. re: Marusik

                                                            I totally agree. That's why I have become a big fan of Barilla. I don't know why, but it doesn't get mushy in the frig.

                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                              I cook it harder than al dente, and it stays in the fridge wonderfully. I also rinse off the starch in cold water after cooking and add olive oil to it.

                                                              1. re: Tudor_rose

                                                                But then the sauce doesn't stick to the pasta!

                                                                1. re: kubasd

                                                                  Sure it does, if you heat up the pasta in a pan with the sauce.

                                                                2. re: Tudor_rose

                                                                  I actually meant leftovers, like the spaghetti I had for lunch today that refrigerated in olives and tomato sauce. We had it Friday night so all the spaghetti was completely cooked then. Still firm today.

                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                    I had some yesterday. Cooked Saturday not al dente (don't like) mixed with homemade Arabiatta and was not mushy at all after reheating in microwave. And to think of it I am pretty sure it was Barilla:)

                                                          2. I threw out my Mr. Coffee machine after buying and learing to use a stovetop moka pot and a French press.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: 4X4

                                                              Ditto. My husband and I both have our own Moka pot. I am coveting a Brikka though.

                                                              1. re: 4X4

                                                                Same here. French press all the way!

                                                              2. I stopped freezing meat at all, except for bacon, chicken carcasses for stock and seafood that was purchased frozen. Never have to worry about thawing things out, freezer burn or the wateriness I find when meats have been frozen. By not having extra meat in the freezer, I am also more likely to put together a meatless meal when I don't feel like going to the store.

                                                                I stopped buying half and half, once a frig staple, and just use whole milk in my coffee. (I made the transition by using skim for awhile. When I switched to whole milk it seemed creamy by comparison.)

                                                                I stopped keeping so many appliances on the counter. The big mixer and food processor now sit in a cabinet in the hall and I consider the effort to get them out as exercise.

                                                                I stopped worrying about absolute precision when measuring ingredients for baked goods and have found I now enjoy baking and the results are fine.

                                                                I stopped putting butter on the table, unless company is coming and I think they might want some.

                                                                1. Until recently I washed dishes by hand, by which I mean without sponges or towels. Then my hands sort of started falling apart so I bought a sponge, thank god.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                    LOL! I've never heard of this. No offense, but that seems crazy! Glad you saw the light :)

                                                                    1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                      OMG, this is so funny. This sounds like something a guy would do. I can't imagine ripping your fingers trying to wash burnt on foods.

                                                                      I'm laughing so hard I have tears pouring down my face.

                                                                    2. That reminds me. I stopped rinsing dishes at all except for what I can wipe off the plate into the garbage with my hand. The rest gets cleaned away by the dishwasher and I haven't wasted water on unnecessary rinsing.

                                                                      1. Like many of you:

                                                                        I've stopped using olive oil to saute. I do use it for salads.

                                                                        On the stovetop I find medium heat, wherever that may be on a given stove, and use it for most things.

                                                                        I use non-stick for extremely few stovetop applications now.

                                                                        I stopped putting bananas in the fridge.

                                                                        Years ago I stopped storing coffee in the freezer. Topbanana's post reminded me that I used to do this.

                                                                        I stopped using Pyrex pie pans in the oven, when one cracked and broke after coming out of the oven.

                                                                        I don't pan fry any more; I use a stovetop grill pan.

                                                                        1. I am trying to stop using plastic, But with kids, I find it to be so much lighter and easier to handle. Is melanine as bad?

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: lilmomma

                                                                            The science on plastic food storage containers is contentious at best. Honestly, I think the idea of never using plastic storage containers is a case of impractical over-reaction.

                                                                            1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                              That makes me feel better. I bought a bunch of plastic dishes and cups for the kids and I end up using them all the time for everyone because they are small and easy to carry. They help with portion control and fit in the dishwasher better. But I do get nervous that something is leaching. Can anyone direct me to some conclusive evidence?

                                                                              1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                I wouldn't worry about using the plastic for eating. I think problems are more likely when heating in plastic and when storing acidic foods in plastic. So along that line I wouldn't use the plastic cups routinely with acidic liquids ie soda, etc.

                                                                          2. When I got my Big Green Egg and learned how to use it, I stopped using huge amonts of wood chunks/chips when I barbecue, and I never soak them. And I don't put the meat on until I see almost no smoke coming out of the top vent (heavy smoke can ruin barbecue.) I got a lot of great advice and recipes from the BGE forum over a decade ago!