Here's How You Can Avoid These Scary Kitchen Experiences!

What are you going to do when it happens to you?

A horrifying experience doesn't always happen when you look under your bed, glancing at reflective surfaces, or waking up during the devil's hour (3:00 a.m). Sometimes, it happens in the kitchen when you tend to overlook the simplest of things-resulting in a cooking nightmare you want to wake up from immediately.

In the spirit of Halloween, we've listed down real frightening kitchen encounters and how you can better prepare yourself when you're put in the same terrifying situation.

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Boiled to Darkness 

"When I first arrived abroad, as a 22-year-old, I had no idea how to cook. I tried to boil myself an egg for breakfast. I was home alone at the time and I thought the process was to leave the egg in the pot until maubos ang tubig. So, I did that and went in the shower then the fire alarm sa bahay went off and itim na ang egg ko." - Miki Arceo-Velasquez, owner of Maxi Mango

Tip: Leaving a cooking pot unattended is a novice mistake which many believe is okay to do. While you may leave a dish simmering on the stove, what you shouldn't do is leave the kitchen and leave it simmering without any supervision at all. It may boil over or, in the case of Miki, dry up and ruin not just your dish but also your pot or pan. 

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Flood Control

"I remember making chocolate cupcakes, and since the batter was a little runny (instead of the usual yellow cake batters that have more body), I decided to fill my cupcake tins up a little more than usual. I came back to my kitchen with a smoking oven-the batter had overflowed, spilled on my oven floor, and started burning! I immediately turned my oven off and cleaned it up by waiting for it to cool down completely by scraping off the burnt batter at the bottom of my oven. It's safe to say that I had no chocolate cupcakes that day." 

- Catalina Altomonte, brand building manager of The Standard Hospitality Group

Tip: It's always advised to not fill any mold more than 2/3 full. This is to ensure that any expansion which occurs as it cooks is accounted for with the remaining 1/3 space. If you're testing a new recipe and are unsure of the amount of rise this new batter will attain, err on the side of caution and still fill up the mold as suggested. 

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Photo by Ray Gonzales

Murdering Live Seafood

"My mom bought live hito for the first time, feeling excited. She realized too late that she didn't know how to butcher a fish and wound up trying and failing to murder the fish with a butcher knife. It flailed and floundered all over the place-including our kitchen floor."

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- Jasper Castro, editorial assistant of Yummy.ph

Tip: While fish and other seafood are best when purchased still alive, determining how to cook it is usually the biggest challenge new cooks face. Boiling water is usually the painless solution (for you) but if you're unsure, ask your butcher or fishmonger to prepare it (a.k.a. kill it for you) before going home and cooking it.  

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The Missing Ingredients

"I've mistakenly used salted butter instead of unsalted butter when making buttercream. I had to make a new batch of buttercream and mixed it with the salty batch to compensate for the saltiness. Another time, I was in a hurry and not paying attention, I forgot to put eggs in my cake!"

- Carmela Villegas, owner of Casa San Luis Pastries

Tip: It's a rule for anyone preparing food to always taste at every stage of cooking. As soon as an ingredient is added, taste your dish if you can so you can determine if what you have added is complementary to what you already have. That's how you can tell if your dish needs more salt, a little more pepper, or its flavor needs some brightness from a calamansi

Meanwhile, reading or following a recipe is another good practice for cooks and especially for bakers who use more exact measurements than cooks. A recipe will tell you what ingredient to add and when to do so, should you absentmindedly forget at what stage of the recipe you're at. You can quickly recount what you have done and trace where you might have left off and continue from that 

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Oven Fiascos 

"Before I was more experienced in baking, I would always forget to preheat the oven! Everything I'd make would always take longer than the recipe said because I really didn't know preheating was important. My chocolate chip cookies were always underdone. So, I'd have to leave it in for an extra 10 minutes. I was able to save it, thankfully. It wasn't the perfect chewy in the middle and crisp on the edges but it was still really good."

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And also, for years, I had no oven thermometer. A lot of the food that I'd make would always end up being underdone or overcooked because of the fluctuation of temperatures which frustrated me so much! I actually just recently started using an oven thermometer. I got it so the temperature is accurate for my ensaymada (for my food business)."

- Ange Saulo, owner of Cake Twinkles

Tip: Before starting any recipe, it's always a good idea to read the recipe completely. You may even want to read it a few times just so you understand what the recipe requires of you. That's how you know if you need to preheat the oven at a certain temperature before you start putting the ingredients together, that the baking sheet should be lined with parchment paper, or that the dough needs to be chilled before forming into balls. 

Just like Ange discovered, an oven thermometer is important because few ovens are as accurate as one would hope. When the temperature is critical, an oven thermometer will ensure that everything you're baking is being baked at the right temperature. 

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Washed Away The Blood

"One fateful day, the usual cook at home was on a vacation, it was up to me or my mom-both inexperienced at cooking-to prepare lunch. I found ingredients for spaghetti. I chopped the onion and garlic. Rinsed the hotdog and ran water through the ground beef. (I don't like the smell of raw meat.) I waited until the water cleaned the meat of blood. My mother walked in and was horrified that I washed the ground beef. She warned me that it might have lost its taste. I wrung out the water from the ground beef in a towel. Then, I started to cook the spaghetti. I put it all together in the pan with the red tomato sauce. Cooked and ready to serve, the spaghetti looked like it had beef sprinkles."

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- Ericka Villarta, network operations of Docomo Pacific

Tip: It's always best to purchase meat from a trusted butcher, so getting to know your neighborhood butcher, whether in the wet market or the supermarket, is a great idea. This way, you know where your meat comes from and are assured of its quality. 

Meanwhile, it used to be common practice to wash meats from the market but unless it looks physically dirty, there's no need to wash meat and this includes chicken. What you can do if you're particularly wary is to gently boil your meat in water for at least 15 minutes then throw out the water then continue to cook the meat as directed in your recipe.              

 

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Kitchen Gadget Mishap 

"I was interning at the Fireplace at the (then) Hyatt Hotel Manila. I was assigned in the cold kitchen, and it was where the desserts, salads, and many of the prep work for the dinner crowd was done. This included a lot of chopping fruits and vegetables, whisking salad dressings, and even torching the meringue of the Baked Alaska. I remember I was in charge of shucking 30 fresh oysters every day. Because of the nature of shucking, I always wore a metal glove provided by the hotel to ensure that I never poked or sliced myself with my oyster knife. Thankfully, I never did. What I did do was slice my hand while using the mandoline for a big dinner event happening one night. I had to ask permission to go to the clinic to staunch the cut since it was bleeding pretty badly. I had to wear a glove over a heavy bandage for the rest of the night."

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- Roselle Miranda, food editor of Yummy.ph

TIP: Any tool that slices, dices, and cuts need to be handled with care, so take the necessary precautions and prevent injuring yourself when using sharp gadgets in the kitchen. When you do accidentally cut yourself, clean the wound immediately and apply first aid or visit a clinic if necessary.  

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