Solutions for Everyday Kitchen Mistakes

You can learn from your mistakes, but it may result in ugly cakes, calorie overloads, and even singed arm hair (ouch!).  Learn from our cooking, nutrition, grilling, and baking mistakes instead!

The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

Learn how to avoid these common mistakes for success every time.

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Avoid Burnt Chicken
Photo: John Autry

33. You Incinerate Chicken on the Grill

Result: Charred skin and rare meat in the thickest part of the breast.

Grilling bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts feels like it should be simple enough. Even experienced grillers often try to cook them entirely over direct heat, figuring it's just a matter of timing. At which point dripping fat causes flare-ups that engulf the breasts, charring the skin while the meat remains rare deep within. Yet perfectly grilled chicken—with crisp, browned skin and juicy, succulent meat—is relatively simple if you learn to manipulate the heat.

First, establish two temperature zones: Set one side of a gas grill to medium-high and the other to low, or build a fire on one side of a charcoal grill. (Make sure your grate is clean and oiled to prevent sticking.) Start the chicken skin-side up on the low- or no-heat side, and cover the grill. After a few minutes, when the chicken fat starts to render, flip the meat, skin-side down. Point the breasts' thicker ends toward the hot side to help them cook evenly. Cover and grill for about 25 minutes. When the meat is done (165° at the thickest part of the breast), crisp the skin on the hot side for a minute or two, moving it as needed to avoid flare-ups. Wait until the last few minutes to brush on barbecue sauce: The sugars in the sauce will char quickly.

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