JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

They may be funny, but stock photos can teach us a few very important kitchen lessons.

Elizabeth Laseter
May 17, 2018

Stock photos. They help websites everywhere illustrate stories (and frankly, our jobs would be much tougher without them). However, for every great-looking stock photo out there, there are plenty of oddballs. Some are genuinely hilarious, while others are just plain bizarre.  

Yes, stock photos can be pretty ridiculous—and you’d probably never think that they could also serve as valuable teaching tools, especially when it comes to cooking. How? Because sometimes, seeing what you shouldn’t do in the kitchen is the most effective way to learn what you should do. The thing is, you may not even know that something is wrong (though in some of these, you probably would)—but to a well-trained chef, they just look like trouble.

Below, find 10 cooking-themed stock photos, courtesy of Getty Images, that are problematic. We’ve identified the main issue in each one, and some thoughts on what to do instead.

We hope they make you smile and we hope they impart a little culinary wisdom, but most importantly of all—please don’t replicate any of these photos at home!

Stock Photo #1: Woman is cutting parsley on the cutting board

fatihhoca / Getty Images

The Issue: We’re begging this lady. Please, please—put your knife down immediately. What’s wrong? She’s resting her index finger on top of the knife, a position that gives her virtually zero control while using it. This is a very dangerous (and awkward) way to hold a knife, and you’re much more likely to cut yourself if you do it.

The Fix: Pinch the base of blade between your thumb and forefinger on your dominant hand, then grip the knife handle with your other three fingers. This way, you’ll have much greater control, and you’ll be able to make precise cuts.

Watch Test Kitchen Director Katie Barreira demonstrate the correct way to hold a knife in this video.

Stock Photo #2: Women’s hands preparing lunch

wihteorchid / Getty Images

The Issue: Oof. We fear for those generic stock photo hands. See how the lady is holding the cucumber with her left hand—the tips of her left fingers are completely exposed to the knife, meaning she could easily slice through them if she’s not careful.

The Fix: Hold the knife with your dominant hand, and use the other hand to guide it while you chop. Cup your hand over the food and curl your fingertips in towards your palm. Use the flat space between the first and second joint on your fingers to guide your knife as you slice through food. This gives you greater control and it also helps you make a smooth, rhythmic motion with your knife.

Culinary legend Jacques Pépin describes the motion as such: “Grab the knife—and glue it to your finger.” Watch him demonstrate the best way to chop veggies here.  

Stock Photo #3: Whole roasted chicken on carving board

gwenael le vot / Getty Images

The Issue: To whoever is holding that knife—go ahead, keep slicing your beautifully roasted bird like that. Just do it. You’re about to leave a trove of perfectly good breast meat on the carcass (and this is just wasteful!).    

The Fix: Remove the breasts from the bone first, instead of slicing pieces off the carcass. This way, you’ll get more meat from the chicken—and any bird for that matter. Once you’ve removed them, place the breasts on a cutting board and slice with a super sharp knife. Want to see this step in action? Watch Test Kitchen Professional Adam Hickman carve a turkey (the right way) here.

Stock Photo #4: Sauteed summer and zucchini squash in a frying pan

MSPhotographic / Getty Images

The Issue: Here’s a great way to saute veggies—cram as many as you can in your skillet, crank up the heat, and fry away. Just kidding. Please don’t do this. Overcrowding your skillet makes food steam, instead of sear, meaning you’ll end up with the mushy mess in the photo.  

The Fix: When sauteing vegetables or meat, use a larger skillet than you’ll think you need. Make sure your food has plenty of space to spread out in the pan, otherwise it will never develop a crispy outer texture and golden-brown color.

Stock Photo #5: Smiling man on the phone chopping vegetables in the kitchen

Westend61 / Getty Images

The Issue: Is this really the best time for this guy to call up his friends? And what on earth is he looking at? We may never know the answers, but we do know this—multitasking while handling a knife is just plain unsafe!

The Fix: When you’re using a knife, don’t try to do five other tasks at the same time. Your lack of attention could land you in the ER for stitches. Focus on the food that you’re slicing or dicing, and please—wait until afterwards to catch up with your friends.  

Stock Photo #6: Funny cooking image of woman crying and screaming in kitchen

ariwasabi / Getty Images

The Issue: We’ve all been there—you planned to cook something a little ambitious for dinner, but it’s not going quite as planned. Nothing tastes right, you forgot to buy half of the ingredients, and your hungry kids are beating their fists on the table.

The Fix: If your recipe isn’t going as planned or if it isn’t tasting quite right, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, taste your food, and think about the flavors. Ask yourself how you can adjust the ingredients (or what you might need to add) to make the dish taste better. If you’re stumped, read our helpful guide: How to Taste—and Adjust Dishes Like a Pro.

Stock Photo #7: A dishwasher with knives sticking dangerously point side up

Ragnar Schmuck / Getty Images

The Issue: Yes, this is a poorly loaded dishwasher—but there’s another problem that’s far worse. Kitchen knives, especially nice ones, have no place in the dishwasher. Your knife is likely to be jostled around while the dishwasher runs, plus abrasive dishwasher detergent can dull the blade over time.

The Fix: Hand wash your knives with dish soap and hot water, dry them with a towel, then store them in a safe place.  

Stock Photo #8: Woman looking at burnt food in cooking pot

AndreyPopov / Getty Images

The Issue: Your pot catches on fire while you’re cooking. What do you do? Well, you definitely don't grab the flaming pot WITH YOUR BARE HANDS.

The Fix: Unlike this woman, stay calm—and do NOT try to grab a pot that’s on fire. For small grease fires, the National Fire Protection Association recommends turning off the stovetop heat immediately and covering the pot with a metal lid. (This cuts off the fire’s oxygen supply and should quell the flames.) If you don’t have a lid, you can pour baking soda over the flames. Likewise, for oven fires, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Use the fire extinguisher as a last resort—and if this doesn’t put the fire out, then get outside and call 9-11!

Stock Photo #9: Chef

filadendron / Getty Images

The Issue: You invited your friends over for a dinner party tonight, but you’ve waited until the last minute to cook—so you hire a caterer to handle the food for you. You struggle to find someone last minute, but you manage to book some chef with a cheap hourly rate.

Unfortunately, this guy shows up at your front door. (If only you’d thought about this yesterday!)

The Fix: If you’re throwing a dinner party, avoid a last minute scramble and make a plan in advance. Decide what foods you can prep or cook the day before—and what must wait until the last minute. For example, if you’re serving a salad, you can make the vinaigrette and wash the lettuce ahead of time. If you’re making homemade quiche, you can pre-bake the crust in the morning, then pop it in the oven when your guests arrive in the evening.

Stock Photo #10: Clueless guy chopping lettuce

OlafSpeier / Getty Images

The Issue: Hedge clippers. Really?

The Fix: Obviously, hedge clippers are a poor choice for chopping lettuce, but that’s not the lesson here. Different tasks require different kitchen knives—and you’ll be much more effective at your prep work when you know how to choose the right one. For slicing and dicing most foods, a sharp chef’s knife will get the job done. A long serrated knife helps you saw through larger foods such as a head of lettuce or a whole pineapple. For peeling smaller fruit and vegetables, a paring knife gives you the most control.   

Stock Photo #11: Muscular man with raw meat

RossHelen / Getty Images

The Issue: We hope this guy’s hands are clean.  

The Fix: Before you handle raw meat, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water beforehand (or use a pair of tongs if you prefer not to touch it). Secondly, if you’re planning to grill, saute, stir fry, deep fry, or cook using any other high-heat method—dress accordingly! At the very least, wear a shirt to protect your arms and chest area.

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