5 Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Meat on the Stovetop

It took me a long time to get over feeling intimidated by cooking meat on the stovetop. For a while, I simply avoided it, and then in learning I made my share of mistakes along the way. But with the right tips to guide you, the stovetop is one of the quickest, easiest ways to cook delicious chicken, beef, and pork.

Here are the five most common mistakes that are made when cooking meat, plus our best tips on how to avoid them!

1. Adding meat to the pan too soon.

Barely heating the pan, or worse yet, adding protein to a cold pan is an all too common mistake, and one that will lead to meat sticking to the surface. A piping hot pan is also necessary to get a nice, deep sear on your meat.

Follow this tip: Add a thin layer of oil to the bottom of a stainless steel or cast iron pan. Heat the oil until it’s very hot and you see ripples, but not so hot that it’s smoking. Then, add the meat. And if you’re cooking skin-on chicken, be sure to place it in the pan skin-side down.

2. Flipping meat too soon.

If you’ve ever made this mistake you’ve likely been met with a piece of meat that sticks to the bottom of the pan. Your pork chops or steak need the right amount of time to cook in order to develop that nice crust that makes them so great.

Follow this tip: Let meat cook until it has a deep-colored sear, or until the breading is deep golden brown. If you think the meat is ready, nudge it or lift one of the corners. If it doesn’t stick it’s ready to flip. The meat will release when it’s ready.

3. Moving the meat around the pan too much.

It’s so tempting to flip, poke and move the meat around the pan while it’s cooking, I know. But, resist the urge! Aside from flipping meat to cook each side, it doesn’t need to be moved around.

Follow this tip: Leave the meat be and let it cook. Aside from flipping it so that each side is cooked, it doesn’t need to be moved around the pan.

4. Using too-low heat.

Have you been cooking meat over low or even medium-low heat because you’re afraid of burning it or smoking up your kitchen? You’re not alone; this is a common mistake. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up! It’s essential for getting a good sear on your meat.

Follow this tip: For a great sear, com meat over medium-high heat. Add the meat once the pan is nice and hot.

5. Cooking meat straight from the refrigerator.

Moving meat straight from the fridge to the stovetop (or even the oven) can result in uneven cooking. Because the food is cold, you end up with meat that’s overdone on the outside and undercooked inside.

Follow this tip: Let meat stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking. This will help you get an even temperature all the way through.

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