6 Things Grandma Did In The Kitchen That You Should Definitely Avoid

Not all of granny's rules have stood the test of time.

January 8, 2018
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mischievous grandma
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Grandma knows best…except when it comes to the kitchen. Nana may have cooked with love, but she didn’t always cook with the best ingredients (cough, Jell-O), techniques (boiling isn’t always best) or nutritional know-how (margarine isn’t better than butter). By all means take her love and dating advice, but when it comes to cooking, grandma’s wisdom can be out of whack. Here, we rounded up Nana’s common kitchen mistakes—and how to fix them.

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sad kid eating veggies
Anna Bizon/getty
1
Boiling Veggies To Mush

It’s true that cooking veggies can increase certain nutrients. Cooked tomatoes have higher levels of lycopene while cooking carrots can increase carotenoids. (Here are more vegetables that are healthier when cooked.) But broccoli is a different story. Cooking the florets leaches water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and folate, as well as cancer-fighting glucosinates—especially if you boil it beyond recognition. But even worse, overcooking veggies boils away any flavor and crunch. Case in point: Grandma’s soggy cauliflower.

Modern advice

Eat veggies a variety of ways—raw, steamed, roasted, grilled—and if boiling, only cook to al dente (not too crispy, not too tender).

Related: 11 Women Share The Best Advice Their Grandmothers Ever Gave Them

margarine
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2
Putting Margarine In Everything

That tub of bright orange butter replacement was all the rage during the depression because it was cheaper and more available than butter, and thought to be better for you. It is lower in cholesterol and saturated fats, after all. No wonder grandma layered it on toast and tucked it into everything from cookies to icing. But margarine has a dirty little secret: it’s packed with trans fats, which have a negative effect on cholesterol—and no way does it taste better in baked goods.

Modern advice

Butter trumps margarine, but there are healthier and tastier alternatives. Top your toast with avocado or nut butters, and use grass-fed butter whenever possible.

Related: Sure, Butter's Back In Favor Now, But What Does That Mean For The Planet?

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We hope you enjoy the products we're recommending as much as we do! Just so you know, Organic Life may get a share of sales from the links on this page.
 
jello
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3
Making Jell-O Salad

“Jell-O” and “salad” are two words that should never go together, yet grandma turned it into a showpiece, putting in things like cucumbers, grated carrots, pineapple, marshmallows, and even giving the wiggling-jiggling dish a name: Sunshine Salad. But the salad with the surprise inside is more science experiment than food, not to mention Jell-O itself contains icky artificial colors and flavors.

Modern advice

Make a wow salad by using out-of-the-box ingredients like arugula, radicchio, edamame, roasted butternut squash, avocado, peaches, and pine nuts. (Follow these 5 steps to an absolutely epic salad.)

eggs and bacon
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4
Always Cooking In Your Comfort Zone

Bacon and eggs for breakfast. A roast beef sandwich for lunch. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. Meat and potato-type dishes may have been grandma’s go-to, but cooking the same thing doesn’t expand your taste buds or your cooking know-how—and it means missing out on a galaxy of ingredients, cuisines, and cooking techniques.

Modern advice

To really experience the joy of cooking, venture beyond the Joy of Cooking. Expand your cooking and cookbook collection to include Russian food (Kachka) Middle Eastern (Taste of Persia), Thai (Night + Market), and Indian (Chai, Chaat & Chutney).

Related: 11 Cookbooks That Will Help You Achieve All Your Foodie Resolutions

spice rack
Jeffrey Coolidge/getty
5
Not Stocking Your Spice Rack

Grandma stocked sage for turkey stuffing, allspice for mincemeat pie, and ginger for cookies…and that was pretty much it. But limiting your spice rack limits your cooking. Crushed red pepper elevates roasted vegetables, cumin adds depth the Mexican and Indian dishes, paprika brings out the sweetness in tomato sauce, and turmeric brightens everything from curries to salad dressings—and that’s just the dried stuff. Fresh herbs, which are better to add at the end of cooking, elevate soup, pizza, salads, and salsa. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Modern advice

Expand your spice rack and grow an herb garden; your cooking will thank you.

Watch how to make a hanging herb garden:

 
 
meat packaged in styrofoam
Krug Studios/getty
6
Cooking Meat All Wrong

Oh man, meat might have been grandma’s biggest nemesis. She sure liked to cook it, but it’s not like the finished product had a rich, deep flavor. Her mistakes: Cooking steak straight from the fridge (meat cooks more evenly if you bring it to room temperature first), not getting the pan hot for a nice sear (caramelizing adds incredible depth of flavor), overcrowding the pan (no elbow room steams meat instead of roasting it), and sticking a fork in it to see when it’s done (this lets all the fat and flavor escape).

Modern advice

Always brown meat first and invest in a meat thermometer.

Related: 6 Healthiest Meats For You And The Planet