10 Annoying Things Only a Home Cook Understands

Despite our best intentions, our perfectly planned meals and dishes can be completely derailed by forces seemingly beyond our control. Arghh! Here's a rundown of the worst.

Woman Looking In Oven And Covering Eyes Over Disastrous MealPhoto: Shutterstock / SpeedKingz
Photo: Shutterstock / SpeedKingz

“Is it just me, or…” No, it isn’t just you! Home cooks all across the land encounter those aggravating moments when their efforts to prepare an amazing dish or meal are completely undone. My fellow Field Editors helped compile this list of the most annoying home cook problems.

1. When we set it and really forget it.

Call it a senior moment, a brain glitch, whatever you like, but sometimes we are our own worst enemies! Like the day you come home from work and find a cold, uncooked dinner because you never turned on the slow cooker. Or driving to the store to get a crucial recipe ingredient and you come home without the ingredient you went for. Norlene Trice of Weeki Wachee, Florida, recalls that, after an especially long day at work, she once picked up some fried chicken for dinner and remembered after she got home, “I already had a roast in the slow cooker.”

2. When your guests have secret food preferences or allergies.

Nothing vexes a home cook quite as much as finding out (at the very last minute!) that your guests can’t eat what you made for them! Whether because of a food allergy or a dietary preference, you are left to frantically scour the fridge and pantry for something—anything—to serve them. Or worse, you have to make a last-minute run to the store. Lori Stefanishion of Drumheller, Alberta, found out on the eve of Thanksgiving that two guests coming the next day were vegans. (You can be prepared with this vegan-friendly dessert and these allergysensitive treats.)

3. When “just a sec” becomes hours.

When a quick trip ends up being hours long, it can feel like the universe is plotting against you, especially if you left food simmering on the stovetop or roasting in the oven. Suddenly, your perfectly crafted dish is lost, thanks to a traffic back-up or car breakdown, which is what happened to Rita Sumers of Niagara Falls, New York. “My steak and potatoes,” she recalls, “were charcoal briquettes in the oven.”

4. When your loved ones get too helpful.

It’s so sweet and considerate when our loved ones try to help us out but, despite their best intentions, only end up making more work. Like when your hubby unloads the dishwasher and then you can’t find dishes and utensils for days afterward. Or when your kids help wash the dishes and leave food stuck all over them. When Helen Nelander of Boulder Creek, California, sent her husband to the store to get cottage cheese for her lasagna recipe, he returned with the tiniest container she had ever seen. “I laugh now,” she says, “but at the time it felt like sabotage.”

5. When your guests would make Miss Manners cringe.

One thing home cooks cannot control is the etiquette (or lack thereof) of their guests, and there was a chorus of complaints about Thanksgiving dinner guests. One Field Editor (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) told how she was expecting a friend and her family for the holiday dinner. The friend showed up alone and yet expected she could take home dishes of food for the family members who had bailed. Another had prepared a huge meal, but her guests wouldn’t eat it because they were “saving themselves” for another friend’s dinner later that day. Bad manners don’t just happen on holidays: Yet a third Field Editor once had a dinner guest who stole all the bacon off the top of the potato salad!

6. When your kids are beyond fickle.

We love them, but boy they can be fussy! We’ve all been there with children who, despite our culinary genius, will eat nothing but chicken tenders and boxed mac and cheese. And, as Allison Ochoa of Hays, Kansas, shared, just when you think you’ve figured them out and cook them what they love, suddenly they say, “I haaaaate this!”

7. When an ingredient is MIA.

You think you have everything you need to start cooking, and then suddenly you have an ingredient emergency! Expired baking powder, only one egg left in the carton, potatoes with strange things growing out of them. Or learning that the ingredients you bought especially for the recipe have been eaten by your family. Having chocolate seize up during melting was a frustration shared by several Field Editors, especially when you’re just about to dip those strawberries! (Don’t let this happen to you; check out these tips.)

8. When you can’t get past Step 1.

This is another way that home cooks sometimes seal their own fate. This time you did remember to turn on the slow cooker…but it wasn’t plugged in. You put the chicken in the oven only to find an hour later that the oven was never turned on. Joan Hallford of North Richland Hills, Texas, once found an intriguing recipe online that called for daiquiri mix. She bought the mix, but then could not figure out where she had seen the recipe. “I never could find the recipe again until at least five years later.”

9. When your reading comprehension goes down the drain.

Sometimes you can read a recipe all the way through two or three times and still miss something. When she was first learning to cook, Bonnie Hawkins of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, remembers trying to make pancakes from a box mix, but a missed step in the directions left her with a dry, crumbly mess. Seasoned cooks are guilty of it, too: As she began making dinner one time, Hallford discovered that she had missed the step of marinating the meat for 24 hours. Oops!

10. When Murphy’s Law kicks in on a holiday.

These events seem to happen at the worst possible times. Darlene Brenden of Salem, Oregon, lost all electric power to her home just one hour after placing the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven, and had nothing for the table but a partially cooked turkey. Susan Kieboam of Streetsboro, Ohio, was making Easter dinner when the glass in her oven door shattered all over the kitchen floor. And perhaps the scariest tale I heard was from Angela Lively of Conroe, Texas, who woke up one morning to find a note from her husband that the coffee pot was broken and unusable. A morning with no coffee is a fate no home cook would wish on anyone.

We hope you won’t find yourself facing one of these challenges for a while, but the next time you do, remember: You are not alone!

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.