50 Ways You're Ruining Breakfast & Don't Know It
Not all cliches are true, but "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" sure is! Starting the day with a healthy meal gets your metabolism going and puts you on track to continue a healthy eating pattern throughout the day. (How many of us have skipped breakfast only to arrive at work starving and reach for a sweet treat like a donut?)
Of course, as with anything else in the kitchen, plenty of things can go awry when you're making breakfast—and no one wants to start off the day on the wrong foot by having your omelet stick to the pan or by overcooking your eggs. Ahead are 50 common breakfast mistakes and how to fix each of them. And whatever you do, be sure to avoid these 45 Breakfast Habits Making You Gain Weight.
Mistake: Overcooking your eggs
Max Hardy, chef and owner of Coop Detroit, says that one of the most common ways people can ruin breakfast is by overcooking their eggs, especially scrambled eggs. "People think scrambling eggs is a long process but don't realize it's a 30-second task," says Hardy.
How to fix it: Hardy's advice is to start with a hot pan and have all your mise en place, ready to go. Have some hold butter out, your eggs already whipped, and a rubber spatula. "Place your eggs in a hot pan and slowly scramble, adding your room temperature butter," he says. "Finish with a dash of kosher salt and white pepper and some of your favorite cheese."
And for more cooking tips, here's How to Properly Fry an Egg Without Destroying the Yolk.
Mistake: Cracking all of your eggs in the same bowl
Cracking all the eggs in the same bowl can result in a mix of spoiled eggs and stray shells, says Palak Patel, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education.
How to fix it: "Use a smaller bowl to crack one egg at a time," Patel says. This way you'll be able to catch stray shells and get rid of any spoiled eggs.
Still confused? This Is the Flawless Egg-Cracking Technique You're Not Doing.
Mistake: Cooking bacon on the stovetop
Cooking bacon on the stovetop can result in grease splattering all over the stove, Patel cautions.
How to fix it: Instead, Patel recommends cooking bacon in the oven. Place it on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath and cook it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
And whatever you do, be sure to avoid these 20 Things You Should Never Do When Cooking Bacon.
Mistake: Over-mixing pancake batter
"Pancake batter has flour, and overmixing it can cause the gluten to activate," says Patel. This results in tough pancakes.
How to fix it: For fluffy pancakes, mix the batter until ingredients are just combined, Patel advises. When you're adding leaveners, rest the batter for only five minutes before cooking.
Mistake: Using the average syrup, rather than maple syrup
Patel recommends avoiding common syrups, which have artificial ingredients and flavorings.
How to fix it: Use pure maple syrup instead. "There's no comparison between the two," says Patel.
Not sure what brand to buy? This Delicious Maple Syrup from Trader Joe's Only Has Two Ingredients.
Mistake: Putting too much oil in hash browns
"It's common to want to add a lot of oil for crispier hash browns, but too much oil makes them soggy," says Patel.
How to fix it: Using clarified butter and a larger surface area is the key to extra-crispy potatoes, Patel explains. She also notes that it's important to use the right potato—waxy russet potatoes are the best. "If making [hash browns] from scratch, grate potatoes, rinse extra starch, and season well," she says.
If you're using frozen hash brown potatoes, make sure you don't overcrowd the pan, because doing so can create extra moisture.
Mistake: Making omelets that stick to the pan
Not using a properly seasoned carbon-steel or non-stick pan will cause the omelet to stick to the pan and become a scramble instead, Patel says.
How to fix it: "Start with oil or butter in the pan, then pour in the egg mixture and use a spatula to move the eggs around the pan," says Patel. When the eggs form a shape that looks like a scramble, tilt the pan and use the spatula to move around excess liquid so it can cook. Then gently fold the omelet onto itself once or twice based on the thickness and filling of the omelet.
Mistake: Not using heat properly
Rebekah Ziesmer, development chef at Conagra Brands, says a common mistake is not using heat properly. Don't put the heat too high when making pancakes and french toast, she advises.
How to fix it: Preheat the griddle, spray with PAM between each batch, and wait until thoroughly cooked on one side for easy flipping, instructs Ziesmer. "Both the pan and the oil should be heated before adding the food so that it sears, rather than soaking up the oil," she says.
Mistake: Using a ladle to make pancakes
Don't use a ladle when making pancakes, says John Adler, vice president of culinary at Blue Apron. It can result in drips down the side and measuring cups caked with batter.
How to fix it: Use a squeeze bottle instead. "[It's] easy to manage, easy to maintain, and a great (and safe way) to bring your kids over to the stove," says Adler.
And if you're whipping up some flapjacks, here are 13 Common Pancake Mistakes—and How to Fix Them.
Mistake: Putting milk in your scrambled eggs
Adler says that putting milk in your scrambled eggs is a common mistake that makes the eggs runny and cook unevenly.
How to fix it: "Beat your eggs well with salt and then add in a couple of knobs of cold butter into the bowl right before you add them to the pan," says Adler. Regardless of whether you like a soft scramble or a harder one, the cold butter slows down the cooking a bit and makes the eggs extra creamy. If you want to get fancy, Adler recommends adding a teaspoon of creme fraiche or sour cream right at the end.
Mistake: Serving eggs to a large group
Attention cooks with large households: You'll lose your mind if you try to keep scrambled eggs warm or make 15 perfect individual omelets, Adler warns.
How to fix it: "Make a frittata instead," he says. "[It's] so much easier to deal with." A frittata is best eaten at room temperature and can even be made the day before.
Mistake: Cooking breakfast sausages raw from a pan
Cooking breakfast sausages raw in a pan is both difficult and messy to clean off the stove, says Adler.
How to fix it: Adler recommends boiling the sausages until they're cooked through, then crisping them nicely in a pan for just a minute so you don't lose that perfect snap.
Mistake: Using the wrong bread for French toast
When it comes to making French toast, Allison Robicelli, chef and writer at The Takeout, says not all bread is created equal. Using a thin cut bread can result in underwhelming French toast.
How to fix it: "French toast really needs a thick cut bread that's strong enough to stand up to being soaked in custard, and it should always be partially dried out," says Robicelli. If you only have sliced white bread, she recommends toasting a few slices, stacking them three-high, and then smearing a little cream cheese, peanut butter, or jam in between to help them stick together.
Mistake: Not letting pancake batter sit
Robicelli says that if you don't allow pancake batter to sit, its flour won't hydrate and soak up all the moisture from the milk and eggs, which is what makes pancakes fluffy.
How to fix it: For the best results, Robicelli recommends making your batter the night before, then letting it hang out in the fridge. "Don't worry about it coming to room temperature first," she says. "You can scoop straight from the fridge to the pan."
Mistake: Not using a scoop when making pancakes
"Pouring batter with a measuring cup, or, worse, using spoons, always makes a giant mess and gives you inconsistent pancakes," says Robicelli.
How to fix it: Go to an online restaurant supply store and buy a few "dishers," Robicelli suggests. Dishers are what non-restaurant folks may call ice cream scoops. "In the biz, these are used to make perfect portions of cookie dough, biscuits, side dishes, and, yes, pancakes," she says.
Mistake: Eating unhealthy prepackaged foods
Jessica Randhawa, the head chef, recipe creator, photographer, and writer behind The Forked Spoon, says eating prepackaged foods is never ideal, but it's especially unhealthy at breakfast time. They contain high amounts of sugar and salt and lack fiber.
How to fix it: If you're perpetually rushed in the morning, learn some quick and easy breakfast recipes that you can prepare the night before, and keep healthy breakfast foods on hand.
Mistake: Not eating protein at breakfast
Randhawa says another common mistake is eating a breakfast that doesn't contain any protein, which can result in having a bigger appetite later in the day.
Mistake: Not eating enough unsaturated fats
It's also important to eat unsaturated fats early in the day, says Randhawa.
Mistake: Thinking breakfast food has to be "traditional" breakfast food
Sarah Adler, a chef, nutrition coach, and best-selling cookbook author, says that breakfast food doesn't have to be "traditional" fare like eggs, toast, and cereal. In fact, mixing it up a bit can be a good thing.
How to fix it: Adler says that more savory (and just as filling) options like veggie or lentil soups, smoked salmon, bean salads, and tuna or chicken salads are all great options. She notes that a bonus is these foods "keep you full longer and are much more nutrient-dense [compared to] some of the more classic sugary options."
Mistake: Eating breakfast immediately, even if you're not hungry
We all know it's the most important meal of the day, but Adler says that if you don't wake up hungry, there's no need to eat breakfast right away.
How to fix it: If you don't wake up hungry, Adler recommends starting the day with a big glass of water and then drinking your coffee (if you're a coffee drinker). Then check in with yourself and prepare a healthy breakfast.
You can't go wrong with one of these 19 High Protein Breakfasts That Keep You Full.
Mistake: Eating only one flavor profile
How to fix it: "Go sweet and savory," says Blau. Either do some baking yourself, or pick up muffins, scones, or croissants from your local bakery. "Doubling as a sensational start or a sweet finish, these treats are an absolute must," she says.
Mistake: Not grinding your coffee to suit your taste
Laura Olsson of Johan's Joe, a Swedish coffee shop and café in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida, says that some people grind their coffee beans fresh at home before brewing their cup of coffee. However, it can take some experimentation before you figure out the right grinding strategy for your taste. For example, grinding coffee beans finer pulls out a stronger flavor, but it can also add a bitter taste.
How to fix it: "Finding the perfect grind takes time," says Olsson. "Play around with it until you find the perfect taste for you."
Mistake: Storing your coffee beans in the wrong place
Olsson says it's important to store your coffee beans in a place that doesn't expose the beans to oxygen. A common mistake is storing coffee beans in the fridge or freezer.
How to fix it: "Keep your coffee beans in a cool and dry place and in [its] original packaging," Olsson says. She explains that fridges and freezers create too much moisture in the bags, so beans shouldn't be stowed in either place.
"If you drink coffee daily, taking the coffee in and out of the fridge or freezer every day changes the temperature too much, creating that extra moisture," says Olsson. Instead, store the beans in an airtight container, or (once opened) in original packaging with a clip on it and then placed in a Ziploc bag.
Mistake: Drinking fruit smoothies or juice
Mariko Amekodommo, a celebrity chef and Ayurvedic food coach, says that morning fruit smoothie or glass of juice isn't as healthy as you may think it is. "When you 'drink' fruits or vegetables, the saliva isn't produced and the smoothie can't get digested," she says. "This leads to the fruits fermenting (like alcohol) and can cause immediate bloating and discomfort."
How to fix it: Make sure your breakfast includes fruits and vegetables that you actually chew, because the saliva contains the enzymes to properly break them down. Plus, smoothies are often super-high in sugar, which isn't the best way to start your day.
Mistake: Not washing your fruit before you eat it
Whether you're juicing an orange or adding fresh berries to your yogurt, you'll want to wash the fruit off with water before you eat it, to get rid of any bacteria.
How to fix it: Give all of your produce a quick rinse! Here are 13 Foods You're Not Washing But Should Be.
Mistake: Not having a balanced breakfast
Hugh Acheson, a chef who has partnered with Maple Canada, says a common mistake is grabbing whatever is easiest or skipping breakfast altogether. "'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is a cliché for a reason. It's important to eat a balanced breakfast that fuels your body and your brain," says Acheson.
How to fix it: Make sure that your breakfast contains both protein and carbs. Pure maple syrup, which is made primarily of carbohydrates, is an easy way to add carbs to your breakfast. Acheson recommends drizzling it on Greek yogurt or adding it to oatmeal.
Mistake: Not preparing ahead of time
A common reason for skipping breakfast is convenience. If you're rushing to start work or a workout, you might not have time to make yourself a healthy meal.
How to fix it: "Smoothies and parfaits are easy breakfasts that you can prepare the night before and take with you on your way to work," says Acheson. He recommends the Banana Bread Smoothie from Maple from Canada. Here's how to make it:
2 bananas, peeled and cut in pieces
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup ice
- Combine bananas, almond milk, yogurt, oats, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon in a blender and puree until smooth.
- Add ice and puree until smooth.
Mistake: Not poaching eggs correctly
Chef Cary Taylor of RealGood Farm Box says that a common mistake when poaching eggs is not cracking them into a fine-mesh strainer first.
How to fix it: Taylor explains that by cracking the eggs into a strainer, it gets rid of the thin, watery part of the white and leaves nothing but the good part that surrounds the yolk.
"After that, make sure you control the temperature and—believe it or not—that's the easy part!" says Taylor. "Just bring a pot of water to a boil and then turn it off. This will be a perfect temperature to gently drop the drained eggs into one at a time."
Mistake: Not buying thick bacon
Chris Royster, executive chef and partner at Flagstaff House Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, says to always buy thick-cut bacon, which will cook better than its thinner counterparts.
How to fix it: Splurge for the thick-cut bacon! "That way, you'll get that crisp outside, and nice, chewy, meaty inside," Royster previously said to Eat This, Not That.
Mistake: Not leaving eggs in their carton
A common mistake is storing eggs wrong by removing them from their cartons. Even if you're getting your eggs from a local farm, they should still be stored in an egg carton.
How to fix it: Use an egg carton, no matter what! "Eggs can actually absorb odors via their shells from other foods. So if you're not storing them in an egg carton, you'll want to keep them away from strong-smelling foods like seafood," Brent Hudson, executive chef of Hole in the Wall NYC, previously told Eat This, Not That.
Now that you know how to store them, try using those eggs in one of our 72 Healthy Egg Recipes.
Mistake: Overlooking seasoning
Eggs and bacon are both made better with seasoning. You spent all that money on thick-cut bacon—you might as well season it!
How to fix it: Spices like coriander and paprika are great for bacon and eggs, or you can use brown sugar to make candied bacon.
Mistake: Not rinsing quinoa[/slide title]
Substituting quinoa for oats in your morning meal is a great way to add some protein to your day. But you should always rinse quinoa before you cook it to make sure it's free of any surface bacteria.
How to fix it: Use a strainer and running water to give your quinoa a quick wash. (The same is true for rice, too!)
[slidetitle num="33"]Mistake: Only eating egg whites
You're missing out on a lot of nutrients (and deliciousness) if you don't eat egg yolks! Egg yolks contain choline, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
How to fix it: Enjoy those eggs for breakfast, yolk and all.
Mistake: Not adding vegetables to your meal
Yes, fruit is more traditional when it comes to breakfast. But do you really want to deprive yourself of the chance to jump-start your day with a nutrient-rich meal? There are plenty of delicious ways to add veggies into your breakfast, from putting them into an egg scramble to enjoying them roasted as a side dish.
How to fix it: Get creative and find ways to make your breakfast plate a bit more comfortable. Your body will thank you!
Mistake: Thinking granola is always healthy
Granola may have a "health halo," but that doesn't mean it's always good for you. Many store-bought versions are loaded with added sugar.
How to fix it: Stick with one of The World's 10 Healthiest Granolas.
Mistake: Prepping overnight oats too far in advance
Overnight oats are safe to make up to four days in advance, but you shouldn't leave them in the fridge for longer than that. Any leftovers shouldn't be kept in the fridge for more than four days, and the oats will only get soggier as each day passes.
How to fix it: They're called overnight oats for a reason—make them the night before, not the weekend before you plan to eat them.
Mistake: Not meal prepping
As we've said, time is a huge factor when it comes to not eating a healthy breakfast. But you can make things easier by prepping your food ahead of time!
How to fix it: Chop up some fresh veggies for scrambled eggs, assemble overnight oats, or make frozen oatmeal cups. You'll never be pressed for time in the mornings again!
Mistake: Seasoning eggs before you cook them
Yes, you'll want to season your scrambled eggs. But don't add salt before they're cooked! "Adding salt in before the cooking process will break down the eggs and result in a watery scramble," Hudson previously said to Eat This, Not That.
How to fix it: Add salt and pepper to your scrambled eggs after they're cooked.
Mistake: Eating oatmeal without added protein
Yes, oatmeal can be a healthy way to start your day. But it can be a carb-heavy meal if you don't add protein or fat to it.
How to fix it: Try adding protein powder or peanut butter to your oatmeal to make sure you're getting all the necessary macronutrients.
Mistake: Cooking pancakes at the wrong temperature
You don't want to put your griddle on too high or too low when you're making flapjacks. If the heat is too high, your pancakes will be burnt on the outside and still raw on the inside.
How to fix it: Use medium heat when you're making pancakes.
Mistake: Not saving your bacon grease
Vegetables like zucchini and asparagus are delicious cooked in bacon grease! That's one delicious way to add some green to your morning plate.
How to fix it: Use your bacon grease to cook vegetables and eggs, or save it in the fridge to use in a later recipe.
Mistake: Using bagged shredded cheese
Sure, pre-shredded cheese is convenient. But if you have time to get out the cheese grater and prepare your own shredded cheese for omelets or breakfast casseroles, the result will taste WAY better, we promise.
How to fix it: Buy a block of cheese and shred it.
Mistake: Overcrowding the pan
When you're cooking something like bacon, you want there to be a little room to flip the slices and for everything to cook evenly.
How to fix it: Don't crowd your cooking pan, even if that means your breakfast-making process will take a bit longer.
Mistake: Not considering savory oatmeal
Sure, you could top your oats with berries and peanut butter. But savory oatmeal is a thing, too, and it's just as delicious.
How to fix it: Try adding veggies or even sausage to your oatmeal and topping it off with a fried egg. You can't go wrong with these 20 Savory Oatmeal Recipes.
Mistake: Only eating avocado toast
Avocado toast is delicious, especially when topped with a fried egg. But there are so many other ways to enjoy toasted bread!
How to fix it: Try one of these 15 Toast Recipe Ideas That Go Beyond Basic Avocado.
Mistake: Using metal tools to make scrambled eggs
If you're cooking in a nonstick pan, you should use plastic or rubber cooking tools. Metal will scratch the pan, and it won't be the most effective for keeping eggs from sticking, either.
How to fix it: Using a rubber spatula will help you scrape the eggs off the pan with ease.
Mistake: Skipping the splatter screen
Yes, we think bacon is better when you cook it in the oven. But if you still prefer to make bacon on the stovetop, you should invest in a splatter screen. The last thing you want is to get burned by hot grease while you're making your morning meal.
How to fix it: Splatter screens are inexpensive and will keep you safe (and keep your kitchen clean).
Mistake: Not letting meat to come to room temperature
Whether you're frying up some bacon slices or preparing a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, you'll want the meat to come to room temperature before it hits the pan.
How to fix it: Let your meat rest outside the fridge for about 15 minutes before you cook it.
Mistake: Not using fresh eggs
Poaching eggs is a lot easier with fresh eggs! You'll be less likely to get those strings of egg whites floating in the water.
How to fix it: Try the float test to make sure your eggs are fresh. Put your eggs in a bowl of water—the ones that sink to the bottom are the freshest.
Mistake: Not cooking bacon with oil
Bacon releases that delicious grease as it cooks, but that doesn't mean you should toss it straight onto the pan.
How to fix it: A little oil will go a long way in keeping your bacon from sticking to the pan.