5 student food disasters (and how to avoid them)

From burnt pasta to jacket spuds with the power to evacuate a building. Check out our top student food disasters and how to overcome them.

1) Burning pasta

Burnt spaghetti - this is what happens if you don't ease your pasta into the boiling water!

image source: www.just-eat.ie

Confession: ‘My flatmate had never cooked pasta before. She got a thick handful of spaghetti and plonked it down in a pan of boiling water, half submerged half sticking out from the water. She left the pan to boil and made no effort to ease the pasta fully into the water. The spaghetti that stuck out from the water was black from the heat.’

What they should have done: Fill a pot with water, bring to boil. Add spaghetti. Keep it in a handful and swirl around pan to separate. Then use a utensil to gently push all of the pasta beneath the water. Bring the pan back to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes.

2) Cooking chicken from frozen

Undercooked chicken - this could make you seriously ill. Make sure the juices are running clear.

Confession: ‘I wanted to do a roast dinner for my housemates. I knew we had a chicken in the freezer. So I took it out of the freezer and put it straight in the oven. I cooked it for as long as it said but when it came out it was all bloody and pink. Needless to say we didn’t eat it.’   

What they should have done:  Wrong on so many levels.

Chicken needs to be defrosted. Place your frozen chicken on a plate on the bottom shelf of your fridge where it can’t drip onto anything. A medium-sized bird takes around 48 hours to fully defrost.

Cook it properly. Follow the timings on your packaging. But cut into the thickest part of the chicken breast to check whether the juices are running clear. The meat should also be steaming hot. If there’s blood it goes back in. A cooking thermometer is useful here. 75 degrees is the magic number. 

3) Jacket potatoes that set off fire alarms

There is nothing worse than a burnt jacket potato - 4 minutes on each side in the microwave and make sure you prick it first!

Confession: ‘In my first few weeks at uni I decided to have a jacket potato for my tea. When my mum cooks them at home in the oven they take ages. I thought it’d take at least 20 minutes in the microwave. So I put it in for that time. It didn’t. And the building was evacuated with the fire alarms blaring loudly. No one told me you needed to prick it.’  

What they should have done: Find a nice-looking potato. Stick a fork in it a few times. Wash, and dry with kitchen roll. Pop in the microwave on a microwavable plate. Cook for 4 minutes at full power. Turn the potato upside down then cook for another 4 minutes. Give it a minute to stand.

4) The problem of exploding eggs


Confession: ‘I was craving some hardboiled eggs and toast soldiers to see off a hangover but wasn’t sure how to do it on the pan. A house mate said you could make them in the microwave, so I did. And they exploded. Shell and yoke everywhere.’

What they should have done: Bring a small, nearly-full saucepan of water to the boil on your cooker hob.  Add a sprinkle of salt. Place your egg onto a spoon and lower gently into the water. Let it cook for around 5 minutes for runny eggs, 7 to 7 1/2 minutes for semi firm or 10 minutes for hard boiled eggs. 

5) Melting chocolate all wrong

Melted chocolate should never be black! Always use a bain-marie.

image source: www.haikudeck.com

Confession: ‘As a student, I tried to melt chocolate for a chocolate fountain. My mum told me to melt it in a bain-marie and not directly on the heat. But I (of course) didn’t listen. I ruined a pan and (worse!) wasted quite a lot of chocolate.’

What they should have done: Mum was right. If you’re melting chocolate you need a bain-marie. This is a bowl placed over a pan of barely simmering water. How to melt chocolate in a bain-marie

  • Break up your chocolate and place into a clean, empty heatproof bowl
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil, the reduce to a simmer
  • Sit the bowl in the top of the pan (not in contact with the water)
  • The steam from the simmering water will then melt the chocolate – don’t forget to keep stirring.  

Tell us about your kitchen disasters in the comments.

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