16 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking With Peas

Peas in white bowl
Peas in white bowl - Olgalepeshkina/Getty Images

The semi-popular children's poem, "I eat my peas with honey; I've done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny, [but] it keeps them on the knife," shared by the Poetry Foundation, makes us think of all the strange ways people cook their peas. While we don't recommend eating your peas with honey, there are some things that we don't recommend doing with peas.

Peas may seem like such a simple ingredient, but there are some common mistakes we all make when cooking with them. From boiling your peas until they're discolored and mushy to forgetting to add butter, we'll look at 16 of these mistakes.

Don't worry if you spot a mistake you've made on this list -- we're all guilty of most of them at one time or another. We'll explain why you should avoid making these mistakes and what you should try instead. By the end of this article, you'll be a pea expert, cooking these little green veggies to perfection every time.

Read more: What These Imitation Foods Are Actually Made Of

Overcooking Them

Mushy peas on white background
Mushy peas on white background - Lleerogers/Getty Images

The number one most common mistake -- though we feel it's more serious than that -- when cooking peas is to overcook them. Peas are naturally sweet and, when cooked perfectly, have that delightful "pop" in your mouth as they burst.

Overcooked peas don't have that lovely texture. Instead, they're mushy, they lose their sweetness, and their bright green color leaches out, leaving them an unappetizing brown. Is it any wonder kids don't want to eat their sometimes-overcooked veggies? Don't worry, though, as there's an easy way to ensure you don't overdo it with your peas.

Try sautéing or braising your peas in some butter to ensure you don't overcook them. If you're adding them to dishes such as risotto or pasta, pop them in the pan or dish at the last minute. They take just a few minutes to cook -- and remember, frozen peas will cook even faster than fresh ones.

Forgetting To Rinse Canned Peas

Canned peas with spoon inside
Canned peas with spoon inside - Photosiber/Getty Images

While fresh or frozen peas are undoubtedly the superior option, if all you have is canned peas, that works too. Since canned peas are already cooked, they're a pretty convenient option to add to all your favorite dishes. However, there's one thing you absolutely must not forget to do when cooking with canned peas: Rinse them. It's a mistake we've likely all been guilty of when preparing a meal in a rush, but it could seriously impact your health.

Did you know you're also adding a significant amount of salt to your dish if you just dump the peas, liquid and all, into the pan? FDA guidelines recommend we don't consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. When you consider that a ½ cup serving of one of the most popular brands of canned peas, Walmart's Great Value Sweet Peas, contains almost 15% of your recommended daily value of salt, you're right to be concerned. That's a lot of salt for a small portion of peas, so don't forget to give them a good rinse before cooking.

Boiling Them

Boiling peas in pot
Boiling peas in pot - Deymos/Getty Images

We already spoke about overcooking peas, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by boiling them. As tempting as it can be to dump a handful of frozen or fresh peas into boiling water, it's not the best way to cook them. Admittedly, we might do this a lot in the U.S. and the UK, but in other countries, particularly in Europe, the most common method of cooking peas is generally braising or sautéing them.

Both these methods are better news for perfect peas as it's less likely you'll overcook them. You could also try steaming or microwaving your peas to maintain their sweetness and vibrant color. Boiling peas in hot water causes the chlorophyll -- the compound responsible for their bright green hue -- to leach out, leaving them a muddy brown or pale green color. Boil them for too long, and they'll become mushy, soggy, and tasteless.

There could be health implications from boiling your peas, too. A study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology revealed that boiling vegetables causes the greatest loss of vitamin C. Think of all those nutrients you're missing out on.

Adding Salt To The Cooking Water

Salting water in steaming pot
Salting water in steaming pot - GCapture/Shutterstock

If you're boiling peas in a pot on the stove, it can be tempting to add salt, as you would do when cooking other vegetables, such as potatoes. Stop right there. Did you know that you should add salt after the peas are cooked?

If you choose to boil your peas, don't add salt while they're cooking, as this can make the peas tough and spoil their sweetness. You can also add a little sugar once they're cooked and drained to boost that natural sweetness. Some finely minced garlic softened in butter also makes a delightful addition to cooked peas.

The reason adding salt to peas before they're fully cooked can make them tough is down to a process called osmosis. This is where salt draws moisture out of food. The result? Tougher, drier peas that don't taste sweet and have lost that amazing fresh "pop" when you bite into them.

Wasting The Potlikker

Collard greens cooking in pot
Collard greens cooking in pot - Instagram / traegurley1975

Ever heard of potlikker? That's the cooking liquid left behind after you've cooked greens. If you do decide to boil peas, don't discard the unappetizing greenish-yellow potlikker, as it's a key ingredient. All that pungent, earthy flavor can be used in a variety of different ways.

Add some potlikker to your martini to liven up the flavor. It's also a great addition to gravy for bags of umami, and you can add the liquid to almost any recipe you like, from soups to stews. Did you know that the minerals in potlikker can even help to nourish your houseplants?

The cooking liquid from collard greens, mustard greens, radish greens, and green veggies such as chicory, fennel, and radicchio is also known as potlikker. All the nutrients from the greens are contained in the potlikker, from vitamin C to iron. Straining beans will also give you a lighter-colored potlikker that's a delicious addition to many dishes.

Undercooking Frozen Peas

Woman with stomach pain
Woman with stomach pain - Kmpzzz/Shutterstock

We've touched on why boiling your peas or overcooking them is a bad idea, but what about undercooking? While undercooking your fresh peas probably won't harm you, it could be dangerous with frozen ones.

Those cooking instructions on your bag of frozen peas aren't just there as helpful guidelines; they're actually a food safety warning. The FDA's Food Code means food manufacturers don't have to adhere to specific pathogen-control guidelines provided they print clear cooking directions to kill off harmful microorganisms. So, next time you ignore the cooking instructions, you could be putting your health at risk.

Most frozen peas only take a few minutes to cook, but it pays to read the cooking instructions for guidance, particularly if you're adding peas to an already-cooked dish. Though it's a good idea to add peas towards the end of the cooking time, to ensure they maintain their green color and sweetness, you also want to ensure they're fully cooked through before you dish up.

Not Trying Different Varieties

Purple podded peas
Purple podded peas - Max_555/Shutterstock

If you're guilty of sticking to the same kind of peas, it's time to try something new. There are so many varieties of peas out there, from snow peas to shelling peas and snap peas. Snow peas, also known as mangetout, have edible pods and are popular in Asian cooking. In contrast, shelling peas need to be shelled as the pod isn't edible. Split peas are similar to lentils and can be either green or yellow.

Speaking of which, not all peas are green. The Big Red Ripper Southern pea has more in common with a string bean. Purple podded peas have vivid green peas in a purple pod. Sugar snap peas are by far the sweetest variety out there and are delicious and added to cakes and dessert recipes. Their pods are also edible and can be used in everything from salads to risottos and stir-fries.

Buying Them Out Of Season

Variety of vegetables on display
Variety of vegetables on display - Chalffy/Getty Images

With so many different varieties out there, buying peas out of season isn't the best move. To enjoy peas at their sweetest and freshest, always buy them when they're in season. A quick check online can help you find out when they're at their best, or shop at a local organic market where most of the fresh produce will be in season.

In the U.S., most pea varieties are in season from late spring through the summer months. That doesn't mean you have to forgo peas in the Fall and winter, though. You can always buy frozen peas. Because they're frozen immediately after picking, they maintain their bright green color and nutrients.

Discarding The Pod

Sugar snap peas open
Sugar snap peas open - masa44/Shutterstock

If you're buying a pea variety with an edible pod, and the peas are in season, don't waste that pod. Shelling peas can be a time-consuming pain, but the good news is that some varieties don't need shelling and can be eaten pod and all.

Snow peas, which we mentioned earlier, sugar snap peas, and Chinese peas are all delicious varieties with edible pods. These pods are packed full of flavor, and you can enjoy them raw or cooked. Simply stir-fry or sauté them for a few minutes so they retain their sweetness and crunchiness. Add them to everything from stir-fries to risotto and pasta dishes for a fresh pop of flavor.

Not Using Frozen Peas

Frozen peas close up
Frozen peas close up - John Shepherd/Getty Images

Are you guilty of using peas out of season, not having time to grab fresh peas from the market, or not being bothered with the tiresome task of shelling peas? Frozen peas are your new best friend. Every bit as delicious as fresh peas, they may even be healthier, particularly if you're using peas out of season, as they're flash-frozen when fresh.

Because these peas are frozen at peak freshness, all the nutrients and that vivid green hue are preserved. A word of warning, though: It's easier to overcook frozen peas compared to fresh ones. We touched on the importance of ensuring you cook your frozen peas through fully earlier, but just be sure you don't overcook them and turn them mushy.

Relegating Them To Side Dish Status

Pea soup in bowls
Pea soup in bowls - nblx/Shutterstock

Peas don't have to be a side dish served alongside your favorite mains. Why not make them the star of the show? There are loads of main courses or entrees that use peas as the main ingredients, from dips to soups and pasta dishes to risotto.

For starters, try whipping up a vibrant bowl of green English pea soup. Frozen peas can be blended with ricotta cheese, sour cream, or yogurt to make a delicious pea dip. And a vegetarian-friendly pea and spinach carbonara is sure to be a crowd-pleaser the next time you have friends over for dinner. With so many pea recipes out there, you're spoiled for choice.

Not Realizing The Flowers Are Edible

purple drink in glass
purple drink in glass - Photoongraphy/Shutterstock

If you're buying fresh peas, or growing your own, did you know the flowers may be edible? English peas, snow peas, and some other varieties of garden peas have edible flowers. Don't eat sweet pea blossoms, though, as these are poisonous. If you're unsure, pea blossoms from grocery stores are generally edible, but always double-check if you're growing your own.

White or purple snow pea flowers look stunning added to salads or other dishes as a garnish. Dark purply-blue butterfly pea blossoms can be used to add vibrant hues to cocktails and cupcakes. You could even make butterfly pea flower tea. The flowers are packed with antioxidants which could help to prevent cancer growth, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Saving Them For Savory Dishes

Green pistachio macarons in rows
Green pistachio macarons in rows - Alena Matrosova/Shutterstock

Peas are great in everything from soup to risotto, but did you know they're also delicious in sweet dishes? If you think that sounds strange, just remember that we already love using veggies like avocado and beetroot in brownies, and avocados also make an amazing creamy vegan chocolate pudding.

Did you know that 100 grams of peas contain almost 6 grams of sugar, more than other vegetables we already use in cakes and desserts, like carrots (5 grams of sugar per 100 grams)? Just purée your peas and add them to a variety of sweet dishes for bright color and sweet flavor. They're particularly good added to pistachio cake, macarons, or pudding for a bright green color.

Adding Them To Your Dish Too Early

Risotto with peas on plate
Risotto with peas on plate - OlgaBombologna/Shutterstock

While you do need to ensure that your peas (particularly frozen ones) are cooked through, adding them to your dish too early is a common mistake that many of us make. Adding peas too early means they won't be at their best and may even spoil the finished dish.

By adding peas early, they may overcook while you wait for other ingredients in the dish to cook through. The chlorophyll responsible for their bright green hue degrades when exposed to heat, leaving them brown and discolored. They'll also become less sweet when cooked for too long.

For best results, always add peas towards the end of the cooking process. For dishes such as risotto or pasta, add them a few minutes before you're ready to serve so they have time to heat through.

Forgetting The Butter

Dollop of butter on peas
Dollop of butter on peas - Douglas_freer/Getty Images

If there's one ingredient that elevates peas to next-level status on your plate, it's butter. Salted butter works best, but use whatever you have to hand. Forget boiling peas until they're bland. Add them to a skillet with some finely minced garlic and plenty of butter, then sauté them gently until they're just cooked. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes and can be done with either fresh or frozen peas.

This delicious way to enjoy peas ensures they remain bright green and vibrant, as well as reducing the risk of them turning mushy. The garlic butter perfectly complements the sweetness of the peas and adds a deeper layer of flavor that turns a humble side dish into something that's almost impossible to resist.

Not Choosing Complementary Flavors

Peas with bacon in dish
Peas with bacon in dish - Mdlart/Getty Images

There's a reason French cuisine is considered one of the best in the world. The French really know how to turn simple ingredients into something indulgent. Take peas. Do they boil them until they're mushy? They do not. Instead, they're lightly braised with some butter, bacon, lettuce, and onion. Stock and seasoning are added, and the peas are gently cooked to create a side dish that's absolutely packed with flavor.

Braising the peas in this way ensures they maintain their sweetness and firmness, as well as retaining that bright green color. Trust us, once you've tried peas the French way, there's no going back. Don't eat meat? You could try adding some smoky paprika for a similar flavor profile to the bacon, or just opt for butter and minced garlic, as we mentioned above.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.