How to Recover From Common Cooking Calamities

How to Recover from Common Cooking Calamities

At some point, everyone has that kind of day when they only remember that food is still on the stove once the smoke detector goes off– some more than others.  Whatever happens in the kitchen, there's no use crying over spilled milk! All you need to do is keep calm and carry on cooking with these simple, quick fixes for salvaging all types of messy mishaps from over-salted or over-spiced food to cracked cakes and crusts!

Too Salty:  Sugar and cider vinegar can reduce saltiness; do a taste test after every teaspoon until it's right.  Another method is to throw in a slice of potato; this helps soak up some of the excess salt.  (You could also scale up all the ingredients except the salt and have leftovers!)

Too Spicy: To de-spice hot food, a squeeze or two of lime might cool it down.  However, the only sure way of mitigating a serious over-spicing is to scale up the recipe, minus the peppers.

Too Sweet: Add a spoonful of cider vinegar, a bit of lemon juice, or a dash of olive oil.

Too Acidic: A bit of baking soda or salt reduces acidity.

Overcooked chicken:

You can't uncook a chicken, but you can conceal the burnt edges and the dry interior beneath a simple herb sauce.  Stir together some olive oil and fresh herbs (like basil, thyme, tarragon, mint, and parsley), add a little salt and pepper, and pour it over thickly slices of chicken.  If you add some vinegar or lemon juice to the herb sauce, you can also use it as a dressing for salads!  (Check out our guide to perfectly grilled chicken breasts!)

Crumbled cake:

With a little frosting, you can glue your cracked cake pieces right back together by spreading a little along the edges, rinsing the blade with warm water every swipe, and pressing the pieces together.  If your cake is beyond a little cosmetic fix, turn it into a trifle or parfait. Just layer the pieces with sweetened whipped cream and some fresh fruit in a glass bowl or individual glasses and chill until serving time.

Cracked pie crusts:

Lightly brush the dough with ice water, sprinkle it generously with granulated or coarse sugar, and press gently so the crystals adhere to the crust.  Proceed to bake as you normally would.  To prevent cracking pie crusts in the future, keep your dough moisturized.  If rolled dough tears, brush the surface lightly with water, folding it in half twice, wrap the dough in plastic, and refrigerate it for an hour.

Breaking/Broken sauce:

If your sauce is breaking, add a teaspoon of the base liquid (water, wine, etc) and whisk vigorously.  If it's broken, whisk together an egg yolk and a tablespoon of the base.  Continue whisking as you spoon the broken sauce into the new mixture one teaspoon at a time.

Burned sauce:

Take the pan off the heat immediately and place it in cold water to stop the cooking.  Pour the top 3/4ths of your sauce into a new pan, and start again from there. Discard the burned sauce.

Clumpy rice:

Transfer the rice to a mesh colander and rinse thoroughly with warm water to wash out the excess starch and separate the grains.

Scorched rice: Wipe two or three onions with a clean, damp cloth, remove the papery outer peels, and spread them over the unburned rice. Cover the pot and let sit for 15 minutes. The onion peels absorb the bitterness. Discard before serving.

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