10 of Your Most Common Cooking Disasters—Fixed!

Made a major cooking mistake? Before you reach for that delivery menu, try these out-of-the-box ways to salvage that meal.

Oversalted food


Whether your hand slipped or you misread the recipe, too much salt is usually the first critique of food that might otherwise be fantastic. Few tastes are more unpalatable than too much salt in a dish, and it’s also really unhealthy. For this reason, you should add a little salt as you go along, tasting after every addition because you can always add it, but taking it away is harder. Too late? The best way to repair your food is to double or triple the recipe—but omit any extra salt!

Lumpy sauce


It’s so unpleasant to pour gravy onto a piece of turkey, especially on Thanksgiving, just to find a bunch of lumps. Sauces and gravies often have flour in them and if the flour is not sifted, it can make a sauce lumpy. If the damage has been done and you have clumps in your sauce, pour it into a blender and blend for just a few seconds to make it nice and smooth.

Burnt toast


Oops! You got caught up in that Today Show segment on cute puppies, and now your toast is burnt to a crisp. You don’t have to toss it out and start over; simply take a butter knife and scrape until all the char is gone. Try to do this in the sink or directly into the garbage as it can cause a big mess. (It’s a great task for a Microplane, too!) If the toast is too hard even after all the burnt parts are gone, you can repurpose it as croutons for your salad or put it in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.

Soggy rice


So maybe you didn’t follow the directions, or you couldn’t find your measuring cup and eyeballed and now something is not quite right. It happens to the best of us! If your rice ends up like mush, add some cooked meat or shrimp to it, form little balls and either fry them up or envelope them with wonton wrappers and then steam or fry them. Yum! Avoid these other mistakes for clumped up rice.

Burnt stew


Forgot to stir your stew and now the bottom of the pan is completely black and it’s starting to smell like your fireplace? Quickly remove the stew above the burnt part, being very careful not to scrape up the black parts, and put it in another pot. Even if it seems wasteful to discard all the food on the bottom, you have to. Otherwise, it will ruin the taste of the parts you saved.

Mushy beans


When boiling beans, the goal is to cook them until tender. But what happens if they cook too long, and they turn into slop? Turn them into a healthy, delicious bean soup by fully pureeing them. Another idea: Make a bean dip by adding sour cream or yogurt and some spices. No one will be the wiser!

Overcooked chicken


If your chicken breasts were in the oven for just a bit too long and they’re all dried out, cut up the pieces, mix them with mayonnaise, chopped celery, dried fruit, and spices, and you have a flavorful chicken salad. Mayo can disguise the driest chicken and turn it into a masterpiece—trust us! Tip: Next time cook dark meat which is much more moist and forgiving if overcooked.

Mushy pasta


Even the most proficient Italian cook can get sidetracked and forget the pot of boiling pasta on the stove. If this happens to you, use that mushy pasta in a batch of minestrone or chicken soup, and no one will ever know.

Cake that falls apart


Didn’t grease the cake pan and your cake did not slide out easily? Carefully hold the pieces together and use frosting as the glue to reconnect it. You may need an assistant to help you hold it still while you “glue” it back, but it will look like a brand-new dessert once you’ve frosted the whole thing.

Cookies that stick to the baking sheet


Sometimes you run out of parchment paper or forget to butter up a cookie sheet. If your cookies get stuck and break apart, there’s no need to panic. Use those broken, crumbly cookies as a topping for ice cream, a cookie crumb layer for a cake, or take the broken pieces, dip them in chocolate and tell everyone you planned to make them as a chocolatey cookie dessert. (This is the biggest mistake you can make when cooking pasta.)

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