The next time you find yourself ladle-deep in a kitchen fiasco, don’t panic. There’s a solution for (almost) everything.
It happens to everyone—from classically trained chefs to weekend cooks. “Everyone makes mistakes,” says Myrna Adolfo, a member of the Panera Bread® Food Team. “But I try not to throw anything away. Usually I can figure out a way to fix whatever went wrong.”
Whether you’ve accidentally added too much salt to the pot, or run out of an ingredient midway through preparing a recipe, we have tips to help you out of those sticky situations.
Too salty. We’ve all done it. Countless times, right? And while classic kitchen lore recommends adding potatoes to the dish to absorb the excess salt, Myrna prefers another solution. “I divide whatever it is I’m cooking into two or four equal portions and use one as a base for starting over,” she says. “The rest can be packaged for the freezer or fridge and used another time.” A heavily salted soup or sauce effortlessly becomes the foundation for a do-over, just bring it back up to cooking temperature and add more of the other ingredients to cut the saltiness.
Too sweet. Use a dash of vinegar or a few drops of lemon juice to cut the sweetness of a sauce or puree.
Too spicy. Think sugar, acid, and dairy. Any of these three options will cool off the heat of a spicy dish. Add a few drops of lime juice to salsa, a can of crushed pineapple to chili, or sour cream or yogurt to a spicy curry sauce.
Overcooked vegetables. The best fix is to empty the veggies into a saucepan, add chicken or vegetable stock, and puree with an immersion blender. Season and serve as a soup course.
Burned rice. Whatever you do, says Myrna, don’t scrape the bottom of the pan. Carefully slide a serving spoon under the top layer of rice (being careful not to disturb the burned bottom) and transfer it to another pan or a serving dish.
Overdone cookies. Toss them into the food processor and pulse until the mixture is fine and crumbly. Use the crumbs to make toppings and crusts for pies and tarts, or sprinkle them over ice cream.
Out of buttermilk. Add lemon juice or vinegar (typically 1 tablespoon per cup) to regular milk and let stand for about 10 minutes before using. You can also substitute an equal amount of plain yogurt for the milk.
Out of baking powder. Mix up your own by stirring together 1 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons cream of tartar.
Out of butter. Try substituting reduced-fat cream cheese for the butter called for in a recipe. Or, if you are baking a cake, use Greek yogurt - its thicker consistency works well as a butter substitute and won’t add excess liquid.