Updated: Apr 27, 2021
"Eh bien, tant pis."
(Oh well, too bad.)
—Julia Child on making mistakes.
Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks. But sometimes disaster strikes. Here are 10 tips for fixing common problems.
1. Your dish is too salty. If more liquid is an option, like an unsalted broth, add it. Avoid water, it will kill the taste of the dish. A bit of sugar and/or vinegar might also help correct the flavor profile. Some people add potatoes to soak up some of the salt (then remove them) but the success of this varies.
2. Gravy’s got lumps. Purée it with an immersion or standard blender.
3. You burned the cake. Trim off the crispy bits with a sharp or serrated knife and frost it like there’s no tomorrow.
4. Your dish is too spicy. Add a bit of sugar to help neutralize, or if appropriate, a dairy or fat ingredient. Or just add more of the main ingredients without including the heat.
5. Vegetables are overcooked and mushy. Again, puréeing is your friend. Add a bit of salt and butter and reheat. Or make a festive soup by adding broth and/or cream.
6. Your dough won’t rise. Heat up a glass of water in the microwave. Then put the bowl with the dough in, close the door. Instant proofing cabinet.
7. Your melted chocolate clumps. Stir in a bit of canola oil to smooth it out.
8. Your sauce is too thick or too thin. If too thin, remove about 1/3 cup, stir in one or two teaspoons cornstarch, add back in, bring to a boil to thicken. If too thick, add a bit more broth or water and bring back to temperature.
9. Your dish is too sweet. Add an acid like lemon or lime juice. Add vinegar if appropriate. Avoid salt, it will just make it sweeter.
10. Your dish is boring. Wake it up! Again a bit of acid like lemon or lime juice, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can bring out the flavor. Don’t oversalt or add too much pepper to compensate.