How to Fix 21 Common Cooking and Baking Mistakes

Written by Carly Hallman

Ah, how the best-laid plans so often go awry, especially in the kitchen. No matter what recipe you have or how often you’ve made something, you’re bound to make common cooking mistakes like these. But don’t worry; you don’t have to toss out that pan of pasta! These clever food hacks are here to rescue your dinner. So, whether your son’s shouted, “My chili is too spicy!” or your spouse has come in to ask, “Why has my cake cracked on top?,” you’ll be able to help them fix it with very little stress (and save money at the same time)!

Cooking and Baking Mistakes
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Food Too Salty To Enjoy

When a dash of salt was accidentally a handful (or you confused the sugar jar with the salt pig), there’s a lot of different options for fixing your salty food. Here’s how to fix a recipe that is too salty:

  • “My soup is too salty!”  For soup, too salty of a broth can be fixed a variety of ways, the most obvious being to add water. A raw cut potato can help absorb the salt. Adding acidity like vinegar or lemon can cut through it as well.
  • “I made my gravy too salty!” Add more heavy cream and flour, making the gravy more of a roux.
  • “I just poured salt all over my steak!” For meats, try soaking it in water for 2 hours. If that’s not enough, consider adding a squeeze of lemon that might bring up acidity and cut through the salt.

Food Too Spicy To Even Taste

Don’t make grandma cry with your extreme flavors. Add more food to thin out the spiciness with these tricks.

  • “I made chili too spicy!” How to fix it is essentially to just add a ton of non-spicy ingredients: water, sugar, rice, quinoa, or beans. If chili is too spicy add more water or carbohydrates, which can thin it out. But if you don’t want to turn a recipe for three people into a recipe for twenty people, here’s how to cool down chili that is too spicy: add sour cream, mayo, or yogurt. Dairy can cool down your spices quickly. Sugar and nut butter such as peanut butter can coat the palate and shield from spice as well.
  • “I made soup too spicy!” How to fix soup that is too spicy is essentially the same as how to fix chili that is too spicy: add more water or carbohydrates to thin it out, or cool it down with dairy.
  • “I love this curry recipe, but it makes me cry.” For Thai curries, a spoonful of peanut butter can add that umami element while toning everything down. (Make sure no one is allergic, of course.) A spoonful of yogurt matches curry well, too, and you can always cook more rice to go along with your meal.

Food Too Sweet For Anything But Dessert

Oh, no! You’ve swapped the sugar jar and the salt pig again!

  • “I made my spaghetti sauce too sweet!” It might seem like adding salt is a good idea, but it actually is not going to work. You’ll want to add more acid (tomato or lemon juice) or fats (olive oil).

Food That Makes You Pucker Your Lips

Sour foods like olives, pickles, and other foods can drown out umami or sweet flavors really easily. Vinegar is powerful stuff; there’s a reason we can also use it as a cleaning solution.

  • “I made grandma’s tomato sauce too sour!” When you’ve made pasta sauce too sour, the fix is actually pretty easy: add honey or sugar.
  • “I added too much vinegar to my soup or sauce.” Add carrots, which are great for soaking up acids. Water and sugar can also help.

Wacky and Unpleasant Textures

People eat food for flavor, but most people also enjoy texture. It’s the soundtrack to the movie that is your dinner plate. A bad mouthfeel can wreck a meal; here are some cooking hacks to make your food as plump, crunchy, moist, or snappy as it needs to be.

  • “Can you possibly fix overcooked pasta?” Sure, you can give it a try! Put some oil in a pan and gently toss it over low heat. That can sometimes soak up moisture. In the future, you should add more salt to the water.
  • “I made rubbery eggs.” In the future, blanch your eggs by submerging them in cold or icy water to stop the cooking process.
  • “I’ve got no sear on my steak!” Don’t fuss with your meat too much, especially if you’re using a cast iron pan. Let your pan get hot enough before putting it down, and let it sit for a few minutes before you flip.
  • “This fried food is too oily.” Is your oil clean or hot enough? Make sure you are frying in small batches and heating it enough, giving plenty of space. Also, make sure it has a place to drip clean of oil afterward.

Baking Hacks For the Experimental Baker

Lumpy, weird, or odd textures are par for the course with experimental baking. If your parents’ recipes aren’t coming out as they should, here are some easy ways to fix it; however, note that most of this need to be done the second go-around.

  • “My oven is uneven.” There are several strategies on how to bake cake evenly even with a bad oven. Create your own Bake Even strips and wrap it around the pan.
  • “My cheesecake keeps cracking.” The fix is to cover it up with toppings like cherries or raspberries, but how can it be avoided in the first place? When making cheesecake, try filling a baking sheet with water, then put the tight tin of cheesecake in the water. This is referred to as a water bath.
  • “The cake is too dry.” Here’s how to moisten a dry cake: poke holes in it and then brush the top with simple syrup.
  • “This meringue won’t peak!” Ah, meringue problems. When trying to get egg whites to stiffen or fluff, make sure that your eggs are room temperature and that your equipment is dry, whipping at high speeds.
  • “I made a sad sunken soufflé.” That’s very typical. In the future, make sure you have enough baking soda (or rising agent) and don’t check on it by opening the door and interrupting the baking process.
  • My cookies are too hard, firm, or chewy.” That’s usually a sign of overmixed dough or odd baking times. Buy an internal temperature gauge for your oven.

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