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Kitchen Lifehacks That Will Save a Poorly Cooked Meal

You'll never ruin a meal again once you learn the fundamental kitchen lifehacks that will save a poorly cooked meal.

Photo by Max Delsid on Unsplash

You're in the kitchen stressing over the meal you're preparing for your guests. Behind the white noise of the oven, extractor fan, and simmering pots, you hear the hungry voices of guests (all of whom conveniently "forgot" to make a contribution of baked goods to the dinner party) in the next room, and the occasional ring of the doorbell when a new person arrives. 

You attempt to be hospitable while secretly freaking out about all the food you're trying not to destroy. You return to the kitchen, and the worst possible scenario has become reality: The rice is ruined, the meat is burnt, the gravy is too fatty, the carrots are soggy, and the pecan pie is burnt. 

What do you do???

First, stop worrying. The night is young, and there are kitchen lifehacks that will save a poorly cooked meal and allow you to serve it on time.

How to Save Poorly Cooked Rice

Rice is easy to cook, but it's also easy to ruin. Luckily, kitchen hacks make it easy to fix a poorly cooked pot of rice.

How to save burnt rice:

Burnt rice can be tasty in certain recipes, especially in Persian cuisine. But when it's stuck to the bottom of the pot and won't come off, you may need to intervene. To do this, you will need help from a slice of white bread. 

Take the rice off of the heat and put a slice of white bread on top of the rice, covering the pot. Leave it covered with the bread inside for 6-10 minutes, and voila—your rice is edible again! 

How to save gummy rice:

What if you overcooked the rice to the point where it becomes gummy? 

Simply rinse the rice with cold water to restore its tenderness. It's that easy.

Alternatively, you can upcycle your mushy rice. Whether it's burnt or soggy, you can turn it into fried rice. If the rice is soggy, you could also consider packing it down into patties and making veggie burgers out of it.

How to Save Poorly Cooked Pasta

Always splash some olive oil into the pot of water before adding pasta unless you like your pasta stuck together in the strainer. Otherwise, you can still salvage your pasta if you forget the oil step and end up with a clump of pasta. Just put the pasta back in the pot, splash in some olive oil, and give it a toss.

2What if you've overcooked your pasta so much that it bears a stronger resemblance to baby food than penne or spaghetti though?

In that scenario, sautee your mushy pasta in olive oil or butter and eat it with a larger portion of parmesan than you normally would to add a bit more crunch.

How to Save an Over-Seasoned Meal

The worst seasoning mistakes people make happen. We all get a little shaker-happy from time to time.

You can always dilute over-seasoned meals by adding some extra vegetables or meat to the dishes. 

How to save a dish that is too salty:

If your dish is too salty, add water or cooking stock. Alternatively, you can serve it with very bland carbs such as rice noodles. Another option is to counteract the saltiness with sugar or acids like lemon juice or vinegar.

How to save a dish that is too spicy:

If your meal is too spicy, sugar will help neutralize it. Add half a teaspoon at a time. Another trick is to add nut butter or some avocado, depending on what it is that you're cooking.

Everyone's sensitivity to spice is different, so it might be worth putting some sour cream or plain yogurt, cheese, chopped cilantro, and limes on the table, and pour some glasses of milk for guests with low spice tolerance. It might also help to have some ice cream for dessert.

No milk? No problem. Water is okay, but warm water works better than cold.

Next time, remember to use measuring cups, so you don't have to worry about diluting your dinner.

How to Save a Meal That's Too Fatty or Greasy

If you're cooking a sauce, soup, gravy, or stew, and notice that there is too much grease building up on the surface of the recipe, you need to get rid of that excess fat. Excess fat is unsightly, unhealthy, and it doesn't taste good.

There are two kitchen hacks you can use to combat this issue. One requires more time than the other. 

The quick fix:

If you're in a hurry, I hope you remembered to fill up your ice cube trays. 

The ice cube trick is a great way to get rid of excess fat and grease. Prepare yourself to move quickly by having a spoon in your hand, ready to scoop.

With the spoon in your hand, drop one or more ice cubes in the pot as bait for the grease. As soon as the grease gravitates toward the ice, scoop out the fat and the ice cubes with a spoon. 

The overnight fix:

If you have enough time, it will be easier for you to get rid of the extra layer of fat if you allow the meal to cool down to allow all of the grease to solidify at the surface of the dish. Allow the meal to cool down to room temperature and then put it in the fridge for a few hours. When you take it out, simply scoop the congealed layer of fat off the top, reheat the dish, and serve.

How to Save a Poorly Cooked Cream or Butter Sauce

The sooner you notice your creamy or buttery sauce starts to curdle, the better. If you catch it in time, turn off the heat immediately and dump a bunch of ice cubes into your kitchen sink with some cold water. Take the skillet off the stove and put it in the ice bath.

If you notice the curdling too late to give it an ice bath, turn off the heat immediately and move the dairy base into a different pan. Grab a whisk. Start heating up a new portion of the dairy base, add it to the curdled sauce, and make sure you whisk vigorously the whole time.

How to Save Poorly Cooked Vegetables

There aren't any kitchen hacks that will restore the crunch to your veggies once you've overcooked them, but you can turn your vegetables into other delicious sides since it isn't an uncommon occurrence that you need to get guests or fussy children to eat vegetables when they don't like vegetables.

The long fix:

If you have time, you can turn your mushy vegetables into vegetable broth. Add garlic, onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, and thyme. Simmer the mixture for 45 minutes, and you've just made yourself your very own bouillon. You can save it for later recipes, or you can make a stew out of it tonight. 

If you need to serve your dish ASAP though, you might be hoping for kitchen hacks that will allow you to save your veggies on time to serve tonight. 

The quick fix:

Creamed vegetables are very popular, and they are allowed to be mushy. Brussel sprouts and asparagus are delicious with cream. 

Add cream and butter to your mushy veggies, and add some garlic if you can. Season with salt and pepper.

If you have a food processor, you can blend your mushy veggies into a vegetable puree. You could also consider adding some cream to your puree, too.

How to Save Your Poorly Cooked Meat

There are several ways you can ruin meat, so you should know that there are also several kitchen hacks you can use to fix it. It just depends on how you ruined your meat.

How to save dry meat:

If your meat is too dry, pour the drippings from the meat pan into another pan with two to four cups of stock. Bring it to a boil. Then, slice the dry meat, put it in a separate roasting dish, and pour the stock and drippings over it. Cover the roasting dish with foil and put it in the oven for five minutes. 

How to save burnt meat:

There are two kitchen hacks for saving burnt meat. The first option is to remove the skin and serve it. If your cut doesn't have any skin however, you can cut off the burnt portions and cover it with BBQ sauce or something else that tastes good with the meat.

How to save undercooked meat: 

One of the most common cooking mistakes you should avoid is not letting meat sit after you prepared it, which sometimes causes meat to be undercooked. You might be thinking, "Duh, just put the undercooked meat back on heat and cook it more." If you're in a rush and need to be save some time though, you need to make some changes to the meat before you put it back in the oven.

Make your life easier by cutting the meat into smaller pieces before returning it to the oven. This will allow you to see its cooking progress with your own eyes, and it will also allow the meat to cook faster.

How to Save Over-Whisked Egg Whites

Whisking eggs puts me in my element every time I work on baked goods. It's like I go on autopilot and lose track of how much whisking I've done until it's too late.

Now though, it's really no biggie now that I know how easy over-beaten eggs are to fix. 

If you add a bit of sugar to your egg whites from the get go, you'll run less of a risk of over beating them, but you can't do that with every recipe.

It's very easy to save over-beaten egg whites. Simply crack open a new egg to add a new egg white to your mixture. Before you add the new egg white, you might want to consider removing about a quarter of a cup of the over-beaten egg whites to make some room for the new one. 

Whisk the new egg white into the original bowl, but only for a minute or so, and be somewhat gentle, so you don't make the same mistake again.

How to Fix a Poorly Baked Cake

Cake is supposed to be moist, spongy, and in one piece, but, too often, they disappoint as soon as they come out of the oven.

How to save a cake that's stuck to the pan: 

Let the cake cool down to room temperature. Then, cover it in cling wrap and shove it in the freezer for six or more hours. When you take it out, gently run a sharp knife around the sides to loosen the cake's grip on the pan. Then, get yourself two forks, one in each hand, and gently wedge them under the cake and nudge it upward. Rotate the cake several times and repeat. 

When you think the cake is ready, get a cutting board and tilt the cake pan over it. Tap the bottom of the pan, and the cake should fall out onto the board. 

How to save a crumbly cake:

The scent of a delicious cake has filled your kitchen and made you excited; you take the cake out of the oven, attempt to remove it from the pan, and, naturally, the cake breaks. Oh, the anxiety! Your loved one's birthday dinner is in four hours, and you've just made them the world's worst cake! What do you do?

Well, first of all, you can fix this because the freezer is here to save the day, again! 

Put your crumbling cake in the freezer until it can stand on its own, then take it out of the freezer. The final step is to cover up the scars with loads of icing. Voila!

How to Save a Burnt Crust

Burnt crusts are part of life. Burnt crust is unsightly and tastes bad, but it's very easy to fix.

Sure, it's totally possible to burn a crust past beyond repair, and, if that's the case, the only kitchen lifehacks that will save a poorly cooked meal we can recommend here is to throw it away and start over. 

There are, however, far too many burnt and salvageable baked goods (and slices of toast) getting thrown in the trash.

Remove the burnt bits of crust by scraping it off with a fine grater or a sharp knife, and your crust will taste golden again. 

If it still tastes burnt after you scrape off the ash, you can mask the burnt flavor by adding sweetness. If you have some ice cream in your freezer, now would be a good time to serve it.

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