Common Cooking Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Common Cooking Mistakes and How to Fix Them
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Common Cooking Mistakes and How to Fix Them

How can you save a dish if it's too salty or doctor up a lopsided cake? We'll show you how to fix common cooking mistakes, from soggy pan-fried dishes to gummy rice.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

My dish is too salty.

There’s nothing you can do to take the salt out, but you can add more of other ingredients to reduce its concentration. For salty soups and stews, try diluting with water. A bit of acidity from vinegar or lemon juice can also help curb the saltiness. To avoid this mistake in the future, make sure to taste as you go through a recipe, and be careful when using canned ingredients, which can be harbor high salt content.

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My dish is too spicy.

Like fixing saltiness, you can try adding more of other non-spicy ingredients. Another trick is to add a little sugar to curb the spiciness.

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It’s not baking evenly.

If you’re baking dough or batter, an uneven shape could cause this problem. Try rolling out the dough evenly and distribute the dough or batter evenly on the pan. Otherwise, it could be a mechanical issue, and your oven may not be reaching the right temperature or may have “hot spots”.

For starters, we suggest investing in an oven thermometer. To check for hot spots, toast slices of bread in the middle of a rack, and areas that are more toasted may indicate a hot spot. Next time you bake, try to avoid them or rotate your pans to evenly distribute the heat.

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Special tricks for uneven cake

If your cakes are coming out domed, try two tricks: wrap Bake Even strips around the pan, or make your own by cutting a towel into strips, soak them in water and tie them around the pan. The second trick is to take a clean paper towel and gently press down the raised top of the baked cake while it is still hot. Alternatively, when assembling the cooled cake, you can use a serrated knife to cut an even surface and flip it around so the cut side is now the bottom.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

I can’t get a good sear/crust.

If you’re not getting a good sear or crust, it might be because you turn the food too often. You’ll know the dish is ready to be turned when your spatula easily slides underneath, so resist the urge and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful browning. Another reason may be that the pan is not hot enough. Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat to medium-high or high in order to quickly cook the outside and seal in the moisture.

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My food doesn’t brown and is soggy.

Many of us make the mistake of overcrowding the pan when we’re on a time crunch or want to avoid cleaning more dishes, but overcrowding does not allow for steam to escape as food releases moisture. Make sure what’s in the pan is not covering up one another, and try using two pans simultaneously to save on time.

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My cookies spread too much

If your cookies look like they’re packing on the pounds after being baked, the culprit might be overly softened butter. The best way to soften butter is to let it sit out at room temperature for about an hour; if you’re short on time, try cutting up your butter into small cubes to soften more quickly. Try to avoid the microwave as this can easily melt the butter if you’re not careful.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

The texture of my baked goods is off.

Baking is a science, and an inaccurate ingredient measurement can throw off the texture of your baked good. Pay attention to the instructions to notice differences between packed and lightly spooned measurements. We suggest sifting flour to air it out for consistent measurements, and it’s best practice to level it off evenly with the flat edge of a knife.

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My egg whites won’t whip up!

Whipping up egg whites is a difficult task, and even a little bit of egg yolk will stop them from whipping up fully. Egg whites whip up better at room temperature rather than cold, so let them sit out for several minutes. It’s best to use a copper bowl, but stainless steel or glass bowls work well, too. Make sure your beaters are clean and dry, and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form, which you’ll know when you lift the beater out of the bowl and the peaks stay upright. Be careful not to overwhip or it will separate!

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My roast/fish/poultry is overcooked/undercooked.

We strongly encourage investing in a meat thermometer, like this one from OXO which has a cable wire that runs through the oven door so you don’t have to open the door and lose heat. If the deed's been done, salvage overcooked protein by shredding it and adding sauce.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

My rice comes out sticky and gummy.

Not having enough water in the rice pot means that the grains rub against each other and release starch, making rice sticky. While this is true, also be careful about adding too much water. If the rice doesn’t absorb all the water after cooking, letting it sit in the liquid will make it gummy and clumpy, too. Try using 1.5 – 1.75 cups of water per cup of long-grain white rice, and adjust accordingly. Brown rice requires more water, and shorter-grain rice will need less. Also, consider investing in a rice cooker, which will reliably cook rice perfectly.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

My meat is too chewy.

This is more of a problem for tough cuts of meat, like skirt steak or flank, which have a grain formed by thick bundles of muscle fiber. If you cook at too high of a temperature or don’t cook long enough, you won’t give enough time for the fibers to break down. A few other tips include marinading the meat with a tenderizing agent (such as dairy) and cutting the cooked meat against the grain to cut through the fibers.

Image Credit: Luca Trovato

My salad is soggy.

Delicate greens bruise easily, so handle them with care. After rinsing under water, dry leaves by using a salad spinner. Gently toss lettuce with dressing right before serving. Otherwise, the leaves will absorb the dressing and appear wilted.

Image Credit: Maren Caruso

My deep-fried foods are alway greasy.

If your fried foods come out oily, the temperature of the frying oil is too low. When oil is properly heated between 325 degrees to 400 degrees, it won’t seep into the food because hotter oil will more strongly repel from water, found in the natural moisture of food. Throw away soggy meat, but try refrying vegetables. Also, frying in small batches helps to maintain hot oil temperature.

Image Credit: Neil Langan Uk

My hard-boiled eggs look awful.

Ever wonder why your whites are rubbery or your yolk has a green-gray ring around it? Dropping an egg in boiling water will cook the whites faster than the yolk, and by the time the yolk is done the whites end up tough. The discolored ring happens when the iron in the yolk and the sulfur in the white react under heat. Prevent it by plunging fresh-cooked eggs in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Image Credit: Adam Gault

Try hard-cooking rather than hard-boiling eggs.

While there are many ways to cook an egg, you might get better results by hard-cooking it without boiling. Bring a pot of eggs and water to a slight boil, and then turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit covered for about ten minutes, and then cold plunge them for perfect doneness.

Image Credit: Doring Kindersley


Accidents in the world of food can occasionally lead to the discovery of something delicious, but most of the time cooking mistakes lead to undercooked roasts, spreading cookies and inedible eats. How can you save a dish if it's too salty or doctor up a lopsided cake? We'll show you how to fix the most common cooking mistakes, from soggy pan-fried dishes to gummy rice.

Check out our slideshow above to discover 15 easy fixes to common cooking mistakes.

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