Save the Dish: 6 Common Cooking Mistakes -- Solved! - Cook Like a Pro Series [6/6]

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon Category: Cooking101

You went to all that trouble to cook… and then it didn’t turn out right...


But you CAN save it (unless you burnt it to a crisp… there’s no coming back from that…)


If the saltiness is the result of an over-reduced soup, add water. Another option is to add acid, such as lemon juice, to cut the salt. Depending on the dish, adding wine might also work.

The best way to avoid over-salting is to cook without salt and only add it at the end after you’ve tasted your dish.

ESPECIALLY if you’re using any kind of canned item. Most canned goods and condiments contain salt (buy no salt and low-sodium as much as possible).


Spread waterlogged grains on a baking sheet and refrigerate.

They should be a little dryer and less soggy the next day. (FYI--You probably still won’t want to use the overcooked grains as a side dish, but IN something, like a soup or stir-fry, they’ll be okay).

You can also make pudding from your overcooked grains as another alternative.

FYI--Soggy rice or quinoa happens when you add too much liquid.

(See this post on grains to know the correct grain to water ratios)

If you overcook your chickpeas (guilty!) put them on a baking sheet and bake -- then you have roasted chickpeas which are delicious on their own, or you can make roasted chickpea hummus.

Hummus and other bean dips are an AWESOME way to save any overcooked beans, btw -- but if it’s really wet, you might want to bake for a bit to dehydrate a little or your dip will be pretty bland.


Mushy vegetables? Puree into a soup.

Mushy “meat” loaf? Remove from pan and mold into patties with your hand. Serve as is or place on a baking sheet and bake another 5-10 minutes for a crisper outside.


Gravy has lumps? Strain it (use a chinoise strainer) but this only works with thinner, more homogenous sauces - if it’s a chunky or mushroom gravy it won’t work.

Lumps happen when added your ingredients too quickly (slow and steady… whisk, whisk, whisk) or at incorrect temperatures. For example, you can’t whisk cornstarch into hot liquid, it has to be blended into a cold or room temp liquid first, then add that to the hot dish. Make a “slurry” first!


A good place to start is with the basics: salt and pepper. Next try ramping up the spices you already used, or add a dash of a prepared seasoning like Italian herb, taco seasoning, Cajun seasoning, Mrs. Dash Chipotle, whatever would be complementary to the ingredients.

I’ve also had a lot of luck with these flavors as a one-off addition: mustard, ketchup, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, curry powder, and PINEAPPLE.

Pineapple can save most dishes -- keep a can or some frozen on hand.

Citrus like lemon, lime, and orange, can also go a long way in improving a dish.

… and then there’s always HOT SAUCE FOR THE WIN.


Mouth on fire? Feeling the burn? Extinguish the heat in one of five ways:

(1) Add an acid such as lemon or lime juice. Pineapple and tomato sauce might also work -- just think about what might be complementary to the ingredients and flavors presented.

(2) Add potatoes or carrots. Both can temper the heat, especially when they’re shredded.

(3) Almond butter or peanut butter can mellow out the heat (and they go with most flavors!) A little bit goes a long way. If you can’t have nuts, tahini would also work.

(4) Sweeten it! A pinch of sugar, a few drops of honey (or agave) or even a squirt of ketchup can often do the trick.

(5) Get creamy! Non-dairy milks and yogurts (plus blended silken tofu) can mellow really hot foods.

What are some of your SOS-save the dish secrets and tips?

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