By Hilary Meyer, October 25, 2010 - 11:54am
Let's face it. We all make mistakes in the kitchen. Even those of us who cook on a daily basis (like me) still get mixed up, burn dinner or forget to add an ingredient from time to time. A few weeks ago, we asked our Facebook fans to share their biggest cooking mistakes with us. Some were worse than others (like burning down the entire kitchen, for example), while others were more minor. Some mistakes could even be fixed or simply avoided using a few helpful cooking tips. Here are a few of the most common cooking mistakes and how to fix or avoid them.
Kitchen Mistake 1: You use sugar instead of salt in a recipe or vice versa.
OK, we've all done this. They look the same. Unfortunately, they taste very different. Depending on the recipe, you may have to cut your losses and scrap it. Especially in baking. Who wants a cupcake or cookie baked with 1 1/2 cups of salt instead of sugar? If the kitchen foul is less extreme, say in a soup, for example, you may be able to save it.
Fix it: Before you toss your efforts in the trash, taste it. It may not be as bad as you thought. Salt and sugar are sort of like yin-and-yang ingredients. In some circumstances, they balance each other out, which could enhance the flavor of a dish. If you added sugar to your soup instead of salt, add the salt anyway. Maybe a pinch or two extra just to counter the sugar. If you added too much salt, and really needed sugar, add the sugar and then water it down by adding more liquid. I also keep my salt and sugar in different-looking containers and store them in different cabinets, just to be safe.
Kitchen Mistake 2: You whip your cream until it looks like butter.
Whipped cream is the perfect addition to pies and other desserts. It's not hard to make, but you can't just stand there and idly whip away to your heart's content. Overwhipping cream can ruin it if you're not careful. If taken too far, whipped cream turns to butter.
Fix it: Stop whipping when the cream is still smooth and can hold soft peaks. Cream whips best when it's cold and whipped in a cold container. If you overwhip cream it will start to look chunky. You may be able to fix it by adding more cream and whipping it by hand. If it's very chunky and stiff, you've made butter and you'll have to start over. But hey! At least you can use your mistake!
Kitchen Mistake 3: You misread the recipe and it doesn't work. This problem is the most severe in baking recipes where measuring matters. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour, it's telling you to sift the flour first then measure it. What's the difference? Sifted flour is a lot lighter than flour that's been packed away in a bag. The result of not reading the recipe correctly can give you disappointing results—like a loaf of bread that's more like a brick than anything else.
Avoid it: This is a no-brainer, but: read the recipe. It's best to read it through once from start to finish before starting so there are no surprises. If your end product tastes good, but the texture is too heavy, repurpose it into something else. If you have a dense loaf of bread, turn it into fresh breadcrumbs or cut it into cubes and make it into bread pudding. The egg will soak into the bread, making it lighter as it cooks.
What are your biggest cooking disasters? Tell us what you think below.