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What Do I Do If . . . ?

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Lauren Braun Costello
About the author: Lauren Braun Costello
The competent cook; food stylist; cooking instructor; graduate French Culinary Institute. To die for dish? Maple glazed bacon wrapped roast turkey. Yep, bacon wrapped.
Have you ever had an accident in the kitchen? Of course you have. You’re only human. We all have been there. There are so many things that can happen, whether they are your fault or not. Lids from spice bottles can come loose. An ingredient can spill right before it gets to the pot and you have no time to replace it. Here are some easy answers to some very common problems.

Too Much Salt in the Soup
This is probably one of the most frustrating accidents in the kitchen. Oversalted anything is so unappetizing. Solving the problem is easier than you think. The obvious answer would be to dilute the sauce or soup with more liquid. Although this may counterbalance the saltiness, it may also weaken all the other flavors and affect the texture and thickness. A trick that really works is to add a peeled potato in a few thick slices to the pot. Let the potato simmer in the liquid until it becomes translucent. The potato should absorb most of the salt. Just be sure to throw it away before service.

Usually such an accident occurs because the cook has decided to shake the salt container directly over the vessel. The lid pops off, the spout opens too widely, or the speed of the released salt is too quick to control. For this reason alone, it is far better to add salt in pinches – big or small – from a bowl filled with salt. This way you will always have control. You can always add more seasoning, but correcting something that has been overseasoned is a far more difficult task.

Thin Sauces that Need Thickening
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If you make a sauce that is just too thin, ask yourself one question: have I been truly patient? If you really did let the sauce reduce for the correct amount of time and to the proper volume, then you should ask yourself one more question: what do I have on hand to solve the problem? There are several thickening agents that will help to add depth to a sauce. If you have cornstarch or arrowroot on hand, combine an equal part with warm water, then add it to the sauce. Stir slowly over low heat. Your sauce will thicken within seconds without any lumps.

If flour is all you have in the cupboard, add an equal part to melted butter in a clean pot and cook for one minute to make a roux. Then pour the thin sauce over the roux and stir constantly until thickened. Sometimes mounting a sauce with just a pat of butter right before service adds a velvety sheen, just slightly thickening an otherwise thin sauce.

Too Much Spice Is Not So Nice
When something is so hot and spicy that all I taste is the heat, I am usually turned off. I like spice, but only as a background element, not a mask of the other flavors. If you make something that you think is just too spicy, add honey. Sweet counterbalances heat. If you are making a dish with chipotles, for example, and it’s just a bit too hot for your taste, add some honey, a bit at a time, until the heat balance is where you want it to be. This trick works well with red pepper flakes, cayenne and hot paprika. A little bit of honey goes a very long way.

I Ran Out of This and That
I urge everyone to read a recipe at least once in its entirety before beginning the preparation and cooking process to avoid the problem of lack of ingredients. Nevertheless, everyone at one time or another has thought they had enough of an ingredient only to realize at a critical moment that they do not have what they need. Here are a few helpful substitutions to get you through those rough spots:

1 tsp baking powder = ¼ tsp baking soda + 1/2 cup buttermilk or ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 cup buttermilk = 2/3 cup plain yogurt + 1/3 cup sweet milk
1 tbsp cornstarch = 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup cream = ½ cup butter + ¾ cup whole milk
1 cup honey = 1 ¼ cups sugar + ¼ cup water
1 cup molasses = 1 cup of honey
1 cup sour cream = 1 cup of yogurt
1 cup brown sugar = ¾ cup of granulated sugar + ¼ cup molasses
1 cup granulated sugar = ¾ cup honey or ½ cup corn syrup
1 cup powdered sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar + 1/8 tsp cornstarch (blended in food processor)
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       what should you do if you make something too sour? what would balance out the acidity?

    Comment posted by georgia

       When there is too much acid, usually diluting the product or sweetening will help, just like with too much heat. Think of it like the PH balance scale in school; to counteract the acid you need a base.

    Comment posted by Chef Lauren

       I made some BBQ, but accidentally doubled the brown sugar. How can I make it less sweet? Thanks

    Comment posted by Lori

       Just like with something too spicy, you want to counterbalance. So, in the case of BBQ that is too sweet, you need to add some acid (vinegar would be ideal) and perhaps some more spice (cumin, cayenne, etc.). If you are referring to the meat itself, this is the very best way, If you are referring to a sauce, then you could just dilute the sweetnes by simply maing more of it with less sugar to even it out.

    Comment posted by Chef Lauren Braun Costello

       I have Spagetti Sauce from the can but it is just too, too Tangy! what can I put in it to make it taste more home made?

    Comment posted by Spagetti Sauce too Tangy!

       This is interesting, because most basic marinara sauces from the jar are invariably perceived as too sweet (sugar is added to bring out what should be the natural sweetness in tomatoes). Also, the issue of something beeing too tangy is a different consideration from making it appear more homemade in flavor. And every sauce is different, but nevertheless I would recommend adding some chopped fresh herbs, such a s basil and oregano. Roasting some garlic in a bit of olive will add a mellow, sweet depth of flavor to the sauce.

    Comment posted by Chef Lauren Braun Costello

       I ran out of brown sugar making cookies. So I substituted the regular sugar and molasses instead. I haven't baked the cookies yet, but i can smell the strong molasses smell . Is there any way to mask that strong taste and smell of the molases?

    Comment posted by jinxharley

       I would bake the cookies first before judging the taste. As for the smell, it probably will just be stronger. Processed brown sugar definitely does not have the strong odor of straight molasses. A substitution is after all just that - a workable solution but not exactly the same.

    Comment posted by Chef Lauren Braun Costello

       HELP! I made homemade spagettin sauce and made it too sweet. what can I do????

    Comment posted by mbs

       Dilute it. add something starchy that you can remove later.

    Comment posted by Matthew

       if cake is not sweet, what should i do

    Comment posted by jady

       What do I do if the seasonings were accidently added twice to a shepards pie type dish. Tastes very salty, and seasony.

    Comment posted by double seasoned

       I added way to much butter, what to do?

    Comment posted by Laura

       Added way to much banking soda to my spagetti sauce. What do I use to tone it down.

    Comment posted by Fran

       ....never tried baking soda in spaghetti sauce.What is the purpose of this?

    Comment posted by hoi yah

       i did the same thing, what do i do to tone it down? Help!!!

    Comment posted by nancy

       i put too much cinnamon in a pasta sauce what do i do?

    Comment posted by clara

       My son and I are making cookies and he misread my handwriting and put in 3 tsp. of salt instead of 1 tsp. What can we do now?

    Comment posted by paysons mom

       We tried a new recipe for a dinner party last night and right before guests started to arrive we realized the meal was unedible! In hindsight, it was a mistake to try something new in this instance but what do you recommend as a quick "go-to" meal, should you be in need of serving something on the fly?

    Comment posted by Food emergency

       What's the answer to the "too much cinnamon" question? I did the same thing and don't know how to counterbalance it. Thanks.

    Comment posted by tjw3471

       please respond to the too much cinnamon questions

    Comment posted by Ree

       Really the only thing you can do with too much cinnamon is to add more of the other ingredients. For the example of the pasta sauce, add more tomato sauce or tomatoes, and some of the other herbs or spices called for (other than cinnamon of course!). You'll need to experiment so start slowly adding more of the most predominant flavor first. The best way to remedy it, of course, is to make another batch without any cinnamon and combine the two, but that isn't always an option for the home cook.

    Comment posted by CDKitchen

       was helpful

    Comment posted by Mary

       Thanks for the advice...I wish there was a quick fix instead of making another batch! Still trying to salvage dinner...ha ha!

    Comment posted by Diana

       Im making a quiche, and it baked for the full time twice now, but it is still liquidy on top! What do I do????

    Comment posted by Gianna

       What can I add to BBQ Sauce that is just too tangy? I need to tame it down some...

    Comment posted by Dawn

       I am making Stifado and put far too much oregano in i used dried oregano. What can i do to reverse this

    Comment posted by Vicki

       Thank you so much for your column. I wrote several of your notes in my computer cookbook. I needed the 'too much cinnamon' dilemma answered today. Thank you for saving my Apple Butter. ;)

    Comment posted by Karen in GA

       how do i tone down the taste of cloves, i added to much spice on accident

    Comment posted by Mykul

       What do i do if i put to much butter in the cookies i was making?

    Comment posted by AandJ

       I'm making minestrone soup and instead of 1 teaspoon I added a tablespoon of oregano. What can I do to tone it down?

    Comment posted by Barb

       I accidently used tarragon in the spaghetti sauce. How do I get rid of that wierd taste?

    Comment posted by marlene

       I'm sorry but I still couldn't find my solution for too much oregano. I added too much oregano to some posole that I was making for Christmas. Can you tell me what the solution is?

    Comment posted by Max

       adding extra tomato works....i used tomato paste a little at a time until i got the flavor back that i wanted....

    Comment posted by JJ

       What is the reason for cinnamon in pasta sauce?

    Comment posted by CathyLynn

       What if your making homemade super duper chocolate chip cookies and doubled(1 cup) dark brown sugar when you only needed (1/2 cup) light brown sugar?

    Comment posted by marie

       What was your recommendation regarding too much oregano in my spaghetti sauce? Sam

    Comment posted by Samantha

       i put to much oregano in my spaghetti sauce.

    Comment posted by sharon

       So I'm making chicken soup, and was looking for things to put in to make it a little more flavourful (my last batch was way too diluted). A dash of pepper, paprika, chives, lots of garlic, whole onions, turnips and chicken. Then I get this brillian (stupid!) notion to toss in some cloves. And of course, my arm jerked and in goes what, three tables spoons? More even? So I've added in more chicken, have been diluting the heck out of it -- but it's still too clovey. Any ideas???

    Comment posted by mel

       i like my soups spicy

    Comment posted by kelly

       I just made a new sauce recipe that called for 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon & it was too much! I added a good dose of coarse ground pepper, worchestershire sauce, and Texas Pete hot sauce. It really helped tone down the cinnamon flavor. Be warned: I really like spicy food so if you don't I don't know if this will help or hurt!

    Comment posted by Jenny

       I am on the slimming world diet, amd I have just made Mushroom Stroganoff, and the recipe called for 1 tsp cloves, way too much, is there any way I can add other things to counter balance the cloves Thank you

    Comment posted by Chris

       So I mistakenly grabbed the cream of tarter instead of the cornstarch last night and RUINED (or hopefully not) my beef stroganoff sauce. I needed a thickener and now, as to be expected, my sauce is sour. What kind of base should I use to counter the cream of tarter? Butter? Milk? Cream? HELP! I would love to rescue the sauce and have a better dinner (leftovers) tonight!

    Comment posted by Ashley

       What should I do if I accidentally put twice the amount of sour cream in something? It called for 16 oz and I used two!!

    Comment posted by Kim

       If you aren't able to remove any of the sour cream, unfortunately I think the only real way to counteract the extra amount is to add more of the other ingredients in the dish to balance it out.

    Comment posted by CDKitchen

       What do you do if you add too much butter to your banana bread mixture?

    Comment posted by Guest

       I'm making a shorba (curry-ish tomao soup) and used too much ground cinnamon in place of bark. I sorta fixed it with oat milk (had some that needed using but dairy would probably do), worcestershire sauce, a tsp of instant coffee and a tbs of paprika plus more pepper. It's much better!

    Comment posted by denise

       I put too much dried oregano in my lasagna. I froze it anyway for use at a later date. Will freezing it help to take out the bitterness?

    Comment posted by Barb

       What can I do if the pulled pork has too much BBQ sauce (it's from a pre-made package)?

    Comment posted by Gammy

       Used paprika with sugar instead of cinnamon in my cinnamon/walnut coffee cake...grabbed wrong spice container. Any suggestions?

    Comment posted by Marsha

       By mistake when cooking the beef and pork meat for my meat pies I added too much nutmeg. How can I correct it.


    Comment posted by Jocelyne Budd


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