What to do if you burn dinner!June 7, 2016
Deep breaths, step away from the pan. It happens to the best of us. Here’s what to do if you burn dinner – that’s right, it’s not the end of the world! We’ve all been there, and beginner cooks and Michelin starred chefs alike have accidentally applied too much heat and had to get out of the kitchen. The best plans are those made and broken, so let’s improvise and save that dinner disaster!
Ditch the Pan, Stan
Your attention has wandered and you’ve stepped back to the stove to discover everything’s gone south – what was a rich sauce mere moments ago is now a graveyard of blackened ash. Your first instinct may be to throw the whole lot in the bin – not so! There might just be saving some of that sauce or those veggies.
First things first – that pan has got to go. It’s betrayed us and we no longer need it sticking its nose in this dinner. Remove it from the heat right away, and sit the bottom of the pan in some cold water, if you can manage it. Pour out the sauce or remove the veggies from the burnt pan, and add to a new one. To be sure no burnt flavour remains in a sauce, you can run it through a strainer before adding to the clean pan. Don’t try to bring anything with you if its stubbornly sticking to the burn pan – it will only taste burnt.
The ol’ Tater Trick
For sauces, sometimes running the liquid through a strainer is not enough. Taste the sauce and if it still has an unpleasant burnt flavour, add a whole, peeled raw potato. Setting aside the mixture for 15 minutes should allow the potato to absorb the flavour. Remove the potato and gently reheat the sauce to serve.
Embrace the Char, Bra
If your gently sautéed veggies are looking more blackened than you expected, accept it! Delicious barbecues, kebabs; these are the stuff of burnt and char grilled delight. Why not lean into the charred flavour by adding some mustard, curry powder or harissa paste to add to the smoky flavour profile? Remember the rules of balance: salty should be met with sweetness, bitterness and sourness should never overpower the other elements of the dish. A squeeze of lemon, some creamy goats cheese, or a splash or sweet tamarind could be all your dish needs to bring it back from the brink.
Don’t stew (let the dinner do it for you!)
For overcooked meat (grey steak anyone?) there is a solution. A slow cooked stew will add moisture back into the sad looking meat in question, and the extended cooking time will transform tough meat into beautiful, tender fare. Will it take longer than a medium rare steak? Well, yes. But grab a glass of wine for yourself and for your pot, add some onions, garlic and tinned tomatoes, sit back and relax and let science take its course.
What are your tips for rescuing a burnt dinner! We want to hear them.