How to Fix a Spice Mishap
“Was that a teaspoon or a tablespoon?”… “Help, I added too much salt!”… “I ran out of cinnamon, now what?”… We’re all familiar with that hit-your-head moment when you’ve realized you might have ruined dinner due to empty spice jars or over-seasoning. These are typical and easy-to-make mistakes that can befall even the most confident cooks. But please back away from the garbage disposal—we have a few simple tips and tricks to counteract common seasoning slipups and save just about any dish.
Tip number one: Even if you’re in a hurry, prep work counts. First set out and measure all ingredients separately before you mix anything together. The small glass dishes, also known as custard cups, in the PYREX® 6-OUNCE DESSERT SET are perfect for measuring out dry spices and herbs, and the easy-to-read red lines on a PYREX® 1-CUP MEASURING CUP show exactly how much liquid you do (or don’t) have; plus the spout offers control when adding liquid little by little.
SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE...AND BEYOND
You can always add more, but you can’t take it out. When seasoning a dish to taste, be sure to add just a little bit at a time. However, if your shake was more of a pour, fear not.
- Add a little bit of lemon or tomato. The acid in these ingredients will help reduce the effects of an overly salted-and-peppered dish. If the acid is throwing off the flavor, add just a pinch of sugar to counteract the sour.
- Dilute salty soups or stews with a little bit of water.
- Toss in any extra ingredients, like potatoes, veggies, meat, pasta, rice or beans. Not only will that help reduce the salt or pepper content, it’ll ensure that you end up with leftovers!
YES, KIDS, THERE IS SUCH A THING AS “TOO SWEET”
In general, you should stick to exact measurements when baking, but if your cookies come out just a little too sweet (for most), there are ways to heighten other flavors.
- Sprinkle more salt. Adding just a pinch of salt to your brownie batter or cup of hot cocoa provides an effective counterbalance to the sugar.
- Fix with something fermented. A tangy dairy product like yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche is a good substitute to straight milk or cream, which are sweeter.
- Try adding a little bit of acid, like a squeeze of citrus or a splash of vinegar, to balance out a too-sweet dish.
MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE!
When someone asks you if you like it mild, medium or spicy, you should always answer on a sliding scale. Spicy to one person could be bland to the next, and vice versa. You can add more kick, but how do you tone down a high-intensity dish?
- Adding cream, yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk to a spicy dish will instantly cool it down.
- If cream isn’t an option, a little bit of acid can go a long way. Vinegars, citrus juice and tomatoes are a great way to combat the heat and give your dish an interesting flavor.
- Depending on the dish, you could also try sugar, peanut or almond butter, or tahini (sesame seed paste) to ward off a little heat.
BAKING SODA OR POWDER: DOES IT MATTER?
Yes, it flat-out does! They’re NOT the same. Baking soda is pure bicarbonate of soda. It must interact with an acidic ingredient (like lemon juice or buttermilk) to work its leavening magic. Baking powder consists of baking soda along with an acidifying agent and a drying agent. So you can be substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (just use a little more), but not the other way around (unless you don’t care about that light and fluffy texture). Next time you’re baking and have run out of baking powder (or if its expired – which will yield poor results), simply mix 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar. And your dish will rise and shine.
THROUGH THICK AND THIN
If your dish is just a little too watery, you can always make a simple roux with cornstarch or flour mixed with a small amount of water. Stir until dissolved, then add a little bit at a time to thicken to the right consistency.
ACCEPT THESE SUBSTITUTES
Spice rack not living up to the demands of your cookbook? Here are a few handy herb and spice substitutions to help you out of any seasoning-related tight spot:
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
Okay, we will now admit that there are times a dish just can’t be fixed. If it’s burnt to a crisp, tastes like the ocean or sears off too many of your taste buds, your best bet might be to scrap it and start over. Or depending on the ingredients, maybe just treat the dog...he’ll probably think it’s delicious!YOUR TURN: How do you remedy minor seasoning missteps?