Food

How to save burned and overcooked foods: Pasta, meat, vegetables and more

It's pretty rare to have time to cook without distractions — screaming kids dashing through the kitchen, ringing phones, buzzing computers, neighbors at the door — and we all know that distractions can lead to forgetting about that pasta or piece of meat on the stovetop. Everybody ends up burning dinner sometimes, including professional chefs. The good news is that there are ways to fix all but the most charred of foods. Here are my top tips for rescuing overdone pasta, meat, vegetables and more.

RELATED: How to fix foods that's too salty, sour or sweet

15-Minute Bacon and Egg Fried Rice
15-Minute Bacon and Egg Fried Rice
Grace Parisi / TODAY
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( rated)
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Servings:
4 to 6
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If you overcook rice...

Overcooking carbs is the easiest thing in the world to do. To make overcooked rice less sticky, rinse it in a strainer, and drain well. If it's still unpalatable, use it to make fried rice or arancini (fried Italian rice balls with cheese — as good as they sound).

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Spaghetti pie recipe: Adam Richman bakes a 'family dinner dream'

Play Video - 3:42

Spaghetti pie recipe: Adam Richman bakes a 'family dinner dream'

Play Video - 3:42

If your pasta or potatoes are soft and soggy...

Drain the pasta or potatoes and let dry, then pan-fry them with some olive oil and/or butter and lots of seasoning. Takeaway: Frying is the best weapon in the battle against overcooked food! Leftover pasta is also perfect for baking into casseroles like spaghetti pie, while a those mushy potatoes will be just fine in an omelet or frittata.

Beef stew
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
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( rated)
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If you burn meat...

If you are browning meat for a stew and the bottom of the pot starts to burn or get very dark in spots, you risk giving your stew’s sauce a bitter aftertaste. To avoid this, turn off the burner, remove the meat from the pan and wash the pan or transfer the meat to a new pan.

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Make hearty beef stew in only 30 minutes

Play Video - 2:38

Make hearty beef stew in only 30 minutes

Play Video - 2:38

And while we’re on the subject of burnt meat, a steak or any other piece of meat that is pan-fried over too high a flame will get scorched on the outside and be raw or underdone in the middle. The solution is to first sear the meat in an ovenproof pan, then move it off the stovetop and into a 300°F oven where it will cook without continuing to brown.

One-Pan Cheesy Root Vegetable Casserole
Food Network Chef Nancy Fuller is nakes her Beloved Beef Wellington and root vegetables as a side-dish
David Anderson / TODAY
Rating:
( rated)
Servings:
4
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If you overcook veggies...

Most vegetables that have been steamed (or boiled) too long can be salvaged if you quickly stop them from cooking by “shocking” them: Drain and plunge them into a bowl of ice water and let them sit for a minute or two before draining again. (FYI, this is a good technique even when vegetables are cooked perfectly, as the cold temperature halts the cooking process and preserves vegetables' bright colors).

RELATED: 21 casserole recipes that'll keep the whole family happy

Way overcooked veggies? Broil them with something that will brown, such as butter or cheese, or puree them. You can also freeze them and use later for soup or to thicken a gravy. Another idea for overcooked veggies is an improvised casserole: Toss those limp suckers with some pasta sauce, cheese, cream, fresh herbs, or what have you, top with breadcrumbs and bake just enough to brown. No one will be complaining about your vegetables.

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How to make cauliflower rice and turn it into stir-fry

Play Video - 1:39

How to make cauliflower rice and turn it into stir-fry

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If you burn garlic, oil or nuts...

These ingredients just can’t be salvaged because of how bitter they get when overcooked, so take care not to leave them unattended or use too high a flame. Light or even golden brown is ok, dark brown is not; if you aren’t sure, a tiny taste will tell you immediately. If the flavor is off, start over to avoid ruining the whole dish.

RELATED: How to save burnt cookies and more baking hacks

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