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

Everybody ends up burning dinner sometimes. Here are our top tips for how to save burnt meat, soggy pasta, overcooked vegetables and more.
/ Source: TODAY

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.

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15-Minute Bacon and Egg Fried Rice

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).

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

Beef stew

Charlie Palmer

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.

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.

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).

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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.

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.

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