We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Five Common Cooking Mistakes and How to Fix Them

BAZA Production/Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re a rookie in the kitchen or you’ve been cooking for years, no one is immune to making cooking mistakes. However, some of those mistakes are more common than others, and it only takes one wrong move to essentially “ruin” a whole dish.

Thankfully, most kitchen mistakes can be fixed with a little knowledge, experience, and ingenuity.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five common cooking mistakes and how you can fix them—and potentially save dinner!

How to Fix a Salty Dish

A person adds salt to a dish while cooking.

Truthfully, it’s hard for most home cooks to over-salt a dish. When you go out to eat, chances are the restaurant cooks are using more salt in your dish than you would ever think to use on your own. Spoiler alert—that’s usually what makes it taste so good.

But, it’s still possible for a dish to be too salty while cooking. Maybe you read the recipe wrong and added two tablespoons instead of teaspoons. Or, maybe you just got a little heavy-handed with a “pinch” of salt.

Can you fix it? Probably!

Try adding something acidic to the dish, like lemon juice, vinegar, or even some kind of tomato product. The acid in those ingredients will help to neutralize the salt. Of course, choose an acidic ingredient that makes sense for the dish and start with just a squeeze, adjusting the amounts accordingly. Always taste as you go!

Gravity Electric Salt and Pepper Grinder Set

Snag these fancy salt and pepper shakers for your next meal.

How to Fix a Spicy Dish

A person chops a pepper on a wooden cutting board surrounded by other peppers.

A little bit of spice is nice, but no one wants to sit down to a dish so spicy you can’t actually enjoy the flavor. What can you do if you’ve added too much cayenne, hot sauce, or spicy peppers to a recipe?

You can always dilute it with a bit of water or stock, but one of the best ways to neutralize the spice is with milk or another dairy product. People often reach for milk after eating spicy foods for a reason.

Dairy products contain a certain type of protein called casein. Casein binds with capsaicin (what makes peppers hot!) before it reaches your taste buds, neutralizing some of the spice. So, add a splash of cream, milk, or even plenty of cheese to your spicy dish and you’ll be able to enjoy it without burning your tongue.

Stock Your Home Half Gallon Glass Milk Bottle with Lid

Keep your milk at the ready if you're making a spicy dish!

How to Fix Undercooked Chicken

Four chicken thighs sit in a cast iron skillet.

Some people have a serious fear when it comes to undercooked chicken, and there’s a good reason for that. The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products is 165 degrees. If you consume chicken that’s undercooked, you could be at risk of foodborne illnesses like salmonella.

So, what should you do if you pull your chicken out of the oven and it’s still pink (or raw) inside? The safest thing is to keep cooking it! Invest in an instant-read thermometer that will allow you to ensure your chicken is properly cooked to a safe temperature.

If you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table, try slicing your chicken into smaller or thinner pieces before putting them back in the oven or on the grill. They’ll cook faster and you’ll reduce the risk of them being undercooked.

Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer!

Make sure your food is at a safe temperature every time!

How to Fix Lumpy Sauces and Gravy

A turkey pourer filled with gravy made with turkey drippings and beer.
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com

There’s nothing like a luxurious gravy or rich pan sauce to take a dish to the next level. But, many sauces start with a roux (flour and butter or oil) or are thickened with cornstarch. Sometimes, that can create lumps that seem next to impossible to get out.

The easiest way to smooth out your sauce or gravy is by using an immersion blender. It’s a handheld “stick” blender that can be used right in the pot you’re cooking your sauce in. Give the sauce a few quick blends and things should smooth out easily.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, try straining your gravy through a fine-mesh sieve. You might end up with a few smaller lumps, but it’ll be much smoother, overall.

Mueller Ultra-Stick 500 Watt 9-Speed Immersion Multi-Purpose Hand Blender

Great for smoothies, soups, and silky-smooth gravy!

How to Fix Overcooked Pasta

Spaghetti noodles being lifted out of a pot of boiling water

The perfect pasta is typically cooked to al dente, meaning it has a subtle firmness when bitten. However, your noodles can go from perfectly cooked to mushy in a matter of minutes if you’re not careful.

Instead of tossing your pasta and starting over, firm it up with a little bit of higher heat. After draining your noodles, place them in a saute pan with a bit of olive oil or butter.

Set the stove to medium-high heat, and cook the pasta until it has some browning. This creates more texture and will foster a more enjoyable eating experience by the time you add your favorite sauce.

Gotham Steel 5 Quart Stock Multipurpose Pasta Pot

An easy way to drain your noodles.

Sure, cooking is a bit of a science, but one of the best things about making your own food is that you have room to experiment and get creative. But, you’re only human, and mistakes happen.

Thankfully, most common cooking mistakes can be remedied somehow. Keep these helpful tips in mind the next time you experience an “oops” while making dinner. You might be able to save the dish in a matter of minutes.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?