How-To & Diy

7 Common Kitchen Disasters -- And How to Avoid Them

April 23, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Jessica Goldman Fung, a.k.a Sodium Girl, shows us how to not set your kitchen on fire, plus six more tips for avoiding kitchen disasters. 

Burnt stuffing from Food52

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We’ve all experienced dramatic quinoa spills, dropped Thanksgiving turkeys, and the “great pine nut fire” of 2010. And by we, I mean me. Which is why, today, I want to chat about common cooking mistakes and ways to prevent them -- beyond the five second rule, and before the fire department.

Nuts from Food52

Nuts, Parchment Paper, and The Broiler

Only you can prevent oven fires. And the easiest ways to do that is to make sure to keep flammable items and ingredients far away from the broiler -- especially parchment paper. But if you do decide to roast nuts in the oven, use this video from Mario Batali and keep a close watch. Or go the safest route and toast them in a dry, hot pan.

Blending from Food52

Blenders, Food Processors, and Missing Tops 

Whether you’ve had too little coffee or too many misplaced parts, just remember that a topless, spinning machine means a coating of “natural paint” on the walls, floor, ceiling, and yes, you. So take the time to put on a top (or get some new gadgets). And if you’re in a pinch, use a tight-fitting kitchen towel to keep all the ingredients inside the ride. If you're blending something hot -- like a soup -- make sure to let it cool a bit before putting it in the blender; if not, the top can pop off while it's whirring.

Soup from Food52

Vegetables and Too Much Time in the Pot

We know that a watched pot never boils. But an unwatched pot makes extremely soft vegetables. Which means it's either time to start using that timer (I just use the one on my phone). Or transform those mushy peas, butternuts, and cauliflower into a quick and aromatic soup or hummus. Bonus: Half the cooking is already done.

Cake testing from Food52

Cookies, Cakes, and Unfollowed Directions

If you’re like me, you don’t always have all the right ingredients (which is, of course, a big problem when it comes to baking). So for those times when you throw caution and use orange juice in place of eggs -- or forget to butter or line your pan -- don’t be surprised that your cookies and chocolate cakes don’t rise, stick together, or look like they are supposed to. But don’t fret either. Because when baking fails strike, simply rename the recipe (cookies are now cookie crumbs) and turn those deconstructed baked goods into an ice cream topping, a pie crust, a trifle, a parfait, or a sweet mix-in for an afternoon yogurt snack.

Salmon from Food52

Fish En Papillote and Unpleasant Tastes

I learned this lesson the hard way: Tin foil plus acid equals inedible. So when making fish en papillote, use parchment paper (but don’t broil it; see above). Or, if using tin foil, be sure to omit ingredients like vinegar, tomatoes, white wine, and citrus. 

Clarified butter from Food52

Glass Dishes and Ovens; Foil and Microwaves

Not all glass dishes are equal, and not all containers may safely enter the microwave. Which is why it’s important to always check that your chosen vessel belongs in your chosen cooking implement. And know which items should never go in a microwave: foil, plastic, styrofoam, take out containers, and marshmallows. Now go make clarified butter.

Turkey from Food52

Overdone Meat

The solution is simple: Cover up the mistake and don't tell anyone your original intentions. Good alibis include cutting up dry chicken or beef into smaller pieces and turning it into a pasta sauce, taco filling, or a casserole. Or, if things get burned, just put a sauce on it -- it will help cancel out any charred taste and dry texture. Which is what you were going for all along.

What are your kitchen disaster stories? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Gerald5001
  • Mary D. Johns
    Mary D. Johns
  • Josie Marsh
    Josie Marsh
  • realfoods
  • Erock
In January of 2004, I received a diagnosis that changed my life. I was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease that in my case attacked my kidneys and brain. Due to the intensity of the initial “flare up” of the disease, I became renal insufficient and eventually faced kidney failure. Amazingly, through great medicine, wonderful family and friends, and an enormous amount of support, I became stronger and healthier and miraculously, my kidneys partially regenerated. I no longer depend on dialysis and by regulating my diet, I depend on fewer medications. Five years later, I work part time and live a full and utterly enjoyable life. My dietary restrictions have transformed into a real passion for food and I hope to be able to pass along my favorite finds to others facing similar dietary challenges. Be creative, be friendly, and be full!


Gerald5001 April 24, 2014
There was no video of Mario Batali roasting nuts, just a blank page
Mary D. April 23, 2014
We followed a recipe for beef burgundy for the second time, but it came out weak and wan. My husband had grabbed an older bottle of wine, white instead of red. The next day, I drained the meat and vegetables and started over in the crock pot with a can of beef broth, more garlic, herbs and red wine. I cooked it on low for about 6-7 hours and it was fine.
Josie M. April 23, 2014
Erick, I agree. I recently made some dry, not-quite-sweet-enough muffins into some great bread pudding.
realfoods April 23, 2014
I think I've made that exact thanksgiving stuffing -- is it the one from Gena Hamshaw? -- and bet it would be delightful scorched! If only I had the patience to wait until mine got so brown....
Erock April 23, 2014
A general rule my best friend and I have is most failed baked goods make wonderful sweet or savory bread puddings the next day, but occasionally there are disasters are not worth saving (or mentioning).
ChefJune April 23, 2014
Sodium Girl, I love your sense of humor. Have you considered a career as a stand-up comedienne?