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scared looking lady

Oh No!  What do I do now? 

We all have these moments when things don't go according to plan. Don't panic - here are some useful suggestions on how to overcome some of the most common.

If gravy or sauce begins to separate during cooking i.e. fat and solids;  very carefully add a little water and it will emulsifier again.

If you have added too much curry then try adding a little honey.

If you burn sauce or gravy, pour it into a clean pan, add some sugar to it a little at a time to avoid the final result becoming too sweet - it takes the burnt flavour away.

Our thanks to David Palmer for this gem

Not sure if you can contact David Palmer or add a note to this page but the tip on rescuing burnt food was a lifesaver; having used it for some burnt curry that I had cooked in very large quantity. Fantastic. Thanks, Sue McArthur

If fudge refuses to set because there is too much moisture in it, put it back in the cooking pan, add a little of the liquid you were using (milk etc.) and simmer.  As long as you can see large bubbles, keep simmering.  When the bubbles reduce in size until they almost non existent the fudge will be ready to set.

This is another tip from Michael Paterson who explains he discovered this one day when he ruined some fudge.  He remembered in Chinese cooking the size of the oil bubbles are important for knowing when something you are deep frying has finally lost all its water and is about to start browning - he applied the same principle to the fudge and it worked.

Our gratitude to Michael.

Sauce or gravy lumpy - just pass through a sieve and you have a smooth sauce.

Thank you Patricia Pagliara.

Sometimes adding a knob of butter helps as well.


Every cook should own one of the hand held electric choppers that have been available for years.  We have named ours the "Gravy Saver."  It will completely dissolve flour lumps as well as diminish meat chunks that were stuck to the bottom of the roaster.  Make sure the "Gravy Saver" is submerged, though, or it will spatter the kitchen.  I always tip the pan to assure enough depth to the liquid.  The fail-safe way to make gravy is to prepare the roux first, but that's one too many steps for me.

Mike M. Peterson


  • The recipe for the casserole said a teaspoon of salt but you used a dessert spoon by mistake, don't throw it out and starve - peel a potato, cut into medium size pieces and add to the casserole.   Simmer and when the potato is soft lift carefully out.  The potato should have absorbed a lot of the saltiness.


  • Other ways to disguise saltiness is by adding a small can of tomatoes, or a dash of sweet sherry or a little plain yoghurt, whichever is most suitable for the particular dish involved.

These remedies also work well on stews, soups and curries.

Chatted too long on the telephone and your supper is burnt to the bottom of the pan - don't panic.

Don't stir the food as this will mix any burnt pieces into the rest of the food and contaminate it all. Plunge the bottom of the pan into cold water to cool it down and prevent further cooking.  Carefully remove as much of the unburnt food as you can and put into a clean pan, being very careful not to include any burnt bits, add a little more liquid continue cooking.  If it still tastes burnt the addition of something like Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, spice or herbs, usually disguises it.

If you burn a pot of rice, place a slice of white or "light" bread on the top of the rice.  Let it sit for a few minutes (5-10).  The burnt taste will be gone but be sure not to scrape the bottom of the pan!

Sarah A. Brewer from Augusta, Georgia kindly sent in this little gem which she learned from her Mother!.


  • Firstly remove as much of the burnt food as possible.

  • If it is only slightly burnt on the bottom, put some water into the pan and add quite a lot of salt, soak for an hour, then wash in the usual way.

  • If it is badly burnt, put some water into the pan, add salt, bring to the boil and leave to soak for about twelve hours, bring to the boil again.  The debris should wipe off.   If this is not the case add more salt and bring to the boil again.

  • Add hot water to the pan with a used fabric softener sheet from your laundry.  Let soak and the burnt crust will lift right off.

Thanks Rusty and Rosie.

I would like to let you know that Rusty & Rosie's tip for cleaning burnt food from a saucepan: Add hot water to the pan with a used fabric softener sheet from your laundry. Let soak and the burnt crust will lift right off, is fantastic!!! This worked in minutes! This begs the question what does this stuff do to your clothes & skin!

I had been making jam & left it for a few minutes when it caught on the bottom of the pan! I managed to rescue the jam but I was at a loss to work out how to clean the pan. I tried my usual trick boiling with bi-carb soda however this made absolutely no difference.

Thanks to Rusty & Rosie I don't have to throw out the pan & I can now finish my Christmas jam making.


  • This is a brilliant tip and has worked for me every time. Just empty the contents from the pan whilst hot and place the lid tightly on the pan leave over-night and the pan will clean up as new without any scouring or elbow grease.

Bonnie Ludlow

  • Whenever I encrust burnt food, usually rice, on a saucepan I boil it with water and three chopped lemons. It makes it easy to scrub off.

Mary McMillan Sloan

  • To clean a burnt pan put in 2 spoons of washing powder and water and simmer on a hob for a few minutes then rub clean; if its very burnt you might have to let it simmer a bit longer.

Kathryn Harding

I burnt a pan of rhubarb left about 1inch in the bottom, filled pan with hot water add washing powder. I used Persil and a scoop of stain remover i.e. Vanish. Boil up this for a few minutes, checked bottom with a plastic spatula, found all the burnt food came away had a sparkling clean pan.  Wonderful tip.

Derek Gascoyne

  • The best way to remove stuck rice from the bottom of a pot is to remove as much rice as easily possible (don’t scrap the bottom or sides – just scoop out the useable rice).  Return the dry rice pot to the stove (Do NOT add water) and scorch/sear the remain rice “crust” until you can see the browned rice grains.  Then quickly bring the pot to the sink and run icy-cold water into the pot.  Do not return the pot to the heat, but set it on a heat-proof surface and quickly “scrub” the rice away from the sides of the pot with a spoon/stirring spoon. Works like a charm.

Kate Chan

  • Wet and drain the burnt areas of pan. Sprinkle all burnt-on food with borax crystals (find a box of borax in the laundry supplies section of the supermarket). Let set for a few minutes or until you are in the mood for a little rubbing. Wet a plastic scrubby pad, use just a little bit of elbow grease, and the debris will come off easily. If there are remnants, resprinkle, let set and scrub as above. Works well on extra greasy pans also. Borax is inexpensive, won't damage metals, and does most of the work for you.

Shirley Darby - USA

  • I think I have a pretty brilliant suggestion for cleaning burnt food out of pans, suitable for pans made of any material.

    It's for people who don't mind trading a little (very little) elbow grease and saving the use of cleaning materials that may be polluters.

    I use the new type of sponge (always white) that has come out quite recently. Its often called "magic white foam", often sold at big chain's supermarkets.

    Here's what you do:

    ~ Scrape out as much as you can of the loose burnt food with spoon or the like.

    ~ Drench palm-sized piece of the foam and squeeze most of water out. No soap or cleaners are needed. Just wipe inside of the pan such that the foam pad seems to scrub-and-slide, scrub-and-slide. (This action is what makes it different from ordinary foam or sponge.)

    ~ All the food and most of the carbon will be removed with little effort.

~ As an optional final touch, make it look like new using Brillo or scouring powder.

Contributed by Howard Clapsaddle

  • According to Heath Glover the best thing to remove "burnt stains" from pots and pans is good old drinking Coke.  Let is stand for about an hour and the stains practically wipe off!

  • Scrape off as much burnt food as you can, squirt in a layer of liquid soda (available from supermarkets) and leave for half an hour or so depending on the burn.  The soda lifts the burnt food off the pan as if by magic.  Ordinary washing soda apparently does not work.

Thanks to Susan Gunn for this gem


  • Sprinkle the burnt food with baking soda, add some water and then boil or simmer - this should remove it.

Courtesy of Charlotte Gean - thanks.

  • To remove burnt on food from Pyrex dishes, soak them in Steradent Denture cleaner and hot water.

  • To clean limescale from kettles or glass vases, soak in hot water and 1/3 brown vinegar.  Rinse kettle well, fill and boil water.  Empty completely, rinse again.

Both the above have been contributed by Janet Bowen, thanks


Forgot to turn off the coffee pot and burnt it to the bottom of the pot?  Don't ruin the carafe by scrubbing with harsh abrasives, add a few teaspoons of salt and some crushed ice.  Let it sit for a minute, then swirl the mixture for a minute.   Most of the burnt beverage should come off, the rest will be loosened so that it will wipe out fairly easily.

Jessica Miles 


Brew more coffee (use another pot otherwise it will oddly enough taste burnt). Brew enough so that you can enjoy a cup yourself with enough left over to pour into the burnt pot and cover the burnt remains. After you have finished your cup of coffee, the burned on coffee will have dissolved. Swirl the liquid around, pour it out and rinse.

Willis Leslie

We have all experienced mishaps in the kitchen and, over the years have found ingenious ways to retrieve the situation.  Please don't keep it from us, we would love to hear from you with any useful tips on how to get out of trouble in the kitchen.  Or anything else for that matter - contact us on june@hintsandthings.co.uk., we look forward to hearing from you.


More kitchen gems.

Kitchen and food tips.

How to rescue those hints.

Aga tips.

How to cook eggs to perfection.







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