All of us have gone through them at some point or the other as we tried and tested our skills in the kitchen; we’ve wrung our hands in despair and turned our noses down at the dishes we worked so hard to create; and we wondered and pondered where we went wrong, whether the recipe let us down or whether we messed up big time. Recipe disasters have been known to happen more often than not – who hasn’t cried over a cake that was cooked to a crisp or a salad that fell flat on its face – and while we cannot completely eliminate them, we can try to minimize their occurrence or salvage some edible food from them by following a few simple ground rules.
1. Read the recipe thoroughly much before you begin – when you leave the reading to the last minute, you risk not having a few ingredients on hand and/or not having them in the right condition. For example, unless you know that the recipe calls for cooked tomatoes, you’re not going to have them cooked and ready to add to the dish when you’re supposed to do so.
2. Keep all ingredients at hand, in the right measure – this way, you avoid adding the wrong ingredients in your mad scramble to find them, and you avoid putting in the wrong amounts.
3. Keep tasting the food as you’re cooking it – if you’ve added too little salt, or horror of horrors, salt instead of powdered sugar, you can stop right here and start over again.
4. Avoid multi-tasking – when you try to do too many things while cooking, you end up losing focus and making mistakes. You could so easily burn or overcook items if you forget to stir them or take them out of the oven when you’re supposed to do so.
5. Don’t depend on too many people to help – it’s true that too many cooks spoil the broth, especially when they’re amateurs who’re high in enthusiasm and low in culinary skills.
6. Don’t improvise unless you’re absolutely sure of yourself – when you replace ingredients with substitutes that you think are suitable alternatives, you must be a great cook who knows exactly how the finished dish will turn out or someone who has done this experiment before.
7. Don’t use ingredients that you’re not familiar with – some items may sound exotic and you may want to try them out. But if you don’t know what they are or how they’re supposed to look when half-cooked or fully cooked, you’re getting ready for a disaster.
8. Don’t rush through the process – cooking works best when it’s slow and unhurried. If you try to get things done fast, you end with either burned or undercooked food.
9. Don’t allow overconfidence to ruin your dish – instead of resorting to your instinct for ingredient measures, take the time to actually use measuring cups and spoons; instead of assuming 10 minutes has gone by and you can remove your dish from the oven, check your watch for the time or set the oven timer to beep in ten minutes.
10. And finally, don’t hesitate to try out the recipe again if you’ve failed once – you may have messed up the first time. However, if you keep getting the same slop more than once, it’s time to throw the recipe out along with your disaster.