My Worst Cooking Disaster

Burnt pressure cooker from my cooking disaster.A food blogger friend once advised me to take down a picture I’d posted. Her philosophy is that food bloggers should only post pictures of beautiful and tasty food. I listened to her and removed the photo.

But today I decided that this is a rule made to be broken. After all, you folks don’t come here for “food porn” or elaborate recipes—you come to learn how real people can cook healthy and tasty meals with a minimum of effort.

So on this site, I share my failures as well. We can learn from our mistakes. Just don’t ask me to link to them all in one place.

The food I served over the recent holidays came out great. I made kreplach, couscous, lasagna and many other favorites. But just two days after the end of the holidays, last Friday night, I made one of my most unsuccessful meals in many years.

Because I don’t want to lose your respect completely I won’t go into details, but it involved burnt rice and undercooked chicken. And a very disgusting pot.

Sometimes, you put a lot of time into preparing a dish only to have it go wrong at the last minute. In this case, it took several instances of bad judgment throughout the day to screw up so colossally. I made all of the usual mistakes—trying something new on a hectic day, not following instructions carefully, being rushed, willfully ignoring experience and instincts, and more. Fortunately I had no guests and there was plenty of other food.

It took me over an hour to clean the pot afterward. I found this metal spatula useful in getting off all of the junk. This picture was taken near the end of the process, believe it or not. Oy. I’m lucky that the pot (my Fagor pressure cooker) wasn’t damaged.

So what was your worst cooking disaster? Or perhaps you enjoyed your worst meal courtesy of someone else? Please share–it’ll make me feel better.

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  1. aviva_hadas says

    My Mother-in-Law lives in New York, we live in Maryland. One time when they cam down for a visit, she brought a meal that she precooked – she brought everything, fish, salad, broccoli, brisket, & chicken. My son “hated” all of it. He will be 3 next month, so he was younger, but he had not turned away food in that manner previously. My husband said, “Like father like son.”

  2. Feel free to talk about failures! We’ve all been there.

    Baking soda and white vinegar. You reheat the pot, put in a bit of water and baking soda. When it gets hot, try to get off the stains. If you need help, add some white vinegar. I always have a baking soda for cleaning my burnt pots (I have a lot of stressful cooking times…).

  3. I know exactly what you mean. A few people have told me that I don’t post my disasters…I do fail an epic amount of times, and even though I don’t post it, that doesn’t mean I don’t embrace it…I feel like people are embarrassed at their mishaps in the kitchen, not realizing it happens to everyone…

    Just this morning, I wanted to make home-made oatmeal with steel cut oatmeal, but I tried jazzing it up..and in the end I ended up with undercooked, hard oatmeal, which had waaay too much honey…straight to the garbage, oh well.

  4. oh I burn stuff all the time. if you don’t stir, you can usually rescue the unburnt part of the food. If you stir, the burnt tase gets into everything. The worst culprit is pea soup. Somehow it burns more often than not.

  5. Oh I do it so people think I’m a superstar…I’m vain like that

  6. Where to begin?
    There was the meal I made when we were first married, and having another couple over. The brown meal. Where everything was fried and brown. And the wife said to her husband, “Oh, H., this is just the kind of food you like!” in what I’m sure she thought was a complimentary sort of way. She only ate the salad.
    On the upside, it made me realize I needed to think about what went into a meal, about variety of texture, color, food groups, etc. Still, I cringe when I think about the shnitzel with a side of yerushalmi kugel and potato kugel.
    Then there are the too numerous to count instances of undercooked chicken, fallen cakes, yeast doughs that never rose, chicken I left in the oven and forgot about while running errands…..

  7. I have mastered the knack of cooking rice which is burnt on the bottom and raw on the top – took me a long time to get it right! One of my relatives once made salmon en croute without taking the bones out of the fish and is still being reminded of it many years later, while my late grandmother, as a newlywed, apparently made chicken pie by mincing some left over chicken, but didn’t know you had to take out the bones before mincing it!! I’m a big fan of soda crystals – like baking soda, but the coarser version you get for cleaning – for burnt pots 🙂

  8. Since I’ve been nursing, I’ve been burning things more. For some reason, I imagine that I nurse for fewer minutes than it would take to burn a pot of rice or a pan of sauteeing swiss chard.

    When I burn things I get so mad at myself. I furiously wash the pots and pans and start all over again as a way to “get back at myself”. Even if it means going to the store to get new ingredients. Ok, I’m a little crazy.

  9. A few tablespoons of washing powder ( washing machine powder- for clothes) and lots of water, brought to a boil, uncovered, and then simmered, has taken off the most stubborn stuck on, cooked on, baked on food remains for me.
    The cool part is that the whole house smells great while it’s simmering!

  10. Nossi, LOL>
    Gila, my mother was very into making sure to have complementary colors for every meal! I still like to serve both green and yellow/orange vegetables. But I don’t think most in the Jewish community would have a problem with your brown menu.
    Mrs. B. My rice did get cooked, but quite burnt. Good newlywed stories. Do you heat up the baking soda in the pot (with water of course)?
    Abbi, I always try to set timers for those situations. Better than punishing yourself. . . Everyone is sharing secrets today. 🙂
    Jennie, thanks for that idea.

  11. I once left several potatoes cooking at a ridiculously high temperature for a ridiculously long time. I was so mad at myself! Until I ate them — the insides were still fluffy and the skin was crunchy. They were pretty good!

    As for rice — I finally bought a rice cooker because I burn the rice all the time.z

    Early in my marriage I made lasagne for my in-laws. My husband insisted I leave the salt out of the sauce for the benefit of my mother-in-law. I made two of them — one with and one without. It was painful to watch her eat it. She didn’t want me to feel bad since I had gone to extra trouble. She must have thought I was a horrible cook.

    And then there was the time at Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law said something to the effect of “Wow Dina your cooking sure has improved over the years!” Most people think I’m a decent cook. She must have tasted that terrible salt-free lasagna all those years earlier.

    • tdr–My mother always burnt potatoes, but not that badly! She would scrape off the burnt part. I never salt lasagna, but the cheese I use is pretty salty.
      As to your cousin, my parents always said, “Comparisons are odious.”

  12. Ms. Krieger says

    worst cooking disaster…

    …the all-brown menu reminds me of when we had a new-friend couple over and somehow I managed to make an all-soupy, mostly-spicy menu. I’ve blocked out the details. I remember it involved baked beans. And something else soupy? And…the wife in the couple just hated spicy food and she was so nice about it but we could tell and the texture was terrible and I felt so, so bad, and embarrassed.

    Fortunately they were very kind and we have never spoken of the meal again 🙂

    Another cooking disaster I remember quite clearly is when I was young, maybe 12, and trying to make brioche. I was quite impatient. Impatience just doesn’t work for brioche. I put the powdered yeast into cold water and then when it didn’t proof, I decided to heat it in a pot on the stove. Of course I heated it to much (to boiling!) and killed the yeast, but I didn’t realize that and so I used that dead-yeast water in the recipe and it didn’t rise. It was very disappointing. I still remember it to this day. Heheh.

  13. Geula Sauberman says

    Well, I don’t cook enough to have many disasters but I do tend to burn pots when heatingg up things. I once heated up some soup, went to the neighbor’s house “for a minute”, had dinner there and sat with them to watch television. Dear neighbor lady said she smelled something burning and asked me if I had something cooking. Being a forgetful person, I said I’d go check. I opened the door to SMOKE (no smoke detecter). Luckily I learned how to save the pot…I poured in water with dish soap, boiled it up for 10 minutes and then let it simmer for a while. The whole layer of burner-on stuff just lifted up!I have also exploded hard boiled eggs and a few other mishaps. But hey, life’s too short to stress about the mistakes and usually I have a good laugh out of them.

  14. Baking soda – depends how quickly you want the pot back in circulation! If you can leave it to soak overnight, then you don’t need to heat it, but if you want to use it soon, then heating it up helps. Also I have found those metal “frilly” pot scourers are excellent for burnt pots

  15. An epic failure for me was when I made homemade pizza and, when taking it out of the oven, accidentally dropped it, cheese-side down, all over the still-open door of the oven. Where to begin? Dinner obviously ruined, oven door covered in hot, bubbling cheese and toppings still dripping down into various oven crevices.. I remember my own tears and then my ever-calm husband taking over.. What a kitchen fashla!

  16. I always seem to forget that I have put eggs on to boil. its only when i smell burning that I remember….one of the downsides from having a home based business!!
    I once left the house after putting eggs on and got a call sometime later from my sister who had popped round for something, she had let herself in and the smoke came billowing out the front door! every item of soft furnishing and alot of clothes needed washing. the house smelt for ten days but B”H no damage as such!

  17. Setting an alarm helps about 50% of the time… If i am engrossed in my work I wont always hear it!

  18. I am pretty sure that anyone who cooks often enough has the occasional flop. My theory is that as long as you learn from your flops its all good. 🙂

  19. Nothing wrong with sharing disasters 🙂 – my worst cooking disasters pretty much all involve trying to clean the burned stuff off the bottom of the pots much like your picture, and having to open the windows to air the apartment out. My worst one involved knocking a pot of soup off the stove, almost burning my feet, and having to move the oven to clean it all up.