An oven with crime scene tape on the outside.
Kitchen Tips & Tricks

My 5 Worst Cooking Disasters

Everyone who cooks or bakes has those disasters they can remember like it was yesterday. The most experienced chefs can still experience a kitchen disaster. I have had many disasters of the years and below are my top five disasters and tips to help you prevent them. 

5. Set bread on fire toasting it with the broiler.

I have always been a little skittish when using the broiler as I never wanted to set anything on fire. Well one night it happened – I put my bread to close to the broiler and all of a sudden I could smell it burning. I looked in the oven and my bread was on fire. I immediately shut off the broiler which helped stop the fire. Then I pulled the now smoking bread out and put the pan on the balcony, so my whole apartment wouldn’t smell like smoke. Surprisingly my smoke alarms weren’t set off that night.

Rachel Ray has said many times that she still sets bread on fire when toasting it. To prevent setting bread on fire make sure there is enough space our bread and the broiler. Also don’t walk away from the oven when using the broiler. Sometimes I will even keep the oven door cracked so I can get a better view of my food browning.

4. Accidently used pecorino cheese instead of parmesan cheese on lasagna rollups.

A few months ago I was making a big batch of lasagna rollups (which makes five meals) from The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime. I was mixing the filling and my sister was helping me grate the cheese. After I mixed all the cheese in I realized the mixture smelled a little different than normal. We had grabbed the pecorino cheese instead of the parmesan. I went ahead and finished making the recipe hoping it wouldn’t make it taste weird. Once the lasagna rollups came out of the oven I immediately realized it was going to taste different. The pecorino cheese was so strong that it was all you could taste.

Next time I pulled one of these out of the freezer to make I grated a bunch more parmesan cheese on top before cooking and that mellowed out the pecorino.

3. I forgot to add evaporated milk when making Peanut Butter Fudge.

Years ago I was making Peanut Butter Fudge for a date night dessert. I had all of my ingredients laid out and went to work making my fudge. While I was cooking it I got a call from my date and we started chatting. I figured I was just stirring the fudge and couldn’t mess it up at that point so I kept talking. Once the fudge looked ready I poured it into the lined sheet pan. I went to wash the pot and then saw the evaporated milk sitting on the counter and a few curses flew out of my mouth. At this point there was nothing I could do but see what happens.

It was so hard you could have used it as building material. We couldn’t break it no matter what we tried. I was so lucky that I had lined the pan as I was able to save my pan. Now I am always careful to lay out my ingredients where I can see them to make sure I don’t forget something, it helps most of the time.
Pot with a candy thermometer

2. My candy thermometer shattered while making chocolate fudge.

When I moved to Connecticut I finally had a gas stove again after years of having an electric stove. Since fudge can be a little finnicky I decided to use a candy thermometer when making it for the first time in the new kitchen. I bought a brand new candy thermometer and put it in the pan as I was making fudge. Once the fudge had been poured out into the pan I picked up the candy thermometer to wash it and realized the glass had shattered on it. I immediately called my parents to see if I could still eat my fudge and of course they said no, which I had figured but I wanted to be sure. Fudge can be a lot of work to make and I was so mad that I had just lost all my hard work.

I threw out the candy thermometer and made a new batch of fudge the next day. Some candies require you to use a candy thermometer so I did get a new one but I never use it with fudge as I have been making it for so long. However, I always make sure to check my candy thermometer now before using and after using to make sure it is still in tact.

1. Failed when trying to make my Mom's pepper steak.

Growing up my Mom made pepper steak on a regular basis. It was always one of my favorite meals, probably because I love rice. One summer while I was in college I was staying with my sister and we decided to make pepper steak. We had my Mom’s recipe and it seemed really easy to make with only five ingredients. I got all of the ingredients from the store and made the recipe. We sat down to eat and it was terrible. I immediately called my Mom and she asked if we had added the sugar, I quickly told her no it wasn’t in her recipe.

We didn’t really want to cook anything else for dinner so we decided to go to Bruster’s for ice cream. It was a nice night in Georgia and it was packed. I got my ice cream and turned around to find my ex-boyfriend standing there with his fiancé. Let me tell you I hadn’t seen him in a few years and was shocked. He was always a really nice guy but it definitely made that cooking disaster one of my most memorable.

The more you cook the more likely you are to experience a cooking disaster. We all want our dishes to turn out perfectly every time but that just isn’t reality. I have learned over the years that there are small things we can do to prevent some disasters such as read the recipe multiple times, mise en place and limit distractions while cooking. The best advice I can give anyone who has a cooking disaster is to just laugh and move on.

(Although I have tried my Moms pepper steak recipe a few more times and it has never come out right. I still think she is hiding something that is in the recipe from all of us.) 

Just keep cooking and trying new things and you will find that you are able to recover easier from cooking disasters. 


What's your worst cooking disaster?

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