What Was Your Worst Kitchen Disaster? — Readers Respond
A couple weeks ago, we asked our community of Recipe.com Facebook fans to share their worst kitchen disasters — and boy, were we thrilled with the response!
That’s not because we delight in a heady dose of schadenfreude; it’s because, well, we’ve all been there. Even the most experienced cook, confronted with a new recipe or the chaos of hosting extended family for the holidays, is prone to make the sort of mistake that ends, shockingly, with a frantic rush for a roll of paper towels (or worse, waiting in the ER). Live and learn, right?
Thankfully, with a little bit of time, what once perhaps ended in tears becomes a badge of honor in a way — and a story to be recounted for years to come.
Funny how some of our worst disasters have a way of transforming themselves into cherished memories, particularly when they remind us of when we were newlyweds. That was the case with Maria H., who related her worst kitchen disaster:
“The first meal as a married woman … beans and ground beef … kept adding salt to each and kept forgetting I had already salted the dish … the meal was 75% salt and the neighborhood dogs would not even touch the meat … [my] hubby fixed it by taking me out to dinner, and I learned to pay attention to recipes. That was more than 40 years ago.”
“My now-husband and I had recently moved in together. Up until that point, I mostly ‘cooked’ single-girl food; that is to say I ate yogurt, salads, and the occasional take-out pizza. My guy loved classic American comfort food, so I decided to make him homemade mac and cheese. I got out my Fannie Farmer cookbook and made the casserole. When it was done, it was bubbling, brown and delicious-smelling. I proudly pulled the glass casserole dish out of the oven, showed it to him, and set it on the counter — where it promptly shattered into a zillion pieces.”
Speaking of Pyrex, Melanie B. wrote: “I was baking fish in the oven in a glass pan; it was getting too dry so I added water … yeah, it exploded! Lucky I wasn’t killed actually. Duh. Won’t make that mistake again.”
Don’t feel bad, Melanie — there was a preponderance of exploding glass bakeware in the responses. (That’s probably why the makers of Pyrex have an entire webpage devoted to safety.) There were also a fair number of erupting pressure cookers, sudsy dishwashers (don’t even think about substituting regular dish soap for dishwasher detergent!), and hard-boiled eggs left on the stove a bit too long.
Making substitutions in recipes also made for some comic moments. As Celeste W. wrote:
“One Thanksgiving, I was on a low calorie/low fat kick, so I used Eggbeaters instead of regular eggs to bake my pies. The pumpkin pie came out fine, but the pecan pie didn’t set. It was slimy and runny and all the pecans were floating around. I was so embarrassed! Ever since then, all my Thanksgiving food is full fat, full calories! Lol!”
Julie B. made her own unfortunate substitution: “I tried to make sugar-free caramel … Yeah, I forgot that Splenda does not melt — it burns. It was not pretty.”
Of course, the experience of being a novice cook is as ripe with comic potential as a banana peel on a sidewalk. To wit, Jo-Ann S.: “[My worst kitchen disaster] was making brownies when I was young. It said mix by hand, so I did. Little did I know it meant mix with a spoon. Today no one lets me live that down.”
Dee B. had her own neophyte experience:
“My first endeavour at making ‘homemade’ mashed potatoes did not go very well. I had always seen my Mom mixing them with her hand mixer, but I never saw anything else. So, when I was just engaged, I wanted to make dinner for my fiance (now my husband), and I decided to make mashed potatoes. I had only ever seen my Mom mix the potatoes; I never realized you had to ‘cook’ them first. I was 19. Needless to say, potatoes were everywhere — ceiling , cabinets! I called my sister in-law, and I asked what went wrong. She asked how long I cooked them. I replied: ‘Oh, you have to cook them first?’ This has been a long-standing joke for over 40 years. And yes, my husband married me anyway!”
Amazingly, there were at least two disasters that required power tools to fix. Mary Ellen S. related the first:
“As I was sauteing chicken in an open frying pan, I wanted to make it cook faster by putting on a lid. But this particular pan did not come with a lid, so I used one from another pan, which was smaller. Rather than sitting on top, it rested inside. The cooking caused it to form a vacuum, and the lid collapsed in on itself. We wanted to eat the dinner, so my husband drilled a hole in the lid so it would release. I still have that lid. It is all shriveled up, but it kept its round shape. Yay Faberware!”
And Melissa L.: “I once burned rice so badly that we had to use an electric sander to clean the pot … I bought a rice cooker after that!”
“I tend to go through clumsy phases in the kitchen where I make the same mistake a few times in a row. The worst was the time that I was making myself coffee with a French press. I measured out the grounds, poured in the nearly boiling water, then knocked the entire thing over with my elbow as I was trying to finish making myself breakfast in my tiny galley kitchen. The grounds, boiling water, and shards of glass from the pot were all over — on the counter, on the floor, on myself. It was painful and a royal mess! Even worse, I did nearly the exact same thing one week later with my other French press.”
“I decided to try making dulce de leche by covering three (unopened) cans of sweetened condensed milk with water in a huge stockpot. The stockpot was big enough that I never had to check the water level, which is how I forgot about it and went to bed and found when I woke up that the water had boiled away and the cans had exploded all over the kitchen, including the ceiling and a bookshelf filled with cookbooks and the enormous cage containing our two prairie dogs, who were unhurt but covered with sticky blobs of burned condensed milk. It cleaned up surprisingly easily, but since then I’ve made a rule that if I leave the kitchen even for a second, I turn off the stove.”
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