How to fix a burnt sauce

How to Fix a Burnt Sauce (or Stew)

Every now and then, things go sideways in the kitchen. This post covers how to fix a burnt sauce, soup, or stew. This post also addresses how to prevent this problem so that we do not have to worry about how to save a burned sauce in the first place.

How to Fix a Burnt Sauce, Soup, or Stew

You’re cooking a thick sauce or stew. The flame is up high. It’s not getting stirred.

If these shenanigans continue unchecked, you will end up with a burned sauce.

The heavy parts of the sauce or stew sink to the bottom of the pot. If they are not moved around, they maintain constant contact with the bottom of the pot. The surrounding liquid in the sauce is not able to get between the surface between the food and the bottom of the pot.

And eventually the parts on the bottom will burn.

This can lead to a burnt tomato sauce or burnt pureed soup. It also happens commonly with stews – like a beef stew. This post will help explain how to fix a burnt tomato sauce or a burnt beef stew, as well as how to prevent a burned sauce to begin with.

fix a burnt tomato sauce

Preventing a Burnt Sauce

The best way to fix a burnt sauce is to not get a burnt sauce.

There are some key factors that lead to burning the sauce on the bottom of the pot. If you learn these factors, then you won’t have to worry about how to save a burned sauce in the first place.

Thick Sauces Burn More Quickly

The thicker or chunkier the sauce is, the more likely it is to burn. A thick burnt tomato sauce is a common problem.

It is important to be aware that thick sauces burn more quickly because sauces are always getting thicker while they are cooking. As the sauce cooks, water is escaping from the sauce through evaporation. The sauce is reducing. If things were left to go on, the sauce would eventually become very thick and burn.

So as the sauce cooks and gets thicker, it’s important to become increasingly vigilant about the health of your sauce.

Stirring

Stirring the sauce prevents the sauce from burning. This is common sense. If the heavier parts are allowed constant contact with the bottom of the pot, they will burn. Stirring limits the amount of time that any part of the sauce maintains constant contact with the bottom.

High Flame

A high flame will also burn the sauce more quickly. If you want to make sure that the sauce doesn’t burn, use a low to medium flame. This means don’t keep your sauce at a high boil (this leads to a mess anyway, with sauce flying out of the pot).

Instead, bring your sauce to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to keep your sauce at a low simmer. A low to low-medium flame is usually sufficient to maintain a low simmer.

How to save a burned sauce

How to Save a Burned Sauce

But let’s say somehow things go a little sideways.

You go to stir the sauce and you realize that there is something stuck to the bottom of the pot. Maybe there’s a lot of something stuck to the bottom.

You also realize that the flame has been up. You haven’t stirred in a while, and your sauce is very thick. So you can be pretty sure at this point that something that is stuck on the bottom of the pot is burnt.

The number one thing to do here is don’t scrape the bits off the bottom of the pot. You have to resist the urge to scrape the bottom of the pot. If you scrape the bottom of the pot, the burnt bits will come off the bottom and become incorporated into your sauce. This will cause your sauce to taste burnt and bitter.

Fixing a Burnt Sauce, Soup, or Stew

Remove Burned Sauce from Pot

The first thing you should do is to remove burnt sauce from the pot. Put it into a new pot. Again – do not scrape the bottom of the burnt pot under any circumstances. Take the burned sauce out and put it into a new clean pot.

That way you’ll be getting rid of the burned part stuck to the bottom of the pot and keeping the rest of your sauce, which is what you want.

Soak the burnt pot. See below for how to clean a burnt pot.

So now you’ve saved the burnt sauce and left the burnt pot behind. However, the problem is your sauce may taste burned. The part of the sauce that burned on the bottom may have flavored your sauce, unfortunately. Or you might have accidentally stirred some of the burnt bits into the sauce. Either way, now you have to fix a burnt tasting sauce. Here are some methods:

The first thing is you can try is to dilute the sauce.

You can add more of the ingredients you used to make the sauce. Essentially, you make a bigger batch to dilute the flavor.

Or first you can remove part of your burnt sauce. Then replace it with new sauce in order to dilute the burnt sauce flavor.

fix a burnt stew

Masking/Balancing the Burned Bitter Taste

The main problem is that burning the sauce makes the sauce taste bitter. So we can think about how other elements affect our taste of bitter, and what tastes we can add to counteract the bitter taste.

This leads to three recommendations:

Add Salt To Fix a Burnt Sauce, Soup, or Stew

Of course you do not want to make the sauce too salty. Add salt in small increments, and taste after each addition.

Adding salt will suppress the perception of bitterness, and therefore should help suppress the bitter burnt flavor.

Add Acid to Save a Burned Sauce, Soup, or Stew

This is the same idea, adding acid will make the sauce taste less bitter. This could be adding lemon/lime juice or vinegar. Again, you do not want to add too much acid to make your sauce too acidic. Add in small increments and taste as you go.

Add Sugar to Save a Burnt Sauce, Soup, or Stew

Finally, adding sweetness can help fix a burned sauce. This is easiest in the form of sugar, but you could use honey, maple syrup, or some other sweetener. Sweetness suppresses the taste of bitterness, and therefore can help cover up the bitter burnt taste.

Again be very careful to not make your sauce taste sweet. Add your sweetener in small increments, and taste after each addition. You do not want to ruin your hard work.

Mix and Match Techniques

Depending on what kind of sauce you are making and the flavor of your sauce, you can choose which combination of these tactics is the best approach to take to counteract and suppress the taste of bitterness.

How to save a burnt soup

How To Clean A Burnt Pot

My main method for cleaning a burnt pot is to soak in warm water. After soaking for a period (ten to twenty minutes will suffice), scrape what you can off the pot. If it doesn’t all come off, repeat the process, i.e. soak again. Use a metal scrubbie to scrub the pot clean with hot soapy water.

Other Cooking Tips

How to Peel Tomatoes – 3 Ways

Best Way To Peel Asparagus

Three Ways To Peel Ginger

Best Oil for Cast Iron

How To Clean a Burnt Pan


The Flavor Dance

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