HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


When you fail at what you make

My soup didn't work out tonight and to make matters worse I burnt it. It wasn't expensive to make, but money is tight this month. I am actually a little down in the mouth and I am in no mood to go back into the kitchen to get rid of the soup or make tomorrow's lunch for work. I am just being overly sensitive over mucking up or do other people have these same feelings? I even lost my appetite.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Savor your failures. Because they will only make your success that much sweeter.

    1. I know how you feel. When I mess up a dish in some way, I often throw a fit. I swear at the food, at myself, at the ingredients, and generally lose it. After five or ten minutes, I come back to reality and try to complete the task at hand.

      1. Many years ago, my boyfriend and I had his parents for dinner; I made my version of beef stroganoff. While I was transferring it to the platter, the whole think dipped onto the floor, which was covered in straw matting. I very gently lifted the stroganoff back onto the platter, being careful not to scrape up the straw. They ate it and years later I look back on that with delight, since the two of us broke up because his parents treated me badly.

        1. Nah I understand the frustration. A few weeks ago I got up at 5 am to peel pearl onions, sear chicken, brown mushrooms, deglaze with red wine etc - all for crockpot coq au vin. Meant to wow my husband and convince him crockpot food CAN be good (he grew up on cream of mushroom soup-style cooking).
          Then I forgot to push the START button on the crockpot.

          4 Replies
              1. re: julesrules

                That is soooo funny! Just think: You'll remember this long after you would have forgotten the coq if it had turned out perfect.

                1. re: julesrules

                  Ooooh, that is sad. (Recipe? I am also skeptical of slow cooker recipes, though I've found a handful that work well enough...)

                2. Life's too short to get worked up over such trivial matters

                  1. I hate it when things don't work out. This past Sunday I started on chocolate cake, which has very little flour in it, and beaten egg whites. I hate beating egg whites, because you have to be so scrupulous about having clean beaters. So I decided to beat the egg whites first, and then beat the other ingredients.

                    Well, I finally got all the ingredients combined, and then added the egg whites. They had already started to separate! Oh well, I just folded them in and hoped for the best. I poured the batter into the pan, and while I was smoothing it out, thought...doesn't this call for flour?!!!

                    Checked the recipe, and yup! I left out the cup of flour! Now, this is for my valentine's dinner and I'm starting to cry. So I dump the whole mess back in the bowl, clean, dry and wash the pan, and the butter it again. I add the missing cup of flour, and pour it back into the pan. All while I'm crying. How can this possibly work out? I cry all through the rest of the fixing mode I'm now in.

                    So the cake is baked, and it's sitting on my counter. (It's supposed to be made two days in advance.) It has a huge crack in it, in a big circle. The middle has slumped, and the sides are much higher. It looks marginal, but on the plus side, it smells good!

                    We'll be eating it tonight for dessert. I really want to just toss it, but DH hates to throw food away, and he's insisting he'll love it. (Just another reason to love him more.) I'm going to doctor it up with some raspberry coulis and chocolate ice cream, just in case it doesn't pass muster. I hate that cake!

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                      I bet it's going to taste not just fine but really good.

                      1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                        "It looks marginal, but on the plus side, it smells good!"

                        Which means it probably tastes just as good! Did you think about maybe breaking up the cake into pieces and making a trifle from it? Layer it with the aforementioned chocolate cream and raspberry coulis and toss some sugared raspberries on top for garnish. You can do this in one big trifle bowl or individual ones.

                        1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                          The most important part is that it smelled good--so probably tasted good. Develop your camoflage skills for the presentation (some kind of cream or frosting to cover up the sagging aspect)--it's all about make up then!

                          1. re: Wawsanham

                            Or serve it in bowls or pretty glasses with whipped cream on top. Like an individually plated dessert.

                            1. re: wincountrygirl

                              hey, good ideas! I have some nice martini glasses that I can put the cake into. I've got the heavy cream, and I'm making the raspberry coulis when I get home in a few minutes.

                              Thanks, and I'll let you know how it tastes!!

                            1. re: Kajikit

                              OK, I had to make this dessert work. So I used my martini glasses, and made a trifle! The martini glass was the perfect size because it was very rich and sweet. A bigger portion would have been hard to eat.

                              I put the raspberry coulis in the bottom, then layered the cake, then chocolate whipped cream, then more cake and whipped cream, and then topped it with a raspberry.

                              Success, because my DH loved it! Here are a few photos.

                              Thanks for the suggestions!!

                              1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                                ^^^^^^^^^beautiful^^^^^^^^^^^^ and delicious I'll bet

                                    1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                                      Glad it worked. That is always the back up plan in my head in case a cake or other dessert doesn't behave!

                                      1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                                        Wonderful Heidi! Glad we could help. Looks like the perfect, decadent Valentine's Day dessert to me!

                                        1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                                          Looks gorgeous, but... That first picture looks to me like it's just crying to be filled with stabilized whipped cream, topped with a ring of kiwi and raspberries and presented as an "I MEANT to do that!" chocolate Pavlova! So, do it again! Hey, you've got next Valentine's Day nailed! '-)

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            Hey, there's more than one way to skin a cat! Somehow, thinking there really ARE ways to fix a "failure" makes it seem a bit better.

                                    2. This brought back great memories. As the parent of three sons who all can cook I have a load of great stories and mishaps! The oldest is a really good cook for the exotic things, the second a strong firehouse cook (he is a Paramedic) and the youngest is a professional chef. The last two tend to clash at times so when the middle son decided to dazzle in the kitchen he got the go ahead. He decided on a hearty portobello mushroom soup. He did all the prep work and threatened everyone who came in the kitchen. This was to be a bit presentation. Nice salad, fresh bread, etc..... he chopped, and stirred and seasoned and cooked and then served...This unbelievable black, stinking mess! It smelled like someone had just cleaned out the stables and it quivered like black ink. Being a loving family they all decided to let me taste first... Burger King was really good that night! Even the garbage disposal gagged on that soup. Poured down on one side and shot out the other, a foul black fountain erupting! And the rivalry continues!

                                      1. I am doing a Christmas party in my home for about 75 people. At the time, people were getting rid of their pot belly pigs because they were too big and mean. Not pure breds. Since I had three in the freezer, decided to cook one up as the main attraction. Nothing really special as I was known for my spit roasted hogs.

                                        I bring this beautifully roasted animal out on a platter. A kid asked "Are we eating a dead baby?' and so much for the acolades. A lot of time and effort ruined. Hardly anybody ate pig that night. Except my family.

                                        1. I mostly get upset when my baking goes wrong since baking is my first love. Sometimes it ruins my day and makes me hesitant to ever bake again. But I eventually get over it, tackle the recipe again (if I think it was me and not the recipe that made the mistake) and master it. Then I feel better.

                                          Someone said "Life's too short to get worked up over such trivial matters." Well, that's easy to say, but trivializes a person's feelings. My advice is brood a little, but then try to figure out what went wrong and try again.

                                          1. If something doesn't turn out as it should, I just eat it anyways. Usually, my disasters haven't made things inedible--just not as pretty.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Wawsanham

                                              I'll eat the ugly ones as long as they still taste good. But sometimes, one taste from the pot and you know nothing will doctor it up. Even more painful when the ingredients were costly and/or budget is tight.

                                              I let it cool, pack into a tupperware, then the back of the fridge for a day to gain perspective and distance lol. (Easier to dispose of when cold, anyway.)

                                              1. re: Wawsanham

                                                Me too. I just eat it, and make sure not to make that mistake next time. No big deal.

                                              2. I have as many failures as I do triumphs & I have lots of triumphs so as many ooopsies.
                                                how will you know how wonderful it is to walk downhill until you've struggled walking uphill?

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  We celebrate failures with a grilled fuffernutter sandwich. amazing how that perks up the smiles. FAILURES are a part of the experience!

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    FAILURES are a part of the experience!

                                                    ^^^yea but we love fluffernutters ;:~€

                                                2. Our wedding anniversary is in June, which means I have been cooking for my family for almost 27 years. My wife can tell you that when I'd try something and it didn't work out I was an absolute beast -- to paraphrase William Manchester on Churchill, when the words weren't flowing as he prepared a speech, an ungovernable bundle of bad temper, a kicker of wastebaskets. I felt that I was a failure as a cook, that I couldn't even turn out a simple (fill in the name of the failed dish). I was a fool, an idiot, an incompetent poltroon.

                                                  That has mellowed over the years. What has happened is this: My scope has broadened to included more dishes and more techniques and more different types of food (although Really Good Asian Cooking still eludes me, except for some outstanding black bean and garlic egg rolls). So in the scale of kitchen justice, the successes have outweighed the failures considerably. In essence, I woke up one day and realized that I'm a pretty good everyday cook, with aspirations of being a great cook that I occasionally reach.

                                                  I wish you the same.

                                                  One of the greatest days of my life in the kitchen was when my son, last fall, was going to come home from college for his first visit since he'd left. I asked him what he wanted for dinner Saturday, so I could plan and shop. He said, "As long as it's home-made and as long as it's yours it will be just what I want and need and miss." That, more than the catered dinner for 12 I prepared as a fundraising prize for the small college where I worked at the time, tells me all I need to know.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: jmckee

                                                    "As long as it's home-made and as long as it's yours it will be just what I want and need and miss."

                                                    Talk about happy words! That is the ultimate complement and the words that most of us home cooks love to hear.

                                                    1. re: jmckee

                                                      same quote - that actually made me tear up.... what is wrong with me??
                                                      seriously nice sentiment from your son.

                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                        I have to tell you that many college freshmen are so into themselves at that age that it would not occur to them to form a reply such as the one you received from your son. Congratulations on raising a good one.

                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                          Oh, he has his "into himself" side. I just feel lucky we still get to see the other parts of him sometimes.

                                                      2. Overcooking a steak or a pork chop gets me annoyed. On the other hand, the dog couldn’t be happier, so I see it as a wash.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: EM23

                                                          grrrrr.... i dry-"aged" a beautiful rib-eye for 4 days in the fridge, uncovered, with nothing but some kosher salt, on a rack, turning it over every 12 hours or so. it was all brown and crusty, and exactly what we were told to look for. and you guessed it, after all the babying, i overcooked it. it came out medium- to-medium well, not reddish-pink, juicy, meltingly tender and beautiful like the last one had been a week before (that one had marinated in a miso marinade for hours so i'm pretty sure i know where i went wrong) and we were BUMMED. but we ate it, and surprisingly, it was still really good. sure, overcooked, not very tender, but the flavor was there. still, you really hate to "ruin" a piece of good meat.

                                                          and we don't have a dog.

                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                            That is tragic. Where do you think you went wrong? I don't often overcook meat but, when I do, it is always because I trusted the thermometer rather than my gut.

                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                              Just curious. How long did you cook it?

                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                to both of you: i seared it in a screaming hot cast iron pan for 2 mins. on one side. i flipped it, then immediately put it in a pre-heated oven, pan and all, for 6 mins. 450 degrees. i think i should have been at 400. i think because the last one was marinated, it was much more forgiving (tho i patted off the marinade.) also, this one had shrunk up quite a bit during cooking, which i attributed to the long drying time in the fridge, so it probably needed much less time in the oven and/or a lower temp - 400. i used my finger to test it at about 4 mins., and then just made the mistake of keeping it in there. i took the temp and it read 130 and climbing before i hurriedly pulled it out (the one the week before I took out at 120). too late. it sat for 10 mins and was probably well above 150 when we ate it. ah well. but like i said, that drying technique gave it a great, meaty flavor. so i'll do it again!

                                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                  "i used my finger to test it at about 4 mins., and then just made the mistake of keeping it in there."

                                                                  Well, at least you know what you did wrong. And it wasn't a total disaster.

                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                    i know. i thought, "4 mins. can't be enough!" instead of trusting myself.

                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                      I've learned that lesson the hard way myself for steak. Trusting oneself is the key.

                                                          2. Thanks all. Actually I had good luck all day today, it was sort of like the universe balancing things out. I am usually good at letting these things go and ordering to go or heating up something from the freezer. I guess last night was the exception. Live and learn.

                                                            1. I used to throw tantrums when things didn't work out the way I had hoped.

                                                              I recall years ago when I was trying to perfect the omlette. I would make omlettes every day for about 2 months trying to get the perfect thickness, doneness, and tri-folded onto the plate.

                                                              I would get soo mad when I thought I had it down, then screwed up. I used to punt them out my backdoor into the backyard. My neighbors got a kick out of watching me stomp out there, flip an omlette into the air and kick it with all my might!
                                                              I would also get comments at work the following day about crusted scrambled eggs on my sneakers! LOL

                                                              I think I've tamed myself down a bit, although every once in a while the beast does show his face.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Novelli

                                                                wow.... that is some serious ova anger!

                                                                1. re: Novelli

                                                                  I have to say that this made me LOL. I have kicked numerous cabinets and launched various projectiles at the walls, but I have to say I have NEVER kicked an omlette!

                                                                  I think I have mellowed over the years, kicking cabinets can be painful and I got sick of washing down the walls. Now I tend to take a deep breath, let out a deep sigh and try to figure out where I have gone wrong so that I can do it better next time.

                                                                  1. re: NE_Elaine

                                                                    Yeah, I haven't done this in ages, but it's always funny to look back upon.

                                                                    I'll never forget one instance where I was totally raging on an omlette. I took it outside, flipped it into the air, and with everything I had, swung my leg out with full force, and completely missed the omlette. Legs went up over my head and I landed flat on my backside LOL. Stood up, did a casual check to make sure no one was looking.
                                                                    I couldn't help but laugh after that one!

                                                                    1. re: Novelli

                                                                      That's a great visual picture in my head!

                                                                2. When a dish doesn't work as expected, as in a disaster, my first thought is to throw the whole works, pan and everything, out the window. Except that I live on the 26th floor, and a falling, hot object might kill someone. So I've managed to restrain myself thus far. It does help to visualize the dastardly burnt cookies/hockey puck cake/overdone steak flying out into the park lawn across the street :)
                                                                  Most frustrating is when the ingredients are expensive, or I'm hungry, or there was a lot of time involved.
                                                                  Set aside the offending dish. Rummage in the fridge for an egg and some instant noodles. Have a little cry. Carry on.

                                                                  1. Oy, soup......I remember a butternut squash soup that caused me to break down in tears one time. So much time, energy and expense went into it and it was just awful. I don't think I made a soup since that night.

                                                                    The last thing I made that didn't turn out was short ribs. I worked on those $%^*@($ for an entire day and the end result was just cr@p. Mr. CB and friend had seconds but I was so disgusted I drank my dinner (wine).

                                                                    1. I think we've all been there and had those feelings!

                                                                      Have you ever failed twice at making one dish - I just did. I had to bring cookies to work for an event. Thought I would make some pistachio shortbread that people liked in the past. First step was to toast the nuts. I burnt them. Still have enough nuts to go again. I decide not to toast the nuts. Mix up the ingredients, press it into the pan, throw it in the oven, come back at the appointed time, and take it out. It was literally boiling. I'd doubled the butter.

                                                                      1. not quite a failure - but on the same lines

                                                                        I made up two 1/2 pans full of steak tips. Butchered them myself, season, marinated, stored overnight for big summer party. Cook the first batch, go searching the downstairs fridge for the second to no avail. Ask SO where they are, and in a panic she realizes she has put them in the oven and not the hashbrown casserole..... $50+ worth of steak plus all the time and effort - I could have killed her! Oven partially cooked them and I just finished them off on the grill but it put me in quite the mood. I still wont let her live it down!

                                                                        1. Well I want to say I don't have too many failures.

                                                                          I prefer to call them happy accidents.

                                                                          Unless the food is totally ruined there is always an opportunity to be creative.

                                                                          And some pretty awesome things have come out of cake crumbs and um..happy accidents in my house.

                                                                          If the food is totally ruined, i.e burned ot just plain inedible--I usually stick it in the back of the fridge until it starts to grow something. Then I can throw it out without feeling bad.

                                                                          1. I don't generally fail miserably (I am a huge fan of re-using leftovers, so I'll generally find SOMETHING to do with the dish,) however two weekends ago I totally flubbed a quiche. I used to make quiche all the time without a recipe and it always came out great (not exactly a gourmet dish,) but I had a bunch of fresh corn I needed to use and I found a nice recipe and decided to follow it exactly. I bought about $9 worth of ingredients, which is a lot to me for a quiche.
                                                                            I don't know what went wrong because I definitely measured correctly...however, there was way too much filling and not only did I slosh it all over the brand new oven but it also over-rose and then spilled out everywhere. To add insult to injury, it was completely raw in the middle and was basically inedible. So much for my fancy brunch.

                                                                            The only other thing I can think of that I totally ruined beyond repair was Rice-a-Roni. Yes, that Rice-a-Roni. I burned it so badly to the bottom of the pot that it filled the house with smoke and I had to throw the entire thing away. Must have forgot to turn it down after I covered it...

                                                                            1. I made a chocolate cake, from scratch, for a friend. It was my first attempt at chocolate ganache for the frosting. I nailed it. But my time skills were lacking- I did not let the cake cool properly before pouring the choc ganache over it. And when I delivered the cake to the party, it had a big ole crack down the middle. Wah. :o( But you know what? It tasted AWESOME. So..lose/win.

                                                                              1. And on the flip side of that is that happy jig I do in the kitchen when I nail a recipe that I have been having trouble with
                                                                                Yesterday's jig was about a Magic Caramel Sauce that just made me so happy.
                                                                                Not sure about the etiquette about posting a recipe here.

                                                                                I guess I'm just saying that the successes and outrageous successes in the kitchen far outweight the failures and happy accidents in the kitchen.

                                                                                1. All of these stories are great! I've made all manner of mistakes in the kitchen, with the subsequent foul mood and grumbling. Perhaps the most often mistake is when I realize I don't have an ingredient right in the middle of the cooking process: Okay, it's time to add the plain yogurt to the meatloaf mixture....umm, where is the yogurt? Doh! Of course, that day I learned that strawberry yogurt was a surprisingly acceptable substitute. :)

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: dregypt

                                                                                    Decades ago -- between marriages, it was THAT long ago -- a dinner date was for a home cooked meal. The salad dressing was absolutely delicious, and unlike anything I'd ever tasted before. It was a creamy yogurt recipe with chopped scallions in it, among many things, he'd made from a recipe he had found the day before in the San Diego Union. He thought it was strange the recipe said nothing about what flavor of yogurt to use, so he just picked up strawberry with fruit on the bottom. He claimed he had never heard of or seen "plain" yogurt! I drew two conclusions: sometimes NOT knowing what you're doing in the kitchen has it advantages, and that he probably did his grocery shopping in a convevience store if he had never seen PLAIN yogurt. But the salad dressing was remarkable!

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      To be fair, Caro, depending on how much yogurt the recipe called for, it is very hard to find plain yogurt in the small 6oz/8oz size. In supermarkets (not to mention convenience stores). And once, when I found a brand that offered it, it had added sugar!!! WTF? (Did you ever get the salad dressing recipe, btw?)

                                                                                      Full disclosure: I buy 32 oz of plain yogurt weekly.

                                                                                      1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                        I'm wasn't being unfair! '-) The supermarkets where I shop carry plain unsweetened yogurt in the very small containers the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts come in, however the scallions/strawberry/yogurt salad dressing of which I speak was well nigh on to 35 (more?) years ago! He showed me his recipe, as clipped from the newspaper, but it had far too many ingredients to even consider copying down. That, plus I very rarely dress a salad at home with anything except a fresh compound vinaigrette I ad lib to go with the meal or, very rarely, a scratch bleu cheese dressing.

                                                                                  2. My greatest failure is also the thing that I do All The Time:

                                                                                    WOW-- this thing I just concocted tastes Incredible!!!
                                                                                    What else can I add???
                                                                                    ruin Ruin RUIN!!!