Is there anything more disappointing than putting in the time, effort, and money to whip up a tasty dish only to have it turn out to be an epic fail? Cooking mistakes and baking blunders are a fact of life, but you don't have to let your hard work go to waste! We'll show you how to fix those fails!

woman holding pan of mishapen muffins, from Shelf Cooking

We firmly believe two things. One: mistakes are the world's best lessons. Two: you should never take yourself too seriously. So, the next time you make a cooking mistake, laugh it off and then find a way to fix it!

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

There's no muffin too dry to save and no mashed potatoes too sticky to toss. Where there's a will, there's a way, and we're about to prove it! Let's talk about a few common cooking mistakes, plus ways to fix them all. Here we go, you guys!


So, you just whipped up a quick batch of pumpkin muffins, and you can't wait to take that first bite. You've been dreaming about it all day, but the moment finally arrives, and womp, womp! As soon as you take that muffin out of the tin, it falls apart in a crumbly mess. Now what you do? Well, don't toss them! Here are three ways to save dry, crumbly baked goods:

  • Make Bread Pudding – Make lemon out of lemonade with this easy trick! Crumble your muffins, then mix them with milk and eggs–we suggest two eggs and a 1/2 cup of milk for every four muffins. Add in a bit of sweetener and toss in some extra fruit if you'd like. Place it all in a greased baking dish and cook for one hour at 375°F.
  • Try the Microwave Trick – Dampen a few paper towels and lay them flat on a plate. Place your cake or bread on top, then microwave for 10-15 seconds at a time as many times as you need to.
  • Reach for a Paper Bag – First, preheat your oven to 350°F. Next, head to your craft closet or pantry and get a paper bag! Sprinkle a little water on top of your cupcake or muffin, then place it inside the paper bag and pop it in the oven for a minute or so. It's magic!

By the way, all these tricks work for stale baked goods, too!

Pro Tip: Want to avoid this baking blunder in the future? To make sure your muffins come out nice and moist, swap some of the milk in your recipe for Greek yogurt or sour cream, and don't forget the baking powder! If you think skipping that 1/4 teaspoon won't matter, think again.


shredding chicken with forks, from Shelf Cooking

No one wants to eat dry pork or chicken or tough steak, but it happens to us all sometimes. When you're preparing meat, one or two minutes can make a world of difference! So, other than dumping a mountain of gravy on top (which we're not opposed to), what can you do? Here are a couple of ways to salvage dry meat:

  • Puree It – Turn that dry meat into a puree for the toddlers or babies, or make a salad! Finely ground chicken + mayo = quick and easy chicken salad. Toss some boiled eggs or celery in the mix, too.
  • Shred It – You guys know we love to shred meat, right? It makes it stretch so much further, but it's also a great way to mask mistakes! Shred your pork or chicken and slather it in sauce to add some moisture.

And if all else fails, cheeses and sauces will cover a world of cooking mistakes, so don't be afraid to slather it on thick!

Pro Tip: If you're encountering tough, dry meat on the regular, you might want to switch up your cooking methods! Learn how to cook the perfect juicy pork chop every time. These tips work well for chicken, too!


Who among us hasn't forgotten the sugar a time or two?! We're not here to judge, but we are here to offer support. The next time you bite into a salty loaf of banana bread, don't panic. Here are a couple of ways to solve this baking blunder:

  • Make a Sugar Soak – It's time to give that bitter bread or cake a bath! Grab a bowl and mix two cups of water with one cup of sugar and one teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla extract. Heat that mixture in a small saucepan for just a few minutes (you'll want to dissolve the sugar). Place your cake in a casserole dish, then pour the sugar soak on top, cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, and allow it to sit for 90 minutes or so. Viola! Problem solved.
  • Turn it Into Bread Pudding – When in doubt, bread pudding is always the answer! 😉 Just follow the same steps as you did with those crumbly muffins, but in this case, you'll want to add more sugar.
  • Make a Parfait – Crumble up your cake and add it to some sweetened yogurt–layer with fresh fruit and drizzle with honey.

Let this be a lesson to you. If you can save a sugarless cake, you can do anything you put your mind to! Now, ready to cover one of the other cooking mistakes we see happen all the time?


cheesy mashed potato casserole, from Shelf Cooking

Here's a cooking mistake we've all made once or twice. Heck, it happened to us on Thanksgiving once, and we still have PTSD from the experience. Good news, though! Hope is not lost. Here's what to do if you need to fix mashed potatoes:

  • Make Potato Casserole – Put your sticky potatoes in a baking pan, drizzle with melted butter, add a generous handful of grated cheese, and top with bread crumbs, leftover cereal, or crushed croutons. Bake at 350°F until golden and bubbly. YUM! You might be glad you made that cooking mistake.
  • Turn Your Mashed Potatoes into Latkes – We won't tell anyone you really meant to serve those potatoes mashed! Just blend your potatoes with an egg, salt, pepper, and garlic salt, then pan-fry in olive oil for around 5 minutes on each side. Dip in apple sauce or sour cream, and enjoy! You can also add shredded cheese to your latkes if you'd like.

Either of those recipes is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes, too.


Is that dough not rising? Is your loaf of bread flat as a pancake? Novice bakers and Betty Crocker wannabes can both run into this problem from time to time. Fixing the issue depends on the cause, but here are three possible solutions:

  • Check Your Pan Size – If you're cooking your bread in the same pan as your quick-cook baked goods (like banana bread, for example), that could be the culprit. Make sure you're giving your dough enough room to rise. Yeast bread cooks best in an 8½” x 4½” pan.
  • Turn Up the Heat – Fun fact: yeast bread rises best in warm, humid environments. That's why summer is the best time for baking homemade bread. But here's a handy hack: pop your dough in the oven for a few minutes next to a pot of boiled water. That warm humidity will work wonders!
  • Cut Back on Salt – Too much salt will keep your yeast from doing its thing. If you suspect you over-salted the dough, add a little bit more of your other ingredients to balance things out and see if that helps.

And if you'd rather go the easy route, try making a batch of our famous rustic bread. It's super easy; we promise!


chicken casserole with liquid in dish, from Shelf Cooking

Whether your green bean casserole came out watery or your chicken zucchini casserole looks more like a soup, don't panic! Here are two easy ways to thicken a casserole:

  • Ladle That Liquid – Depending on your casserole, you might be able to solve this problem with the help of a ladle. Just scoop out as much liquid as you can, then pop your casserole back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes. When it's done, you can add more topping if you need to!
  • Thicken With Cornstarch – Whisk equal parts water and cornstarch to make a slurry, then add it to your casserole one tablespoon at a time until your sauce begins to thicken. Place it back in the oven for a few minutes, then test and repeat as needed. Be careful not to overcook, and watch for lumps! Be sure to stir that slurry thoroughly.

If neither of these options works, there's no shame in resorting to soup or stew! It's pretty easy to convert a casserole to soup; add more liquid or broth and stir in some sour cream or plain yogurt if you'd like.


There you go! Just a few quick tips and tricks to address your cooking mistakes and baking blunders with confidence. In general, there's not much you can't fix, so get creative before you lose hope and toss a dish.

What tips and tricks have you learned along the way? Sharing is caring, so leave your best advice in the comments!

Image with text that reads "how to fix cooking mistakes" from Shelf Cooking

Want to read about more kitchen hacks?

Go turn those blunders into blessings!