How to Fix Overcooked Meat
Once you’ve cooked meat too far, there are some things that you can do to bring back overcooked meat from inedibility. While it may never be the same as steak that you’ve pulled off right on time, there are things you can do to recover overcooked meat.
In this post, we’re going to look at some ways to recover overcooked meat. While if you overcook a single burger, you can easily pop a new one on--if you’re throwing a backyard barbecue party then you might need to rescue the overcooked steaks! We’ve got you covered.
Types of Overcooked Meat
Perfectly cooked chicken basically goes with any dish--but ruined chicken is not worth eating, not anything like the slightly-charred steaks and shrimps that we’ll discuss later. Chicken that gets tough is tough to save.
Chicken can also start to get tough if you haven’t properly cleaned the grill, because the old grime can transfer onto the skin and toughen it out. Also, if the heat isn’t clean, and begins to fill with different kinds of smoke and grease burning, then the chicken won’t cook cleanly. This can begin to toughen out the chicken.
If the steak is way too overcooked, you can soak it in a marinade overnight and then chop it up for wraps or shepherd’s pie. If the steak is not that overcooked, then you can shred up the steak and use it for sandwiches. The great news is that steak is something that you can come back from by shredding it up. Even really overcooked beef usually retains a bit of moisture and texture--and so if you tear it apart, you can improvise with some beef.
Alternatively, you can put the overcooked meat into a slow cooker with a few cups of liquid. Make sure there is enough to cover it about halfway, but not enough to cover the liquid. This is generally a great way to bring back steak from the brink of burning. Simmering in a little bit of liquid or broth is a great way to tenderize.
Acidity can also be your friend here. A little bit of vinegar and lemon juice in the liquid can help you tenderize the meat. It adds moisture, but it also cooks the meat.
You’re at the Kick Ash tailgate. You’re in charge of the burgers. And then you get caught up in a cornhole game or conversation and suddenly forget the burgers and now they’re burned. What can you do?
Burgers are easy to avoid overcooking if you just (1) only flip them once and (2) make sure not to press them. But once they’ve been overcooked, it is also tough to bring them back from the burn point. You can add a little bit of moisture by tossing them onto burgers that use fresh veggies and a good dose of condiments!
Also, remember that the bun itself brings a certain amount of dryness. It soaks up the moisture. If you grill the bun and add a bit of butter or mayonnaise, it can help cover the dryness that the meat carries.
While perfectly cooked seafood is not really going to need too much seasoning, seafood that you’ve overcooked needs to use seasonings and a quality rub to revive the flavors.
Salting your seafood while you’ve already started cooking can draw out the moisture in the seafood and blunt the flavors. While you can crust things like fish and prawns with a salt and pepper combination, be careful about salting too much of the flesh or inside which can draw out the moisture. Again, also, seafood comes from a salty environment where it usually picks up a good bit of saltiness. While salt can bring out the flavors of chicken and steak in a unique way, don’t overdo the salt on seafood. It is the acidity of things like lemon and lime that can really bring out the flavors of seafood.
Sauce is tough to pair with seafood. Once seafood gets dry, it is difficult to recover it. But lemon juice is going to be your best friend here. If putting lemon juice on top of the seafood is not enough--try simmering the seafood in a little bit of butter and lemon juice. Water won’t really help you too much, and you never want to cook it in broth. But transfer it from the grill to the pan and you can get ahead of the toughness.
Ways to Fix Different Overcooked Meat
Tough and Dry
Once the food gets overcooked, it often becomes tough and dry. Check our tips for cooking success to prevent that from happening in the first place. But if you’ve gone too far, there are some things that you can do to keep things from being too tough and too dry.
Keep things warm. Once the food cools off, your tough and dry meat will become even tougher and dryer. Heat helps the food stay tender--so while it definitely makes sense to pull the food off the cooking surface as soon as it gets dry and tough, it also makes sense to keep things warm if you’re going to have to serve it!
Sauces, not spices. Once the food is tough and dry, some sauce can really help freshen up the dry food. If things get tough and dry, having a quality sauce that pairs well might help you out a lot. Also keep in mind that as food gets tough and dry, certain flavors become more profound--the saltiness and the meatiness. You may need some sweetness and acidity to bring up the tough meat.
Simmer in liquid. Just like for burnt meat, if your meat gets tough and dry then you can simmer it in a little bit of broth for a couple minutes. Don’t allow it to overcook again but just allow the liquid to penetrate the meat. Additionally, if the meat isn’t fully burnt but is only a little bit tough, you can simmer in a bit of barbecue sauce to restore some flavor and moisture.
Burning occurs when meat is exposed to heat that is too high for too long, or when it receives too much direct heat and direct flame. Investing in a quality kind of basket can help you prevent some burning by allowing you to more evenly control your temperature.
Once you’ve gotten your meat to a point where it is burnt, you may have to transfer from the charcoal grill to a liquid-based cooking medium. You can add a little bit of water or broth to a pan and simmer the meat for a few minutes. The goal is to allow the liquid to penetrate the meat without allowing it to overcook even more. This should take a couple of minutes. If you add a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, this also helps revive the meat.
More Radical Solutions
If things get way too overcooked, one solution for meat is to toss it into a food processor with a drizzle of olive oil and puree it. This meat paste can be used for a ton of different things. You can make hand pies from it, or empanadas, and bake them. You can also try to make sweet dumplings or ravioli! If you’ve got a fancy steak that is burnt, this is a great way to avoid wasting it.