Overcooking chicken, steak or fish can be a little devastating — especially after working so hard and spending so much money to create a beautiful home-cooked meal. Turning meat into a tough, chewy, dried-out mess is pretty easy to do, and you’re certainly not the first. The knowledge that almost everyone has burned meat to a crisp at some point may not bring your meal back from the dead — but these tricks might.
Chicken is very easy to overcook — whether on the grill, on the stovetop or in the oven. On the grill, you can usually remove the burnt edges, and the inside will still be moist. The stovetop and oven are a little trickier, though, since typically the meat is dried-out on the inside too. Change up the meal by shredding the dry chicken and adding mayonnaise, salt, pepper and other spices of your choice for homemade chicken salad sandwiches. If you don’t wish to change the meal completely, slice the chicken into thin strips, and add a mixture of olive oil or butter and herbs. Drizzle that on top, and garnish with salt and pepper. You can also add barbecue sauce or your favorite vinaigrette.
Whether you overcooked your steaks or a roast, dried-out beef isn’t a favorite of anyone. For steak, slice it up, and soak it overnight in your favorite marinade. Use it in wraps, soups, shepherd’s pie or pastas. For roasts, place it in the slow cooker with barbecue sauce, and cook on low for a few hours. Shred the beef, and make some tasty barbecue sandwiches. Another idea is to make beef stroganoff. Stroganoff is simply egg noodles, beef chunks and your favorite veggies. We love this quick chipotle beef stroganoff for nights when you’re in a hurry.
Quick tip: Add a little beef broth to the dry beef, and let simmer on the stove for a few minutes.
Dry pork is the worst of the meats, but just like chicken and beef, there are solutions. Chop it up into small chunks, and make pork fried rice or a pork stir-fry. Shred it, and place in the slow cooker with barbecue sauce for barbecue pulled pork sandwiches. You can also put the pork into a food processor and mix with green onions, cabbage and garlic to use as a filler in pot stickers.
Overcooked meat doesn’t have to be thrown out, and as you can see, there are dozens of recipes that will disguise the dried-out taste.
Tips on preventing overcooked meat
- Cook it longer over low heat. Unless you’re grilling steak, which is best grilled over high heat for a short amount of time, meat is juicier when it cooks for a longer period of time over low heat.
- Wait to trim the fat. It’s tempting to want to cut off all that fat before cooking the meat, but wait until after it’s done cooking. Fat traps in moisture and gives your meat a juicy taste as opposed to a dry one.
- Don’t multitask. One of the main reasons for people overcooking their meat is that they simply forget to set the timer or don’t hear it go off. We get it — we’re busy! When cooking dinner, avoid social media, television and other distractions. Try setting up the kids with an activity or letting them help. That way your main focus can be on dinner.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below:
Originally published February 2014. Updated February 2017.