My cooking style involves putting a bunch of ingredients (e.g. chicken, rice, mushrooms, tomatoes) in a pot, adding water and seasoning, turning on the heat, and coming back half an hour later. (Don't steal my techniques please.)

The problem is that this [highly scientific] method is sometimes inaccurate in the amount of water that remains in the dish after half an hour. If the water is running low, I can just add more, problem solved. But what can I do if there is too much water?

It's true that I can try to learn from my mistakes and add less water next time. However, is there a way to save the dish? I know I can just remove the top, turn up the heat, and let the extra water boil off, but sometimes that will overcook everything to a mush.

Is there anything I can add that absorbs the water? Kind of like rice, but maybe faster?

  • If you have over a liter in excess fluids, just check your charts the next time and adjust. – Captain Giraffe Aug 29 '14 at 23:34
  • @CaptainGiraffe Hey it's another captain! :D – CaptainCodeman Aug 31 '14 at 13:01

This sounds just like my cooking technique, and I have come up with a few ways to recover from overwatering.

Always lowball the amount of water

Like you said, you can always add water later. But if you're not watching the dish, you don't want the water to run out and burn.

Corn starch

Corn starch is a good way to thicken up the water into something more saucy. This is my preferred method if the extra water actually has flavor, because it adds a nice sauciness to the dish. Make a corn starch 'slurry' by mixing cold water and some corn starch, then add that to the hot dish that still cooking. You want to cook the dish for a few minutes after adding corn starch to let it thicken and cook out the raw flour flavor. You'll have to adjust the amount of corn starch depending on how much water there is, but a little goes a long way, its WAY more absorbent than flour.

Remove the lid and stir occasionally

This is the easy way, but it takes a while and sometime you can cook your dish in to mush. This lets excess water evaporate, and stirring just helps that a little.


Stuff happens to us all, especially when using highly scientific methods. If your seasonings/flavors are the way you want them and the only issue is too much liquid, just ladle out until you are left with amount of liquid you want.

You can even save the seasoned liquid you take out (stored in refrigerator) and use it later when preparing another dish.

  • Yes, ladle/spoon/strain and continue. Use the reserved liquid to make your next batch of rice or pasta. Regarding high water content ingredients (mushrooms and tomatoes), pre-saute the mushrooms (and maybe the chicken) and drain. Sticking with your scientific method, remove the core and squeeze the excess out of the tomatoes (if canned, strain them). Reserve the liquid just in case it needs to be added back in. Then combine in the pot. You'll have better control over the final outcome. – Michael E. Aug 29 '14 at 17:09
  • Thanks, good point. I'd be reluctant to throw out the liquid as I'm pretty sure there is some protein and other nice stuff in the water after hanging out with the chicken and other ingredients. I could separate it into food+soup though. – CaptainCodeman Aug 29 '14 at 20:29

Your highly technical method, being what it is, provides its own solution to too much water. Just let it simmer a few more minutes with no lid. That's it. The flavors will intensify as the liquids reduce. Keep it right at that point between a simmer and a boil, it won't take long at all.

  • Generally I agree with you but as a case study I have a pot with over a liter of extra water.. Even with the lid off at full blast it will take at least 20-30 minutes. – CaptainCodeman Aug 29 '14 at 20:31
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    @CaptainCodeman Over a liter?? Well in that case, physically removing some would definitely be in order. – Jolenealaska Aug 29 '14 at 21:56

Depending on how much water you have left over I might do one or more of the following:

  1. Toss in quinoa (GF ancient grain, 10m cooking time, estimate the same water:grain ratio as rice)

  2. Bulgur wheat/couscous (gluten-y, and will absorb lots of water without needing much cooking time at all...too much and it get's mushy fast)

  3. TPV (texturized vegetable protein, may or may not be comprised totally of vital wheat gluten or soy protein, doesn't really need much heating, it absorbs water like a champ)

  4. Dehydrated onions, carrots, or celery if they don't interfere with the flavor profile

  5. If there is an INORDINATE amount of water, I will just give up and decide it's now a soup...I will incorporate one of the previous grain additions and pitch in some egg whites(think like egg-drop soup, drizzling egg whites slowly into the warm water to get coagulation)

  6. If you don't like cornstarch... xanthan gum or arrowroot may also be useful in small quantities for thickening. Some people have reported a bitter taste using these in large quantities, so be aware.

Hope these were helpful.

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