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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?

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    If you have over a liter in excess fluids, just check your charts the next time and adjust. Aug 29, 2014 at 23:34
  • @CaptainGiraffe Hey it's another captain! :D Aug 31, 2014 at 13:01

6 Answers 6

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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.

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Another solution if you dont have any thickeners on hand is to strain the 'soup' using a fine wire mesh sieve, then boil off the excess fluid stirring frequently until its the consistency/volume you want, then recombine.

Depending on what you're cooking this may destroy the flavour in the sauce, though in my experience this does not happen often.

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    Good idea to poil it off separately! Jan 12, 2021 at 19:55
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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.

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  • 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, 2014 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. Aug 29, 2014 at 20:29
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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.

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  • 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. Aug 29, 2014 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, 2014 at 21:56
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In searching for a solution to this, including this thread, I've figured out my own that method works well (for instance, when I'm on autopilot and added 4-6 cups of water to a soup before remembering that I'm making a chili):

  1. Remove the excess broth/water with a ladle

  2. Boil it down in a separate pot, while letting the main pot stop cooking and cool. This takes quite a while depending on the amount. Say 30-60 minutes for several cups. Depending on your patience, let it at least remove some water or, ideally, let it get down to a thick flavorful sauce.

  3. Add the reduction back to the main dish.

This way, you don't completely overcook your main dish into mush, and still don't lose the flavor that went into the accidental water addition. The only downside is the time required.

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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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