With all the emails I receive asking various cooking questions, I thought it would be fun to post some of the responses in a new section to my web site called Ask A Chef. Many times when I get a question from you, I send it to one of my chef friends for their advice. Between their answer and my own thoughts on a subject, I respond. This way you get advise from a professional chef with a home cooks point of view.
Becky wrote and asked, "Is there anyway to save scorched food, not totally scorched but just a little, enough to taste. I made a great pot of chili, left the room to answer the phone and came back to scorched food. Any tips would be great."
After conferring with Chef Ricco, here's how I responded:
First of all, don't go back and stir the bottom of the pan and try to scrape all the burnt stuff off. Instead, get another pan; transfer all the non-burnt chili into the pan being careful to leave any burnt chili. Now you can continue cooking but try not to take your "eye off the ball."
If you scraped the bottom of the pan in an attempt to rescue the original batch, you might as well throw it all out and start over since there is no way you are going to get rid of the burnt flavor.
A few things you can do to prevent this from happening are being sure you are using a quality pot with heavy bottom. Cheaper pots typically have hot spots and don't distribute the heat as well resulting in burning food. A well made soup pot or stock pot will have excellent distribution of heat and a bottom heavy enough to prevent "some" burning.
You can also try lowering the heat. This way you don't have to watch as careful, but you still want to be paying attention. If you can't adjust the heat on your stove low enough, try purchasing a stovetop heat diffuser. This simple gadget can help modify the strength of the heat and prevent scorching foods.
And in Becky's case, she may consider having a phone installed in the kitchen but I'm not so sure that's a good idea if it distracts her while she is cooking.