Strategies for “fixing” your dish

May 14th, 2010 by ACADEMIE_Kitchen_Creations Leave a reply »

chefToo sour? Too sweet? Or perhaps your dish is just a bit too bitter?

Well fear not, friend. It can be fixed! In this blog post, we’ll outline a few strategies for “fixing” flavors that may be a bit out of balance in your dish.

It’s too sour or tart

Sour and tart qualities can be very nice, especially in balance. However, when cooking with wine, the acidity can be a challenge because as the liquid evaporates with heat, the acidity will concentrate and become stronger. Couple this with other “sour” ingredients like citrus or vinegar, and it might make the sour component too much in your dish.

You can solve this by adding sweet or protein laden ingredients. Sweetness will balance sour, regardless of whether you have wine in your dish. Think sugar or honey. A famous example of this is “Sweet & Sour Pork”, which uses vinegar and sugary flavors to balance the dish.

If your sourness is coming from wine, keep in mind that proteins will also neutralize lots of the sourness and acidity without adding the sweet (but you’ll get other flavors depending on the source of the proteins). You can get proteins from glaces, stocks, creme or butter (a huge component of buerre blanc sauces). Keep in mind that proteins will add other flavors as well, so make sure you keep the big picture in mind.

Yikes! It’s too sweet

This is the opposite problem of above, but with the same solution. If you’re dish is too sweet, add sour! A spritz of lemon juice, vinegar or wine will help balance the sweetness (but be careful when adding wine – as you probably don’t want the alcohol with it. A quick reduction in a sauce pan will solve this problem as you will boil out the alcohol). Saltiness can also balance sweetness by adding a savory component to the mix (which can be very pleasant, but don’t over-do it. Too much salt can destroy a dish, and it’s a nearly impossible problem to fix).

Borrrring! This dish is too bland!

Experiment with a pinch of salt, sugar or sour (vinegar, wine, citrus). These can sometimes add the little extra your dish needs to make it more interesting.

It’s too bitter

Fats and/or a bit of sweetness can help smooth bitter components in a dish. Think sugar and cream in bitter black coffee, for example. Salt can also help with bitterness (but again, use in moderation).


Making great food is a personal thing…you have the final say on your culinary creation and you have the ability to take the flavors in whichever direction you choose. Have fun. Experiment. If the flavors get off track, use the tips above to get back on the main path.

Bon appetit!

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