How to absorb/remove excess water that you've added to a dish?

Seasoned Advice Asked on January 1, 2022

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?

5 Answers

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.

Answered by problemlow on January 1, 2022

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.

Answered by Little White Lithe on January 1, 2022

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.

Answered by Dan on January 1, 2022

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.

Answered by Cindy on January 1, 2022

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.

Answered by Jolenealaska on January 1, 2022

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