Dinner tonight tasted horrible. Where did I go wrong?

(62 Posts)
BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 21:50:57

Got the recipe off YouTube!

Basically, browned some chicken thighs - then removed from the pan to soften some onions & garlic, added two tins of chopped tomatoes, pinch of sugar then re-added the chicken & into the oven for 30 mins.

It has an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste. Did it need a bit more sugar do you think?

One thing that is worrying me slightly - I used a new cast iron pan that I haven't seasoned. Would that have caused it?


Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Tue 10-Sep-13 21:53:13

No idea, sounds lovely!


WilsonFrickett Tue 10-Sep-13 21:58:10

Did the onions/butter burn?

zgaze Tue 10-Sep-13 21:58:33

Cast iron gets REALLY hot <stating the obvious> Might you have burnt the garlic or onions?

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 21:59:20

It should be lovely, right? Wasn't though grin

This is what I did....


EmpireBiscuit Tue 10-Sep-13 21:59:48

I find tinned tomatoes need more than a pinch of sugar to take away the bitterness - I always add a scatter (very technical) from the bowl.

icecubed Tue 10-Sep-13 22:01:07

Sounds like you might have caught the garlic?

ZacharyQuack Tue 10-Sep-13 22:01:43

Maybe the tomatos themselves were bitter, and it wasn't your fault.

That's what I do anyway, blame the ingredients.

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 22:01:43

Nope - nothing burned.

Although - skin on chicken got very dark (not quite burned, but not far off) so maybe oven was too hot & tomatoes were overcooked?

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 22:01:55

Nope - nothing burned.

Although - skin on chicken got very dark (not quite burned, but not far off) so maybe oven was too hot & tomatoes were overcooked?

steppemum Tue 10-Sep-13 22:08:31

I never add sugar to tinned tomatoes, never heard of that. But I do think they need to cook for a while. So does tomato puree, heard on a cooking program that tom puree needs 20 minutes to cook.

I think the taste is the pan actually.

shrinkingnora Tue 10-Sep-13 22:11:51

Did you crush the garlic or chop it?

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 22:14:04

I think the taste is the pan actually

Really? Haven't poisoned us, have I? shock

One thing I didn't do which the recipe says to (for laziness reasons) was boil down the tomatoes before putting the chicken back in. I just emptied in the tins, plonked on the chicken & stuck into the oven.

Big mistake?

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 22:14:58

I crushed the garlic, peeled it then put them whole into the pan. They came out yummy & soft, as did the onions.

HometownUnicorn Tue 10-Sep-13 22:15:15

garlic takes seconds to singe and go bitter if put into hot oil, especially if crushed

Msbluebozooka Tue 10-Sep-13 22:15:42

Definitely more sugar needed, and did you give it a really good stir ?

barleysugar Tue 10-Sep-13 22:16:21

It's salt you need to reduce the bitterness of the tomatoes, not sugar!

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Tue 10-Sep-13 22:17:21

Meh tinned tomatoes are yuk...use fresh and a little bit of tomato paste next time.

steppemum Tue 10-Sep-13 22:19:12

Why oh why would you add sugar to a chicken dish??? Enough excess sugar in our diets as it is!

I think it is the pan, because new pans often have a coating of some sort. I would always wash them well, and with a frying pan, would probably heat some oil and tip it out, let it cool before I cooked in it.

I often do a chicken dish like this, have never used sugar or had any problems with bitter taste, so that is why I am guessing the pan?

shrinkingnora Tue 10-Sep-13 22:20:39

Garlic can be really bitter if you crush it, especially if it has any green shoot starting.

Mintyy Tue 10-Sep-13 22:22:27

I think 30 minutes cooking time in the oven was not enough for a dish containing two tins of tomatoes. I would have given it at least an hour, even after the pre-cooking. And I would definitely have brought it all up to simmering before transferring to the oven (because otherwise you are just cutting down cooking time even further). You need 1 tsp of sugar per 2 tins of tomatoes, salt, pepper, fresh herbs if you can. But not all tinned tomatoes are very nice tbh! If you can afford it, go for the pricier Italian ones.

Mintyy Tue 10-Sep-13 22:23:29

Steppemum - it is completely traditional to add a small amount of sugar to cooked tomatoes. Did you really not know that?

Never in all my cooking years have I added sugar to tinned tomatoes. Never. And I've been cooking twenty years or so.

My money is on the pan and insufficient cooking time.

Mintyy Tue 10-Sep-13 22:28:53

Adding a pinch of sugar is a tried and tested way of balancing the acidity of some canned tomatoes...

tinned tomatoes as a sauce do need to be cooked down to obtain the deep sweet tomatoey flavour and consistency...

trust me, I'm a pro.

Mintty will back me up. woncha, Mintty?

I also use balsamic vinegar to do the same job

HootShoot Tue 10-Sep-13 22:37:47

I went on an Italian cookery course and our teacher said it was quite common to add sugar to tinned tomatoes.

Mintyy Tue 10-Sep-13 22:37:58

Yeah ... too right. She knows wot she's talking about does ol Fargy.

Mintyy Tue 10-Sep-13 22:38:43

Haa! was going to mention balsamic vinegar but didn't want to appear TOO poncey.

Msbluebozooka Tue 10-Sep-13 22:43:15

Minty , Madame and Hootshoot. Jamie Oliver will also back us up.Try it and see for yourselves next time

Another interesting thing the Italians do is to add onions and garlic to cold oil and then heat up...if you think about it it makes so much sense, avoids unnecessary burning...

Msbluebozooka Tue 10-Sep-13 22:51:56

Also if you don't like the thought of adding sugar add grated carrots.

You could never be too poncey, dear Mintty...

steppemum Tue 10-Sep-13 22:54:25

Well, I have been cooking for a long time and never found the need to add sugar. I would never choose to add sugar to anything savoury, as I said before, enough processed sugar in our diets without adding more!

My chicken dishes don't taste bitter, so don't know why I would need sugar?

I agree with poster up thread though who said need to bring tinned tomatoes up to simmer before transferring to the oven, and I would cook for an hour.

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 22:55:13

Thank you all!

Having to make several rounds of cheese on toast because no one likes their dinner blush.

I used Heinz tinned toms, because they were on offer - usually I go for the value ones - so (hopefully) reasonably good standard ones.

I did wash the pan out first, but didn't go through the seasoning process first, because I forgot. Am going to now though.

I suspect that the toms just weren't cooked long enough - I didn't boil them down first, added literally just a pinch of sugar, and didn't cook for long enough in the oven (although chicken came out perfect, if a little over tanned!).

It should be a nice, cheap filling recipe so I am going to try it again in a day or two, and do it right next time. Will update when I do!

Mintyy If I leave in for an hour, how can I stop the chicken over cooking? I had it in at 190 (fan assisted).

chicken doesn't need sugar. Some brands of tinned tomato might benefit from a pinch to balance the acidity, as it burbles down.

I have been cooking for 40 years and am a professional cook so I am allowed to be dogmatic on this.

however we all have different palates and maybe some just don't mind it. Hence not finding the need to counteract it.

may I butt in here BringBack? I would have had it at 180 and covered it with foil for the first 45 mins..that would semi steam the chicken keeping it moist while the last 15 would brown the skin nicely

Mintyy Tue 10-Sep-13 23:01:04

You don't add sugar to chicken dishes <ffs!>

It is for the benefit of the tinned tomatoes, not the flipping chicken grin.

Yes, there is definitely too much sugar in our diets and we should all get a grip and stop eating so much of it. However, suggesting that the addition of half to 1tsp of sugar to 4-6 servings is going to tip the balance into the realms of the unhealthy is just plain ludicrous.

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 23:05:36

may I butt in here BringBack?

You may!

I would have had it at 180 and covered it with foil for the first 45 mins..that would semi steam the chicken keeping it moist while the last 15 would brown the skin nicely

That sounds perfect. Will do exactly that.

Re: sugar and tomatoes. We eat LOADS of tinned tomatoes - I can really tell the difference if I haven't put a bit of sugar in. A dollop of tomato puree usually helps bring down the bitterness too (dunno why).

I was much nicer than you mintty about the sugary chicken.

I'm glad I'm not the only one confused about the sugar. I always use salt and cook for at least 30-45 minutes. Have always gotten compliments on my sauce!

OP what you could try is sticking the tomatoes on to boil first, then do your prep, then in a separate pan brown the chicken and onions and garlic, then stick it all in the oven. If the sauce isn't quite ready when the chicken is done, just pull out the chicken and let the sauce cook another 10-15 minutes.

That's just a guess as I've never made this dish. I do something similar but easier, just cover chicken and garlic and potatoes with mustard, white wine and rosemary and cook for 30-40 minutes in the oven.

And yes mintty, I have been cooking since I was nine (including family meals, not just fairy cakes). my mum was a fabulous cook and introduced me to Elizabeth David very early...

Just so you don't saying I'm a bit fat liar grin

x-post with Madame

Now I am really discombobulated about the sugar/salt thing

My sauce is never bitter! I do tend to cook it a long time though so maybe that's why.

BringBackBant Tue 10-Sep-13 23:15:27

Maybe the sugar is only necessary if you're not cooking the tomatoes for long. My go-to pasta sauce (which we have at least once a week) is literally tinned toms, onion, crushed garlic, oregano & basil, tomato puree & half teaspoon of sugar. It's lovely (esp. with grated cheese). Maybe a longer cooked dish doesn't need the bit of sugar because the acid is cooked away?

That sounds lovely, dreaming. I love chicken cooked in white wine. Will give that a try. Thanks smile

Msbluebozooka Tue 10-Sep-13 23:16:40

Dreaming what tin tomatoes are you using tho?

right. the chemistry of of long cooking of acidic foods such as onions and tomatoes is that longer cooking removes excess water, so dehydrating the food, which accentuates the sweeter flavours of the vegetables. which is why if you cook down onions in just oil they will become intensely sweet, as will tomatoes.

This can however take quite a long time, so if you don't have a few hours to make a tomato confit a la Heston, a decent cooking down and a pinch of sugar will do the job.

However if you have rubbish tinned toms (and there are plenty out there) you might never get a decent balance without adding other stuff, like sugar.

I thank yow.

morrisons used to do an own brand of toms which were utterly lush. I cried when they stopped stocking them. Six years ago. I still mourn them.

RussianBlu Tue 10-Sep-13 23:23:08

I think the problem lies in the tinned tomatoes, I don't like using them as I feel they often have a not very nice taste.

Msbluebozooka Tue 10-Sep-13 23:26:32

Yep , it all depends on the make.

msblue -- all kinds really. Usually not the cheapest nor the dearest.

I usually add lots of basil and oregano too, maybe that does it.

steppemum Wed 11-Sep-13 10:16:34

Oh for goodness sake
I will say it in words of one syllable so that I am not miss understood again

I have never found the need to add sugar to chicken dishes WITH TOMATOES IN THEM as my sauce is never bitter. Obviously it is the tomatoes not the chicken as the whole discussion was about the need to add sugar because of the tomatoes. My point was that I never would add sugar to a savoury dish like this.

And no it isn't because I have a crap palate and therefore don't mind the bitter taste, as plenty of people eat mine and compliment me on it.

And obviously i have been cooking for at least 500 years etc etc grin

barleysugar Wed 11-Sep-13 11:36:26

I promise you salt will have a better effect than sugar!

MrsDoomsPatterson Wed 11-Sep-13 11:44:40

Yep, sugar not required, tinned toms just need a good long cookdown to taste anything near nice.

MrsDoomsPatterson Wed 11-Sep-13 11:47:35

And I've been cooking since before I was even born - ok?

Quangle Wed 11-Sep-13 11:50:11

I think the sugar in the toms is a red herring grin. I find onions actually take a long time to really soften and go sweet. If I am roasting them, it's a good hour. Even if I start things off on the hob, it takes much longer than you think. Undercooked onion will make things bitter and nasty.

snowlie Wed 11-Sep-13 12:26:42

The onions if slowly cooked will release some sugar and the tomatoes will be less bitter if cooked for longer and the quality of the tomatoes themselves will make a difference.

I'd do the tomato sauce separately on the stove top, taste first then adjust, I don't always sweeten but when i do I add sugar,....sometimes I add balsamic, sometimes - ketchup! <gasp>

I have been cooking since the big bang.

Offishully the longest.


In fact I think you will find that tomato-based life forms are actually what people the universe.

so there.

I do agree about the salt though. As salt is a flavour enhancer it really brings out the tomatoey-ness of the tomatoes.

and anyway, its what makes you happy that counts. there is no hard and fast rule.

the discussion started simply because some folk seemed to think sugar was an abomination and VERY VERY WRONG.

Which of course it isn't. neither is salt. neither is nothing. It is all about the product (yes products do differ) and palates (and yes, palates differ also).

And sod all to do with cooking for 20, 30, 500 or a a squilllion years.

ushaiza Sun 15-Sep-13 07:41:14

It was not your fault at all.
The recipe is fine.
Acidic things like tomatoes should not be cooked in a cast iron pan. It ruins the taste. The iron leaches into the food.
Some people say that if properly seasoned a cast iron pan can be used for acidic things, but most people advise against it.
That pan is fine for everything except tomatoes, vinegar, wine, and other acid things.

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