We've all been there—whether you didn't measure at all or added a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon, over-salting a recipe happens to the best of us, even the pros. Rather than discarding the dish, salvage it with fat, acid, and other creative approaches.
For soups and stews that are over-salted, Deputy Food Editor Greg Lofts recommends peeling and quartering a russet potato, then simmering it in the liquid. This works because "as the potato cooks, it absorbs liquid so it's also absorbing salt," says Lofts. Pull out the potato as soon as it gets soft to avoid it breaking down. Taste and adjust the seasoning from here. If it's still too salty, then Lofts recommends "[bulking] up the volume of other ingredients in the recipe to compensate for the amount of salt."
If you over-salt mashed potatoes, cut the saltiness with fat such as butter or cream, both of which are inherently sweet. If you're not in a time crunch, boil another potato and mash it in, or get really creative and rethink the dish altogether. "Use the mashed potatoes as a topping on shephard's pie and back out on your seasoning for your meat and vegetables," suggests Lofts.
When a piece of chicken or roasted vegetables are over-salted, take a similarly innovative approach: Rather than serving the overly salty piece of meat with sides, "shred the chicken and toss it with greens and an unseasoned dressing. Whole roasted vegetables could be chopped up and folded into unseasoned rice or quinoa."
Seafood and shellfish can be tricky when it comes to knowing how much salt to use. While a piece of fish, such as salmon, cod, halibut, can take as much salt as a piece of chicken or steak, Lofts notes that he's more careful with the amount of salt added to shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster, and crab. "All of those have a natural brininess and saltiness, so generally they don't need as much salt." If you add too much salt to the broth for mussels, for example, Lofts recommends serving it with crusty bread on the side, which can be dipped in the broth and absorb some salt.
Baked goods, such as cookies or cake, that are over-salted really can't be fixed. However, you can remedy the situation by turning them into an entirely new dessert. For example, break the cake up into large chunks and create a trifle with fresh fruit and jam, which are naturally very sweet and will balance out the saltiness of a dish. Or create ice cream sandwiches with a sweet filling between two cookies.
Don't be afraid of salt when cooking, but do read your recipe through closely. As Lofts notes, "salt is flavor."