Mistakes Everyone Makes When Making Jell-O

Chilled gelatin, usually sold under fan-favorite brand Jell-O, has been a staple in American households for decades. A box of Jell-O combines simple ingredients in a powder, including gelatin, sugar, adipic acid, plus flavor and color (via My Food and Family). At full strength, this delicious dessert is about 80 calories per serving, but you can also find options that are sugar-free. It's known for its jiggly setting and moldable shapes, so if your Jell-O is too runny it won't work at all. So what did you do wrong? And how can you fix it?

Runny gelatin desserts may as well just be sugar soup, so first let's cover what you did wrong. Chances are you didn't follow the directions exactly, adding too much water or watery fruit (via Butter With A Side Of Bread). Jell-O also won't set if left on the counter; it needs to chill in your refrigerator. You can attempt to fix this by grabbing another box of Jell-O in the same flavor, preferably a small 3-ounce box. Whisk this together with one cup of boiling water until all the powder is thoroughly dissolved, then mix this again into the unset Jell-O and chill for real this time. 

As you add different ingredients to customize, you'll need to adapt your cooking techniques.

Different recipes will create a different type of Jell-O

Certain fruits will prevent Jell-O from setting correctly, not just because of water content, but because of chemical reactions. Gelatin is essentially protein. Usually derived from collagen, usually animal protein, this substance can be broken down by the enzyme protease (via Scientific American). Certain fruits carry enough of this enzyme to start unbending the proteins in your Jell-O, bringing us back to sugar soup again. Avoid pineapple, kiwi, mango, ginger root, papaya, figs, or guava.

Jell-O shots have been an adult party favor for a long time, and many wonder if the alcohol is what ruined their gel set. In fact, you've probably just added the wrong amount of heat or liquid (via Serious Eats). Gelatin will not "bloom" unless heat helps the gelatin particles to hydrate and fully absorb liquid. Most people don't want to boil their alcohol, but you can't get a firm set with only warm water. Try using a 1:2 or 1:3 proportion of water to alcohol. Boil the water separately and stir in your Jell-O mix. Pour in alcohol like vodka later before pouring into your mold or pan. Jell-O Jigglers are yet another variation, being the finger food of the gel family. For this dessert try keeping the water to powder ratio at 1:1 (standard Jell-O is 2:1) (via Squirrels of a Feather).

However you like it, this fun and simple treat is a childhood favorite and filled with the laughter of adult nostalgia. Enjoy!