Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Read a Recipe

Reading a recipe might seem like a no brainer to even novice cooks, but as I was researching how to write a recipe, I actually learned a few things.  It's not easy to write a recipe and sometimes, I will admit, us food bloggers get it wrong.  However, there are some things you should expect from a well written recipe and some things you should do.

Read the entire recipe all the way through before beginning to cook.  In fact, I like to read the recipe well in advance of the time I'm getting ready to cook.  Sometimes at a quick glance I will completely misjudge how much time I'm going to need to cook a certain thing.  More than once I've misread "slow cooked" as "slow cooker" and anticipated using my crock pot instead of using a longer cooking method on the stove or in the oven.  Reading a recipe all the way through will also allow you to plan for purchase of any ingredients you might not have on hand as a staple.

Note any preparations to ingredients in the list of ingredients.  That is to say, often in the list of ingredients, a recipe might say, for example "1 onion, diced" but not include dicing the onion in the instructions.  I even have a recipe that calls for "1 pound of potatoes, previously cooked," which I always have to remember to take in to account.

Look for cooking times, serving sizes, and oven or stove top temperatures.  Make sure you've given yourself enough time to cook an item and make sure it will serve the number of people you need to feed.

Note any special equipment you will need.  Do you need to pound chicken with a meat mallet?  Do you need your food processor or blender to mix that dressing?  What about a strainer to drain the pasta?

Ingredients should be listed in the order they are to be used.  The exception to this is generally a large amount of protein will be listed first.  For example in a recipe for breaded chicken breasts, the chicken will probably be listed before the egg, milk, and bread crumbs.

Know what measurement abbreviations mean.  A good recipe should have the measurements spelled out completely, but some don't.  The most commonly confused are tsp (teaspoon) and Tbls (tablespoon).

Finally, here's one I didn't know:

There is a difference between "1 cup grapes, chopped" and "1 cup chopped grapes."  (or any other ingredient).  The first means to measure the grapes first, then chop them.  The second means to chop the grapes, and then measure.

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