When you cook you are basically preparing a chemical experiment except you will have a food item at the end instead of a new kind of shoe polish, or whatever. There are two types of recipes; one for cooking items and one for baking items. A recipe for cooking a dish is not exact, leaves room for creativity and variance. A recipe for baking is more of a science and the ingredients have to be weighed instead of simply measured. This is because dry items especially flour has air incorporated into it through sifting and a cup of sifted flour will be less (weight) than a cup of unsifted flour. Also in baking a slight variance in ingredients such as salt, sugar, yeast, etc will have great affect on the final product. How to read a recipe for each type of product is essential for proper execution of the recipe.
There are, essentially, two parts to every recipe. First the list of ingredient followed by step by step instructions on how to mix and cook the ingredients. All recipes should have ingredients in a sequential list according to the order in which they are used. Other information included in the recipe are, exact measurement of the ingredients, step-by-step easy to follow instructions, cooking temperature, cooing time, pans and other equipment needed in the sizes specified, how much the recipe will yield or how many it will feed.
How to Read a Cooking Recipe
Read the recipe completely through at least once before beginning. This will give you an over view of ingredients, tools and terms you may not be familiar with (i.e. descriptions of culinary techniques).
Gather your ingredients together first. You will be assured you have every item in the correct proportions. Get together all the bowls and utensils you will need. Mise en place is a French culinary term meaning “everything in place” or as my instructor translated for me “get your &*^t together”.
Follow the order of the recipe mixing and cooking accordingly. The time on a recipe is an approximation and should be used as a guideline. Always judge the doneness of the cooked item at around the time specified and cook more if needed.
How to Read a Baking Recipe
Basically the same procedures except you need to weight the ingredients instead of measuring them as baking is more precise than cooking an item. Baking items may have intermediate steps where the dough may need to rise and rest. Times are given but air temperature, humidity and altitude all are variables in how long these steps will take.
So to recap:
- Read entire recipe through “at least” once.
- Mise en place (get everything together)
- Anything missing?
- Weight or measure all ingredients
- Follow instructions in order
- Use recipe time as a guideline and always test for doneness