Recipes can be overwhelming, but you don't have to be a chef to understand them. Read on for my 6 proven tips on how to read a recipe
and confidently make your next meal!
I've been reading recipes for fun now for almost 20 years. I love reading them so much that I didn't even realize it was abnormal until a friend pointed it out to me that my "leisure reading" was a
Since then, I've read 4 more cookbooks and
Given all the cookbooks I've read and all the recipes I've tried over the years, I've learned through recipe reading success and failures about the best way to read a recipe. Read on for my six proven ways to read a recipe and let me know in the comments section if you have any follow-up questions or feedback on reading recipes!
6 Tips on How to Read a Recipe
1. Read through the entire recipe before starting cooking.
What is more annoying than being in the middle of a recipe when realizing you don't have the next ingredient called for or that you started cooking different parts of the dish in the wrong order? That's why you'll want to know exactly all the ingredients you'll need, steps you will take, and different supplies you will need before you start on a recipe.
Some things to pay attention to while reading the recipe:
- Chilling or resting time -- a 2 hour resting time means a recipe you'd like to have on the table in 45 minutes isn't going to work.
- Appliances on hand -- does a recipe call for an appliance you might not have or that might be dirty?
- Ingredients -- do you have all the ingredients that you will need for the recipe, or can you make plans to purchase them before making the recipe?
- Special techniques -- are there any special techniques in the recipe that you aren't familiar with? (See tip #2 for more on this..)
Read through the recipe, envisioning all the steps as you take them and noting all the ingredients, supplies, techniques, and tools called for, making sure that you will have them on hand for when you start cooking.
2. Look up any terms you don't understand in the recipe.
Don't know what the words "emulsify" or "temper" mean? Totally fine! That's the amazing part of cooking-- all the things we get to learn about and experiment with. Just circle or write down any terms you come across when doing your initial recipe read through and then look them up online.
Also, if you're reading recipes on a food blog or cookbook, read through any "cooking notes" on the recipe to see if the blogger gives any cooking notes or tips on any of the unique techniques mentioned in the recipe.
3. Prep all your ingredients before you start.
This is one I was initially annoyed by but eventually learned the hard way (of course) of its importance. I had one too many fast moving recipes where I didn't have time to chop the veggies and measure all the ingredients while the recipe was cooking. Things ended up less than ideal. In some situations, the food on the stovetop burned because I didn't have enough time to tend to it. In other situations I had to pause the cooking -- ruining the dish on a few occasions -- to get the next ingredients ready.
By having all the recipes prepped and accessible ahead of time you can focus on cooking and following all the steps instead of panicking and rushing to get things ready in time Another benefit is that as you're reading the recipe and it asks for a series of ingredients, you don't have to stop and question how much to throw in. You just throw in your premeasured ingredients. More focus on the recipe at hand means a better end result.
4. Pay attention to and closely follow the different heating temperatures while you are cooking.
This one may seem pretty commonsensical at first glance, but it's one that can sneak up on the best of us. Pay attention to the recommended temperatures -- especially on the stove top -- recommended in the recipe. For pancakes or scrambled eggs, for example, too high of heat can really dive bomb your end result.
If the recipe gives a heat range -- often due to the natural variations that happen between different stove tops or gas and electric ranges -- start off in the middle of that range and pay attention to how your dish is progressing relative to what the recipe recommends and then adjust your heat accordingly.
One other note to make here is to pay attention to any changes in heat temperature when adding or removing ingredients to a pan. That
5. Pay attention to recipe specifics.
If a recipe calls for something specific like room temperature butter or room temperature milk, there's probably a good reason why! Especially in baking. Particular temperatures can make or break a dish because of the science behind the particularities.
Sometimes recipe writers will try to give shortcuts on how to speed up any time intense specifics, but if they don't you can always reference reputable sources on how to speed up those tasks (For example: get eggs to room temperature quickly by soaking in warm water for 5 minutes). Do yourself a favor though, and make sure they're trustworthy sources, though.
6. Check for doneness by both time and the explanation of doneness on the recipe.
Good recipes should have both a time range and description of the done product for you to know what done looks like as long as how long it will take to be done. Make sure to consider both factors when evaluating if a dish is done.
For example: the recipe reads "bake for 25-27 minutes, or until bubbling and starting to brown around the edges." Start checking the dish at 25 minutes, but if it still isn't bubbling at minute 27, keep on cooking and checking about every minute or so until it has started browning and bubbling.
Follow this handful of tips to have more successful and enjoyable cooking experiences. Some of these tips will seem more time or energy-intensive initially, but with less stress and mishaps in the kitchen you can end up saving yourself in overall hassle and panic, making it a more enjoyable experience. Also, once you start to have more fun in the kitchen and be more satisfied with your end results the upfront work will sell itself and eventually become second nature.
Also, if you ever have any questions or need any clarifications on the recipes I write, please comment in the section below with them and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Sharing your questions with me helps me to know how to best improve my recipes for you -- my ultimate goal!
Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great day!
Great Recipes to Practice Reading (& Cooking!):
- Coconut Maple Chai Breakfast Risotto
- Sweet Potato Hash Brown Burgers
- Remixed Carrot Souffle
- Garbanzo Bean Fritters
- Sweet & White Potato Gruyere Gratin
- Fluffiest Whole Wheat Pancakes