How to Read a Recipe

Do You read the Recipe or”Wing It?” by Don R

picture of a recipe box

Cooks often change the recipe to create a unique taste.

 It is said that experienced “cooks” do not need recipes. If they are not necessary, can anyone explain why there so many cookbooks on the Barnes and Nobel shelves?  The answer lies in how you view the cooking process and how much knowledge you have.

If you want to recreate the taste of someone’s entrée or side dish you will follow their recipe. Those who are not sure about how ingredients complement or detract from each other will also rely on recipes.

Our mission is to share ideas about using whole foods in creating meals. If you have little experience, we’ll share thoughts on how to read a recipe. Later, we will discuss ways to change recipes  to fit your needs. And finally, we’ll discuss how to create good tasting food without relying on recipes.

Recipes are merely a guide to get you started… and real chefs make the final choice on how it turns out.

If you prefer to follow a recipe here are some tips to make it easier:

  • the ingredients are usually listed in the order that they are used in preparing the  food.
  • A confusing part of reading a recipe concerns the word ounce (oz) which can be used in dry weight; 1 pound (lb) equals 16 ounces (oz). One ounce could also be a measure of liquid volume as in 8 ounces equal 1 cup (C).
  • The real confusion comes to light in canned goods. If you buy a 10 ounce (10 oz) can of peaches,I always thought that the measurement is in volume because the weight of the actual peaches was never 10 ounces when measured. (my science curiosity) Come to find out it is supposed to be 10 oz of food if it says “net weight 10 oz”. Thanks for the correction.
  • On the other hand, if they call for 8 oz of pasta they are asking for 1/2 of a pound and a scale is needed to get an exact measurement.
  • So, to summarize, If the recipe calls for 8 ounces of a dry ingredient use a scale to weigh it, If asking for 8 ounces of a wet ingredient use a measuring cup.

Cooking terms such as diced, chopped, sautéed and roasted will be discussed in the next post. But there is one important tip for today. Allow me to give you an example of how to cook without using a recipe. 

Gabriel Claycamp , one of our FMP presenters, cooked a Tex-Mex dinner for a fundraiser. I brought the ingredients which included cilantro, tomatoes, peppers  and onions for the Spanish rice. After the beans and rice were cooked, Gabriel chopped the cilantro and a few green onions and tossed them in with the beans, then he sprinkled on some garlic powder and salt. After simmering a while, he tasted them and smiled. I sampled the beans and agreed. He cooked them without using a recipe. Experience prevailed.

He also made the Spanish rice without a recipe, adding some of the ingredients and tasting until he was satisfied with the taste. Of course, just like on TV cooking programs, the meal was delicious.

What’s the point of this post? You really do not need a recipe if you master basic cooking skills. When you learn how  change ingredients, cooking times and spice combinations you can create unique meals. Until you gain confidence, follow someone’s recipe and enjoy!