I have heard people say "I can't cook." Granted not all of us can call ourselves good cooks but we can all at least follow a well-written recipe. The more experience you have, the more comfortable and knowledgeable you are about cooking. However, a basic knowledge of recipe format and cooking terms is necessary to follow a recipe correctly so let's start by learning about the structure of a recipe.
There are two sections to what we call a standard form recipe: the ingredients and the method. The ingredients are listed first and tell you what items are needed to make the recipe. The method tells you what to do with the ingredients.
🍓Ingredients are listed in the order used.
The order the ingredients are listed should be the same order they are called for in the method.
Sometimes water, salt, pepper and a small amount of flour for flouring a cake pan or oil for frying are not listed but are called for in the method. These are basics that are assumed you would have available.
🍓Be specific when listing ingredients and give all information needed, especially size or amount.
Refer to the size of a can by ounces, not by calling it large or small. Large and small are relative meaning you would have to compare it to the other sizes to know if it is large or small.
Put can size in parentheses when using a number in front such as 2 (15 oz) cans. This prevents it from looking like 215 oz cans.
Flour refers to all-purpose (or plain) flour unless otherwise specified.
Realize that "½ cup chopped pecans" and "½ cup pecans, chopped" may come out to be two different amounts of pecans.
Specify the state of the butter: softened, room temperature, cold, melted.
We measure butter and margarine in tablespoons and cups, not sticks. A stick of butter or margarine is equal to 1/2 cup.
It will settle any confusion if you specify drained or undrained any time you refer to using canned food. For example, "2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained".
I like to include the ingredient preparation information in the ingredient list. This helps when you want to get some of the prep done ahead such as chopping, softening, and toasting. For example, "1 chicken breast, cooked, boned, and chopped" rather than "1 chicken breast" listed in the ingredients and then finding out in the method that you need to cook, bone, and chop it.
🍓Use generic names rather than brand names.
Call for "whipped topping" instead of "Cool Whip" and "chocolate sandwich cookies" instead of "Oreos". That specific name brand may not be available everywhere the recipe is used and other brands may work just as well.
🍓 An ingredient is capitalized only if it is a proper name.
Some examples of ingredients to capitalize are Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. I have found this list to be very helpful.
Capitalize the abbreviation for tablespoon (T or Tbsp) to differentiate from a teaspoon (t or tsp).
🍓Use the appropriate abbreviations in the ingredient list.
c = cup
t or tsp = teaspoon
T or Tbsp = tablespoon
oz = ounce
lb = pound
pt = pint
qt = quart
gal = gallon
There is no need to put a period after each measurement abbreviation.
Do not use "of" in the ingredient list. For example, not "1 c of sugar" but "1 c sugar".
🍓Group ingredients together to make the recipe easier to read.
Bracketing ingredients helps to show which ingredients go in together.
You could list ingredients under headings such as crust, filling, topping, and sauce to divide those ingredients from the rest in a complicated recipe that has different layers.
Sometimes you will see the word "divided" after an ingredient on a recipe. This means you will need part of that amount at one point and the rest at another point, but not the whole amount at once.
🍰Give thought to the most efficient order of steps to avoid using unnecessary steps and dishes.
Instead of melting butter in a small dish and pouring it into a mixing bowl, you could melt it in the mixing bowl and then add the remaining ingredients.
Give the instructions in the correct order rather than after the fact such as "layer in a 9x13" pan that has been greased".
🍰Give oven temperature, cooking times, and specific sizes of cookware.
Most dishes bake at 350° but you should specify on each recipe. (You can type the degree symbol by holding down the zero on your touchscreen and sliding up to the symbol.)
You can indicate a small or large saucepan or 2-quart casserole dish. You can usually guess what size dish by the quantity of ingredients the recipe asks you to put in it.
🍰Give all necessary instructions.
The more information listed with the ingredients, the easier the recipe will be to follow. However, there are usually other instructions needed.
Do not use abbreviations in the method.
Specify whether the pan should be greased (not "sprayed") and whether the dish should be baked covered or uncovered.
Each recipe card should have:
🔹Title of recipe (all words capitalized)
🔹Category (optional, for filing)
🔹Source: where you got it (magazine, cookbook, website)/who gave it to you
🔹Yield: how many servings or how much it makes
What's wrong with this recipe?
1. All words in the title are not capitalized.
2. There is no source sited.
3. The servings are not specified.
4. The ingredients are not listed in the order called for in the method.
5. The size of cherry pie filling is listed as large rather than in ounces.
6. The type of cake mix is not specified.
7. Pineapple as an ingredient is capitalized.
8. The type of pineapple is not specified (crushed, tidbits, fresh, canned?).
9. No detail is given as to whether the pineapple should be drained or undrained.
10. Pecans are never listed in the ingredient list.
11. Margarine is referred to in sticks rather than cups.
12. The word "of" is used in the ingredient list.
13. The first instruction should be to grease the pan.
14. The word "sprayed" is used rather than "greased".
15. The pan is referred to as large rather than a specific size given.
16. Pecans is misspelled in the method.
17. There is no instruction for how to layer the margarine (sliced, melted?).
18. No oven temperature is given.
If you cook, recipes become one of the most used items in your home. A well-loved recipe can be a means of nourishing your family many times over and it becomes even more valuable as it brings back memories of home. I will post more in the future about recipes because something that important deserves some extra consideration.