It’s happened to us all, you’ve finally made the brave decision to dive into the world of cooking, and pop down the store to gather the ingredients from your brand new recipe book. You think you’ve picked everything up and you get down to cooking, following the instructions as best you can.
However, when it finally comes to trying your new creation, the result isn’t as amazing as you thought it was going to be. Something is missing: you’re not sure what, but something’s not right. “But I followed the recipe perfectly!” you scream. “I literally did everything it said!” However, according to Alton Brown, you probably didn’t.
Brown knows a thing or two about food, as he hosted Good Eats for 14 seasons and is a regular blogger of recipes online. But while we all think we follow a recipe perfectly, Brown things that we’re lying to ourselves.
Writing on his blog, Brown explains: “According to my calculations, about 30 percent of the dishes prepared from written recipes go wrong because the cooks concerned didn’t actually read said recipe.”
Brown says that while we look at recipes and follow them, we don’t actually READ them and take in all the vital bits of information within them: “Sure, we glance at them sideways, scan them, peruse them, peek at them, make grocery lists from them, but we rarely glean all the information we really need. This is especially true of dishes being prepared for the first time”.
In order to avoid this happening time and time again, Brown shares his top tips for following a recipe. That’s right guys, it’s time to educate yourselves:
1. Sit Down
“That’s right … sit down at the kitchen table and simply read the recipe all the way through. Don’t make notes, don’t make lists, just read”.
2. Read It Again
“Highlight any special procedures or sidebars that might change your timeline, i.e. bringing butter to room temperature or soaking dry beans (that’s the one that used to get me). Be careful to note punctuation. For instance, “1 cup chopped nuts” is not the same as “1 cup nuts, chopped.” Nor is 6 ounces of brown sugar the same as 3/4 cup brown sugar”.
3. Gather Equipment
“I always do this first because if there’s something esoteric on the hardware list, you may need to abandon the dish until you can procure a left-handed pasta roller”.
4. Gather Ingredients
“Pantry ingredients and dry goods should be corralled into a staging area. Anything that’s missing goes on the grocery list. I do the same thing with the refrigerator/freezer, collecting everything onto one shelf. Whatever’s missing goes on the grocery list. During this phase be especially mindful of ingredients that may need to be thawed, or brought to room temperature. Keep in mind, recipe writers list ingredients in order of use, typically from largest amount to smallest. This is also a cue for the cook as to how the ingredients should be measured and used. For example, if a recipe calls for both a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of oil, we call for the oil first so that the honey will be easier to measure”.
5. Note the Order of the Steps
“Heat the oven and prep the pans (soak the beans) before messing about with other ingredients. This will save you both time and heartache in the kitchen. And in the case of timely preparations such as egg foams, it may prevent an actual disaster”.
6. Always Triple Note Cooking or Baking Times and their ‘Doneness Indicators’
“If the biscuits should be golden brown or the butter should smell nutty, your eyes and ears can tell you more than a timer ever will.”
So there we have it guys, the reason we all suck at cooking is because we’re not reading the recipes, pretty simple stuff. Brown recommends that we should come to view recipe books like we do literature, so I’m going to put the latest Ramsay cookbook next to my bed and read a few recipes before I drift off each night, in the morning I should basically be a Michelin star chef, right?