How to Read a Recipe

Couple reading a recipe
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The old saying is: if you can read, you can cook. Not true! Recipes are written with precise language, and you must learn that language before you can be a successful cook and baker.

Baking vs. Cooking

Did you know that baking and cooking are two very different activities? Baking is really a science, with precise measurements of ingredients that are assembled and baked in specific ways. Baking recipes include those for cakes, breads, cookies, pies, cream puffs, popovers, muffins, and bar cookies. Cooking recipes include those for main dishes, soups, salads, side dishes, and many desserts and they are generally more open to adaptation and substitutions.

Follow the Recipe Closely

Of course, you should always follow a recipe closely. If you are an experienced cook you can substitute ingredients and even change the proportions a bit. But too much change can cause problems. If a cookie dough has too much flour, it will be tough and hard. If a cake recipe doesn't have enough leavening agent, there will be heavy wet spots in the finished product.

Cooking recipes have more leeway. Adding another 1/2 cup of liquid to soup isn't going to affect the outcome. And using 6 chicken breasts instead of 5 won't ruin an enchilada recipe.

Pay Attention to Each Step

The first step when making any recipe is to read through the recipe completely, from start to finish. Check on any phrases you don't completely understand. There's no shame in admitting you don't know something—everyone can't know everything about cooking and baking!

So read through these directions for reading recipes. They break down the recipe into component parts and explain all the steps. Even if you're a pro, you'll probably learn something new!