Once you select a recipe, there is a correct way to read a recipe. You should be reading the recipe multiple times to perform specific tasks. This post will address how to read a recipe before you start cooking.
In the last post, we talked about what recipe is and how to choose them. Once you select an appropriate recipe for beginner cooks, it's important to know how to read a recipe. The recipe not only provides you with the ingredient list and cooking instructions, but it also provides valuable information like how to prepare the ingredients prior to cooking and other helpful tips.
So how should you read a recipe? Here is my general guide in reading a recipe:
- Always read the recipe from beginning to end including the ingredient list.
- Read the recipe to perform Mise en place
- Once you are ready to cook, read the recipe again to familiarize yourself with each step.
- Have your recipe available and follow the instruction while cooking.
This may sound like a broken record of repeating "read the recipe." But when you are reading the recipe, you are reading to perform a specific task at each step.
How to read a recipe
1. Always read the recipe from beginning to end.
It is very important that you understand exactly what the recipe says. If there is any confusion, make sure you address the confusion BEFORE cooking. I would also note any substitutions or tips that are provided on the recipe card. Visualizing the cooking steps is very helpful and if the recipe provides you with a process shot, pay attention to those as well.
So when you are reading the recipe, check for:
- Is this a good recipe? (This step should be done in selecting a recipe)
- Do I understand the recipe? Is there any confusion?
- Do I have all the ingredients and tools/equipment to make the dish?
- Are there any substitutions and cooking tips?
2. Read the recipe to perform mise en place.
Mise en place is a French term for "Everything in its place." This means all the ingredients are prepared, pre-measured, and all the tools/equipments are gathered prior to cooking. Such practice is performed in every single professional kitchen but not so much in home cooking. The practice of performing mise en place deserves its own section and it will be covered next. But note that you need to read the recipe specifically to prepare the ingredients prior to cooking.
For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of diced potato, you need to peel, dice, and measure one cup of potato before you use the potato for cooking. Although it was listed as an ingredient, this information tells you how to prepare the potato for the dish.
When reading a recipe for mise en place, pay close attention to the preparation of the ingredients and equipment needed for the dish. This may seem redundant and take a longer time to do so, this step is not only crucial but will help you follow along with the recipe so much more efficiently. Find out more about how to perform mise en place here.
3. Read the cooking instruction again before you start cooking.
Think of this step as a review session right before an open book exam. Even though you know you can use your book, you still need to know where to find the answer to the question, right?!
Reading it right before you start will help you understand the flow of cooking and mentally prepare for what's coming up.
4. Have your recipe available and follow the instruction while cooking.
At this point, you should have read the recipe at least 5 - 8 times before you even turn on your stove. The redundancy of the reading recipe will finally pay off when you are following the instruction. Make sure to have your recipe available so that you can refer to it any time during the cooking process.
In addition to the general advice provided above, marking the ingredient for any substitution and adjustment on the portion size is an excellent thing to do while reading a recipe.
At this point, you have all the tools and ingredients, picked out a recipe to try, and read it multiple times to really start cooking. But there is one more crucial step before you turn on your stovetop - that is: how to perform mise en place! We will discuss how to perform mise en place properly so that we can efficiently and successfully follow along with the recipe!