Friday, May 25, 2012

Food Essay Friday: Four Cooking Instructions that Keep People From Cooking

I hate it when cooks make cooking seem daunting. It needn't be. At least the type of cooking that gets dinner on the table. Below are a few of my own pet peeves--things chefs sometimes say or do that make cooking seem so mysterious and perfectly undoable for the rest of us mortals.

1. Spoon your ingredients into your measuring cup. I don't know why I hate this instruction so very much. Oh wait, I do know. Because it's tedious and painstaking and--for most good recipes--completely unnecessary. I have been making cookies and cakes for a long time. They are very good. I have never spooned flour into anything and I never intend to. A good recipe can forgive a few extra or less grams of whatever. Dropping ingredients into a measuring cup spoonful by painful spoonful while some child grabs at my legs begging to help sounds like the type of thing the devil forces his minions to do for the rest of eternity (oh, and I and bet they burn their cookies every time too). It's also the type of thing that Yahoo articles love to include in their 'how to cook better' articles. (Why, yes, I am equating Yahoo cooking articles with Satan.) If you need to be intensely accurate in a recipe (and I'm going to maintain that you usually don't if you have a good recipe), buy a kitchen scale and weigh your ingredients.

2. Use 17 bowls. Okay, maybe that's not the exact instruction, but the point is that some recipes just seem to employ an inordinate amount of dishes. I admit that there's a place in life for a really stunning dish that requires several bowls, spoons, measuring implements, etc. But we should definitely save those recipes for the fancier things in life or at least a lazy Saturday afternoon. Chocolate chip cookies, 30 minute meals, and the like should never require that we spend two hours afterwards cleaning up our mess. Also, I'm much more willing to forgive a less-than-perfect dish that only required one bowl or pan than I am one that created a sinkful of dishes.

3. Wash your rice/lentils/beans 3 (or however many) times before cooking. I admit that there's a place for rinsing grains, but to do so over and over in a neurotically prescribed fashion makes me quacky. Rinse them once if need be. Or if you're feeling nice and anal, rinse them until the water runs clear.

4. Giving some oddly specific instruction and not explaining why--like being told to tie up your roast with twine. As though we all have twine just lying about. And why exactly are we tying it up--because it's going to get so tender that it will fall apart or what? There are jillions of mysterious cooking instructions in our cookbooks and on blogs. I don't mind doing something weird, but I'd like to be told why. That way I can decide if the twine (for example) is worth going out to buy or not. Without a wee bit of explanation, we're stuck wondering if our rebellion/laziness/cheapness is going to ruin a perfectly good recipe or not.


  1. I feel this way about all of Julia Child's recipes! Especially on #4.

  2. I think spooning the flour into the cup makes sense only when you're making a low fat baked item, because otherwise it will not have the right consistency. I do it out of habit now, but I understand how you feel!

  3. Yes! Completely agreed. I have never spooned the flour; I always use as few bowls as I can manage, recipe instructions be damned; and I regularly forget entirely to rinse my grains/beans/whatever. But the food is still really darn good most of the time.



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