Anyone who’s ever taken one of my cooking classes has undoubtedly heard me talk about the importance of reading a recipe from start to finish before you start cooking. It not only allows you to familiarize yourself with the steps you’ll take, but it also gives you a chance to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and equipment to complete the recipe.
A good recipe should always begin with a list of ingredients listed in the order in which they’ll be used. Don’t be alarmed if chicken isn’t the first ingredient in your Chicken & Dumpling recipe. There are likely other steps you’ll need to take before you get the chicken involved.
Each ingredient should start with the amount required (1 cup; 1 teaspoon; 1 medium onion), that’s sometimes followed by additional instruction on how to prep that particular item (1 medium onion, chopped or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained). Pay close attention to the way each ingredient is listed — 1 cup chopped nuts is not the same as 1 cup nuts, chopped. The first means measure one cup of nuts that are already chopped. The latter means measure one cup of unchopped nuts, then chop them.
The ingredient list is followed by the procedure or method section, which describes the steps you need to take to actually make the dish. It should include specific instruction (cook onion in olive oil), the type of equipment you’ll need (10-inch nonstick skillet or medium saucepot), the appropriate temperature your stovetop or oven should reach (medium high heat or 400 degrees Fahrenheit), followed by a visual or time test for doneness (until onion is tender or for about 3 minutes).
A complete recipe step might read like:
Cook onion in olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat until onion is tender.
Consider the recipe your roadmap to a successful dish — if you know the right way to read and interpret the map, you’ll never get lost.