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Jan 12, 2011 07:12 AM

Vague Recipe Instructions

What does "occasionally" mean in a recipe that calls for

"cooking over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally"?

Does occasionally mean 3 times per minute? Or just 3 times total?
Does the answer to the previous question depend on what dish you are cooking?
Do you just eyeball it and figure it out through trial and error??

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  1. given that I'm usually multi-tasking, I'd say it would typically get one stir from me! As long as it's not on too high a heat and in danger of scorching, I wouldn't worry too much.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DGresh

      That's funny! It should say "stir once" then!

    2. To me it means that it needs to be stirred, but doesn't require constant attention. So, I'd stir it every minute or two.

      I'm concerned with "medium-high" heat instruction, since that has many factors. I'm just more comfortable with the vague, like "low simmer," "low sizzle" and so on.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ediblover

        The burner dials have numbers (off and 1 - 10), so I figure medium-high must be around 7.
        I blame any problems on the stove manufacturer!

        (This particular recipe also doesn't mention whether to cover or not cover the pot. If you are only stirring two or three times, covering might be a reasonable option. But covering it affects how hot it gets in the pot over "medium-high heat.")

      2. Depends on what you're cooking.
        I would stir more often if it's meat based stuff, probably won't stir at all if it's something saucy.

        The other night when I was watching Worst Cooks, I asked my BF "Is it really that difficult to follow recipes and learn how to cook?"

        He said "Are you kidding me? There are no standards in ANY of the recipes that I've seen so far."

        What is medium high heat? If someone can give me a temperature reading, I don't mind buying a gauge. What is cook until soft? How soft is soft? Can be pushed through with a knife, a fork, or a finger? Cook for 5-10mins, great, what should happen between the 5min mark and the 10min mark?

        There's no way someone who has never cooked before can follow these instructions. If they fail at some point, they may lose confidence, things just go downhill afterwards, and then end up in this show."

        I guess a lot of us over estimated the clarity of most recipes out there.

        1. If you really must have a guide line you're screwed.

          A pot of something like chili needs to be stirred ocassionally. Like every 10 minutes or so. Another thing may cook for 10 minutes and every 3 would be fine.

          It's all about experience. You'll eventually know when that occasion to stir arises.


          1. I 'm going to be difficult and say all these answers are inadequate! I think it truly depends on what you're making - its viscosity, meatiness, fat, what sort of pot you're using, etc. Stir it after a minute. Is anything sticking to the bottom of the pan? Lower the heat a bit and stir again. You don't want sticking or burning, so stir enough to prevent those. You just have to get a feel for what that particular dish is doing.