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Do you measure?

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Other than baking do you measure or even weigh ingredients? Are there some ingredients that are more likely to get the extra scrutiny? I only measure when I'm doing cured meats adn that is always weighed. Otherwise it's a dash of this and a dash of that.

jb

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  1. Nope. I don't even measure or weigh when baking sometimes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I always thought precision was important in baking and then I worked in a pastry kitchen. There was a lot of 'close enough' measuring going on among the pros.

      1. re: Sooeygun

        The thing with baking is that your surroundings will determine and affect how and when you use ingredients. Things like temp, humidity, atmospheric pressure, etc. will all require adjustments on the fly.

        So, if a person has a recipe in front of them, there is no way to know going in whether those state measurements will apply and work effectively in the environment the person is baking in.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Very true. I was working in the mountains, so we were adjusting for altitude (and lack of humidity) every time we tried a new recipe.

    2. If I am doing a recipe for the first time, especially when it is a cuisine that I am not familiar with--right now I'm working on Indian--I do measure because I am following a recipe that uses ingredients I am not yet familiar with. The same goes when I am using any recipe for the first time. I figure give it a chance the way it is written....you can always change it the next time. Oh, and I also measure the salt when making meatloaf or meatballs, otherwise I tend to over or under salt--both ways to ruin a dish. For most other dishes--not including baking--the measuring utensils rarely come out.

      2 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        same with me... i follow the recipe exactly the first time, and then once i taste it as it "should" be made, i adjust the tastes the next time to my own preferences.

        i do measure with baking though, although i rarely bake.

        1. re: jamieeats

          same here or testing a recipe for the spice level. For instance, I tend to measure seeds before toasting in a pan or spices in a recipe that aren't in my ususal rep. There are plenty of meals I "wing" on measurements but it really depends on the recipe and how familiar I am with the individual ingredients.

      2. Nah. If I'm making a recipe for the first time, I'll read it to get the gist of the proportions and ingredients, but I don't measure. Actually, the only thing I ever do measure is rice, but since my rice is always terrible, maybe I should stop.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Whinerdiner

          Have you tried cooking your rice pasta style? That solved most of my rice cooking woes.

          1. re: Whinerdiner

            As NanH suggested I lerned in 1975 from watching the Galloping Gourmet that rice is really smart. It knows exactly how much water to absorb in the correct cooking time. I overwater the pot and add the rice. then i set the timer. when it goes off i dump the rice and all the extra water through a collander.

            as long as you do not buy stupid rice it works, has for me for 35 years.

            1. re: jfood

              Thanks Nan & jfood, I never heard of that. Guess I wasn't paying close enough attention to Graham Kerr. This sounds like a great suggestion. I'll definitely try that tonight. It'll be a pleasure to get rid of that bulky rice cooker!

              1. re: Whinerdiner

                Update :
                I made the rice pasta style - what a revelation! It was great. Cheers all around.
                Thanks again. I guess you really do learn something new every day.

          2. Not very often at all unless it is something that requires precision like a bit of molecular gastronomy. Not always in baking, either. I often go by feel with pastry, pasta, etc.

            4 Replies
            1. re: chefathome

              yes with dough the texture feel is the best way to go and learning that is the best way to not panic and fix it.

              otherwise it's an "ish" question I'll pour salt or whatever into my hand to about the amount, gradually add that and either toss the rest in after tasting or chuck the unused down the sink.

              I feel sort of sorry for those who freak over 1/4 tsp measurements (unless as mentioned it's the first time - whoa I've made that mistake - but after the 4th or 5th time you really should have a feel for what's right)

              1. re: hill food

                I totally agree with you, but get the feeling bravado leads people to say they don't measure. I figure if someone has spent some time working on a recipe it might be worth my finding out what they learned rather than just assuming I know. Freaking out over what your call a "1/4 tsp measurement" is different, in my opinion, to appreciating a nuanced recipe where strong flavors in small quantities might make a difference. Being someone who appreciates what seems to be the common statement of big and bold flavors, I think it can be interesting to work with recipes that are closer to small and subtle.

                1. re: escondido123

                  I see your point, while I've made huge mistakes (sorry to anybody back then, if you're still pissed I'll buy you a pack of pepcid) I also learned which things only take a little and which just get lost. trial and error is time-consuming, but IMHO one learns so much more by throwing caution to the wind (btw hefty amounts of cayenne really have no place in a spaghetti sauce - oops) ehh live and learn.

                  now if we're talking saffron or truffles, I s'pose small amounts do matter.

                  1. re: hill food

                    "one learns so much more by throwing caution to the wind"

                    Yes, this exactly! Trial and error in tiny increments with multiple tries on the same recipe is also VERY expensive! The only caveat is that you have to be willing to eat your failures... ;)

            2. When I'm making a roux or gravy, or pretty much anything having to do with thickening liquid or cooking grains, yes. Of course, "measuring" comes in lots of guises - I find myself eyeballing a lot of heaping scoops of this, a scant handful of that, and after 40+ years of dedicated cooking can fairly accurately translate those quantities into standard measures if I'm writing down the recipe for someone. And if I need to double check I'll just throw that scoop or handful into a measuring cup and see what it has to say.

              Some things I bake I've found to be remarkably accommodating to lackadaisical measuring, cornbread being the outstanding example. After having done successful batches with both batters that had the consistency of wet sand and those that poured like pancake batter, I've decided it's damn near bulletproof and I'm going to stop fretting about it.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Will Owen

                The notion that precise measuring and weighing in baking is required for great results is way overrated.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  if one is experienced and understands the result of , say, more flour or more fat, this is true. But if not, measuring can be a great help.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Ain't that the truth? How else would so many cultures have a zillion bread recipes to offer, each?

                    That said, I think my baking is much improved by weighing my ingredients. But oh, I only weigh so that someday I know my ratios by look and feel. I want to cook like my great grandma did.

                    1. re: Vetter

                      Your grandma is what I consider a true cook.

                      If you can't cook by your five senses (i.e. touch, taste, smell, sight, feel), and must follow a recipe to make something edible, you're not a cook (or baker), but a lemming.

                      Nothing wrong with being a lemming, but just don't go around calling yourself a cook, or pretending to be one.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I give baker's something of a pass, except, EXCEPT when it comes to knowing if your bread dough has the right flour to liquid ratio. but the rest is a process and after a few failed tries you still can't get the consistency part right....sorry.

                        otherwise regarding the baking powder/soda yeast quantities, then one can fall back on a recipe, and if the subject is pastry? now that takes years IMHO.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Like I said I don't do much measuring, but one thing I don't get is this macho thing about not measuring. Somehow you're not a real cook if you measure? Why?

                          jb

                          1. re: JuniorBalloon

                            Somehow you're not a real cook if you measure? Why?
                            _________________________________

                            No, that's not what I said.

                            What I said was, if you can only cook something by following recipe, then you're not really a cook.

                            It's not a "macho thing" but a frustration thing. Ever get baffled someone says they are a great cook but "can't make X because they lost their recipe for X"?

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Can't say I've ever had that frustration. Never met anyone that could only cook by following a recipe, but have known many good cooks that preferred to measure ingredients.

                              jb

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Boy, ipsedixit do you work in sweeping generalizations! I can make something edible with no problem, but when I'm working with new ingredients or a new cuisine I start with recipes so I can begin to understand proportions, flavors and how things work together. Since I don't have ESP, I figure a recipe is a good place to start.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              See and I think if you can put a good meal on the table night after night you are a cook, even if you slavishly follow a recipe. Somewhere along the line, you are doing something right.

                              1. re: NanH

                                Somewhere along the line, you are doing something right.
                                __________________

                                Couldn't agree more. Doing something right does not equate to being a cook.

                      2. Today I had to make my cajun spice mix. not really mine as it's very common, 4 parts cayenne, 2 parts black pepper, 2 parts garlic powder, one part salt and one part onion powder. Determining what a part is makes a big difference in the end product. I usually just use a tea spoon and mix it all together. Recently I've started doing cured meats and pretty much everything is weighed and is a percentage of the weight of the meat your working with. Some of it is not as important as others, but when it comes to live bacteria, nitrites and nitrates you want to keep a close watch on the amounts. Anyways that new hobby prompted me to buy scales. Since I have them I decided to use them to determine what a part is. Turns out when you use weght the ratios are very different, must be the different densities of the spices. This mix doesn't taste like past batches. Will take a few tries to get it right, but I have to say I like knowing what weights make this mix just the way I like it. makes it very repeatable.

                        Still for general cooking I'm good with the dash method.

                        jb

                        1. It depends on why I picked the recipe. If I read it and thought, "Oh, yum!" I generally follow it pretty exactly. If I have searched for a fresh take on some ingredients I have on hand and don't have quite everything, or wasn't fond of another ingredient, I would cheerfully wing it.

                          1. depends on what it is.

                            The first time I try a new recipe, I'll usually follow it unless something really jumps out at me as being too much or too little of something (or my family likes or doesn't like something...sometimes I'll adjust that, too).

                            Baking I try to stay fairly close -- especially for something like my grandmother's angel-food cake. She was known for her AFC across several counties, but I got my early education in foul language from being at her house if she made a mistake while she was measuring...it's a delicious recipe and not difficult, but it really isn't open much to alteration. (e.g. the time my sister decided to try using pasteurized egg whites instead of fresh...she ended up with a 2" thick doorstop, with a hole in the middle, instead of a cake.) Sometimes you can fudge baked goods, sometimes you can't...and it just takes lots of practice until you figure out what the fudge-tolerance is for what you're making.

                            Stews and soups? Things that are flavor-based rather than process- or proportion-based, like bruschetta? Don't even try...I make it up as a I go along. I might be headed toward black beans, or split-pea soup, or chili...and it will be good, but there's no such thing as a recipe.

                            1. The short answer is .... never. But then I rarely ever follow a recipe for anything, either. If I want to make something I've never made, I'll take a glance at the ingredients & *maybe* technique (if it's something I've never done, which is rare), shut the book / laptop, and have at it.

                              Somehow, I manage to make most dishes come out well. Oh, and I don't bake.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: linguafood

                                In my opinion most recipes are guidelines. I am too creative and curious to strictly adhere to most recipes. As a kid when I became familiar with Food Science, skills, techniques, flavour profiles and so on everything clicked. My Home Ec teacher regularly asked me to teach things to other kids in my class. I just "got" it. Although it did drive her crazy that I was teaching bad habits such as NOT measuring! When I teach students cooking skills I do recommend measuring to begin with but I also recommend using their own creativity by not always strictly adhering to recipes. Once they become confident they tend to "eyeball it". They often learn more by not measuring than by measuring (both good and bad).

                                Cooking seems to have come naturally to me, too. Cooking involves more than just cooking - it is time for adventurous exploration, insatiable curiosity and passion. I do not think twice at confidently trying new ideas for company, for example. Cooking and baking are the skills I am most adept at and confident about. It sure does help having a vast culinary library with hundreds and hundreds of books for inspiration. Good at sports? Ummm....not so much.

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  ESPECIALLY traditional recipes...Grandma didn't have a digital scale -- she likely didn't even have a full set of measuring cups!

                                  So things like pot roast, cassoulet, coq au vin, chili, jambalaya -- they have not EVER been exact science...throw what you have in the pot and let it cook. Done.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    YES!!! Totally agree.

                              2. i try to stay true to the recipe most times when i first try it. but if something calls for 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne and i know that will not be well received by the family i will reduce it.

                                then during dinners we discuss the pluses and minus (blessed with great tasters for the family with different strengths). then i place the notes in the recipe.

                                baking is another ball of wax. I'm even more anal retentive than normal in baking. must be measured precisely. mrs j on the other hand takes after her grandma in baking...a smidge, a dollop, a little of dis, all within her dna cvocabulary. i have translated many a recipe over the years from her bubby to the written word.

                                1. When I started to cook I measured EVERYTHING. Now I mostly eyeball everything unIess it's the 1st time I'm making something.
                                  I still measure flour, sugar, leavening, fat, liquids and salt precisely when baking. Chocolate chips for cookies, however, get dumped in by the handful.
                                  Thankfully I am experienced enough to weed out obvious errors, such as 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a pancake recipe that had no acidic ingredients. (Boy, was that a bad experience. I subsequently made it with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and it was fine.)

                                  1. Off hand, the ONLY time I can think of when I measure/weigh anything is frozen meats when I'm going to use automatic defrost in the microwave. Then I weigh. Don't want any cooked edges from too much time! Beyond that, by guess and by golly works just fine! '-)

                                    1. I cooked with a friend of mine a few years ago...I was stirring something that the recipe book said to stir constantly for 30 minutes (there were several of us and a couple bottles of wine, so this was an easy task).

                                      I can't remember now what it was, but I remember at 26 or 27 minutes I said "Okay, this is done" -- only to be admonished (very nice, but firmly) that the recipe SAID 30 minutes, so it needed a few more minutes. When the time went off, it would be done.

                                      It was starting to char around the edges, but I by God left that pan on the burner and swore to God I'd never cook with her again, as it would drive me completely bananas, and I wanted to keep her as a friend. I just can't cook like that -- it's not physically possible.

                                      (Another friend gave her a set of good knives for her next birthday...she had a drawer full of KMart blue-light specials that wouldn't take or keep an edge.)

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        "Another friend gave her a set of good knives for her next birthday...she had a drawer full of KMart blue-light specials that wouldn't take or keep an edge"

                                        Good. You can tell her that the knives need to be sharpened at 15o, not 16, not 14o. They have to be 15o.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          My only requirements for other people's knives is that they just have to be sharp enough to cut something with more substance than warm butter, and have blades that don't wiggle in the handle (a third person had the blade come completely OUT of the plastic handle. No glue, no rivets - no full-length tang, either). That's not exaggerating, by the way -- I couldn't even peel a potato with anything she had...I ended up using a serrated steak knife to peel potatoes.

                                          I'm loopy about my own knives, but I totally accept that it's my own "thing"...I don't expect anyone to have stellar knives, but something that you can use to peel a potato without hemorraging is good. I don't even care if they're cheap -- but falling apart means they need to be tossed and replaced (even if the new one only lasts a month).

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            You peel potatoes? Why? And if you di why not use a potatoe peeler?

                                            jb

                                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                              I don't know about sunshine, but sometimes I peel potatoes because that's the texture I want, or they might be older potatoes that need a "cleaning up." I use a knife because I like to peel potatoes that way and find no joy in a potato peeler. To each his own.

                                              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                because the recipe said to peel the potatoes and she didn't have a potato peeler.

                                                You don't really think that if she didn't want that pot coming off the heat two minutes early that she'd accept unpeeled if the recipe said peeled, now, do you?

                                                (When I'm in someone else's kitchen, I'm the prep cook...it's their kitchen, they're the boss, by the way.)

                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                  "You peel potatoes? Why?" If they're russets or the like (and they aren't going to be baked) my potatoes ALWAYS get peeled, for the same reason I shell eggs and peel shrimp: I don't want to eat the husk. The nutritional value of potato peels is grossly overstated, I've been told. Besides that, if it's not peeled you won't find any bad spots that might need to be removed.

                                                  I do prefer to use a peeler, but I agree with sunshine about "her kitchen, her rules".

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    I agree, "her kitchen her rules" I was just kidding about the peeler. About the peelings? I like the way they taste so they stay on.

                                                    jb

                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                  Yeah, but if your friend made you stir 30 min instead of 28 min, you can make her sharpen the knife at 15o and not 16o.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    sorry, missed that you were just being ornery! I could send her completely over the edge with that information....

                                                    Incidentally, she has a great palate and is a great cook...her style is just 180 degrees away from mine, that's all.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                rule of thumb (no disrespect to your friend BTW 842), the more knives in the drawer, the more suspicious I am.

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  I agree with you, hill food -- she's a good cook, but hadn't yet made the connection between having good equipment and doing the job quicker/better/with less bloodshed.

                                              3. What's up JB?

                                                To answer your question, mostly no. I certainly eyeball the ingredients. The more familiar I am with the cuisine, the less I measure. For example, I don't pay very close attention with Chinese recipes, but I pay much closer attention to Indian recipes.

                                                1. I Measure for: Biernaise sauce (spelling bad); Madiera Sauce; Hollindaise sauce.
                                                  In baking I measuer when I make macaron; Pie crusts; cakes.
                                                  I do not measure for any sort of filling or frosting however. When making a pie crust I don't measure the ice water, b/c it is all about the "feel".

                                                  1. Only if my OCD husband and/or daughter are watching. They are both very good cooks in their own right, don't get me wrong. But I like to 'wing it', chop and change and mix it up according to our family/guests tastes.

                                                    When I watch DH and DDf cook together, I marvel that I married the one and whelped the other...F-I-N-I-C-K-Y!!!!

                                                    I, do, however, make a slight exception with bread-making...you really do have to measure yeast, even if you have been a bit cavalier with the flour and liquid...you get to adjust that balance, but yeast is tricky.

                                                    About one dish out of every 60, I have to feed to the composter, but think of the hours I would have wasted labouriously wrecking a perfectly clean measuring cup with organic molasses or scraping honey out of a tablespoon...

                                                    1. For dishes I've made before, my attitude toward measuring is mostly based on how easy/useful it is to measure the ingredient in question. Pouring liquids into a measuring cup or scooping spices out of the jar with a measuring spoon is straightforward. Measuring exact proportions of chopped vegetables is a hassle that's rarely worth more precision than "half an onion" or "two cloves of garlic".

                                                      Ingredients that can be modified later with little effort also get a pass on careful measurement, while specific ratios get more scrutiny. I only measure salt if I'm baking something and can't just solve seasoning issues by sprinkling more salt on later.

                                                      1. Hah! If I follow the recipe exactly, often I'll like it. If I do my own estimating and throwing in stuff, often it is pretty disgusting.
                                                        I don't care if that means I'm a bad cook (I freely admit that I am). What I don't understand is people who are amazed that I do manage to cook and bake stuff that does taste good and say that they "don't bake" or "don't cook," like it's a mysterious thing to do. I am just happy that all I do is follow some written instructions and voila! something good to eat!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: kayandallie

                                                          I figure if I try a new recipe it's because I want to taste something different from what I usually cook since my everyday cooking is without recipes. And I figure an accomplished cook who has taken the time to work with a dish until they feel it is good enough to become a "recipe," it might behoove me to find out what they know that I don't. Once I start adding other ingredients and such it tends to begin to resemble my everyday dishes which is what I was trying to get away from.

                                                          1. re: escondido123

                                                            That is exactly how I feel. I cook something different everyday. If I use a recipe- it is only a "template" :) I have to "force" myself not to add things or change things when I do use one. I tend to always want to add more garlic, throw some parsley in there- maybe a bit more salt or some paprika...yada, yada. I am predictable in what I like because I know my own taste.

                                                            I value having a recipe sometimes (and actually measuring) - simply because it might taste really different than my food!