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How do you keep yourself on track while executing a recipe?

Yesterday I was making King Arthur Flour's Pumpkin Ginger scone recipe...and forgot salt. Today my girlfriend was making carrot cup cakes for me...and forgot salt. It's not like there's a paucity of salt in this kitchen; but we do find it hard to remember all the steps in a recipe when we're cooking after work and tired. How do you keep yourself on track?

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  1. I keep my recipes in plastic jackets, and most of the time, I have a post-it or two with the order of addition of ingredients. It works for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mnosyne

      I just assumed the mise-en-place was normal; the post-its help me keep the order of ingredients straight. Some recipes are so badly written that you need reminders. Yes, I use recipes for baking, and not so much for cooking.

    2. Mis en place! Get all the ingredients out on the counter, and hopefully on one side of the scale, if I'm baking, or perhaps next to the stovetop. Depending on what I'm making, I'll set up little cups with ingredients to be added at the same time, or just put their containers grouped together if I'm not prepping them, i.e. spices, dried herbs. When baking, move the boxes or bags from one side of the scale to the other after they're weighed and put in the bowl. That way, if the phone rings (and it will, I'm on call!) I know what I've done by the way the counter looks. It works pretty well.

      Oh, and the post its are a good suggestion, too. I've used those when I was counting calories and tracking nutrition, because of health concerns. Very useful, especially when you make alterations to a recipe.

      3 Replies
      1. re: amyzan

        + 1 - the best method I've found is mis en place!

          1. re: valerie

            +3. Mis en place, a highly emphasized technique in culinary school; essentially it's organized prep and placement. I tend to utilize this technique more for baking, but often for savory dishes that have a number of ingredients. I assemble all the ingredients/utensils from pantry/frig, then measure or arrange all ingredients according to the recipe line up, into small bowls or on a larger plate, if there are a number of small amounts of ingredients, or just measure them out and put that particular ingredient away immediately after using. Seems like extra work, but it's really not, and I never forget the salt. Success with a recipe trumps extra work.

            Reading through the recipe a few times first is very important also, as is checking your pantry supplies periodically to replenish or refresh; realizing you don't have an ingredient on hand half way through is very annoying and unneccessary.

            Seems like many posters use the mis en place technique; there's a reason for that.

      2. " How do you keep yourself on track?"

        I put everything the recipe calls for out on the counter and as it is used, PUT IT AWAY.

        2 Replies
        1. re: OldDog

          that is exactly what i do! plus the mis en place. makes cooking AND clean up simple!

          1. re: OldDog

            Me, too. If it's still on the counter, I know it hasn't gone in the pot (or bowl or whatever) yet.

          2. As others have pointed out, mise en place helps trememdously. Not trying to "remember" helps as well - I keep the recipe out on the counter and constantly refer to it as I cook. I often reread the directions/steps from the top to make sure I' not forgotten anything and to confirm what's next.

            1. Having your mise en place ready and waiting, in order of use, on a counter or table near your stove before you start cooking is key to food prep organization. Simply stack the empty ingredient holders (small ramikins, bowls, etc.) as they're used. Also, if I'm using a cookbook I have a book stand with a plastic cover nearby which keeps the book open and clean. When I use a recipe that I've printed out it's in a plastic sleeve on the bookstand.

              Mise en place refers to everything, absolutely all measured herbs. spices, chopped/diced/shredded vegetables, measured liquids, cubed/sliced/minced proteins in order. Never forget the salt again.