The Great Recipe Debate: To Follow or Not to Follow?
Cooking is an art form that requires a mix of creativity and precision. For novice cooks, following a recipe to the letter is crucial to achieve the desired results. However, experienced cooks argue that recipes should serve as a guide rather than a strict set of rules.
Recently, a debate has emerged on the reliability of published recipes, with some claiming that most recipes are not very good. This discourse was sparked by a confession from a recipe columnist in a newspaper who admitted to never actually trying her recipes. Instead, she would sit down at her computer and make up a recipe, relying on her experience and knowledge to achieve a passable outcome. While she did achieve reasonable success, her confession left many readers questioning the validity of the recipes they have been following.
The debate on recipe reliability raises questions about the usefulness of cookbooks and recipe collections. Should home cooks be expected to modify recipes to fit their individual circumstances, or should recipes be written to produce consistent results? While some argue that cooking is an analogue process that requires observation and analogue adjustment, others point out that without precise instructions and measurements, it is difficult to achieve consistent results.
A solution to this debate may lie in the type of cookbook or recipe collection one uses. Comprehensive cooking guides such as Delia Smith’s How To Cook or Harold McGee’s The Key to Good Cooking offer a solid foundation of cooking basics and techniques. They provide detailed instructions on how to cook common ingredients, along with cheat-sheets and tips for cooking different cuisines. These type of guides can be invaluable for novice cooks, providing them with the knowledge and skills needed to cook with confidence.
For more experienced cooks, recipe collections that offer a blend of structure and creativity, such as Joshua Weissman’s Unapologetic Cookbook or Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab, can offer inspiration and teach new techniques.
Ultimately, the debate on recipe reliability comes down to personal preference. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every situation, home cooks can find success by using a combination of precise measurements, cheatsheets, and intuition to achieve consistently delicious results.
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Author Eliza Ng