Recipe Rules to Live By

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So, what I wanted to do here was to help people understand what I consider the rules of recipes. Keep in mind, I am not a chef. I’m just giving you the rules I have gone by for years, rules taught by my nanny, handed down by my mawmaw, and reinforced by my mother and aunts. 

Now, most of you will probably think I’m talking about how important it is to go exactly and precisely by the recipe and never deviate. Nope. That is the worst rule of them all!  When you have a recipe you like as-is, sure don’t change it. However, the best thing about recipes is the cook’s willingness to augment them. 

  • Maybe you can’t eat certain foods and so you need to substitute. 
  • Maybe you have a sweeter tooth than the original author and so, more sugar sounds fantastic. 
  • Maybe you ran out of an ingredient a week ago and didn’t buy more before you began cooking today (more than likely my kids have used said ingredient and not replaced it). 

Whatever drives you to do this – always know that this is perfectly fine. 

Adaptation of a recipe is how you make new recipes and how you grow confidence in cooking. 

So the Rule of all Rules in cooking is to not be afraid to modify a recipe. 

That leads me to another rule – Don’t be afraid to admit if something didn’t work, just try it again. This leads to adaptations of your methodology as well as your recipes. It’s okay. We all screw up now and again. But get back to the drawing board! I always try to taste along the way to keep that from happening, because I hate to waste food. However, there have been times (The Great Olive and Garlic Salt Incident of summer) when I didn’t catch the issue until after all the ingredients were used and …wasted. UGH! I hate wasting!  Unfortunately, it’s going to happen. Why? Because we’re not perfect. Even those trained in culinary arts goof up. And I don’t even dare think I’m near their calibur. 

  • Maybe a few ingredients made it too salty? 
  • Maybe the underlying flavor has been muted too much? 
  • Maybe it just…needs something… and you have no idea which spice or ingredient it is?

You just keep trying and modifying until you have it. Simple as that. 

Besides, think of all the TONS of foods that were born of accidents in the kitchen. One of my favorite examples happens to be a little treat called “Brownie Brittle” – yep, it was a total accident! So was sucralose sweetener, but that was more like a chemistry accident and not a kitchen accident. But same difference. 

So, those are my two main rules for recipes. 

I guess if you want it wrapped up into a pretty two-worded thing and tied with a bow it would be: 

Adaptation and Admission 

So, lesson over. Hand me the Brownie Brittle…

If you have any recipe rules that you live, be sure to post them in the comments to share with the community.

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