If you’ve ever followed a cooking or baking recipe, you’ve probably noticed that exact measurements, described either by weight or volume, are listed next to each ingredient.
You’ve also probably heard people talking about adding flavors or ingredients ‘to taste.’ These two instructions can sometimes seem to conflict, so it can be difficult to figure out why measuring recipe ingredients accurately is so important.
However, measuring accurately can often be the difference between a delicious meal or dessert or something that’s barely edible.
One of the most important reasons for measuring accurately when baking or cooking is flavor. This is particularly true when you consider seasonings, such as salt or spices.
Some ingredients, particularly flavorful seasonings, can have a very strong taste. When too much of a seasoning is added, it can overwhelm the dish, drowning out other flavors.
Even if the seasoning itself is pleasant, too much of it can create a flavor that’s too strong and quite unpleasant.
On the other hand, some flavors are delicate. In this case, adding too little of the ingredient can mean that the flavor gets lost in the dish and doesn’t come through.
This can leave a dish tasting bland and uninteresting.
Most recipes have been tested repeatedly to find the perfect balance of flavors. If you’re new to cooking or baking, following the recipe and measuring accurately can help you achieve the same balance of flavors, which will make the final dish taste delicious.
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Texture is another key reason for measuring correctly. This is particularly true for baking. If you add too many dry ingredients, for example, you may end up with a baked good that’s dry, flaky, or hard instead of tender, moist, and delicious.
Texture also plays a role in cooking. Adding too much or too little of an ingredient can change the entire texture of a dish, and the way that some ingredients influence texture can be surprising.
For example, some vegetables may seem hard when they’re raw, but they can release a surprising amount of water, and this can make the dish soupy or watery.
Other fruits and vegetables can thicken stocks, broths, or sauces, and adding too much or too little can mean a consistency that’s runny or gluey.
When baking, you combine ingredients and add heat to produce chemical reactions. These chemical reactions are the things that cause bread to rise, turn flour and water into breads, cakes, or cookies, and create new textures and flavors from standard ingredients.
Chemical reactions rely on an accurate balance of ingredients. Changing the amount of an ingredient can cause the chemical reaction to fail.
For example, if you use too little yeast, baking soda, or baking powder, your cake or bread might not rise and will instead remain flat and hard.
If you add too much, you can change the flavor or texture into something too tough or acidic.
Changing the ratio of wet and dry ingredients in a baking recipe can also affect the baking time.
If you add too much of a dry ingredient, for example, but bake the cake or bread for the time mentioned in the recipe, you might find that the final product is burned or too dry.
If you want a recipe to turn out the same way every time, whether you’re baking or cooking, accurate measurements can help.
Accurately measuring each ingredient and cooking the dish at the same temperature for the same amount of time will help you create a quality product each time.
Even though many chefs add seasonings to taste, most professional chefs and bakers still carefully measure their ingredients.
This ensures that each customer’s dish tastes the same and that each customer is given a portion of equal size.
How do I ensure accurate measurements?
When cooking or baking, one of the most accurate ways to measure is by using a kitchen scale. Scales are excellent for measuring dry ingredients, such as flour.
They’re also a great way to measure portions, such as fish, steak, or even a hamburger.
Other ingredients, particularly liquid ingredients, are best measured by volume. Measuring cups are a good way to accurately measure milk, water, or other liquid ingredients.
They can also be used to measure flour, sugar, or other dry ingredients. Baking recipes in the United States often call for all ingredients to be measured by volume.
Spices and seasonings are usually measured with tablespoon or teaspoon measurements. These ingredients are often added in quantities that are too small to weigh accurately, so using measuring spoons can help you add the correct amounts.
Does all cooking require accurate measurements?
In baking, utilizing accurate measurements is crucial. Although you can experiment to create new recipes, you may find that your recipes don’t work out well the first few times.
Your textures or flavors might be off until you find measurements that achieve the correct balance for chemical reactions.
Once you find a method that does work, it’s important to use the same accurate measurements each time to ensure consistency.
In cooking, measuring accurately isn’t always as important. However, cooking dishes that taste good without accurate measurements often depends on your personal cooking skills.
Many chefs can determine how much of an ingredient to add without using a teaspoon or tablespoon to measure.
The more you cook, the more you’ll gain a feel for what the correct ratio of meats and vegetables is or how much of a given seasoning to add.
In this case, you won’t always need to measure perfectly for every ingredient. Even in this case, though, using the same ratios each time will help you achieve consistency.