Many people believe that learning to cook means simply learning recipes. Knowledgeable cooks, on the other hand, are able to prepare food without written recipes,if they have to, because they have a good understanding of basic principles and techniques.A recipe is a way of applying basic techniques to specific ingredients.
If you have read Chapter 4, or have even casually leafed through this book, you know it is not just a book of recipes. Although there are hundreds of recipes in this book, they take up a relatively small part of it.Your main concern is learning techniques and procedures you can apply to any recipe.
The main purpose of learning basic cooking principles is not to be able to cook without recipes, however, but to understand the recipes you use. As we said in the beginning of this chapter, every recipe assumes you have certain knowledge that enables you to understand the instructions and follow them correctly.
Some recipes supply very little information, and some supply a great deal. But no matter how detailed it is, a written recipe can't tell you everything, and some judgment by the cook is always required.There are several reasons for this:
Food ingredients are natural products, so they are not uniform like machine bolts, ballpoint pens,and typing paper. One tomato may be riper than another, one carrot more tender or sweeter than another, one oyster saltier than another. Such variations may affect how the ingredients are handled, how long they are cooked, what proportions are needed, and how much seasoning is required.
Different pans distribute heat at different rates. Different broilers heat to different temperatures. Liquid evaporates from wide pots faster than from tall,narrow ones, and so on.
3. It is impossible to give exact instructions for many processes.
How do you set the burner if the instructions say "Cook over medium heat"? How thick is a "thick" sauce? How long do you broil a rare steak?
The difference between an experienced cook and a beginning cook is the ability to make judgments about these variables.
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