Evaluating Recipes

assorted solids from buffet“This is delicious. Can I have the recipe?” Sometimes I want to try something, but when I get the recipe I find it doesn’t meet my cooking style.

When I see a new recipe I ask myself whether is is fast, frugal and healthy.

  • Fast. Fast recipes have few ingredients, few utensils, and short instructions.
    • Number of ingredients. Each ingredient must be taken out, prepared (washed, peeled, chopped, pre-cooked), measured, and returned to its place.
    • Number of untensils needed. and are they available? Remember that someone will have to wash them.
    • Preparation time. If you have to marinate meat for 24 hours, that time doesn’t count unless you are cooking for tonight. Preparing food in increments saves time in the long run. Simmering and soaking are other examples of cases where time is in your favor. But beware of recipes that ask you to  “stir constantly,” or transfer food between containers.
    • Individual items. Forming one meatloaf is faster than rolling 25 meatballs.
    • Skill level. If this is your first time baking bread or whipping eggs, allow extra time.
  • Frugal.
    • Ingredients should be on hand, unless you are planning a shopping trip soon. It’s better to choose a recipe using up what you already have in the house, and running out to buy one ingredient is neither fast nor frugal. Borrow from a neighbor, find a substitute, or omit it altogether.
    • If you buy something especially for a recipe, will you be using it all up?  If the recipe doesn’t turn out you may never use up that jar of super-expensive Chinese apricot sauce.
    • Check that you have the required utensils. Cake pans can usually be interchanged, but other substitutes may not give desired results. Buying something for one recipe is usually a bad investment.
    • Is the produce in season? Choose recipes according to what’s available cheaply, not the other way around.
    • Efficient cooking methods. Crock pots, microwaves, and pressure cookers are usually more efficient than a conventional oven, but it depends on the quantity.
  • Healthy
    • How much fat and sugar is in the recipe, and what kind of fat? In baked goods, check the ratio of sugar and oil to flour.
    • Frying is not as healthy as baking or stove-top cooking.
    • Avoid recipes that call for overcooking meat or vegetables.
    • Avoid rich sauces.
    • Do they contain processed ingredients like catsup, cake mixes or margarine? I like my home-cooked food to contain natural ingredients.