I’m a convert.
One week in to my quest to master all the skills in Leith’s Techniques Bible, the authors have already convinced me to change my cooking style completely, and measure all my ingredients before I start cooking.
This involves reading through the ingredient list and preparing everything in the way described before even considering embarking on the recipe proper. Two tablespoons of cumin, in a little bowl. One onion, diced, and bowled. Grated parmesan – get in a bowl! Then, when it’s time for that ingredient to make an appearance in the recipe, it’s ready for its close up.
As the old saying goes, there’s no one as fervent as a recent convert. So here are the top five reasons you should pre-measure your ingredients, from someone who has done so twice and is very excited about it.
1. You’ll realise early if you’re missing an ingredient.
Even though I read through recipes before cooking from them, I’m still occasionally caught out by an ingredient I’m sure I have, but actually used last Wednesday. Handling every ingredient for a dish stops this from happening. When you discover something is missing, you have plenty of time to either work out a substitution or dash to the shops.
2. It divides cooking into two separate activities: preparation and construction.
This means that, for most recipes, you can take a break between preparing the ingredients and cooking the meal. This is useful for people in any number of situations. If your toddler can’t go more than ten minutes without your undivided attention, you can spend a bit of time admiring their latest acrobatic trick before moving onto Phase 2 of cooking dinner. Perhaps you care for a family member, and need to check on them regularly. Maybe you suffer from a chronic health condition, and need periodic rest breaks. Dividing cooking in this way makes it fit in with your life.
3. It makes you more precise with your measurements.
Your dishes will start to taste increasingly different to one another: instead of adding your usual amount of paprika, you’ll add the amount the author intended. A whole new vista of flavour profiles will open up. Even better, you won’t find yourself trying to fish out an unwanted heap of chilli powder that you accidentally dumped into the pot, because you will instead be measuring your chilli powder into a bowl before you’ve even turned the stove on.
4. It gives you a chance to follow all of the instructions in the recipe, even the little ones.
Does the butter need to be brought to room temperature? No problem. Leave it on the bench in its little bowl, and it will be ready to go when you are. No longer will you have to fling the frigid butter in the microwave and hope that ‘half melted/half solid’ acts the same way as ‘soft’ would.
5. It makes cooking more enjoyable.
This is the big one for me. Precision is great. But it’s not why I cook. I cook for joy. Bringing order to my kitchen chaos has dialled the joy up to 11. Instead of scrambling to keep up with a runaway recipe, I can savour the smells, sounds and feels of cooking. I invite you to try pre-measuring ingredients and do the same!
Do you already prepare all your ingredients before you begin to cook? If not, have I managed to convert you?