Who needs recipes?

How much do you cook from recipes?

  • I NEVER cook from recipes

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I cook new dishes from recipes, then make them my own

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I cook from recipes until I've learned the recipe

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I ALWAYS follow a recipe when I cook

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .
Joined May 26, 2001
Another Q for those who cook not (only) for a living, but who "live to cook" -- Do you feel you always have to follow a recipe, or are you comfortable with the Elizabeth David method of "here are the ingredients, here are the techniques, JUST DO IT"? And if you have shifted from slavishly following recipes to feeling you could do it on your own, how and when did you realize that you had it in your bones and fingers{/I]? Was there a point at which you realized that you knew enough to rely on yourself?

As a couple of examples: my brother-in-law Carlisle is a very good cook -- as long as he can follow a recipe to the letter. If he doesn't have a listed ingredient, or doesn't quite understand the technique, he starts to get hysterical. He's been cooking (recreationally) for many, many years, but still feels he doesn't know enough. HE DOES, just doesn't realize it. BTW: his daughter is a CIA-trained chef.

Example #2: me. The only time I will follow a recipe to the letter is for baking, because I still don't remember the chemical proportions. Otherwise, a recipe is only a starting point for me.

I'm only asking this out of curiosity. But I think it will reveal a lot about us as a broad group.
Joined Oct 6, 2001
I tend to cook by feel, method over a recipe. If I'm baking I usually follow the recipe the first time and go from there....

Also drives your friends crazy that way! Much more fun!

Joined May 6, 2001
I'm a bit of a mixed bag. I tend to bake from the recipe if baking, take inspiration from the recipe if it's a dish I've never made before and typical day to day cooking is done by picking a few items from the fridge, some from the pantry and developing the dish as I cook.
Joined Mar 7, 2002
Dear Abby asked Chef Henri this question and he threw a large spoon at her. She does not know how to respond to this question.

Joined May 26, 2001
My dearest Abby,

Mea culpa. I should of course have included a choice for those who are personally above the menial tasks of everyday sustenance. Would you prefer a choice of "I don't care how it gets cooked, as long as I don't have to cook it?" or some such? There are many days I feel that way, but alas have neither the opportunity nor the fortune to indulge in that whim very often.

And please tell Chef that Suzanne says he is being a beast to throw even a spoon at our Dear Abby.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Like Svad, the day to day cooking is done by picking a few items from the fridge, some from the pantry and developing the dish as I cook.

For bread and pastries, I do follow recipes. Once accustomed to a given recipe however, I do tend to make it my own by giving it a twist.

For Indian food, I'd rather stick to the recipes.



Joined Apr 4, 2000
First time I try a dish I will follow the recipe. The second time I do it, I’ll adapt it to my taste. This may sound strange but it is a question of respect. The author went to a lot of trouble to provide me with a recipe she/he developed and perfected with time. The least I can do is to follow the directions she/he provides. Isn’t that why I bought the book in the first place?

Baking has to be approach differently. The margin of error is a lot smaller. You need to get an understanding of the let’s say bread making process before you can successfully modify a recipe. You have to understand the role of each ingredient before changing the quantity. It’s also where the fun is. You look at four or six pastry book and each will provide you a different recipe for a génoise. If you’re careful and understand why each ingredient is there you can create another recipe based on the recipes you already have. That’s where the fun is.
Joined Dec 4, 2001
Like most folks I guess, I follow baking formulae to the letter.
Cooking? It varies depending on what I'm doing. Generally speaking though, I use recipes as a guide. I'm totally comfortable mixing the ingredients up depending on what's to hand and what I feel like at the time.
I can throw a meal together with what's in the fridge and/or pantry but I'm not clever (or experienced) enough to develop sophisticated recipes on my own. Although I've often felt that if I did this for a living I could aquire the necessary skills.
I used to follow recipes slavishly until a few years ago when I realized I had enough knowledge and skill to wing it. I reckon that with a decent technique repetoire you can make a passable attempt at your own creations. :)

Joined Feb 6, 2002
I usually cook the way Svad does. Unless it is baking or a new dish I want to try, I hardly ever look at recipes now.
Joined Nov 21, 2001
i, too usually follow baking recipes - the first time. when it comes to cooking i started improvising at about 12, making the family meals - lets just say my talent wasn't quite appreciated by my audience. when i started cooking on the professional level i followed my instincts and my nose from the moment i started. i would look at a recipe and then use it as a guide. i am constantly reading books and magazines to get new ideas and see what others do as i am still learning after all these years.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
some of both....last night I did a demo dinner for 15 and checked on the proportion of bechemel to eggs in the roulade.....the black trumpet duxelle was a winger, the salad dressing too, the flourless chocolate cake from a recipe.....But on a weekly basis in during the farmer market season I am continually writing recipes, usually from getting info from demo chefs and talking out proportions with them....I just did an interview on personal cooking classes and the reporter asked for a recipe....I said sure I can come up with one right now just from what we were making...when I get stuck on wording I head for Joy of Cooking or Silver Palates....Interestingly enough my bread doughs are generally not by the book...the components in pastries are but not the end products. When teaching I hand out recipes and then say we're not going to use um, you can have them as references at home. Tomorrow is a fish class in Southeast Indiana! Recipes are at the printers as I type.
Joined Feb 2, 2002
Good Subject....

I will scan recipes to make sure I understand what the author is trying to achieve. Then will make it the way I feel it should be made, or how I want it to be made. I do not measure ingredients, but will stick to techniques that go with the Ethnic dishes.

Baking-----It's about 50/50.

If I am making....lets say a- Pumpkin Custard. I can eyeball how many eggs, sugar, cream, etc....to add.

But, if baking Bread, Tortes, or using gelatin in dishes, etc....then I will go with an exact formula.

After a while.....as most of you know!!! You can taste the food in your head.

Chef Nosko
Boston, MA
Joined Mar 7, 2002
My dear Suzanne,

Do not blame yourself. Chef Henri is unpredictable, but much loved by Dear Abby. My angel, Dear Abby believes she might be the only individual to subscribe to the choice you have so delightfully suggested.

Dear Abby is tres original, mais oui?

Joined Apr 30, 2001
I've talked about this before. I can never leave well enough alone, so even if I follow a recipe, I generally tweak it during the cooking and tasting process. I will often use a reciepe as a jumping off point or more for ideas than as a means to an end result. If I am really interested in making a recipe, I will usually follow it reasonably closely the first time.

Baking is of course different, though honestly I can't leave that alone either. I like playing with different flavors and additions in baked goods. Sometimes the end results are, uh, not all I hoped for. I almost never follow a recipe in bread baking - bread is a matter of taste, smell, and touch to me.


edited for spelling...talk about can't leave well enough alone!
Joined Nov 29, 2001
Recipes serve as different things to different people at differing levels of experience. Some use them as a "guide" and others live and die by every punctuation mark.

Those with little experience (on their way to becoming kitchen whizzes) tend to abide by every instruction in a published recipe. When a recipe is flawed and doesn't work, a newbie cook will blame themselves, insisting it was something they did wrong because no one questions a published recipe. This mentality is inside a box where no one should live.

Once someone knows the basic physical/chemical reactions that take place during the different methods of cooking, the world is their oyster. They develop the "eye" to see what recipes won't work and how to implement the use of their chosen ingredients without a written recipe because they've done it before, know how to do it and know what to expect as the end result.

I tend to make subtle changes in recipes as I see fit. This happens less frequently in baking because certain chemical reactions need balance to take place. Baking recipes are more structured and need to be followed more closely, but you can bend them somewhat. For instance, I use whole wheat flour in place of some white flour (gotta get that good stuff in where you can) and even do so in sweet goods. For raisins, I'll use craisins or chopped up dried mango, etc. To save fat, I'll broil a food where frying has been prescribed, i.e. "oven fried" french-fries or eggplant slices. A change in technique serves the individual cook as per their needs but you have to know what the end result should be in order to substitute one technique for another.

I'll read a recipe, think to myself, "I've got all of that," put the magazine or book down and go into the kitchen using my own techniques to arrive at a product resembling the recipe I just read. The recipe sparked an idea or suggested to me "go make this because you have everything you need and it looks good." It didn't become a God-engraved tablet for me to live by. This comes with time and experience.
Top Bottom