Monday, September 21, 2009

The Art of Conversion

If you are cooking for one, one of the greatest challenges you will face is finding single-serve recipes. Even though recipes for one are few and far between, portions can be scaled down to individual serving sizes in just a few simple steps.

Here is how you can get started:

1. Learn the Art of Conversion: In order to scale down your recipe you must first adjust all the ingredients into single quantity units. Don't fret if you are not a math wizard, there are a host of recipe conversion calculators online which will seamlessly calculate the conversions based on the ingredient measurements entered. One of my favorites can be found on the Fruit from Washington website. (Keep in mind that electronic scales provide a more accurate read than measuring cups so you will not be way off when measuring new quantities.)

2. Know the Limits: It is best not to scale a recipe more than four times down from its original serving size. So, if possible, stick to recipes that serve four because results beyond this cannot be guaranteed.

3. Adjust Cooking Time and Temperatures: Since cooking pots and baking pans will be smaller, you may need to adjust cooking temperatures. Start with the original temperature and adjust from there by shortening baking/cooking times and slightly increasing temperatures. When roasting meats, the cooking time is based on the amount being roasted, so use per-pound guidelines.

4. Be Sensible with Seasonings: It is best to use less seasoning than the scaled recipe calls for, so always use less than the adjusted amount. You can always add more spices and seasonings as you go!

Keep in mind that not all recipes scale well, including dishes that call for egg whites, breads with yeast as an ingredient and single large items intended to be divided into smaller portions, such as a whole chicken or pot of soup. For those recipes, we recommend preparing the original recipe and storing them in individual sized containers in the freezer.

It may not be easy reducing recipes, but if you like to cook it can be a lot of fun experimenting. Start off with easy dishes like sautes and stir-fries that are less precise and work your way towards harder-to-scale menu items like casseroles, souffles and baked goods.

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