This week’s blog post comes from my friend Michelle from the Rosy Blu blog. She’s got some incredible meal planning tips, recipes and tips on how to keep a healthy home.
Every cook should learn to cook without a recipe – here are Michelle’s best tips on how to start doing that.
So many “learn to cook” advice columns start with the same advice:
Measuring ingredients is essential to learning how to cook well.
I couldn’t disagree more.
While I’m an advocate of reading the directions, I’m here to tell you it’s a mistake to always follow them to the letter…especially in the kitchen. In fact, skipping this step has a huge variety of benefits the rule-makers don’t talk about. Here’s why I think you should stop measuring ingredients when you cook.
1. Cook faster
Even when you love to cook, you don’t want to be spending all your time in the kitchen—especially when the activity is repeated three times a day, seven days a week…the entire time you’re alive. Learning to cook without measuring can shave precious minutes off that prep time, minutes that can be added back to other things you love.
2. Wash fewer dishes
If you don’t use measuring cups and spoons, you don’t have to wash them. (Magical, right?)
3. It is our natural state
I find it a little funny that “Paleo” diet is so popular right now—eat the way cave people ate. But what about the way they cooked? They didn’t write recipes on the walls of the cave, they just made the food. When you cook this way, you’re reconnecting with the way people have been cooking since the dawn of humanity.
4. Recipes were created to share, not tie us down
Measurements were created to communicate a recipe’s proportions in the absence of being able to demonstrate. But we seem to forget these instructions are guidelines only—they’re not hard and fast rules, and we still have the power to create new and different combinations. A recipe says “This is exactly the way I make it.” But remember, you still have the freedom to change recipes and make them your own.
5. Reconnect with your food
This one has been huge for me. The more you disconnect from rigidly following recipes, the more familiar you become with which ingredients you like (and don’t). When you follow a recipe the traditional way and don’t like it, you just don’t make that recipe again. But when you learn to tweak different ingredients up and down, you actually learn how much you need to make the mint stand out or how much dill is too much in ranch dressing.
6. Less math, more intuition
This matters to me because cooking is often done at the end of the day, when your brain is fried. It’s so much more therapeutic to leave numbers out, and instead approach meal prep with your intuition. When you’ve gotten comfortable cooking without measuring, it’s a much easier task, and more rewarding, too, because you’re truly creating your dinner every night.
Rosy Blu’s 4-step method to learn to cook without measuring
- The next time you make a recipe, observe how much each measurement looks like. Dump it in your hand if you have to, or put that pile of cheese on the cutting board for a frame of reference. Just get used to the idea of how much a cup looks like, how much a teaspoon is. After doing this for a week or two:
- Pick a recipe you’ve made before, and ditch the measuring cups and spoons.
Use what you learned from observing in step one, and begin to estimate the recipe’s measurements.
- Once you get comfortable, practice increasing or decreasing different ingredients.
Add more of what you like and less of what you don’t. Start small, before you make drastic changes.
- Finally, practice making a “hybrid recipe”.
Think of something common you want to make—like lasagna, or roasted lemon pepper chicken, or mashed potatoes‚ and find 4-5 recipes online. Identify the common themes, and single out variations that sound appealing to you. Have fun!
This recipe for bread salad is a great place to make without measuring.
// Images by Marni Mattner Photography.
Michelle Urbick is the founder of Rosy Blu, a business devoted to making your home a more beautiful and nourishing place to live. Visit the Rosy Blu blog for ideas on bringing more ease and order to your home, including recipes, DIYs, organizing tips, and self-care strategies.