Cooking Basics - To Measure or Not To Measure

If you know me at all, you know I am all about not measuring.  My mother was one of those cooks who never measured and yes, when I was trying to learn to cook, it drove me crazy.  How much did you put in?  I don't know I just look at it.  It took me awhile but I finally got it.  And, if you hang in there, it really does work.

So, no, I don't spend a lot of time baking because well, you have to measure.  To me, the beauty of cooking is making it your own.  That means, if it tastes good to you then theoretically, it should just taste good.  Now, I know there are those of you out there who like salt bombs or no salt at all (God forbid!) so I'm not really talking to you people.  I'm talking to those of you who like to experiment with flavors and are slightly offended by recipes telling you exactly what to do.  I like to dance to my own drummer on this one. 

What are the prerequisites for throwing out your measuring spoons?  Well, practice and create your own methods.  And, that's what I'm going to show you in this week's blog post.  How you can create your own reference points so that when you're only use those measuring spoons and cups for baking.

So what do I mean by "your own reference points?" Well, when I see a recipe that suggests I use a teaspoon of something, I have a picture in my head of what that looks much a teaspoon is.  To get there, this is what you can do (and is actually what I did).  The easiest ingredient for this exercise and the one that makes the most sense is, salt.  And, by the way, if you're going to do this, throw out those salt and pepper shakers.  There is no way you can control what you're doing when you can't SEE what you're doing.  So, put your salt and pepper in small bowls next to your stovetop so they're always handy.  It doesn't matter that they're open.  It won't hurt them or you.  Next, get a set of your measuring teaspoons...I know, I know, stay with me here.  With your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, grab an amount of salt out of your bowl.  Grab a quantity that is comfortable for you to hold.  Then, put that salt into one of the measuring spoons.  How much did you grab?  A 1/4 teaspoon?  1/2 teaspoon?  It doesn't matter which spoon it is.  But you need to repeat this process several times until you have established your very own "grab.".  Mine happens to be a 1/2 teaspoon.  So I know if I'm adding salt to a dish, just about every time I grab salt, I'm adding 1/2 teaspoon.  Take a look at the series of pictures below and you'll understand what I'm talking about:

So here's another way of creating your own reference points especially when you have larger quantities of something besides salt.  Use the palm of your hand.

Now, I bet you're thinking, "well that's all well and good but what if I'm trying to figure out liquid measuring?"  Have no fear!  Take a look at the example below.  You can easily do this yourself with your own cups and bowls.

So if you notice, the measuring cup shows one cup of water. The equivalent of one cup of water is in the mug and the glass on either side.  You could now use a mug or a glass to "eyeball" a cup of liquid.  See!  It's easy!

In all situations, it's always a good idea to start with a smaller amount than you think you might want to add.  You can always add.  It's much more difficult, if not impossible, to take away.  Almost every time you add something, taste your food.  Is it enough?  Stop.  Not enough?  Add a little more.  You are in control.  You can see what you're adding and you know what it tastes like...that's the most important thing.  What does it taste like?

It's okay to experiment, it's just food, not rocket science!

That's it.  Now, you can be freed from the tethers of measuring spoons and cups (except for baking).  All it takes is practice to get really good at it!

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I'd love to hear from you so leave me a comment and, let me know how not measuring did (or didn't) work for you....let's have a conversation!