“A home cook who relies too much on a recipe is sort of like a pilot who reads the plane’s instruction manual while flying.” – Alton Brown, The Food Network
When I first started cooking, I stuck faithfully to the words and measurements provided on the recipe, no matter what. The only way that I could function in the kitchen was to have my recipe right there on the counter next to me at all times, practically glued to my hand. If I, heaven forbid, accidentally added too much or too little of an ingredient, the entire batch had to be thrown out.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as when I first started out I had a very limited palette and had no sense of good flavor pairings. Had I not stuck to the recipe, no doubt I would have ended up with some pretty funky-tasting meals. Baking is also more of a precise science than simply mixing together ingredients. It typically involves an application of heat, setting into motion a series of chemical reactions that (hopefully) leave you with something delicious to eat, as long as you did everything right!
However, sticking exactly to the recipe is not always the way to go; a chef should rely on his or her own natural instincts and ability to create distinctive and yummy concoctions. How do you think Penicillin or the Reese’s peanut butter cup (pure genius) were invented?! Definitely not by sticking to a recipe, I’ll tell you that.
So, my advise to you readers is simply do you. If, like me, you need that recipe as a safety blanket at all times, by all means keep it there. There is no need to add anxiety into the mix when cooking. However, once you start to feel more comfortable in the kitchen and get to know your own taste buds a little better, I encourage you to throw out your recipe every once in a while. Ok, maybe not throw it away completely, but look away from it. Unglue it from your hand, if you will. Add a little more of a certain spice if you know you’re a fan of the flavor. Use low-fat milk instead of whole if you know you’ll feel less guilty eating the final product. The confidence you’ll gain from creating a uniquely scrumptious dish will make it entirely worthwhile.