American recipes

The american resistance to measuring ingredients never ceases to amaze me. I suspect that this has something to do with the original immigrants and pioneers travelling to a new land with as little as possible. As old-fashioned balance scales are very heavy, and require a series of weights, packing this in the suitcase would not have been an option. For some reason, in the centuries since, measuring by weight still hasn’t caught on. There is some sort of vicious circle in play where books and magazines don’t print weights because people generally don’t have scales, and people don’t buy scales because the recipes don’t require it!

For some ingredients, volume makes sense – sugar is pretty easy to measure in a cup. However, when it comes to something like flour, the room for error is huge. Even professional chefs have been known to fill a cup of flour with anything from 3.5 to 7 ounces of flour. It is a relatively safe assumption that most recipes mean a cup of flour to weigh 5 oz, unless they specify otherwise.

Butter is also measured in cups or tablespoons. This convention makes no sense at all until you realise that american butter is sold in sticks of 4oz, or half a cup, and marked on the wrapper into tablespoons. When interpreting an american recipe, use the following conversions:

1 cup = 8 fl oz = 32 tbsp
1/2 cup = 4 oz butter = 8 tbsp

2 cups = 16 fl oz = 1 american pint
4 cups = 32 fl oz = 1 quart

Now, armed with this information, you can have a look at some good American food websites. Epicurious is one of the best, containing it’s own recipes as well as those from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines, two of the top food magazines in the U.S.

Tante Marie’s, where I am at culinary school, also has good recipes from Mary Risley’s book on the site.

The other major sites worth mentioning are Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen – the former being the magazine and the latter the TV show from the same people. These people exhaustively test recipes and equipment to work out the best way to do things. Some parts of the site require subscription, but it’s worth looking at the free stuff that’s there, and keeping an eye out for the magazine too.

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