The Clever Reason You Should Be Reading A Recipe Backward

Reading a recipe seems like a top-to-bottom undertaking. You start at the beginning and read to the end; however, if this is your go-to method for consuming directions you may want to try another the next time you bake a red velvet cake or attempt to make coq au vin. Instead of starting at the top with the ingredients, you want to start at the end of the recipe for several important reasons. 

First, when you start at the end, you can figure out just how much time a recipe actually requires and when you need to start making or baking based on when you need or want to have it done. For example, if you are going to make Ina Garten's famous chocolate cake, you can look at her directions and add up the amount of time you need to let the cakes cool in their pans and bake them in a preheated oven. It'll also tell you how long it will take you to gather ingredients and do all the stirring and mixing. It allows also allows you to factor in extra prep time to make the frosting.    

Remove, substitute, or add ingredients

Additionally, when you read a recipe from bottom to top, it also helps you figure out if there are any ingredients you want or need to substitute, add, or remove. For example, sometimes a recipe may tell you that you need to add water or use nonstick spray for the pans, but neither item may be listed in the ingredients. Not only that, sometimes an ingredient may need to be divided, but this division is not mentioned until you start working through the directions. Reading a recipe in reverse helps an at-home cook figure this out before he or she even begins measuring the first ingredient.

As far as substitutions go, reading a recipe backward gives you a good sense of how the ingredients are being used which can help you decide what you can or cannot substitute. Skipping orange zest and using lemon zest instead, is a simple flavor change that will not harm a recipe, but changing bread flour for all-purpose flour could have a big impact on a recipe.  And of course, reading your recipe backwards and forwards will also help you gather all of the kitchen tools you need.