How to make ingredient substitutions that work

Have you ever read a comment on an online recipe that made you shake your head? The ones that get me are those where the person gives the recipe a bad review, but notes in the comments that he or she substituted one of the main ingredients with something that (in my mind) would obviously not work for the type of recipe. “Of course it isn’t going to turn out if you substitute ground turkey for cubed chuck shoulder!” I say to myself. 

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That type of substitution is obvious, isn’t it? Well, maybe to an experienced cook, but not to everyone. I admit that I’ve been tripped up by making an inappropriate substitution on more than one occasion. So how are we supposed to know what will work and what won’t? That is the question posed by Kara Elder in The Washington Post. Elder gives us great tips on how to employ successful ingredient substitutions.  

There are a good many books that offer excellent advice on the subject. Elder recommends Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, and The Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim. Each of these can help you become a more confident cook by explaining how particular ingredients or techniques work, providing suggestions for swapping out ingredients, and finding items that will blend together harmoniously.

The article gives us other tips for making substitutions that won’t make you want to leave a negative recipe review. One good idea to file away is to consider the texture, water content, and fat content of the ingredient before deciding on whether to swap it into the recipe. Those three attributes will go a long way in determining how something behaves when being cooked. 

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