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Just in time for the holidays, learn how to properly scale up a recipe

OSU Research Matters is a bi-weekly look inside the work of Oklahoma State University faculty, staff and students.

The holidays are right around the corner, and baking enough cookies to feed a large family can be a challenging task. In this episode, Meghan Robinson speaks with Dr. Darren Scott, a food scientist at Oklahoma State. Dr. Scott explains the proper way to scale up a recipe and why using percentages with ingredients is important to your final product.


ROBINSON: When it comes to doubling or scaling up a recipe, what are sort of the rules that people should follow?

SCOTT: Starting out, it's always with the math. If this recipe that I'm going to double, well, first thing: multiply everything by two. And that's where you're going to start out. You're not necessarily going to just stay there, but that's where you'll start.

One thing that I'll also add that I like to do that most people might not necessarily like to do, is that I like to convert all of the different units to weight. In other words, I like to weigh everything out, even though lots of recipes are really based on things like cups and teaspoons, sort of the homestyle units. It's going to be a lot easier if you're going to scale your recipe up, to start with weights. By starting with weights, you can convert your recipe over to percentages, and then those percentages can be applied to any size batch that you'd like to make.

Alright, well, if my batch is one pound, well, all right, here are the percentages. If my batch is 20 pounds, well guess what? Same percentages. And so, you know, you can start out there to kind of give yourself a good sort of foundation to start scaling your recipe up. Other things that have to kind of consider, ingredients don't always interact the same way once you start to scale those recipes up, and I think that's where a lot of issues can kind of come in.

ROBINSON: Well, if I want to make a triple or quadruple the recipe, does the oven temp say the same? And how does the position of the rack impact baking?

SCOTT: The position of the rack really is how close or far away are you from the heating element. The source of heat is always going to be basically at the bottom and the distance from the food that you're cooking to your cooking surface in a pot is one of those instances where, again, you have to be careful that you might have to reduce heat to make sure that you don't overcook or burn product that's closest to the heating element. So when you're in the oven, and you have cookies: same thing.

Usually, though, the most of the mixing and the preparation has already occurred before the cookies get into the oven. So sometimes there's a variation between recipes from one type of recipe to the next, based on the amount of moisture that's in the recipe or the moisture that's in that cookie. So some cookies that are going to be a little bit more fluid in the batter, might need a little bit more time or a little bit more heat. So they're going to be a little bit closer to the heating element. Cookies that may have a batter that's a little bit drier, might need to be a little bit further away because you don't want those to overcook or burn. It kind of depends upon how much moisture is in the food or the unit that's being prepped or cooked as to where it needs to be, in relationship to the heating element, but also in terms of how long it needs to cook and at what temperature you're going to cook it.

ROBINSON: For OSU Research Matters, I’m Meghan Robinson.

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Meghan Robinson is the host of OSU Research Matters and the Multimedia Reporter/ Producer for Inside OSU, the official streaming platform of Oklahoma State University.
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