What are your awesome. non-recipe kitchen references?
March 19, 2011 11:22 AM   Subscribe

What are some awesomely useful appendices, charts, and references that I can add to my home-grown cookbook?

My wife and I are in the process of creating a hand-written family cookbook (in a large, squared Moleskine, natch), that we hope will be a useful tool and some day a family heirloom.

I'd like the back of the book to be a large collection of kitchen references. Stuff like:

Unit conversions
How to brew coffee (amount of grounds per amount of water, water temp, etc)
How to brew tea (temperature and steep time per type of tea)
How to cut a whole chicken into pieces

The question is, what sort of kickass references should we add to our book? No specific criteria, I'm just looking for any great kitchen references that aren't technically "recipes" (I'm always looking for those too, but there's tons of recipe questions out there already).

Hit me with some great resources and kitchen hacks to share with my future kids!
posted by HenryGale to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
The Spice Advice chart is one of my favorites. Whipping up a meal and think it needs something extra? This will narrow that mysterious something down to just a few sure-fire additions.
posted by Ookseer at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

A beef cuts chart, hell one for each delicious animal.
posted by Max Power at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'll probably want to define the terms you use elsewhere in your cookbook. What do you mean by a medium onion (a weight range, a size?) or a slow oven?

If you don't measure flour by weight, do you measure it the "right" way by spooning it into the cup and leveling it off with a knife/straight-edged tool? Or by sticking the cup into the flour, scooping up enough to overfill, and then scrape off the excess on the wall/lip of the flour bin like pretty much everyone I know? An intermediate method of scoop + leveling? A 'cup' of flour will have significantly different weight depending on your method. You could include a table of conversions between weight and "volume as measured in this cookbook."
posted by janell at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2011

How to make a roux.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Along your tea/coffee lines, how tos on:
- Grilling
- Broiling
- Poaching
- Frying
- and the differences between all of them (when to use what)

The inner temperatures of meats for rare, medium, well, etc. -- and minimum temp for edible

Eggs -- the different ways to cook them (hard boiled, scrambled, etc.) and the timing for different "solidity"

The "what to buy to have a basically stocked pantry in a new house" list

Convenient substitution list -- don't have an egg for a cake mix, use apple sauce

Basic food home remedies:
- Constipation = apple juice
- Diarrhea = apple sauce
- Nausea = crackers
- Your favorite hangover cure
- Your favorite food for a low mood on a cold day

Little stories and moments of your life -- the dish you first made together, your aunt's bake sale cookies and what was interesting about her, the pie your grandmother made and a picture of her

Holiday traditions + how tos:
- How much turkey per person
- How to carve a turkey
- What you guys consider necessary for an Easter/passover/etc, Thanksgiving and personal notes on and activities or otherwise that you've picked up for those things and where
posted by Gucky at 11:34 AM on March 19, 2011

The one-pager I've wanted to make up for myself contains:

Flour to fat to water ratios for different breads, biscuits and cakes.

Gel temperatures of different starches (potato, corn, tapioca, etc) along with ratios to make a basic pudding with each (tbs per cup). Difficult to settle on a standard for what "pudding" means, but... Similar for egg to milk ratio and yolk gel temperature for a custard.

Maybe some tables of sugar to acid for a couple of different sorts of sauce flavors.

Fat to liquid to emulsifier to starch ratios for the basic sauces, with all of the stuff above that basically covers Hollandaise through Bechamel.

I also want to better quantify a few more spice mixes, kind of a basic Moroccan and North African, Armenian/Syrian/Turkish/Lebanon, a few different Mexican regions, a couple of curries, so that I can toast my cumin and coriander seeds and grind 'em on the fly, and have a "oh, let's take this stew that direction tonight".

In fact, all of that on a one page laminated sheet and I could probably get rid of half my cookbook shelf.
posted by straw at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

* Flavor charts like from the Sweet Kitchen
* Brining ratios and charts
* Making common ingredients such as, boiling perfect eggs and mayonnaise
* Flavor combinations by region
* Essential pantry items for your cookbook
posted by jadepearl at 12:00 PM on March 19, 2011

In the "Notes" in my cookbook program I keep things like:
  • Cook's Illustrated's rankings of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chocolate, cocoa powder, canned tomatoes, and other similar pantry goods that I might want to refer to in the grocery store
  • Disher (ice cream scoop) size chart because I can never remember which one is which
  • Indices for several cookbooks I love, so I don't have to flick through every Barefoot Contessa volume to find the recipe I want
  • Conversions from measure to weight (mostly from Rose Levy Beranbaum, the queen of accuracy) for various pantry goods like yeast, flours, etc
  • Fat and acid proportions in different dairy products for those times when a recipe calls for creme fraiche and you're staring at a fridge full of container after container of ricotta, buttermilk, sour cream and Greek yogurt
  • The EWG's Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen list of pesticides in produce
  • A couple of Mark Bittman's massive "101" recipe lists, like 101 Simple Salads for some quick shopping inspiration

posted by bcwinters at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2011

This cake pan conversion chart recently came in handy for me.
posted by ambrosia at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2011

Some things that are stuffed into our family recipe folder:

- Menu plans (for special occasions or just things that combine well)
- Countdown timings for Christmas dinner (from making the cake in October, down the the final morning in 15 minute intervals)
- A list of when various fruits/vegetables are in season
- Some basic cocktail recipes
- Instructions for the cooker/microwave/coffee machine

Things I've been meaning to add:

- Tasting notes on wines and/or lists of what wines work best with what kind of foods
- Mass catering notes (e.g. A gallon of soup serves x people, Allow x sandwiches/canapes per person, that kind of thing)
- A list of pantry basics (after we got mice and I had to replace pretty much everything).
posted by dogsbody at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Complete shopping lists for holiday dinners, from the turkey right through to extra ziploc containers for leftovers. I'm pretty footloose in the grocery store for the rest of the year, but I love having a complete shopping list ready to go when I brave the supermarket in the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas. It might be interesting to keep the receipts from these trips, too, if you're interested in making an heirloom piece.

Another heirloomy thing I do in my cookbook is keep a running journal of what I'm doing when I make the christmas pudding every year -- what the weather was like, any changes I made, which kids helped me, what music I was listening to while I worked. I've been doing it for twelve years now, and it's surprisingly satisfying to look back at these notes every year.
posted by apparently at 12:33 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy seafood, one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch charts may be worthwhile.
posted by tellumo at 1:01 PM on March 19, 2011

Instructions for the cooker/microwave/coffee machine

Instructions for setting the clock on the cooker/microwave/coffee machine.

OK, some are pretty easy, but I still can't figure it out on my oven - I have to get out the manual for every power outage and daylight savings time. Finally stored the pdf file on the kitchen computer desktop so I can find it easier. Might as well add the car radio too if it's one of the weird ones.
posted by CathyG at 1:32 PM on March 19, 2011

Scroll down to the index at One-Page Cookbooks. Here is their page on salads, for example.
posted by SillyShepherd at 1:38 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oooh! Oooh! I just did this! Only I typed mine up and had it printed at Lulu. But I had tons of fun putting together the custom reference material at the back. I included:

Lists of types of recipes, including:
Family Recipes
Crockpot Recipes
Vegetarian Recipes
Vegan Recipes
and, the most useful list -- a list of "Spring recipes" and "fall recipes" and so on for each season, so when it gets to be March and I'm like, "I feel like springtime food" but I can't think of anything because it's been A YEAR since I got to eat springtime food, I can find something I'm in the mood for. Or if I need wintery comfort food in the middle of July, I know where to look!

Cooking times for various pasta shapes; white and whole wheat both.
Food-to-water ratios for beans, rice, lentils, etc.

Both USDA and "standard" internal temperatures for beef, chicken, turkey, pork, etc.

Vegetable steaming times for various veggies

What to do with extra egg yolks (hollandaise, egg and onion pie, bread glaze, etc.) and egg whites (omelet, some frostings, meringues, etc.); what to do with slightly stale bits of bread (croutons, soup fingers, crumbs, french toast); common substitutions that I use a lot.

But the two things people always exclaim over are:
Leftover Sequences, which are lists of several recipes you can make in a row. For example, turkey with cranberry sauce can become a turkey-apple casserole, and turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce as jelly. A ham dinner with mashed potatoes and vegetables becomes ham sandwiches, friend rice with ham strips (and leftover veggies), and ham soup with the bone, using the mashed potatoes as a thickener. And so forth.

Nutrition Guides
I tracked down the USDA nutrition guides for adults but (much more importantly) for babies and children as well, arranged them in an easy to read format, and I can see at a glance how much mashed vegetable an average 9 month old should be eating (4 T or more), as well as how many calories a sedentary 9-13 year old boy needs (1800), divided among what categories. The adult nutritional guide notes that 300 calories get added to mom's baseline in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy; 500 calories for breastfeeding but tapering off as the baby begins solids. People always, always exclaim over this and ask if they can Xerox it because when you have kids it is SO CONVENIENT to have that information handy and in a simple, readable chart (instead of 1200 different personalized pyramid configurations).

Not all of these may be what you're looking for for your handwritten cookbook, but that's what I included. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:02 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I favorites the ones I thought your future kids and grandiose might find most interesting. I wouldn't be that excited to find handwritten measurement charts or microwave instruction (Internet will be more useful for the first, and the last will be obsolete). I would love love lOve to have more personal guidelines, like the Christmas meal countdown guidelines, pantry essentials checklists (adding prices every year would be interesting), canning suggestions-here's what/how we canned this year, here's what we used a lOt of, here's what we wouldn't do again.
posted by purenitrous at 8:24 PM on March 19, 2011

A small wine diary. Also along the diary line make a note of specific dates when you come across exceptional produce in your region. It makes the best recipe better.
posted by Kale Slayer at 8:43 PM on March 19, 2011

I would make a page of all-purpose sauces/spice blends/etc. Like, "for a quick dipping sauce for spring rolls, mix ___ and ____", etc.

Also, please post some pictures when you're all done! I am trying to do something similar in one of these Moleskine recipe journals (which I wouldn't necessarily recommend, by the way - it was a gift).
posted by rossination at 12:22 PM on March 20, 2011

How about the safe temperatures for meat? I think you're supposed to cook chicken to 160 degrees, but I forget the rest.

Speaking of temperatures, you could also include candy making info. Things like what temperature is a 'hard ball' and what is 'soft ball', stuff like that.

The two pages of my Betty Crocker cookbook that are the most used are the ones that tell me how to make a pie crust and how to make gravy.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:26 PM on March 21, 2011

And how about when fruits and vegetables are in season. Some things are pretty obvious, but having a really comprehensive list could be helpful for meal planning.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:30 PM on March 21, 2011

This is my go-to weight chart, via King Arthur Flour. You may need to trim it down to get a reasonable sized hardcopy.
posted by ansate at 11:40 AM on March 23, 2011

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