How to Cut a Recipe in Half
It’s simple, but you’ll want to avoid making a few common mistakes.
With smaller groups gathering for the holidays and dinner parties, you might be wondering how to cut down your favorite recipes by half — or more than that. It’s not always as easy as simply halving the ingredients. That’s because smaller amounts of food will cook differently than larger ones. Here's what you need to know about scaling down:
What to Know about Temperatures and Cook Times
You won’t need to change burner or oven temperatures; however, you might need to tailor cook times. If you’re sautéing or searing a halved recipe, keep the heat and cook time the same but size down your pan. If you’re cooking a halved recipe in the oven, keep the oven temperature the same but size down your cooking vessel and reduce the cook time by 1/3 — but check on it as you go. If you use a shallower roasting container than that which a recipe calls for, the center of your dish will take less time to heat up, and you’ll want to start checking doneness sooner.
How to Swap Equipment
If you’re halving a recipe, you’re most likely going to need to cook it in something smaller. When swapping the vessel called for in the recipe, you’ll need to account for the way different materials conduct heat differently. For example: if you typically cook a recipe in a large nonstick skillet but downsize to a smaller stainless steel one, you should know that stainless steel heats up more quickly and your cook times may be shorter. Or if you downsize your casserole from a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan to a small cast iron skillet, the cast iron will concentrate the heat more intensely. You’ll want to set your timer for 1/3 less time and start checking doneness much sooner.
How to Scale Down Baking Recipes
Baking recipes are like scientific formulas. When you scale them down, you have to be super precise. That can be tricky when you’re working with measurements that aren’t easy to halve, like 3/4 cup. The most accurate way to halve tricky amounts like this is to weight the full amount called for in one recipe (i.e. 3/4 cup flour), and then use half of that weight. If you’re working with even numbers that are easy to halve, like 2 cups, it’s okay to simply halve to 1 cup.
You might get to a point where you need to cut an egg in half, and here’s how. Crack your egg (s) into a liquid measuring cup, whisk it until fully combined, check the ounce measurement on the side of the measuring cup and then pour out half the egg. Save the egg you poured out for another recipe.
How to Scale Down Savory Recipes
Unlike baking recipes, savory recipes have more wiggle room. So when you scale them down, we recommend using your best judgement. For example, if a soup calls for just one bay leaf, it’s okay to keep it whole. If it calls for one garlic clove, use a smaller one. Most savory recipes won’t lose structural integrity if a little more or less of an ingredient goes in. You can taste along the way, and if you feel that a dish needs more of a certain ingredient, adjust as needed.
With these guidelines in hand, you’re going to make a fantastic meal — we believe in you. Now go ahead and cook, eat and be happy!