How to Cut a Recipe in Half

It’s simple, but you’ll want to avoid making a few common mistakes.

By: Michelle Warner
465185097

465185097

Gratin with macaroni, meat, cheese and tomato sauce

Photo by: Azurita/Getty Images

Azurita/Getty Images

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:

480132468

480132468

Midsection below view image of woman cooking food in pan. Utensil is placed on gas stove. Female is stirring dish in frying pan. She is preparing food in domestic kitchen.

Photo by: Neustockimages/Getty Images

Neustockimages/Getty Images

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.

83191591

83191591

Photo by: Alex Hayden/Getty Images

Alex Hayden/Getty Images

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.

1049997490

1049997490

Kitchen scale with tarred bamboo bowl filled with 60 gram of flour. Out of focus spoon in foreground. Wooden board. Light effect. High point of view.

Photo by: annick vanderschelden photography/Getty Images

annick vanderschelden photography/Getty Images

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.

88168815

88168815

Photo by: Alexandra Grablewski/Getty Images

Alexandra Grablewski/Getty Images

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!

Related Links:

Next Up

How to Clean and Care for a Cast Iron Pan

Cast iron pans are affordable, durable, and versatile. With proper care, they can serve you well for decades.

Be Smart About Salt

We've all heard that too much sodium can be harmful to our health, but what does that actually mean?

How to Make Fried Rice

This dish comes together in a matter of minutes — if you cook it right. Here's how.

How to Peel Ginger

Fresh ginger is a pleasant aromatic that makes many dishes sing, but removing the peel can be a little messy. Here's how to do it.

Use Butter Better

Is butter bad for us, or does it just have an image problem?

How to Wash and Dry Salad Greens

Don't just rinse your salad greens under the faucet. You might still miss hidden dirt, and even bugs (yuck!). Instead, wash and dry your greens thoroughly for a clean, healthy dish.

How to Make Buttermilk

Make your own homemade buttermilk with this simple how-to from Food Network.

How to Make Iced Tea

Learn how to make homemade iced tea with this simple how-to from Food Network.

How to Make Yogurt

Turn a tablespoon of your favorite yogurt into a whole quart of yogurt with this simple yogurt how-to from Food Network.

How to Brown Butter

Brown butter has a golden color and a nutty, toasted flavor, which is the result of the milk solids caramelizing. It's not hard to make, but it can burn easily, so you have to watch it.
More from:

Cooking School

Latest Stories