Why It's So Important To Pay Attention To Commas When Following Recipes

Comma on a colorful background
Comma on a colorful background - Yuri_arcurs/Getty Images

A recipe, by definition, is a set of instructions one follows when preparing a dish. Ingredients are listed in the order in which you must add them to your mixing bowl. Just like you would read through a science experiment before performing it, you should carefully read a recipe before prepping to ensure you have all the ingredients needed and the amount of time required. But that's not all you should take note of.

Whether or not you're a fan of the Oxford comma, grammar is essential, especially when reading a recipe. Miss a comma, and you could completely miss or misinterpret what the instructions are trying to convey. Glossing over a comma's placement in a recipe can cost time and possibly ingredients, but luckily, there's a simple rule to help.

Suppose the comma appears after the measured amount of an ingredient listed, followed by a direction. In that case, you measure first and then perform the culinary directive, which could be anything from chopping, crushing, mincing, melting, and dicing.

Read more: Cookie Baking Mistakes Everyone Makes

No Comma?

Chopped nuts in a measuring cup
Chopped nuts in a measuring cup - Israel Patterson/Shutterstock

Ina Garten's Food Network recipe for popovers is a perfect case in point. Per the recipe, Garten calls for "1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing pans." That quantity means to measure the amount *before* you melt it. Though you are cutting that amount off a stick of butter, the measured amount, were you to check it using measuring spoons, would likely be a little less than that.

And let's not forget about the other side of that coin — remove the comma, and you need to melt enough butter to equal that measurement exactly. Think about when you are making a pecan pie that calls for chopped pecans. If the recipe has no comma and calls for a cup of chopped pecans, the pecans need to be chopped before measuring. Recipes can be modified and customized to suit your personal preferences, but it is best to follow the directions at least once before making those types of changes and deciding how important that comma really is.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.