It seems that some recipes, no matter how you prepare them, turn out perfectly every time. Other recipes, no mater how precisely you follow the instructions, turn out differently every time. The reason for this is that some recipes are more susceptible to variations (no matter how slight) than others. If you experience difficulty in achieving consistency in making a particular recipe from one time to the next, check the list of variables below. One or more may be affecting the outcome.
BRAND NAME. Generally, you get what you pay for. Thus, cheaper brands usually indicate inferior quality. If you change brands in response to what’s on sale, the difference in quality between brands might alter the outcome of the recipe.
CHANGE IN QUALITY AT THE FACTORY LEVEL. Perhaps you don’t change brands, but you notice differences in flavor, texture, color and/or aroma of your present brand. A factory may change their product in response to: a particular harvest (good or bad), availability of certain ingredients, price increases, consumer demand or changes in production procedures. If your present brand no longer satisfies you, then experiment with new brands until you find one that you like.
UNIFORMLY CUT INGREDIENTS. If you make three identical stews, but in one you chop the vegetables finely, in the second you dice them, and in the third you chunk them, each will turn out markedly different in terms of texture, flavor and consistency. So, when replicating a recipe, determine the amount of surface of your ingredients you want exposed during cooking, then stick with it from one time to the next.
RIPENESS OF PRODUCE. Different stages of ripeness respond differently to different stages of the cooking process. For example, the end product of cooking a green banana compared with cooking a fully ripened banana varies significantly, even when allowances are made for cooking times. As a fruit or vegetable matures, the chemical composition changes, and those changes, if not consistent with the requirements of the recipe, will alter its outcome.
COOKING TEMPERATURES. Low, medium or high won’t make much difference in some recipes, but those containing fragile ingredients, which are sensitive to subtle fluctuations, will respond adversely to the change. Don’t hurry the cooking by raising the temperature, nor prolong it by lowering it. Use what’s recommended.
LENGTH OF COOKING TIME. Any food which is cooked requires a consistent temperature for a specified amount of time to turn out correctly. Although each food is different in its demands, some require a more rigid adherence to a time-table than others. Rice, for example, is more sensitive to cooking times than legumes. Be precise in your time-table and see if it makes a difference.
SPEED WITH WHICH YOU COOK. Often, when making a recipe for the first time we do it slowly and meticulously, making sure to do everything just right. The second or third time, however, we speed up the process because of our familiarity with it, and we don’t take the same meticulous care. Cook slowly, methodically and with purpose.
ORDER OF INGREDIENTS. You need only to make a gravy without first moistening the flour to appreciate the importance of order in cooking. Once again, some recipes may not be susceptible, but others definitely are. If you’re having problems with consistency in replicating a particular recipe from one time to the next, it could be that you’re taking short cuts by either eliminating crucial steps (note that crucial need not be obvious), or changing the order in which you add ingredients. Backtrack and begin as you did the first time, or the time that it turned out just right, and your problems may come to light.
VARIATIONS IN TASTE PERCEPTIONS. Lastly, if you are reasonably certain that there is nothing different about the ingredients or the method used in preparing them, then it might just be that your taste perceptions are different from one time to the next. I have noticed that my own tastes vary according to the time of day, mood, degree of hunger, food or drink previously consumed, state of health, or speed with which I eat. Allergies, colds, smoking cigarettes, medications, alcohol, caffeine, excessive intake of salt, sugar or fats can also alter the perceptions of what we taste. So, to keep your taste buds in good tasting order: stay in good health; refrain from smoking cigarettes; drink alcohol that compliments your food; drink coffee after your meal. Keep your salt, sugar and fat intake within reason. And, of equal importance, keep those buds clean–brush tongue daily.
Further, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more flavoring I use. I don’t know if that’s a function of age, or familiarity with the flavors over time. Over the counter medications and prescription drugs at any age can also affect your taste perceptions.