How to Adjust for High-Altitude Cooking

At altitudes above sea level, the boiling point of water is lower. While a few degrees may not seem important, in cooking and baking it may be the difference between a delectable dish and a dry, inedible mass that the dog gets to use for a chew toy. Many recipes are developed at or near sea level, and these may need certain adjustments to be able to work at or above 3,000 feet. However, it's always a good idea to try any given recipe at least once before making these adjustments, especially if you don't know where it was developed. Just watch your dish closely until you know what to expect, and adjust for later attempts at the recipe.

High-altitude adjustments for baking

Depending on the type of baked goods you're making, there are several adjustments you may have to make. First, extra liquid may need to be added, or the dish may have to bake for a longer period of time than recommended. Most recipes will have a range of baking times in order to allow for variations between ovens, as well as variations in elevation.

Higher altitude means less atmospheric pressure. Although the difference in pressure is too slight for most humans to detect between sea level and 3,000 feet, it can have a profound effect on certain baked goods, such as cakes. The leavening agent used in these dishes may cause it to rise too much, making it far more likely that it will fall during the baking process. Reduce the amount of baking soda, yeast, or other leavening ingredient if you're having this problem. In addition, you may need to add an extra egg.

Stovetop cooking adjustments for high altitude

For most stovetop dishes, high-altitude adjustments consist of longer cooking times and covering the dish while it's cooking. Add a little extra liquid to dishes that have to be stirred regularly or constantly. Candies, jellies, and syrups will have to be cooked at a lower temperature in order to avoid boiling out too much liquid.

Double boilers may not be sufficient for cooking puddings and creams at high altitudes due to the lower boiling point. If your cream pies always turn out soupy, try cooking them in a regular saucepan (stirring regularly) for more direct heat. Finally, the best pressure cooker for high-altitude cooking is one that can be adjusted with different weights; with this kind of artificial atmospheric pressure, food can be cooked the same way it would be at lower altitudes.

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