How do I adjust a recipe for high altitude cooking?

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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How do I adjust a recipe for high altitude cooking? I am heading to Denver on vacation.

When you are cooking at over 2000 feet above sea level, most foods will take longer to cook, thanks to the thinner, drier air. Water boils at a lower temperature, food doesn't retain heat as well, and can dry out more easily. Foods cooked in liquid will require more liquid to cook. Plan for the extra time, and add anywhere from 25% to 50% more liquid to braised dishes. For slow-cooking grains and beans, a pressure cooker keeps the cooking time reasonable.

Baking at high altitude requires more complicated adjustments. Finding what works best in your area is largely a process of trial and error, but here are a few suggestions for adjusting your recipes.

3,000 feet altitude: Reduce baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon, reduce sugar up to 1 tablespoon, and increase the liquid in the recipe 1 to 2 tablespoons for each cup.

5,000 feet altitude: Reduce baking powder by 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon, reduce sugar up to 2 tablespoons, and increase the liquid in the recipe 2 to 4 tablespoons for each cup.

7,000 feet altitude: Reduce baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon, reduce sugar up to 3 tablespoons, and increase the liquid in the recipe 3 to 4 tablespoons for each cup.

Marge Perry
Feb, 2011
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