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I've always learnt that you add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.

Looking at some recipes:

"Combine the dry ingredients, the flour ... Add the other wet ingredients, melted butter ..."

"Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined"

"Mix dry ingredients together, Mix wet ingredients together, and Combine wet and dry together and bake!"

"Make a well in the dry ingredients and then pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix"

Is there a reason to always add wet to dry and not the other way around?

Are there any types of recipes that , in fact, reverse the order?

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With a mixer, if you add the dry to the wet, it's more likely to make a spray of poweder all over the place ... but I admit, I was wonder the same thing the other day, if there were other reasons for one vs. the other. –  Joe Jul 21 '10 at 19:20

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The dry ingredients are lighter, less dense, and less viscous than the wet, which means they'll have a tendency to float on top of the wet. The dry ingredients that come in contact with the wet will form a sort-of skin, preventing the wet from distributing throughout the dry. You end up with clumps of dry, unmixed, and (ultimately) uncooked dry ingredients.

Pouring wet into dry forces agitation and more uniform distribution.

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I've found that frequently in mixers if dry ingredients are on the bottom, they'll never totally mix in, living a layer of unmixed flour at the bottom. Wet ingredients on the bottom will get pulled up by the dry ingredients though. Perhaps this could be a difference of using a mixer vs doing it by hand? –  sourd'oh Oct 31 '13 at 22:43
    
I think that's why you normally see batched inclusion of dry into wet when using a stand mixer. It'll produce a different consistency, but that doesn't make it bad. –  yock Nov 1 '13 at 16:11

I've encountered a Martha Stewart recipe for Coconut Cupcakes that has you add the dry to the wet. You mix the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together (wet ingredients). Then alternating you add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the wet.

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When I mix mortar for stone work in the wheelbarrow, I put the water in first then add the cement, mix it in, then the lime, mix it in, then the sand and adjust the mix to get the consistency I want. The reason I do this is to keep the dry ingredients from sticking in pockets in the corners of the barrow.

With cooking or baking, we have really nice tools to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, removing any chance of having pockets of unmixed dry ingredients anywhere.

When we pour the wet on top of the dry the dust expelled during the mixing process is reduced.

It may produce a better distributed mix to add the wet to the dry, for example when I make pancake or waffle batter I put the egg and milk mixture on a well in the dry stuff and then add the melted butter. If I did that first, the milk mix, cooling the melted butter might make it clump up a bit before I could get the dry stuff stirred down into it. When I put the wet on the dry, I always mix immediately, incorporating the wet well into the dry before any separation occurs.

Seems like when I was a baker (a long time ago) we added the wet ingredients to the big commercial mixers first and then added the pre formulated dry concoctions a bit at a time as the dry became incorporated with the wet. Which is the same way we used to make mortar using a small cement mixer.

Other than as noted above, have never run across a regular cook book recipe that calls for adding dry to wet....at least that I can recall.

Actually never thought about it before, hope this helps.

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As yock explained, adding wet to dry is usually best.

There are additional concerns with some of your examples. Some baked goods (backing powder biscuits, cornbread) degrade quickly once moisture is introduced to the dry ingredients. There's a point where good mixing degrades the end result. Other times, not enough mixing may prevent the wet and dry from homogenizing properly. Cakes and brownies can be touchy on the too-much/too-little spectrum.

How moist the batter should be (the general ratio of wet:dry) can change the mixing method dramatically.

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Most cakes, muffins, biscuits and cookies are made from two primary mixing methods:

- The "Two-Bowl Method" (aka Muffin Method): This mixing method is used primarily when a liquid fat is being used, typically oil but sometimes melted butter. This mixing method has the dry ingredients done in one bowl with a well made in the center so that the liquid ingredients can be added. Mixing the wet and dry ingredients separate from one another allows each type to be thoroughly mixed/blended without fear of overmixing and thus toughening the texture. Toughness is due to agitation when water-based liquids are introduced to wheat flour. The well in the center of dry ingredients allows the dry ingredients to be folded over on top of the liquid and then gently incorporated just until mixed. Adding the liquid flat on top or the flour on top of the liquid would lead to overmixing.

- The "Creaming Method": This mixing method is used for items where a finer crumb is desired (cakes, fine crumbed muffins..typically blueberry)and uses solid fats that are creamed with sugar for aeration and then have the flavorings added (added to the fat as most extracts are oil soluble and distribute flavor better in the fat rather than water based ingredients) followed by eggs. Finally the milk and dry ingredients are usually added alternately, starting and ending with the flour. The creaming method produces a finer more tender crumb due to:

  • higher ratio of fat to flour (more fat = tenderness)

  • more sugar used than in the "two-bowl" method. Sugar is a tenderizing agent (among many other things)due to its hygroscopic nature (ability to attract moisture from surrounding atmosphere. Look here for more on sugar.

    Adding the flour first helps to coat the proteins (gluten) with fat so that it can't form strong bonds with other gluten strands, thus "shortening" the gluten strands and producing a more tender cake. If liquid is introduced first, the gluten won't be lubricated as well by the fat and if too much liquid is added to the fat (particularly if it the liquid isn't at room temperature) it can cause the fat to clump and the mix will appear curdled. This will lead to a coarser texture in the cake. The liquid needs to be emulsified in the fat rather than having the fat surrounded by the liquid.

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