I am looking for some advice on what some mnemonic tricks could be for remembering the following, when memorizing or preparing to cook a recipe by heart:

  • oven temperatures
  • procedures (remembering the right steps, in the right order)
  • all the ingredients, without omitting any
  • ingredient amounts (also, with the number of people to cater to, kept in mind)

Thank you very much.


  • 2
    I don't understand the downvote on this one, mnemonics are used for many things: colors of the rainbow, great lakes, critical actions for pilots, etc. It seems like a sensible question to me.
    – GdD
    May 16 at 7:48
  • 2
    @GdD I will refer folks to a point I tried to raise in meta a while back. It didn't seem to gain any traction there. I don't believe any question should be downvoted. It only serves to discourage questions. I believe we should encourage any and all questions. We have numerous ways to deal with problematic questions, without downvoting. These range from suggested edits and asking for clarification, to flagging and closing. So, to me, downvoting serves no useful purpose. Since then, I upvote all downvoted questions.
    – moscafj
    May 18 at 1:33
  • I feel similarly about this @moscafj, I rarely downvote a question for that very reason. Very occasionally I will downvote a question if someone has posted something that shows absolutely no effort or is taking the mickey somehow. If something is off topic I vote to close, I see no reason to downvote.
    – GdD
    May 18 at 8:24

3 Answers 3


The best 'trick' is to understand why a certain temperature, ingredient or quantity is used, which comes from reading good recipes, cooking with others who have more experience, and practice and experimentation.

The second 'trick' is to get used to what details are important or specific to one recipe. Once you realise that lots of different dishes are in fact very similar in construction, you stop thinking in terms of memorising specific instruction lists. Don't think "180°C", think "default oven temperature". Don't think "add 1.5 tsp salt to 1 litre simmering water", think "this needs boiling, so I need a pan of boiling water and that always needs salt". Instead of "50g chicken breast", "that looks about right for one meal for me".

In other words, when you see someone cooking without looking at a recipe, it's not that they are mentally consulting a memorized recipe and following its steps. They just combine their knowledge of cooking methods with what they have and what they are trying to make. An analogy might be someone travelling across a city they know well – they aren't following a memorized list of directions, they just know the general way to go and how to navigate each part along the way.

The place for mnemonics is in remembering specific baking recipes where it is more important to get the ratios of ingredients and temperatures precise, and there are some of these out there for classic cakes. But my recommendation would just be to cook with a recipe to hand; now that we have the internet and smartphones it's easy to get high quality recipes and you don't have to worry you've forgotten something.

  • 1
    It's true that it's never been easier to access decent recipes, but it's also never been easy to access some rather questionable ones as well. And as for the screen turning itself off just when you've got dough all over your hands... I often write down ingredient quantities - in order - and any non-obvious steps. This sort of summarising is a good learning technique in its own right
    – Chris H
    May 16 at 8:18
  • @ChrisH conveniently, the recipe app I use has a setting where you can have it never turn off the screen while it’s actively showing a recipe. I imagine others might but I wouldn’t know for sure May 16 at 15:19
  • @fyrepenguin I find the idea of a recipe app rather strange - presumably you're tied into their library, and the whole point about looking for recipes online is to discover more unusual things (though for classic recipes I do have a few goto websites)
    – Chris H
    May 16 at 15:42
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    @ChrisH it’s not subscribing to a library of recipes, it’s a repository for your own recipes (or those shared with you). And it has hooks that let you automatically import recipes from the web, too, which is convenient. But I used it to digitize dozens of family recipes. Conveniently lets me cross off ingredients as I go, as well as scale the recipe by any scale factor. Plus I can directly add ingredients to my shopping list. Not affiliated to them, just really appreciate the software May 16 at 23:13
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    @ChrisH it's pretty decent with a lot of common websites, who tag/format things in such a way that they can be reliably imported. If you're particular about exact ingredient naming like I am, it does take a little comb through after. This is getting a tad off topic, so I wouldn't mind continuing this in chat May 17 at 6:40

This might not be exactly what you're looking for, but my "mnemonic trick" is ratios.*

Many complex recipes are really just an amalgamation of several simple recipes, and many simple recipes can be reduced to a ratio of 2-4 ingredients, plus seasoning to taste.

For example, the ratio of a basic roux-based sauce is 1 part flour, 1 part fat/oil, 8 parts liquid. The ratio for cooking grits is 1 part grits to 4 parts liquid, plus salt. This vastly simplifies a recipe for shrimp and grits, to:

  1. Make 2 parts grits
  2. Make 2 parts roux-based sauce, using stock as the liquid and butter as the fat; add creole seasoning and garlic
  3. Cook some shrimp in the sauce
  4. Combine

Baking is even more ratio-driven.

(* I do recommend the book linked from that article, Michael Ruhlman's Ratio)


I'll speak to oven temps. The rest is probably more specific to what you are cooking and understanding why procedures work and when to use them, which comes with experience, rather than having and overarching mnemonic.

So, about oven temperature...all you really need to know is low, medium, and high. Ovens are rarely the temperature that it says on the dial setting (they are not built for accuracy), and the temperature around your food is much lower than you think (due to evaporative cooling). It turns out that being in the ballpark is good enough. Just think in terms of low (up to 300F), medium (up to 400F), and high. Not much happens at low...perhaps a braise that you started on the stove in a dutch oven and moved to the oven...think gentle heat for a long time...or maybe those ribs that you are cooking "low and slow." Most of your oven work happens at medium or high. Roast a chicken?...high.....Sheet pan of squash? Medium.... Apple crisp? ...medium. Just keep an eye on it and and you will soon get a feel without worrying about having to know specific temperatures.


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