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If a recipe says "1 cup of cherries cut in half" does that mean cut them before or after measurement?

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    Solution: Discard bad recipe. Buy a kitchen scale if necessary. Look for a better recipe specifying weights.
    – Nobody
    Jan 21 at 11:21

3 Answers 3

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Most recipes are rarely that precise (which is why a lot of us prefer recipes that give ingredients by weight). The "1 cup cherries" is most likely a rough estimate, so go with what seems right. Post-cutting will be about 50% more than whole.

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    I read this as 1 cup of cherries, then cut in half...rather than 1 cup of cherry halves. Further, one might see 1 cup of flour, sifted vs. 1 cup of sifted flour, which I read as different, and requiring more attention and precision.
    – moscafj
    Jan 20 at 20:04
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    You're making a huge assumption that recipe-writers use precise language, one which is rarely validated. The vast majority of published recipes are never tested, and are only copy-edited for spelling, not for cooking logic.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 20 at 20:23
  • Just pointing out there are a couple of ways to interpret these kinds of directions. 50% more cherries...or the difference between sifting before or after measurement is a significant difference. Extra cherries might not be a big deal. Flour may need to be precise. Experienced cooks can edit on the fly. Beginners are left guessing. The language may or may not be intentional. As for the original question, I read it as measure a cup of cherries...then cut them in half....but I would have read the entire recipe to understand the ramifications of that, and don't disagree with your advice.
    – moscafj
    Jan 20 at 21:16
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The ingredient in the list is not entirely clear, but I would assume that from the exact wording that you typed that it was cherries cut in half to fill one cup.

The reason is the lack of a comma.

If it had said “1 cup of cherries, cut in half”, that would mean that you measure first and then do some additional prep to them before they’re used in the recipe.

To be clear, if they were to cut before being measured, I would have put “1 cup of halved cherries” hopefully they’re not such an integral part of the recipe that the ambiguity will cause it to fail completely.

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It probably means one cup of already-cut half-cherries. However, it is as good as anybody's guess as to what the original author intended to convey. Fortunately, it doesn't really matter that much. Cooking recipes, unlike computer programs written in code, can work equally well with various interpretations of vague descriptions :)

I'd suggest that the best solution to find out what works the best for you is dividing the cake's ingredients in two equal halves, then simultaneously cooking both halves with the two differing interpretations for each half. After it's done, you will be able to directly judge what works better.

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