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I'm writing a recipe for publication on a site not written for expert chefs. It's a contest with a very nice cash prize. One of my recipes includes meatballs. My final ingredient is dry commercial bread crumbs. The point is just to add them if the mixture feels a bit loose to shape. You know, ground meat varies in moisture content, so if your meat is loose, you just add some crumbs...right?

So how do I word that in a recipe that's supposed to sound professional and polished?

Mods: If you feel this question is better suited to ELU, feel free to migrate it.

  • In Italian you say "q.b.", though it's almost always used talking about salt, not sure about other ingredients. Still, you may search for a translation of "q.b." and see if something intresting comes up. – o0'. Aug 31 '14 at 14:03
  • @Lohoris qb is quanto basto, I think, which is literally 'as much as is enough'. For salt, specifically, in English you would say to taste, but that wouldn't be quite right for this, a question of texture... – AakashM Sep 2 '14 at 13:09
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    Until a ball of one inch in diameter doesn't deform appreciably when dropped on a flat surface from 10 feet:) – Dr. belisarius Sep 2 '14 at 15:24
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I see two things to address, first identify a few physical properties of your ideal meatball mixture, and second have a verifiable way for the reader to compare their current mixture to what the meatballs are "really" supposed to be like at that stage.

Depending on how many words you want to use for this part of your recipe, outlining a very simple "test" for the reader to try may be helpful. Maybe a sidebar section on the page with some instructions would visually unobtrusive, allowing those users who've already made your recipe to focus on your other recipe steps when needed.

What comes to mind is using a tablespoon to scoop out a quantity of the meatball mixture, followed by inverting that spoon onto a surface(not slamming, inverting). The ideal meatball mixture probably behaves in a certain way(doesn't spread out more than "x" centimeters/won't leak moisture/etc...I suspect you can come up with the right variables to emphasize).

Another example would be to say, "...when the mixture is right, a golf ball sized portion should be easy to roll into a ball and not begin to sag within "x" timeframe(seconds?), or something like that. Pick out the physical properties of the mixture that make the consistency or shape right. Work backwards, try a few trial run "tests"by making a tiny batch that has too much or too little water/fat/breadcrumbs/etc. How does that incorrect-ratio-mixture behave with your tests?

Off the top of my head, the easiest descriptors to identify would be: moisture content(how easy is it to squeeze out liquid & how much should come out), consistency comparisons(how much sticks to your hand/feels like wet spaghetti/whatever),and height/spread under specific conditions.
Hope this was helpful.

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    Yup, to put briefly, you don't try to say "feels right" in a professional way, you instead explain how to tell if it feels right! Recipes are full of things like "until the texture is like X", "until it does X when you do Y to it", and so on. – Cascabel Aug 31 '14 at 16:59
  • I would love nothing more than to use photos and sidebars and stuff. If I publish a recipe, I'll do anything and everything to make sure that every step is completely explained cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/45834/… that's just my nature. The contest won't allow it though. I just have to write it as if it's in an old fashioned, staid book of recipes. – Jolenealaska Sep 1 '14 at 16:37
  • @Jolenealaska The sidebar comment in my answer was not meant to imply that your explaination capabilities were lacking, or that you wouldn't completely explain each step. I mentioned it without explicit understanding of your format parameters, which is my fault since I could have requested more information. Your answers and questions are always well-thought out, and I very much admire the analytic and completeness of your home experimentation. I would be happy to reword/edit this if you feel it improperly represents the excellence and forethought you consistently contribute to the community. – Little White Lithe Sep 3 '14 at 15:33
  • @LittleWhiteLithe Wow! Thank you for your kind words! It seems you may have read more into my comment than I meant. I simply meant to say that all of your advice is good, but the rules of the contest are such that I may not be able to use much of it. – Jolenealaska Sep 3 '14 at 17:12
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@Jolenealaska Just an idea that maybe you can draw from. Perhaps you could (in your words) say to add half of the breadcrumbs and mix. Check the consistency by making a meatball to see if it holds together. If it needs more breadcrumbs add x-amount at a time, checking the consistency in between each addition, until reaching the desired consistency.

As you note, moisture content in ground meat is going to vary. I would also give some thought to the increments as you don't want anyone to overmix.

Best of luck in the contest!

Oh - what is ELU?

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