You may have heard that altitude can cause difficulties in the kitchen. Most people have seen the “high altitude variations” on recipes for cakes, cookies, and other baked items. But, cooks need to consider adjustments when doing more than baking, as altitude can affect all kinds of cooking techniques.
Luckily, the chefs at La Tour Restaurant & Bar have years of experience perfecting high altitude cooking. Although we couldn’t possibly list all our altitude tips and tricks for the kitchen, we thought we’d share a few.
Bake foods longer
At high altitudes, the air pressure is lower, so foods often take longer to bake. And sometimes, the cooking temperature will need to be increased while baking.
Add more liquid
Liquids evaporate faster when cooking at high altitude, leading foods to dry out faster. When braising meats or making stews/soups. you may need to start with more liquid. And when baking, adding more liquid can even help enhance flavors, as liquid molecules help disperse the flavors throughout the baked item.
Reduce leavening agents
Gases expand more at high altitude, so leavening agents (baking soda and baking powder) may need to be decreased when baking. If not, you will likely end up with breads and pastries that over-rise.
When cooking at high altitude, remember that water boils at a lower temperature. For about every 500 feet of ascent, the boiling point is lowered 1ºF. Here’s a link to a great site that shows the boiling point at any elevation. Temperatures and cook times may need to be increased.
Decrease sugar content
If you get fallen/flat cakes and cookies, you might need to try decreasing the sugar in your recipes. Too much sugar at high altitude (low atmospheric pressure) can weaken baked items. And no amount of frosting can fill in a sunken cake.
Baste, baste, baste
Basting is a great way to keep foods from drying out at when cooking at high altitude. You can even try this technique to add moisture when grilling.
Keep the Lid On
In addition to adjusting cooking times, you should also make sure that you keep a tight-fitting lid on the pot. The lid can help slow the evaporation process that can dry out foods during high altitude cooking.