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Baking and Cooking at High Altitudes

We’ve provided this guide to help those who live at high altitudes bake and cook with success. At high altitudes, about 3,500 feet or more above sea level, foods bake and cook differently than if prepared at sea level.

Baking and Cooking in High Altitudes

The charts below describe specific adjustments you can make when baking and cooking. Because the effects of high altitudes can vary, we recommend that you first make a recipe as written before attempting to adjust it. If the food is not acceptable in texture or appearance, try one recipe change at a time until you get the result you want.

Baking at High Altitudes

At high altitudes:

  • Air pressure is lower, so foods take longer to bake. Temperatures and/or bake times may need to be increased.
  • Liquids evaporate faster, so amounts of flour, sugar and liquids may need to be changed to prevent batter that is too moist, dry or gummy.
  • Gases expand more, so doughs rise faster. Leavening agents (baking soda and baking powder) may need to be decreased. Doughs may need shorter rising times and may need to be “punched down” (deflated) twice during the rising process.

The suggestions below are for scratch recipes. For cake mixes and mixes for other baked goods, check the package for directions specifically for that product.

BAKED FOOD

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS

ADJUSTMENTS TO TRY

Breads, Quick

Includes banana bread, coffee cakes, gingerbread and other quick breads.

• Overexpansion during baking

• Bread may partially collapse

• Sticky or tacky to the touch

• Dipped center

• Decrease baking soda or baking powder (1/8 to 1/4 tsp)

• Decrease sugar (1 to 2 Tbsp)

• Decrease fat (2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup)

• Increase water (1 to 4 Tbsp)

• Increase flour (2 to 4 Tbsp)

• Increase oven temperature by 15°F to 25°F

Breads, Yeast

• Overexpansion during rising time

• Drier texture

• Bread may have large holes throughout

• Decrease flour and/or increase liquid until dough is soft and elastic

• Allow dough to rise only until double in size (rising time may be shorter)

• Punch down dough (and allow to rise) twice

Bars & Brownies

• Overbaked sides, underbaked center

• Sunken center

• Gummy texture

• Greasy appearance or touch

• Decrease oven temperature by 25°F

• Decrease oil (1 Tbsp to 1/2 cup)

• Increase flour (1 Tbsp to 1/3 cup)

• Increase water (1 Tbsp to 1/3 cup)

• Increase bake time (up to 10 minutes)

Cake, Angel Food

• Over-rising and spilling over pan sides

• Coarse texture

• Falls out of pan when cooled upside down

• Beat egg whites only to soft-peak stage

• Increase flour (1 Tbsp to 1/3 cup)

• Increase water (up to 1/3 cup)

• Increase oven temperature by 25°F

Cakes, 13x9-Inch & Layer

• Too dry, crumbly, pasty or dense

• Sunken center

• Overbaked exterior, underbaked interior

• Overly moist layer at top or bottom

• Cake “falls” (not enough structure)

• Decrease oil or shortening (1 to 2 Tbsp)

• Decrease baking soda or baking powder (1/8 to 1/4 tsp)

• Increase liquid (1 to 4 Tbsp) or add an egg

• Increase flour (1 Tbsp to 1/2 cup)

• Increase bake time until doneness is achieved

Cookies

Cookies generally bake well at high altitudes. You may notice:

• Cookies have a drier texture

• Cookies may spread too much

• Cookies may not spread enough

• Cookies may overbrown

• Cookies may be underdone

• Decrease butter or shortening (2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup) if cookies spread too much

• Decrease sugar slightly if cookies spread too much (amount depends on size of batch and other ingredients)

• Increase liquid by 1 to 2 Tbsp only if dough is too dry and cookies don’t spread

• Increase flour (starting with 1 or 2 Tbsp) if cookies spread too much

• Increase bake time by 1 to 3 minutes

• Decrease bake time by 1 to 2 minutes

Fried Dough

• Cooks too fast

• Overcooked exterior, undercooked interior

• Decrease cooking temperature 3°F per 1,000 feet of altitude

• Increase cook time

Muffins, Biscuits & Scones

Muffins, biscuits and scones generally bake well at high altitudes. You may notice:

• Drier texture

• Muffins have flat tops that flow together

• Overbrowning

• Decrease baking soda or baking powder (1/8 tsp)

• Decrease sugar slightly if batter is too thin and flows out of muffin cups

• Increase number of muffins (because batter at high altitudes has more volume)

• Increase liquid by 1 to 2 Tbsp if batter is too thick

• Increase flour (starting with 1 Tbsp) if batter is too thin and flows out of muffin cups

• Increase or decrease bake time by 1 to 3 minutes

Pie Crust

Pie crusts generally bake well at high altitudes. You may notice:

• Drier texture when forming dough

• Increase water slightly (starting with 1 Tbsp) until dough holds together well and is pliable

Cooking at High Altitudes

At high altitudes:

  • Air pressure is lower, so foods take longer to cook. Temperatures and/or cook times may need to be increased.
  • Water boils at a lower temperature, so foods prepared with water (such as pastas and soups) may take longer to cook. Temperatures and cook times may need to be increased.

COOKED FOOD

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS

ADJUSTMENTS TO TRY

Eggs, Hard-Cooked & Soft-Cooked

• May take longer to cook

• Liquid may evaporate faster

• Add a pinch of salt to the water before heating

• For hard-cooked eggs, boil 5 minutes, then cover and let stand 15 minutes

• After allowing to stand, drain and rinse with cold water

Grilled Foods

• May take longer to cook

• Watch foods carefully while grilling

• Allow more time for larger foods to cook thoroughly

• Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness

• Place food further from heat source to avoid burning

• Baste foods during last 5 to 10 minutes

• Grill over lower heat to keep foods from drying out and burning (may take longer to cook)

Meats

• May take longer to cook

• Watch meats carefully when cooking by any method

• Allow more time for meats to cook thoroughly

• Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness

Pasta & Rice

• May take longer to cook

• Liquid may evaporate faster

• Increase cooking liquid (water) if necessary

• Increase cooking time

Slow-Cooker Foods

For food safety, food in slow cookers must reach and maintain a high temperature during cooking. You may notice that slow-cooker foods:

• May take longer to cook

• Defrost frozen meat, poultry and vegetables before cooking in slow cooker

• Do not remove lid from slow cooker, especially during first 3 hours

• Check temperatures of cooked foods with a meat thermometer

• Turn cooker to High heat setting after adding ingredients near end of recipe (such as for gravy or sauce)

• Increase liquid if using cornstarch or flour to thicken sauce or gravy

Soups, Stews & Sauces

• May take longer to cook

• Liquid may evaporate faster

• Add water to achieve desired consistency (for sauces, start with 1 to 2 Tbsp; for soups and stews, amount needed could be up to 1 cup)

Vegetables

• May take longer to cook

• Increase cook time up to 5 minutes or until hot and tender

Resources for More Information

For more information about baking and cooking at high altitudes, contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Extension Service office. Also, the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Web site has several helpful guides for baking and cooking at high altitudes.

 

REVIEWS & COMMENTS

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