High Elevation Cooking: Solutions to Baking and Cooking at Elevations over 5,000 feet

Water boils at a lower temperature at 5,000 feet than it does at sea level. This is due to lower air pressure at higher elevations. At first this may sound like a benefit, but it can wreak havoc on cooking. Cakes and cookies come out flat and gooey. Beans will boil for hours and still be hard.

High Altitude Adjustments for Baking

The first rule of high altitude baking is to cut the leaving. Baking at higher altitudes makes cakes and cookies rise fast and fall before being cooked through. At 5,000 feet reduce the leavening by 1/4, at 7,000 reduce the leavening by 1/2. That is, at 5,000 feet use 3/4 of the total amount of leaving called for. At 7,000 feet use 1/2 the total leavening called for.

It also helps to reduce the fat and sugar by about 2 tablespoons per cup. As well, increasing the oven temperature by 25 degrees aids in better results. Play around with the adjustments to find what works best in your situation.

High Altitude Adjustments for Boiling

Foods that are boiled such as beans, rice and macaroni will need to be cooked for longer at high elevations. Increase cooking time for rice and pasta 3-5 minutes. For white rice, be sure to use 2 parts water to every 1 part rice.

In some situations, fibrous foods such as beans, brown rice, and wild rice will not cook even with increased cooking times. Brown rice can scorch. If this is the case, consider a pressure cooker.

Pressure Cookers

Since water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations, the use of a pressure cooker can solve the problem of crunchy beans. A pressure cooker allows steam to build up and create higher air pressure and water that boils above 212 degrees.

As well, foods cook faster in a pressure cooker due to the excellent heat transfer ability of steam. A pot of beans can cook in just 1 hour.

High Altitude Bread Making

Yeast rises faster in higher elevations. When baking great bread at high altitude, watch the rising dough carefully to avoid over rising.

When using a bread machine, either increase the salt by 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, or decrease the yeast by 1/4 teaspoon per package. Salt inhibits the growth of yeast and can keep it from rising too fast. If the yeast rises too fast and falls, the result will be a dense, hard loaf.

If the bread dough is too dry, increase the liquid by 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup of flour. Dry bread dough in a bread machine results in coarse bread.

Becoming aware of the necessary adjustments at high elevations can avert many a spoiled meal.