Measure liquids in glass or clear plastic liquid-measuring cups and dry ingredients in nesting dry-measuring cups that can be leveled off with a knife.
Measure flour by spooning (not scooping) it into a dry-measuring cup and leveling off with a knife; do not tap or shake cup.
Do not sift flour unless specified in recipe. If sifted flour is called for, sift before measuring. (Disregard “presifted” on the label.)
Salt: Measurements are for table salt unless otherwise specified.
Black pepper is always freshly ground.
Spices: Store away from heat and light; buy in small quantities.
Toast whole spices in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant and a shade darker, 3 to 5 minutes. Toast nuts in a shallow baking pan in a 350°F oven until golden, 5 to 15 minutes. Toast seeds either way.
Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring; or microwave at low to medium power for short intervals (30 seconds or less; stir to check consistency).
Baking pans: We prefer light-colored metal. (If you are using dark metal, including nonstick, your baked goods may brown more, and the cooking times may be shorter. Lower oven temperature 25°F to compensate.)
Nonreactive cookware includes stainless steel, glass, and enameled cast iron; avoid pure aluminum and uncoated iron, which can impart an unpleasant taste and color to recipes with acidic ingredients.
Water bath for baking: Put filled pan in a larger pan and place in oven, then add enough boiling-hot water to reach halfway up side of smaller pan.
Produce: Wash and dry before using.
Greens and chopped/sliced leeks: Wash in a large bowl of water, agitating them, then lift out and drain.
Fresh herbs or greens: Use only the leaves and tender stems—the exception is cilantro, which has tender stems.
Citrus zest: Remove the colored part of the rind only (avoid the bitter white pith). For strips, use a vegetable peeler. For grating, we prefer a rasplike Microplane zester, which results in fluffier zest, so pack to measure.
Chiles: Wear protective gloves when handling.
To finely grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and similar cheeses, use the small (1/8-inch) teardrop-shaped holes (not the ragged-edged holes) of a box or similar handheld grater. Other shaped holes, a Microplane rasp, and pregrated cheese yield different volumes.
When salting water for cooking, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt for every 4 quarts of water.