I’m in California right now, and on the flight out yesterday I caught up on some podcasts. On a recent episode of The Splendid Table, host Lynne Rossetto Casper answered a call-in question about recipes, and I learned something new.

The question was about wording in recipes. The caller wanted to know if “two pounds of dates, pitted” is the same as “two pounds of pitted dates.”

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’ve never thought about the difference in wording like that. There is a difference.

If the recipe says “two pounds of dates, pitted,” it means two take two pounds of dates with pits in them and pit them before using them. If the recipe says “two pounds of pitted dates,” it means to pit the dates first and then weigh two pounds of them to use.

Sometimes, it might not make a big difference in the recipe, but sometimes the difference could change the way the dish you’re creating turns out.

If you have a recipe that calls a “cup of pecans, pulverized” to use in a crust and you used a "cup of pulverized pecans,” you’d be using more pecans than the recipe called for. It could change the consistency of the crust.

Next time you’re reading a recipe, keep this type of wording in mind. It could mean the difference between creating a successful dish and one where you can’t figure out what went wrong.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

When is a cup of pecans more than a cup of pecans?
Next time you read a recipe, keep this tip in mind.