When I first arrived in Calgary ten years ago, my cakes turned out flat and stuck stubbornly to the pan and it took an eternity for potatoes to boil! I'd no idea why I'd suddenly become the worst cook in the world overnight. It never occurred to me that high altitude could have anything to do with my failures in kitchen.

Cooking at any altitude over 3000 ft is considered high-altitude cooking. As Calgary sits at an elevation of 3,740 above sea level and recipes are conventionally written to reflect cooking at low altitude, this presents a challenge for even the most experienced cook.
At high altitudes the air density is lower than at sea level. With lower atmospheric pressure, leavening agents such as baking soda/powder, or beaten eggs form gas-filled bubbles quicker and just keep rising until the cake explodes and falls!

Some trial and error is required when adjusting recipes to high altitude conditions, but the following information will point you in the right direction.

  • Don't over beat the eggs. Over beating adds too much air to the bread or cake.
  • Raise the baking temperature slightly; the faster cooking time will keep the recipe from rising too much.
  • Above 3500 feet, the oven temperature for batters and doughs should be 25 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the temperature used at sea level
  • Decrease the amount of baking powder slightly; this also prevents the recipe from rising too much.
  • More liquids are required in all cooking processes as liquids evaporate more rapidly at altitude.
  • Foods will take longer to cook because they are actually cooking at a lower temperature
  • Water boils at a lower temperature point
  • Adjustments must be made to ingredients
  • Adjustments must be made in cooking techniques such as candy making, deep fat frying and canning
  • Leavening (baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar) agents expand more rapidly than at sea level
  • Sugar solutions become more concentrated (frostings, candies, jellies and baked products)
  • Normal moisture in most food products tends to dry out.

Thelma O'Connor, B.A., CERC Relocation Specialist, emigrated to Canada in 1995 and runs Canada Wise, a relocation, orientation and settlement service for newcomers to Canada. Contact Thelma on tel: (403) 226-4999, email: info@canadawise.com; web site: www.canadawise.com

Thelma C. O'Connor
612 - 500 Country Hills Blvd NE
Alberta T3K 5K3
Tel: (403) 226-4999
Fax: (403) 226-1220
Email: info@canadawise.com
Web: www.canadawise.com

Posted 04Jan2006