Got a cookbook collecting dust on your shelves? Found a recipe online that seems too hard or expensive? You can still read between the lines of the instructions and come away with cool cooking tips. Rebecca Federman, culinary collections librarian at the New York Public Library, shows us how.

By Rachael Ray Every Day
November 01, 2005
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1. Think outside the box.When the grocery store has a sale on a cut of meat with which you're totally unfamiliar, you can feel confident buying it, knowing you can search for some preparation ideas at home. Who knows? The new dish you come across could become a family favorite.More:

2. Look for takeaways within the recipe.Even if you can't spend all day waiting for the oven buzzer to sound on a lengthy recipe, you can steal parts and use them elsewhere, like taking the spice combo from a dry rub recipe.

3. Don't shy away if a recipe lists equipment you don't have.Most of the time a pan modification -- like subbing in a glass casserole pan for a roasting pan or a metal saute pan instead of a wok -- will give you the same or close results.

4. Search for practical pointers and tips scattered throughout the recipe.Even if you never make the recipe, they're often general enough to apply anytime. If you're online, you can usually pick up great hands-on advice from readers who've tried the recipe.More:

5. Your plate probably won't look like the picture.The sauce will run whenever it feels like, and as for the meticulous display, no, thank you. Who cares as long as it tastes good, right?More: