Recipes are not assembly manuals. You can't use then the way you use instructions to put together your grill or the rec room Ping-Pong table. Recipes are guides and suggestions for a process that is infinitely nuanced. Recipes are sheet music. A Bach cello suite can be performed at a beginner's level or given extraordinary interpretation by Yo-Yo Ma - same notes/ingredients, vastly different outcomes.
How to use a good recipe: First read it and think about it. cook it in your mind. Envision what it will look like when you server it. Try to know the outcome before you begin. Read a recipe all the way through not only to understand it generally, but to make you work more efficient and to avoid making errors or taking unnecessary steps. Perhaps a dough needs to chill for an hour in the middle of a preparation, perhaps meat needs to be salted for twenty-four hours, or a liquid must be simmered, then cooled. the recipe suggests adding the flour, baking powder, and salt one at a time, but perhaps you can combine all the dry ingredients ahead of time while you're waiting for the butter to get to room temperature so you can cream it with the eggs. Taking a few minutes to read a recipe, acting our each step in your mind as you do, will save you time and prevent errors.
Measure out or prep all your ingredients before you begin. Don't mince your onion just before you need to put it in the pan, have it minced and in a container ready to go.
How to perfect a good recipe: Do it over again, And again. Pay attention. Do it again. That's what chefs do. Often great cooking is simply the result of having done it over and over while paying attention. Great cooking is as much about sheer repetition as it is about natural skill or culinary knowledge.
The Elements of Cooking
by Michael Ruhlman