Cooking at high altitudes differs from sea level cooking. Sea level recipes will generally work up to 3,000-3,500 feet above sea level. However, the elevation of Lake Tahoe is 6,224 feet, with many surrounding communities at even higher elevations. Therefore, special consideration must be given when cooking in the Tahoe Basin.
Because air pressure is lower at higher altitudes, the boiling point of water is also lower. For instance, while water boils at 212 °F (100 °C) at 0' above sea level, above 6000' the boiling point of water is 201.1 °F (94 °C). For every 500' of increased elevation, the boiling point of water drops approximately 1 °F. In order to properly boil food at high altitudes, it may be necessary to increase cooking times.
Low atmospheric pressure also effects the baking process.
Cakes tend to expand too rapidly at high elevations. This can cause the air bubbles in the cake to break or escape, leading to a cake that dips or is flat. Additionally, the temperature at which a cake is baked must be raised in order to compensate for the low boiling point at high elevations. Otherwise, the cake may remain underdone. The Crisco website suggests the following alterations to cake recipes:
- 5% more flour to compensate for the rapid expansion of the cake
- 20% more water to address the rapid evaporation of liquids and to balance the additional flour
- Bake 25° higher to set the crust
- Fill pans between 1/3 and 1/2 full in order to prevent overflow
- Use cold water and large, cold eggs
- Remove the top oven rack to prevent the cake from sticking when it rises
The Betty Crocker website provides a more exhaustive guide to how various foods should be cooked at higher elevations.