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RECIPES FORUM Writing Recipes Like a Pro

Thumb_img_0759_2 LindaHall 32 posts

If you know about food and know how to cook then writing a recipe is a breeze, right?  I’ve written recipes professionally for years and am still surprised by how challenging it can be at times.

Here are my top 10 tips for writing better (easier to write/easier to follow) recipe:

1.     Measure ingredients accurately — intuitive but many people don’t.

2.     Think about how ingredients will be measured.  1 cup walnuts, chopped is different than 1 cup of chopped walnuts since whole walnuts take up more room in the measuring cup than walnut pieces.

3.     List ingredients in your recipe in the order they will be added.

4.     When multiple ingredients are added at once, list the largest amount followed by smaller amount.  If all have the same amount, list them alphabetically.

5.     If you have to preheat an oven, list that step first in your method.  If you have to boil water, that too needs to be listed early.

6.     Starting each step in the method with an action verb (stir, mix, toss) makes it easier for the reader to know what to do.

7.     Once the recipe is written, read through the steps to make sure that all your ingredients are used and that you haven’t missed any. 

8.     Be sure to list the size pots and pans you really need — half sheet pan, 4” hotel pan, 8-inch cake pan, 10-inch springform pan.  This is especially important for baking recipes.

9.     If there are tips for success, include them as notes.  For example:  When baking the soufflé, be sure to only use a non-convection oven.    Convection ovens will make the soufflé rise very high and then fall very low. 

10. Remember your audience.  If you’re writing recipes for non-professional cooks, then they may not have access to all the ingredients or tools that you do.  Chicken stock from a can doesn’t have the same flavor as the stock made in many restaurants.

The real test is to ask someone who hasn’t made the recipe before to follow what you’ve written.  

If anyone else has any tips and techniques on this, I’d love to hear them.


Thumb_picture_041 ChefCody 44 posts

Sounds like it is just easier cooking it myself.

In all seriousness, I agree with you but there so many variables to account for in cooking. Some intelligence must be assumed. If a recipe is 20 pages long, it is also less likely to be used or even read. There is something to be said for concise recipes. For example, I am not going to go through the recipe and state something about every ingredient….like “garlic that is fresh peeled is better but more concentrated than pre minced garlic”….I will just write to use fresh peeled and if they change it, that is their own undoing or success. I could literally go through each ingredient like that with 5 variations on each possible use. I just tell them the products I use and if they do them differently, then great. I am not going to do a dissertation on salt for each recipe.

Good idea but I think you can be too anal with recipes and also lose your audience. I always think of that math professor who worked for NASA but taught entry level physics and had his class looking at each other like,“WTF?”

Icon_missing_thumb SueLau 1 post

I agree with ChefCody about concise writing. I took a course in technical writing and it has helped my writing in both recipes and other applications. I think when writing is concise, it is easier to read and gives a nice professional feel.

Thumb_screen%20shot%202009-12-11%20at%202 christian wa... 324 posts

Keeping your recipes in our system:

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5) We are planning so many more functions for your uploaded data. Menu planning, party planning, production planning, and more.

Upload a recipe today!

Icon_missing_thumb LinChef2008 2 posts

Any suggestions on how much to charge for writing a recipe?

Thumb_img_0759_2 LindaHall 32 posts

It depends on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

Do you develop the recipe at their facility?  Are they providing the ingredients and cook space or do you need to provide that? If you need to factor in ingredients, that adds to your cost.  Assume you’ll need to run through each recipe at least twice — once to make sure it works and once to make sure you’ve measured accurately and have recorded all the steps.

In general, I’ve seen around $100 US for a recipe.  When I was working as a developer 20 years ago, I charged about $300 per day.  Your rate will depend on your area of expertise and where you’re located.  Freelance rates for chefs working for corporations in the Chicago area ranges from about $500 per day to $1000/$1500, depending on what they’re doing.  

Bottom line is why you want to do this.  If you think it would be fun and a little extra cash, price low.  If this is your livelihood and you’ve developed a reputation for what you do, you can charge more.  Basic economics — if you get too greedy, you’ll get less work.

Icon_missing_thumb LinChef2008 2 posts

Thank you so much for your quick reply, Linda! I really appreciate it!

I’ve been asked to write healthy recipes for a friend’s fitness website. I hadn’t considered the time involved in testing the recipes at all, so I’m definitely going to factor that.

Thank you again!

Thumb_myself_with_egg michalschlierer 29 posts

The importance of (proper) recipe writing can not be estimated high enough!
I think it is a crucial skill to have for chefs and is essential to running a proper business!
Otherwise how are you going to calculate foodcost properly, or get an idea about the quantities needed for larger catering parties or delegate tasks effectively, and and and….
Or how do you want to reproduce that great dish you have created yesterday…..?
In regards to practice: I tend to use only weight as a measure, even for liquids and bulk. It makes things much easier, but requires some getting used to.
It is also important to have your audiences in mind: whether it is your fellow chef, a customer in a cooking class, a reader online or in print.
Thanks for the great concise write up, by the way—this is realy useful!

Icon_missing_thumb BobDethman 4 posts

Linda Hall,  great advice especialy for baking formulas these we shouldn’t fudge on because we change the out come whether it be our own company or someone elses, on the other hand I have been trained free style, “This is what goes into it, make it your own, make it tasty.” I love that freedom but having a concise recipe as a basis is also a great help whether I put my own twist to it or not.  I wil share this with some instructors becase I think you said it well. 

Thumb_a4 chefbhong 2 posts

Keep in mind that some recipes just don’t tolerate modifications very well, and some recipe ingredients simply cannot be tampered with. You’ll find this to be especially true with baked goods, batters, cakes and breads, where you’ve got to hold the relationship between liquid and dry ingredients relatively constant—and you most certainly can’t mess around with the leavening agents (baking powder, yeast, baking soda, etc). You can really screw up the chemistry if you’re not careful with this….:D

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RECIPES FORUM Writing Recipes Like a Pro
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