Tips & Tricks for Writing Successful Recipes
Sharing your favorite dishes with the world is easier than you think.
Let’s say you enjoyed an amazing roasted chicken at a restaurant in Napa Valley and want to try recreating it at home. Where would you start? What sequence would you follow? Most importantly, how would you pass it on to friends or family who might want to try it too?
Recipes come in all shapes and forms, from the essay-length kind in many cookbooks to brief scribbles on index cards. That variation explains why different cooks following the same recipe can get widely differing results. If you want cooks who try your recipe to be able to recreate the dish that you love, it helps to be detailed. At the same time, you want to leave room for the creativity that can make cooking so enjoyable.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you develop reliable recipes you can proudly share.
- Choose a title and description that will help set the cook’s expectations.
- List ingredients in the order you use them and provide precise measurements.
- Offer tips on where to find unusual ingredients and possible substitutions.
- Describe what a cook should look for in addition to cook times. For example: “Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes.”
- Use ingredients and measures that will scale if your recipe is doubled, halved, etc.
- Indicate the number of servings your recipe makes.
- Indicate how much time it will take from start to finish.
- Don’t rely on memory. Take notes as you cook!
- Never assume your reader is an expert. Make sure steps are clear and easy to follow, whether the recipe is easy or complicated.
- Resist the urge to list every single substitution possible – 1 or 2 is plenty.
- Avoid using unclear quantities like “1 can” or “1 box.” Note the package sizes you used, because including those helps other cooks know how much to buy.
- Don’t switch between different measuring conventions. If you list ingredients with cup measurements, for example, don’t switch to weight halfway through.
- Try not to write very long steps. Break out long steps into several smaller steps. Be brief, but clear.
Your attempt to recreate that Napa Valley roast chicken might have started out like this one:
After a look at those do’s and don’ts, it might end up looking something like this: