Five Tips for Writing Recipes

BlogHer Original Post

Through the process of researching, writing, and editing Food Blogging For Dummies, I quickly discovered that the topic of recipe writing deserves an entire book of its own. From technical considerations to stylistic preferences, writing a recipe—regardless if it appears in print or on the Web—is a detailed process in which success can literally hinge on the proper (or improper) usage of a single word.

I’m saving developing recipes from scratch as a separate discussion and zoning in on the writing phase with five can’t-miss tips for transforming your culinary inspirations from ketchup-stained 3x5 cards into the ultimate user-friendly recipes for all to enjoy.

Ultimate Recipe

1. Consider skill levels. It’s essential to know who your audience is, and more specifically, what their skill level is, when writing a recipe. Their skill level will determine how basic or how detailed your recipe instructions are. For example, if you include “3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted” in your ingredient list, do you include instructions for how to toast pine nuts? Or do you assume your audience knows to preheat their ovens to 350°F, spread the nuts on a parchment-lined sheet tray, and roast them for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fragrant?

2. Logically list ingredients. How you organize a recipe dictates a chronological set of steps that your audience will (hopefully) follow to achieve your intended end result. List ingredients in the order in which they are used in the instructions to streamline and clarify the method of preparation.

3. Standardize your measurements. Measurements introduce your personal style into the recipe writing process. For example, do you spell out the word “tablespoon,” or do you abbreviate it as “Tbsp.”? Such decisions become part of your own recipe writing style guide. Whatever measurement style you choose, remember to pick one and to stick to it. Consistency is key.

4. Pay attention to the details. The most important element of writing recipes is their reproducibility. Can the recipe you wrote be made by five different people and everyone end up with the same result? Such success lies in the nit-picky details, such as whether or not you’ve specified an ingredient as “drained” or “undrained,” or a cookie sheet as “greased” or “ungreased.” Remember that “2 tablespoons parsley, chopped” is not the same thing as “2 tablespoons chopped parsley.” A single word can mean the difference between golden brown perfection and burnt to a crisp.

5. Don’t overlook the headnote. A headnote is the short paragraph leading into a recipe, and it’s the perfect place to call attention to a variety of important notes. Use this space to share information such as where to locate an exotic ingredient used in the recipe, what inspired the recipe, or the technique that makes the recipe unique. The goal is to inform and entice, so figure out what it is about your red velvet cake that makes it different from the other 5,000 in existence and make that the focus of your headnote.

What do you find to be the most difficult part about writing recipes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more tips and tutorials about all things food blogging, pick up a copy of my new book, Food Blogging For Dummies.

Kelly Senyei is the creator of the food blog Just a Taste, and author of Food Blogging For Dummies.

Image Credit: Kelly Senyei

[BlogHer Food '12BlogHer Food '12 will bring food bloggers together to learn, share, inspire, and of course, to EAT! Whether you're new to food blogging or an old pro, you should join us in Seattle, WA on June 8-9, 2012 -- register now!]

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