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The Right Way to Write a Recipe

Written by Norene Gilletz on Sunday, 12 June 2011. Posted in Tips And Tricks

A well-written recipe is one that can be reproduced successfully by others.

Before starting, set up a style sheet for consistency and accuracy. No
matter what wording or punctuation you decide to use or how you decide to
identify ingredients or equipment, be consistent. Use the same style for all
recipes that appear together in the same cookbook, article or blog.

Here are some simple guidelines:

* Know your target audience. Recipes for teens or beginning cooks require
more explanation than recipes for experienced home cooks.

* Include a headnote to capture the reader's interest. Your description
should sound so scrumptious or the story behind the recipe is so fascinating
that the reader will want to head straight into the kitchen and start

* List ingredients in order of use. Indicate if they are chopped, minced,
melted, thawed, drained, room temperature, etc.

* Don't use brand names in the recipe title, ingredient list or method
unless it is necessary for clarification. Instead, indicate a package size
and generic term for the brand name.

* Include accurate package sizes. Provide the pan sizes needed for each

* Measurements should be as precise as possible. If writing for an
international audience, include metric measurements.

* If using unusual or hard-to-find ingredients, offer suggestions on where
to purchase them.

* If the oven needs to be preheated, indicate it at the beginning of the
recipe. However, if making a dish that requires marinating for several
hours, indicate that the oven should be preheated shortly before cooking.

* Don't assume that the reader understands culinary terms or knows how to
execute them. If your reader has limited cooking experience, they might not
know the meaning of basic cooking terms such as sauté (cook and stir).

* The steps should flow in a chronological order. If you've listed the sauce
last, consider if it should actually be prepared first so that it can simmer
while the cook is preparing the rest of the dish.

* Make sure there are no "dangling" ingredients. For example, if the
instructions say to prepare an ingredient and then set it aside (e.g., drain
juice, reserving 1/2 cup), make sure to tell the cook to add the reserved
ingredient to the recipe at the appropriate time.

* Instructions should be very clear, making a visual image for the reader.

* Indicate which tools and pieces of equipment are needed to prepare a

* Write whether a recipe needs to be covered or not during cooking/baking.

* Cooking/baking times should be accurate and should also indicate a test
for doneness.

* Indicate if a dish can be made ahead of time and if it can be frozen
and/or reheated.

* Indicate the number of servings.

* Always test your recipes thoroughly. A recipe that doesn't work is the
fastest way to destroy an author's credibility!

* The recipe below illustrates many of the points I've mentioned. Write on!


Source: Norene's Healthy Kitchen: Eat your Way to Good Health by Norene
Gilletz (Whitecap Books)

These are absolutely addictive! Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of

1 large onion, sliced
2 lb (1 kg) carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch lengths
3 to 4 cloves garlic (about 3 to 4 tsp minced)
2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 9- × 13-inch glass baking dish with
cooking spray.

2. Place the onion, carrots, and garlic in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle
with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; mix well. For
best results, the carrots should be in a single layer in the dish.

3. Roast, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes or until golden and tender,
stirring the carrots occasionally. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings. Keeps for up to 2 days in the refrigerator; reheats well.
Don’t freeze.

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About the Author

Norene Gilletz

Norene Gilletz of Toronto, Canada is a kosher cookbook author and foodconsultant. She is the author of nine cookbooks, including: The NEW Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition (Whitecap) and Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Whitecap). She is a freelance food writer, food consultant, cookbook editor, lecturer and culinary spokesperson. Norene's motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit or contact her at

Comments (2)

  • CookMama
    15 June 2011 at 00:37 |

    Thank you! I found this very informative and helpful. It is easy to forget when you post a recipe that the person reading it might be new to cooking/baking and has never seen with their own eyes what you know so well. I will definitely keep all this in mind when I give over any recipe. The roasted carrots will be a recipe that I will be trying this week-we'll keep cookkosher posted how it tasted.

  • Restaurant
    16 June 2011 at 14:35 |

    Very interesting post. I happen to love the recipe image. It reminds me of an old cookbook I once borrowed.

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