It might sound simple to write a recipe, and it is if you are writing notes for yourself. However, when you are writing a recipe for others to follow, you will often miss instructions that might be obvious to you, but not to your reader – especially if you are a seasoned cook and the reader is a beginner. Information such as whether to cover the dish, and what size container to use, are examples of information often omitted – but important for the new cook to know. Below is an example recipe format that is easy to follow. Note that all ingredients are listed in the order in which they are used in the recipe. Also, note that the ingredients are separated for the dough and the filling. This is helpful, especially when using the same ingredients. In this case, note that only two eggs are used and the eggs are separated – the yolks are used for the dough, and the whites are used for the filling. Below the recipe, we give you detailed advice on each portion of a recipe.
From Mary SmithIngredients:
1 2/3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/4 lb. butter
1 T. shortening (if margarine, omit salt)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 egg yolks
Make it bold – so helpful when you are searching through a bunch of recipe cards. If your recipes are on your computer, individualize the name for easy reference – “Tuna casserole from Mary” to distinguish from similar dishes.
(Optional) If your Aunt Jane gave you the recipe, or you cut the recipe from a magazine, etc., say so.
If you have adapted the recipe, include that information. You might want to add a note: “This recipe is adapted from Aunt Anne’s fruit pie, but I use instant whipped topping rather than heavy cream. A sign of changing times when you are passing the recipes down to younger family members.
(Optional) This information can also be interesting for family information. In addition, it can clarify the difference between similar recipes.
Always list ingredients in the order used. If multiple ingredients should be added at one time, list them by size, from largest to smallest. We use T for tablespoon, t for teaspoon, c for cup. If you have room, type out the whole word. If one ingredient is going to be used at different times in the method, be sure to list the ingredient as divided. For instance, under Ingredients, list, at point when first part is used, “3/4 cup of sugar, divided”. Then under method, “Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the mixture”. At another point, “Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of sugar over…” Make the amounts clear to read, For example: “1 (6-ounce) package of chocolate chips. If the item needs prior preparation, such as chopped, beaten, softened, always list here – otherwise the user might have to stop to do more preparation in the middle of mixing ingredients! Use the generic name for the ingredient. However, you can add a brand name as an example, if you know that the recipe is going to be used currently and it will help the user find the ingredient in the local store.
If you need the oven preheated or an item defrosted, be sure to list this information first, to caution the user. When describing the preparation, be sure to list steps in the order in which the preparation takes place. Unless the instructions are simple, such as those in our sample recipe, use a paragraph for each step to make the preparation instructions easy to read. Always include the time in the oven and the oven temperature. Use heating details for any heating method: “use low heat”, “turn to low heat after boiling”, etc. When appropriate, include “bake, uncovered” or bake, covered”, etc. Warn if an action may ruin the dish, such as, “Do not open the oven door prematurely.” A description of what to look for when done is always helpful, such as “until lightly browned”.
You can put “Serves 6” or “yields 20 cookies” at the end of Method or under Title, but be sure the yield is included somewhere.
How to Serve
If not clear from the recipe, it is helpful to provide a serving hint, such as: “Serve on a large flat plate, and garnish with 8-10 orange slices”. Obviously, you would also list “8-10 orange slices, optional” as the last ingredient on your ingredient list.
Sometimes it is necessary to include a serving temperature, such as: “Serve at room temperature”, if the dish needs to cool or defrost.
How to Store
If appropriate, list storage instructions, such as: “Can be left in the refrigerator overnight and served the next day” or “Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week”.
Sometimes, preparations need more explanation than those listed under the ingredients section. These can be added as a tip at the bottom of the recipe, for example: TIP: To drain tofu, place it on a paper towel-lined plate for 15 minutes.
You can add a calorie count if you know it. You can suggest substitutions to lower the calorie count or to avoid ingredients that might not be easily available or that might cause allergy problems. You can add suggested side dishes that would complement the recipe.
Recipe cards come in different sizes, such as 5″ X7″, 4″ X 6″, 3″ X 5″. Decide on a convenient size for your needs before ordering recipe boxes, recipe card sleeves and recipe cards.