Recipe Writing 101: A how-to for food bloggers
By Jordanna Levin
Whether you’re a food blogger, health coach, lifestyle entrepreneur or just looking for some fresh content for your website, there’s nothing quite like a recipe to get readers and clients excited.
Anyone who has tried to jot down their favourite recipe will know it’s not as easy as it seems. But once you know the formula and a few recipe writing rules you’ll be whipping up eCookbooks in no time.
Give your recipe a title: This could be literal, fanciful or SEO driven, just make sure it matches the recipe.
How many does your recipe serve? Letting people know how many serves a recipe makes is so important. If they’re feeding a family of four and your recipe only serves two, there are going to be a couple of hungry mouths at the dinner table. If you’re making something like cupcakes or bliss balls, notify the reader how many pieces the recipe makes. As a recipe developer you should provide as much information as you can.
Does the recipe match the image? Recipe images are so important. I know that I will rarely make a recipe if I can’t see what it looks like. Also ensure that the image is a good representation of the recipe. If there are ingredients missing from the recipe that appear in the image it will confuse readers.
Quantities: Try to be as specific as possible when it comes to quantities. 1-2 tablespoons is fine for an intuitive cook, but beginners need an exact amount. If you’re the type of cook that doesn’t measure ingredients as you go, it’s time you got yourself some measuring cups and spoons. In the instances where a guessed measurement won’t affect the outcome of the recipe, then just make sure you’re upfront with the reader and remember that your handful of flour might be different to someone else’s handful.
Order: Ingredients should be listed in the order that they appear in the method. This makes the process so much easier for the cook, and ease is the goal of a well-written recipe. If a bunch of ingredients are added at once, list them in order of largest quantity to smallest quantity.
Pre-prep: The prep for ingredients is listed after the ingredient and is designed to get the cook prepared. For example: 1 carrot, diced. Including the prep in the method is also an option, but if there are a few things on the go at once and they have to stop to cut the carrot, it could interrupt the flow.
Pick a style: This comes down to personal preference. To get a feel for the different recipe styles you might want to read through some of your favourite celeb chef’s recipe books. Jamie Oliver, for example, is very conversational and narrative driven in his approach to recipe writing. Although I LOVE his recipes, I find them hard to follow. I prefer recipes that follow the linear cooking process. Find a style that works for you and soon enough your own personal style will begin to take shape.
Equipment: If they need a wooden spoon, tongs or a sieve it’s helpful to let them know. Also, dlways describe the size of the frying pan, saucepan or bowl they need.
Time, action and result: When cooking an ingredient, give a time, what you need to do while it’s cooking, and a result. E.g. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. You’ve explained that you need to stir the onions for about 5 minutes and you’ve also given them a result to aim for. This way if their onions aren’t soft at the 5 minute mark they know they can continue cooking them for a little longer. Giving them a time let’s them know what to expect.
The magic of ‘meanwhile’: If a step in the method can be carried out while a previous step is taking place, always start the sentence with ‘meanwhile’ for example:
1. Add the sweet potato to the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes or until golden and tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
Preheating the oven: If you’re using an oven it’s helpful to have the first step of the recipe indicating to preheat the oven and prepare any trays or baking dishes. For example:
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.
How to serve the dish: I like to finish the final step of the recipe with an instruction of how to serve the recipe. This is a personal preference, but I feel like if I miss it out then I have left readers hanging.
Jordanna Levin, creator of The Inspired Table, is a holistic lifestyle coach whose focus is to heal people’s ‘complicated’ relationship with food. Her 10 years experience in the food publishing industry as food and recipe editor for some of Australia’s biggest food magazines has shaped her belief that food should inspire and nourish, not be a source of stress and anxiety. Through her coaching programs, cooking workshops, inspiring speaking gigs and popular food blog she’s rewriting decades worth of misleading messaging and creating a new movement of mindful and inspired eating.