Recipe formatting
February 2, 2006 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Could you please show me some excellent examples of recipe formatting? How would you improve upon standard recipe formatting? (I don’t mean storing it in XML etc, but when displayed on the screen or on paper.)

I've seen Cooking for Engineers' interesting format, although I am not sure if it would work for every single recipe I can think of. But nonetheless it is a very interesting format.
posted by riffola to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You have to dig around a little to look at examples, but I've always liked the way Aaron makes his eatdrinkfeelgood recipes display. print, pda, screen.

In short, big and legible with space between lines, numbered steps, de-emphasis of words you don't really need to see like Ingredients and Equipment. No colors. No pictures. In my world this would also include room at the top to stick the thing to the fridge with a magnet so that you could still read it, and a recipe card version in teeny type.
posted by jessamyn at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2006

I always liked the formatting in Cookies Unlimited by Malegieri. Amazon lets you browse so theoretically this should be a link to the exerpt.

In general I also like the presence of conversions by weight for all ingredients. I'm not sure whether that should be included in formatting or not.
posted by rudyfink at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2006

The first improvement that I would make is to make the oven temp more visible. I find I frequently have to read through the instruction steps to find it. I really prefer having it next to the prep time or the list of ingredients. If I have to dig for it, I'm wasting time. Also, if the recipe end with something like "Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes", I feel like I should have known that at the beginning so the oven could be warming as I mix and my prepared food doesn't have to sit and wait for the oven.

The second improvement is to make sure that all ingredients are listed before the instruction steps. I hate when I'm half way into the recipe and I suddenly discover that I have to add an ingredient that was not listed above.
posted by onhazier at 8:13 AM on February 2, 2006

A peeve of mine is when ingredient lists say something like "4 c flour, divided." "Divided" means you don't use the four cups of flour all at once; you use some of it at one stage, and some at another stage. I wish they'd mention in the ingredient list the quantities of each division! I.e., I'd like to see "4 c flour, divided: 2½ c, 1½ c," instead of having to scan through the instructions to find that out.

Even worse are recipes that don't tell you an ingredient is divided in the ingredient list at all.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:30 AM on February 2, 2006

If you're interested in typesetting, check out this short article (PDF) by Donald Knuth (creator of the TeX typesetting system) about typesetting recipes.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2006

We rewrite all the recipes we use here at Casa Olecranon to a "style sheet" developed over several years to aid ease of use. As onhazier suggested, the oven temp goes in bold and at the top. All the steps are in the order you do them, so preheating the oven is often near the top. The ingredients are indented from the main text and bolded, but otherwise integrated (not a list at the top separate from the steps). This allows it to flow and also lets your eye scan the list of ingredients. Any "hidden" steps are broken down, for instance, instead of listing an ingredient of diced potatoes, I make an explicit step at the top for dicing the potatoes. All our recipes are printed out now and I find the loose papers much easier to deal with than marked pages in a bunch of different cookbooks. Plus I love that if I'm away with my laptop I'll have my main recipes with me. I try to make each recipe fit on a single letter sheet but my partner prefers bigger type and multiple pages. This is a description rather than an example, but I could give you a short example if you'd like.

I like the *idea* of the "Cooking for Engineers" table summarizing the steps but I find it hard to follow when I'm actually cooking.
posted by olecranon at 10:50 AM on February 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for the examples & ideas. In my spare time, I'm re-editing recipes from my mother's cookbook, and laying down a template for her upcoming books.

I know normally it's the job of some experienced designer at the publishers, but after seeing the results in her first two books I figured it's better to do some research and learn how to best present her recipes ourselves. That way we can get her recipes presented in ways that appeals to us and everyone else who reads it.

I am not a big fan of recipe cards, but I could most likely produce results that would fit on them. Using a method similar to what Aaron from uses, as linked by jessamyn above.

If you have any more examples or suggestions, please do share. I do appreciate all the input.
posted by riffola at 2:05 PM on February 2, 2006

I like olecranon's description. I had to try it out with a recipe I was working on yesterday. Only addition: I put equipment at far right, integrated with steps like the ingredients are (in this case they were: mixer, fork, dry hands, cookie sheets, waxed paper). You can tell at a glance what the ingredients are, what equipment you'll need, and the steps are properly in order. I love this!
posted by yesster at 2:13 PM on February 2, 2006

« Older Source for large display monitor, stand and...   |   ExecutorOfAWillFilter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.