So you want to learn how to write a cookbook. Congratulations! Writing a cookbook can be a lot of fun, but you really have to love it. This article will help you to get some ideas, methods, tips, and techniques that will make the whole endeavor not only a lot easier but also more professional.
Because despite anything you might think is involved: there is a lot more work involved in the process than most people imagine when they get started. Getting things right from the start will be a huge help for you.
Things to Consider When Writing a Cookbook
Details & Simplicity
First: keep in mind that with cookbooks, it’s about details, details, details. At the same time, it’s about keeping it simple and making it easy. So you want people to have things as easy as possible, but you want to be so precise that they don’t have to guess or interpret what you mean by your instructions. You want to be able to guarantee that people who follow your recipe always get the same results.
Recruiting Test Cookers
And that means, that you will also have to recruit some “test cookers”, who will have to follow your recipes step by step, without asking you for help. It’s best when you can watch them. And even better if you get them to “think out loud” while they cook, so that when they have a question on their mind when something is not totally clear to them, then you know it, and you can write it down, make a note, and go back and fix it in your cookbook recipe.
When listing ingredients, it’s best to list them in the order in which they will be used. This will make it easier during the cooking process, and even though it might make things a little bit more difficult in the “shopping phase”, it ultimately helps to make it easier because when people read through the ingredients, they already build kind of a mental sequence in their mind that will later make it easier for them to follow along.
I said that it will make things a little bit easier in the shopping phase because sometimes foods could be grouped together – for example, you could simply group all the vegetables together, and then people have all the stuff that they get in the vegetable section of their food store neatly together on the list. But the benefit of having things in the right sequence outweighs this.
Also, already mention in the list of ingredients in which condition they should be: e.g. dried, fried, sliced, chopped, minced, pickled, etc.
Amounts, Sizes & Measurements
Always be as specific as possible when you indicate how much of an ingredient should be used.
For example “a pack of butter” is not precise enough – instead, indicate the weight. Because there are different sizes of butter, and so on. Some of these details might be obvious to you, but they are not necessarily obvious to others. Especially if they don’t shop in the same stores that you shop in.
Timing is very important when it comes to cooking. If you keep your meal a couple of minutes too long in the pan – or take it out a couple of minutes too early – this can totally ruin the food. So you want to give them a number of minutes – better yet, a time RANGE. For example: bake 60-75 minutes.
But apart from just the numbers, you also want to indicate how they are able to judge the right moment. E.g. you can say: Bake until deep brown. Or: Bake until golden and puffy.
The more precise you can be in helping people to find the right timing, the easier you will make it for inexperienced cooks to get your recipe right at the first try.
It makes a huge difference whether you fry a piece of meat in a stainless steel pan, a Teflon pan, or an aluminum pan. And it makes a difference whether a pan is a 12″ pan or a 16″ pan. So it’s best to give people reference points for important “benchmarks”. That means that you will also have to experiment and try cooking your recipes with different cookware. You can’t expect people to buy your kind of cookware just so they can follow along with your recipe (unless you write a cookbook particularly for “Cooking with Copper Cookware”, or something like that).
You want to find out: what difference does it make if I cook this in an aluminum pan vs. a stainless steel pan?
There are some good resources for pan size conversions and so on to be found online, but if you want to publish a cookbook, it does matter that you take these things into consideration and test them in real life.
As you can see, there are A LOT of details when it comes to the art and science of how to write a cookbook.
For a more complete checklist, try reading the following books: