HLS: Write a Better Recipe


Last year I provided notes from the sessions I attended for anyone who couldn’t make it to the Summit but was interested in learning a little something. So here we go again…

My first session was “Writing a Better Recipe” by Stepfanie Romine from Spark People. I appreciated this session because Stepfanie is a professional recipe developer/editor and just wrapped up her work on the Spark People Cookbook (out October 4, 2011) so she was speaking from experience.


I straight suck at writing recipes so here’s what I need to know:

  • Pet Peeves: There are some common mistakes bloggers make when posting recipes, including: no forewarning that a step will involve overnight chilling or soaking; using obscure, hard-to-find ingredients; posting photos between instructions; no mention of time-consuming prep; cooking at odd temperatures (like 315 degrees) or times (like 7 min); random capitalization of ingredients
  • Anatomy of a Great Recipe: You should include: a title, headnote and tips, yield, prep and cook times (separated out), ingredient list and instructions.
  • Blog vs. Recipe: Photos and a funny story are great… in a blog. The recipe should be just the recipe. Give people just what they need to get a great end result. Save your antics for the blog entry. You can use a printer-friendly widget to make the recipe easily accessible below your story/photos.
  • Headnotes: This is an important piece that should go below the recipe title and above the ingredient list that includes an enticing descriptor (appealing to all five senses), tips for success, alternatives/substitutions (for ingredients and equipment) and proper credit if any part of the recipe was borrowed or “inspired by.”
  • Details: Spell out “tablespoon” and “teaspoon” rather than use Tbsp or tsp since not everyone knows the abbreviations. Specify can size (14.1 oz, for example) because they come in many variations. Is it “1 cup of almonds, chopped” or “1 cup of chopped almonds”? Just be as specific as possible.
  • Before You Publish: Check for the six components of a great recipe. Ensure all ingredients listed are used and all ingredients used are listed. Make sure instructions are in order and nothing is missing. Check spelling and grammar.
  • Rights: Legally, only a headnote and methods can be copyrighted; ingredients cannot. If you adapt a recipe, link to the original. If you only swap out a couple simple ingredients (used cranberries instead of raisins), this is not your recipe and you should link back to the original.
  • Resources for Recipe Development: Will Write for Food, Recipes Into Type, Cook Wise and Bake Wise, On Food and Cooking

I'm gonna need some protein...

I’m already hungry. Is it time for lunch yet?

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