Recipes That Are Easy To Read And to Follow


Many recipes simply give ingredients and directions. They are hard to read, aren’t organized well, and often lack important information to facilitate the cooking and preparation process.

The first helpful item is to establish a target time. This is the time you would like this dish ready to be served. If your guests are scheduled to arrive at 6 p.m., and they will sit down to dinner at 7 p.m., then 7 p.m. is your target time. Sprinkled throughout your recipe will be directions on what should be done and when. Everything is relative to the target time.

The next helpful item is the list of the ingredients which can serve as your shopping list. Notes can be added describing where each item can be purchased. The number of servings for this recipe should also be listed.

I often will add an ahead of time section for work that can be done either hours or days ahead of time and a mise en place section (mise en place is a French phrase which means “putting in place”). It’s how your ingredients are organized and assembled prior to preparing the dish. Ingredients can be at-the-ready in small dishes such as the ½ lemon juiced, or combined ingredients can be in bowls which is indicated by the ingredients being in brackets (celery, bell pepper, onion, bay leaves, oregano).To make it easier to visually scan the recipe for needed information, highlight the oven and stove temperatures in red, cooking times in purple, and cooking equipment (with a personalized description of your specific piece) in blue. Any important notes or specific directions are to appear in italics.

You can also have an introduction at the beginning giving you a chance to expound on any details about the recipe. Other information such as specific techniques used in preparation, how you discovered the recipe, any history about the dish, or information about the source of the recipe can be added.

Remember the Julia Child’s quote:
“Just like becoming an expert in wine (you learn by drinking it – the best you can afford) you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simple or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”

And I would like to add one more step. It is important to actually be able to interact with the recipe and make changes so the recipe will benefit from your input. Edit the recipe and make the changes you think will make it better. And be sure to date it so you will know which copy is the most recent.