Lots of my blog posts come to the same conclusion: writing varied content and different digital, marketing, publishing copy requires lots of skill and technique. You’ll find that writing jobs are not as easy or straightforward as they seem to the uninitiated. That’s why using the skills of an experienced freelance writer is really imperative, when most people believe that because they have learned to string a sentence together that they don’t need to invest in the talent of a sharp wordsmith. Recipes, just like any other bodies of text have a natural flow and need to be organised and written properly for maximum effect. Here’s my tips on how to write the perfect recipes.
Snappy, Accurate, Evocative Title
Think about your favourite cookbooks. It’s a combination of the title of the dish and the image accompanying (if it has one) that makes you read on, isn’t it? It’s not the introduction, it’s definitely not the ingredients list… The title tells (and sells) all.
How much does it make? How many will it feed? Be up front right under the title to avoid leading the reader astray and making too much or too little
A snappy paragraph should do all the work to really hit home why someone should cook this recipe. Why those ingredients? Why this dish? Why did you devise this recipe? Where is the inspiration from? What’s so special about your recipe of this kind?
Listed from biggest to smallest amounts usually, but some people will argue that this should run from first-used ingredient to last. I disagree, if it’s a chicken-based recipe I want to know right away how much chicken I need and which cuts to use. There’s no point in having small amounts of spices endlessly taking your attention at the top of the list just because you use them first.
In both the ingredients list and the method (which we’re about to come to, don’t worry) make sure you have consistency. Don’t jump from spoons to grams, cups to ounces, ml to kg. Make sure you’re using similar measurement methods for similar products. It’s fine to use grams for the bulkier ingredients and ‘pinch’, ‘teaspoon’ or ‘dessertspoon’ for smaller ingredients which dictate them, it makes a recipe less robotic and more human.
Cookery is of course about touch, feel and taste but as you go into the method, be mindful of absolutes. If the tin you used with the best result is 18cm, state that. If a saucepan needs to be heavy-based, state that. If you best cooked your steak on the griddle instead of the frying pan, make that clear and if necessary justify this. Not everyone will have the exact tools you have, but being specific (and offering alternatives and reasons) always helps reduce the margin of error.
Keep it snappy
Cut to the chase in your method. It’s a series of instructions, not a novel; be instructional. Don’t overdescribe actions. Be concise and snappy but don’t skimp on the important stuff. Say it in as few words as you can muster whilst still making absolute sense.
Add Value to End
It’s nice to turn human again at the end. Give a serving suggestion. Offer advice on how you could use up some of the specialist ingredients you might have instructed them to buy for this recipe. Explain how to use up the leftovers in an exciting and delicious way. Keep the reader’s attention and aim to inspire them to cook this (and seek out more of your recipes).
Food Porn Image
The image, whether under the title, wedged on the same page or full-size on the opposite or following page, is incremental in making the reader recreate the recipe. It shows what it should look like whilst done. It appeals to their tastebuds and senses in a way written description can dream. It may actually make someone read recipes even if they’ve glossed over the titles. Text and image work harmoniously for the same outcome.