Are you a food blogger or home cook looking to learn the best recipe development tips? Or perhaps you’re a dietician or food science student keen to learn the ins and outs of professional recipe development.
Our recipe development guide takes you through the process of how to develop a recipe like a professional recipe developer.
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What Is Recipe Development?
Recipe development is the work cookbook authors and food editors put into publishing their culinary creations.
In the simplest terms, it’s taking raw ingredients in their most basic form and creating a dish around them using learned cultural traditions and cooking techniques. It’s deciding how best to marry certain foods with the best combination of salt, fat, acid and heat.
The best recipe developers are noted for sharing an engaging personal narrative about the importance of the dish. The final story includes a detailed, easy to follow list of instructions so readers can replicate the recipe at home in their kitchens.
While recipe development is most often associated with food magazine test kitchens, recipe developers can also be found at food science labs and nutrition clinics. In these instances, recipes are developed for commercial purposes or when a dietician is formulating a dish for a clients unique dietary requirements.
Recipe Development How To
We suggest using the following steps if you’re a food blogger that is just starting to develop your own recipes.
Like so many skills and trades, the more knowledge you have the better you will be at performing your job duties. Unlike dentistry or law, there is no defined career path for a wannabe recipe developer. I’ve met successful recipe developers who went to culinary school or were self taught at home.
I have a Hotel & Food Administration degree from the University of Guelph that allowed me to take unique courses such as Economics of Food Useage, Cultural Aspects of Food, Fine Dining Management, Sensory Evaluation of Foods and Wine Oenology. My 4 years spent studying various facets of culinary management allowed me to create a baseline of skills.
Many recipe developers go to chef school to gain their training or learn “on the job” while working in kitchens. If you’re a food blogger hobbyist and don’t have a formal culinary education perhaps look into speciality courses on pastry arts, beer pairing or mixology at your local community college.
If you want to master essential recipe development skills read as many cookbooks as you can. You don’t have to break the bank by buying, your neighbourhood library likely has a huge cookbook collection to use as a resource for inspiration.
Read cookbooks from cover to cover and make a note on how the food writers organize their ingredients list and directions. Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver are known for developing recipes that are very whimsical, while recipes in Bon Appetit magazine are more structured and formal.
As a food nerd in high school I’d always come home to eat lunch while watching Martha Stewart’s Kitchen. Today, you can take lots of notes on recipe development from Youtube foodie channels like Maangchi or Pasta Grannies. While we love cookbooks, watching cooking videos on TV or Youtube allow you to learn new cooking techniques and tricks.
As a culinary tourism expert I accredit much of my food knowledge from traveling. If you’re looking to focus on recipe development for culturally specific recipes it’s important to immerse yourself in the history of the place and its unique food scene. Meet local chefs, visit farmers markets and interview food historians to better understand how a recipe has been tweaked over time.
For example, I learned the popular Thai dish Masaman Curry was brought to Southeast Asia by Persian traders while taking a cooking class at JW Marriott Phuket. Every time I travel I create a note on my iPhone where I can list authentic local dishes and scribble thoughts on unique flavour pairings or unusual ingredients so I can research them later. I would never have known Fermented Tea Salad exists unless I’d eaten my way through Myanmar.
I realize not everyone has the time or money to travel for recipe development inspiration so in the meantime why not explore your own backyard?
We’ve extensively researched the best restaurants in Toronto’s Ossington, King West and Yorkville neighbourhoods. We also love exploring outside the city to find inspiration at the best restaurants in Markham, Oakville, Muskoka and Niagara on the Lake.
When I was looking to focus my recipe development efforts on a particular cuisine, I spent weeks eating my way through Toronto’s best Mexican restaurants, Thai restaurants and Steakhouses. Take the time to review a restaurants menu before dining and interview the chef to learn more about how they develop signature recipes.
If you’re keen to be the next great recipe developer on the internet it’s important to first educate yourself on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices and Google Keywords trends.
I highly recommend the Make Traffic Happen SEO Course, which is popular with food and travel bloggers. You should also purchase a subscription to Keysearch, a software program that allows you to easily search for recipe development keywords.
If your goal is to develop recipes that people can easily make at home you’ll need to first ensure the dishes you are creating can easily be found online.
We’ve become experts on fermentation without even intending to be! I was researching “pickling” one day and discovered many lacto fermentation keywords had low competition scores and high search volumes (the perfect match!) Our recipes for fermented honey, fermented garlic, fermented onions and sourdough discard recipes are now regularly our top 10 most visited stories each day.
Another example is that time when I was hunting for bibimbap keywords. Many of our Korean recipes like homemade kimchi, Ssamjang Chicken and Gochujang Chicken Wings get a lot of traffic year round. After living in South Korea for a year I felt it was time I finally published a bibimbap recipe. After conducting keyword research it become evident that the popular Korean dish was very difficult to rank for. I jumped for joy once I discovered Spicy Pork Bibimbap was a keyword I could easily rank for so I wrote a comprehensive article after doing extensive recipe development.
I often use Keysearch as a recipe development resource whenever I have something sitting in the fridge or freezer that needs to get used up. Leftover frozen tortillas inspired this Vegetarian Antojito recipe, a half empty bag of Ditalani pasta helped create this Creamy Parmesan Soup and a tray of frozen chicken thighs were transformed into Homemade Jamaican Soup with Dumplings.
Write A Recipe Draft
Once you’ve determined the recipe you are going to write dive into online research to see what other magazines and food blogs are publishing about the topic.
If you follow recipe development trends you’ll find your articles get more traffic the more niche they are. Let’s say you want to make an appetizer using hot peppers. Why not cater to a unique dietary niche by making Keto Jalapeno Poppers? I love French Onion Soup but the keyword has been written about ad nauseam so I focussed on testing vegan and Vegetarian French Onion Soup that even the most enthusiastic meat eater would enjoy.
I like to start by creating a list of ingredients I’d like to use and then take notes on various cooking methods that would be appropriate. Most Thai Beef and Pumpkin Curry recipes call for a tough cut of meat, which requires prolonged braising. Instead I used premium sirloin steak, quickly searing it on the grill, then adding it to the finished curry sauce moments before serving.
When I was writing a recipe for Thai Prawn Red Curry most recipes require cooks to saute raw shrimp in a skillet. Since it was summer and I wanted to impart a smokey flavour I wrote a recipe so cooks could grill fresh seafood on the barbecue.
Initial Recipe Testing
After I have written the first draft of a recipe, I place my Macbook Pro on a clean surface in the kitchen, away from the spill and splatter of a stove or cutting board.
I prepare the recipe as I imagined it and make adjustments to the recipe along the way. If I initially thought it would take 2 hours to assemble a Swedish Smorgastarta Sandwich Cake but it actually took under an hour I can adjust the recipe in real time with a few taps of my keyboard.
If you have a WordPress blog I’d highly suggest signing up for WP Recipe Maker. I leave the specific recipe open while I’m cooking so I can adjust ingredient measurements easily. For example, there was initially not enough spicy heat in this Cajun Louisiana Cream of Shrimp Soup so I quickly adjusted the measurement in WP Recipe Maker and continued cooking.
If you’re new to recipe development don’t be hard on yourself if your sandwich falls apart, pie isn’t flaky or cocktail is too boozy (not the worst problem to have I might add!) Through trial and error you can edit a recipe as part of the development process.
I also use my Apple Watch and iPhone in the kitchen when developing recipes so I can easily set timers. My most frequently asked question to Siri is, “how many grams are in 7 oz.”
Recipe Development Tasting Feedback
My favourite part of the recipe development process is tasting feedback, aka eating good food with family and friends.
Whether I’m sending out 6 different bowls of Queso Dip at a Superbowl Party or 10 Baked Sweet Potatoes at a summer potluck, it’s important to gather feedback from those who have tasted your completed dish.
If half the crowd say your salad is too soggy, take note and be more conservative with your use of vinaigrette.
Many cookbook authors send copies of their recipes to friends and family before the book is published to edit for errors and gather feedback on instructions that may be confusing or unclear. Feel free to send your recipes to a small group of friends and ask for their feedback to ensure the recipe is easy to understand and tasted great once on the plate.
Final Recipe Written
The final step of recipe development is editing the ingredients list and directions based on your own notes and comments provided from tasters.
This step is also when I calculate the serving size and nutritional information for the dish. The info can easily be calculated with WP Recipe Maker.
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Recipe Development Software & Tech
Now that you’re a newly minted recipe development expert it’s important you have best software and tech resources at your disposal.
- Make Traffic Happen SEO Course: A knowledge of SEO best practices is essential if you’re developing recipes online.
- Keysearch Keyword Software: Having access to a keyword software program allows you to discover new dishes, assess the popularity of certain ingredients and ensure your stories reach a wider audience.
- WP Recipe Maker: This WordPress plugin makes recipe development for your website easy. It includes essential SEO fields like cuisine, cooking time and allows you to upload an image to the recipe card. You can also input the recipes nutritional information and serving size.
- iPhone: I always have my iPhone in my pocket while cooking so I can easily set a timer, ask Siri a measurement or conversion question and photograph or create videos for the recipe to post on social media later.
- Macbook Pro: I always have my Macbook Pro in the kitchen so I can make adjustments to the recipe as I’m cooking. Once the recipe is finalized I download the images to my laptop and edit them in Photos before uploading to my WordPress blog.
- Apple Watch: If you’re preparing a recipe that requires long cooking or resting times, like leavening bread or slowly roasting a pork shoulder, Apple Watch allows you to set a timer so you can go about your day outside of the kitchen. The Apple Watch buzzes on your wrist and also makes an audible chime when the timer is complete. This is an excellent option for those who are hearing impaired like me.
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