Given the number of cookbooks represented on this site, we
thought an Epicurious article about The Biggest Mistakes
Recipes Writers Make might hit a familiar note with our
Members. So as assurance that you're not alone when you fume over a
poorly written recipe, here's a summary of the Epicurious'
list of all-too-common recipe mistakes, with our comments, plus a
couple of our own:
Size Is Relative: What is a "large"
or a "medium" onion? Please try to use two different measurements
("one medium onion or one cup chopped onion") if
Forgetting to Add the Reserved
Ingredient: It's why you should mise en place religiously,
but it's still incredibly aggravating.
Juicing Citrus Before Zesting: We
can understand this problem. It's like a traffic rotary where two
road rules (yield to the car on the right, the car in the rotary
has the right of way) contradict. In this case, the rule for
recipes is always to list ingredients in order of usage, so juice
is often listed before zest. But given how hard it is to zest a cut
lemon, etc. the juice listing could mention that the fruit should
be zested and the zest held for future use.
Covered versus Uncovered:
Supposedly, "there is an unwritten code among recipe writers that
there's no need to mention the pot lid unless the recipe instructs
you to cover the pot." But we agree that many cooks are not going
to know that, so just add the words "covered" or
Canned Tomato Confusion: Whole,
diced, mini-diced, with basil, with garlic, fire-roasted - the
variations go on and on, so the type of canned tomatoes should be
mentioned (and this holds for other canned goods as well).
The "Copy and Paste" Mistake: Per
Epicurious: "If the writer is working on multiple recipes
within a theme, such as pies, and similar wording occurs among the
recipes, the ease with which he or she can copy and paste
paragraphs of instruction from one recipe to the next is too
tempting to ignore. The problems arise when there are variations
within the standard wording. For instance a feature on pies might
include rolled out butter pastry crusts, press-in dough crusts, and
cookie-crumb crusts. The moral here is to read and reread your
recipes several times, preferably with fresh eyes."
We agree with these, but here are a couple of
personal ones we'd add to the top list:
Not giving two different methods for telling
when a dish is done. Given that a) ovens can be notorious
for being off-temp, and b) variations such as whether the dish is
started at refrigerated or room temp, or container size, it is
inexcusable for a recipe just to give a time for baking, etc. It
should also specify appearance or another way to tell if done.
Serious baking books that don't include
weight measurements along volume measurements. It's
accepted that weight measurements are more accurate than volume,
and many bakers now have scales - so if a writer, especially a
baking author, wants to be taken seriously, then the book should
have weight measurements.
Any you'd like to add?
Photo courtesy of Kemp Minifie