A Gallery of Recipes

A gallery of some of the common and uncommon ways recipes are structured. This isn’t an exhaustive collection, just some examples I’ve collected while working on Designing a Better Recipe.


Page from Modern Cookery showing ingredients split out after the procedure.
Another page with recipes in similar format.

Eliza Acton. Modern Cookery, In All Its Branches. 1845. Internet Archive, b21531857.

Modern Cookery was the first to split ingredients and their measurements from the procedure.

Both volumes and weights are used, depending on the recipe. (I love the old measurements, such as the saltspoonful ssp, about 1/4 teaspoon, and the dessertspoonful, or 1/2 tablespoon).


A recipe from The Woman Suffrage Cook Book in the form of a poem.

Hattie A. Burr. The Woman Suffrage Cook Book. 1890. MSU Libraries Digital Repository, https://n2t.net/ark:/85335/m5dm30.

A rhyming recipe, written so you could memorize and cook with it even without the printed copy.

Another page, with recipes in a narrative format.

The majority of the recipes in the book are in a narrative format, with measurements embedded in the procedure.


A page from The Book of Household Management with ingredients and measures before the procedure.
Another page.

Isabella Beeton. The Book of Household Management. 1861. Internet Archive, b20392758.

This looks closer to the contemporary format we’re familiar with: a list of ingredients and measures, followed by the procedure (although the procedure isn’t split up into numbered steps).

The average cost is an interesting bit that usually doesn’t appear in contemporary recipes for home cooks, but recipe costing is a critical part of professional kitchen management.

The format is described in the book:

It will be seen, by reference to the following Recipes, that an entirely original and most intelligible system has been pursued in explaining the preparation of each dish. We would recommend the young housekeeper, cook, or whoever may be engaged in the important task of “getting ready” the dinner, or other meal, to follow precisely the order in which the recipes are given. Thus, let them first place on their table all the INGREDIENTS necessary; then the modus operandi, or MODE of preparation, will be easily managed. By a careful reading, too, of the recipes, there will not be the slightest difficulty in arranging a repast for number of persons, and an accurate notion will be gained of the TIME the cooking of each dish will occupy, of the periods at which it is SEASONABLE, as also of its AVERAGE COST. ( 55 )


A page from The Joy of Cooking showing interleaved ingredients and procedure.

Irma M. Rombauer. The Joy Of Cooking. 1923. 1957. Internet Archive, in.ernet.dli.2015.126676.

The recipes interleave ingredients and measures with instructions. This format works really well for the compact, narrow column format.

Another page.

A recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, showing a two-column format.
Continuation of the recipe on the next page..

Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 1961.

A two column format, with ingredients, measures, and cooking implements in the left column and instructions on the right. The rules between each section break up the recipe, which feels important for instructions as dense and complicated as these.

The introduction describes the motivation:

All of the master recipes and most of the subrecipes in this book are in two-column form. On the left are the ingredients, often including some special piece of equipment needed; on the right is a paragraph of instruction. Thus what to cook and how to cook it, at each step in the proceedings, are always brought together in one sweep of the eye. ( ix )


Some recipes list ingredient weights as a baker’s percentage, where one ingredient (for baking, this is usually flour) is set at 100% and then the other ingredients are listed as weights relative to that.

This makes it easy to scale a recipe by a multiple (“I want to make four loaves”) or around a limited ingredient (“I only have 200g of strawberries”).

An example from Tartine Bread. The method spans multiple pages, and further in-depth discussion and history follows. Nearly one quarter of the book is devoted to this single “recipe.”

Chad Robertson. Tartine Bread. 2010.
IngredientQuantityBaker’s
Percentage
Water (80°F)700 grams plus 50 grams75
Leaven200 grams20
Total Flour1,000 grams (1 kilogram)100
White Flour900 grams90
Whole Wheat Flour100 grams10
Salt20 grams2

Some recipes specify ingredients as ratios. A classic mirepoix is 2 parts onion : 1 part carrot : 1 part celery. This is especially useful for something that will be used as part of another dish (e.g. a mirepoix might be the base for a stock and not a dish itself), so the amount you need depends on how it’s going to be used.


A recipe from Modernist Cuisine in tabular format.

“Barley Salad”. Modernist Cuisine, 7 February 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2021.

Modernist Cuisine goes full in on the tabular format.

A supplementary recipe in the same format.

The core series of Modernist Cuisine, written for professional chefs, doesn’t include the volume column (although it occasionally lists conventional measures, such as “4 egg yolks”). Modernist Cuisine At Home for home cooks uses all three of the weight, volume, and baker’s percentages columns.


A recipe in a tabular flow chart, showing how ingredients combine.

Michael Chu. “Chocolate Cake”. Cooking for Engineers, 23 May 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.

The recipes are first presented in a more conventional form with each step accompanied by a photo, but these tables are included at the bottom. They show how the individual parts of the recipe flow into each other.

Sources

  1. “Barley Salad”. Modernist Cuisine, 7 February 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  2. Eliza Acton. Modern Cookery, In All Its Branches. 1845. Internet Archive, b21531857.
  3. Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 1961.
  4. Isabella Beeton. The Book of Household Management. 1861. Internet Archive, b20392758.
  5. Hattie A. Burr. The Woman Suffrage Cook Book. 1890. MSU Libraries Digital Repository, https://n2t.net/ark:/85335/m5dm30.
  6. Michael Chu. “Chocolate Cake”. Cooking for Engineers, 23 May 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  7. Chad Robertson. Tartine Bread. 2010.
  8. Irma M. Rombauer. The Joy Of Cooking. 1923. 1957. Internet Archive, in.ernet.dli.2015.126676.