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As a recipe developer and writer, I am always looking to improve how I communicate my cooking methods, processes, and techniques. It’s crucial that I provide you with clear and concise instructions, so that you can achieve a tasty final product.
In an effort to grow and learn, I am wondering, what are your recipe pet peeves? A pet peeve is something that irks you. Perhaps it’s a confusing instruction, an oddball ingredient (with no substitution), repetitive grammatical errors, or a blatant assumption.
For me, I get so aggravated when a recipe writer doesn’t give sufficient instruction around divided ingredients. I always read recipes through in advance, but I seem to have blinders on when it comes to dividing an ingredient. Here’s an example: You are making lemon scones, and the recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of lemon zest. In the instructions, it tells you to put 2 tablespoons in the dough and then 2 in the glaze. In this situation, I would probably measure out the 4 tablespoons of zest, and somehow put it all in the dough. Because I have problems with these types of instructions, I try to go above and beyond in my own recipes to make sure the dividing process is clear (see Maple Bacon S’mores example below).
Another pet peeve of mine is when a recipe is waaaaay too simple (when it shouldn’t be). I see many hard-boiled egg methods that fall in this category. “Put eggs in a pot, cover with water, and heat until boiling. Cook for 15 minutes. Peel and eat.” No. There’s way too much room for question, interpretation and error there. I try to provide as much details as possible with my recipes.
So now it’s your turn. What are your recipe pet peeves? Please share in the comments section below!
This ingredient snippet from my Maple Bacon S’mores recipe is an example of how I deal with divided ingredients:1
Averie @ Averie Cooks says
Glossing over key things about the recipe as if everyone would know it, when they don’t. Like what should I be looking for at a certain stage. Should the batter but lumpy, should it be thick, what color are you looking for when it’s done, etc. All these little nuances that aren’t always obvious to someone making it for the first time. I like to know the details to know if it seems like I’m on track. I try to do this with my recipes and I know they can be wordy, but I’d rather say too much than omit the ‘little’ details. Great post!
Good point, Averie!
Good point, Averie!
I’ll echo Averie when it comes to the expectation of understanding a specific technique. Other pet peeves include long ingredient lists with hard-to-find items (especially if the item doesn’t add a needed flavor nuance or have a common substitution) and grammar/spelling/punctuation (GSP) errors. As a writer and editor, if I see a GSP error, I automatically click out — because if a recipe writer/blogger can’t take the time to write something correctly, I have little confidence that the recipe was created in a considerate manner and written with the reader’s success in mind. Thanks for thinking of the readers, Brandon!
Mine is recipes that assume everyone has a ridiculously expensive kitchen appliance. I’m mostly referring to KitchenAid mixers here, but bread machines have also come in for scorn. There’s really no way to make this without a bread hook attachment on speed two? REALLY?!
I know I should, but I never read a recipe through before I start. I know I should but I have no patience. Therefore, if it doesn’t say “divided,” I dump everything in at once as well. (I have to admit, however, that I often write “in the bowl of your stand mixer.” I will try to refrain from that in the future.) 🙂
Lisa @ Whisk & Cleaver says
My biggest pet peeve is when the timing on the recipe is super unrealistic. You’ll see a recipe that claims to take 5 minutes to prep, yet you’re chopping garlic, onions, washing greens, etc. It takes me 5 minutes to find my ingredients!
Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe says
For me it’s when someone list ingredients without thinking it through – sometimes I’ll know which it should be by whatever it is I’m making, but other times I’m not sure, and it COULD make a difference. Example – 1c chopped almonds instead of 1c almonds, chopped. Some things make a big difference in volume when they’re whole/chopped, etc. Rice is another one – makes a HUGE difference whether measuring cooked or raw. Not always clear the way people write their recipes. One thing I try to catch myself on is when referring to herbs – often makes a difference whether dried or fresh.
I don’t like it when I can tell from the photo that the instructions are not really correct. I blame “food styling”. Too often you can see that a choice was made by the stylist and not the cook. Garnishes are the most obvious example. Recipes will often say “garnish with chopped parsley” or some such. But when it came to photography the wacky stylist chose big huge sprigs of parsley. I guess because they look better. But honestly nobody can choke down a giant branch of parsley on one bite of baked potato. Especially if they’re forced to eat it with that rusty fork the stylist snuck into the picture.GREG
Here are some of my food blog pet peeves…
I love recipe blogs, and I appreciate the time and effort people put into them, but I find there are too many bloggers who conflate their food blog with their personal diary. There’s no good reason to inflict the minutia of one’s daily life on strangers. And with all due respect, having to wade through pages of a memorial to a dead cat to finally get to a recipe is annoying. If what you’re writing about has nothing to do with the recipe, then leave it out.
I read at an adult level, so I expect people to write at an adult level. Here’s a snippet from a blog whose site I did not bookmark: “Last weekend, the man and I went camping. And of course, we just haaaaaaaaad to pick up s’mooooooore fixings, because camping isn’t caaaaaaamping without s’moooooores.”
I wish more bloggers would actively encourage readers to prepare their recipe before commenting. “Mmmm, that looks delicious!” or telling me that Hubby, Sis, or the Kiddos really loved it isn’t of much use.
There’s one recipe that repeatedly pops up on Food Gawker and Taste Spotting that really makes me shake my head. The recipe requires you to buy Oreo cookies, scrap out all the cream, then dip the cookie parts in chocolate in order to make thin mint cookies. If I have to buy a bag of cookies to make cookies, what’s the point?
I love the beautiful photos that accompany recipes, but some bloggers need to learn to edit. I came across a blog that had seven photos of carrots in a jar. Seven photos. Same carrots. Sometimes less is more.
Rachel (teacher-chef) says
What a great article – I love reading other blogger’s suggestions of their “pet-peeves”, I think we all are guilty of many of those things. I agree with the lack of detail – I try to assume that my readers are relatively smart people and have some basic knowledge,but don’t tell me to “cook until done” without at least giving me a ballpark estimate!
First of all let me say that I LOVE the notion of asking readers about their pet peeves. I think it helps all the bloggers of the world avoid them. Now for mine-
It bugs me when recipes are not selective about their ingredient lists. i.e. a huge pot of soup calls for an 1/8th of a teaspoon of 14 different seasonings. So I ask- are each of those absolutely necessary to develop the flavors in that soup or did the writer just toss things in willy-nilly? I don’t know about you, but I select recipes to cook based on how long the ingredient list is. I know that’s totally lame but I think it’s human nature. Don’t get me wrong- I understand that Mole cannot be prepared in 5 ingredients, but I just don’t think it would hurt recipe developers to really consider how necessary each ingredient is before adding.
Ok, enough of my rant. This was cool to read. Sometimes I am not specific enough in my instructions and assume readers have every appliance I do- so I guess I need to work on those!
I came from foodgawker and I can’t resist adding to the list. My pet peeves are maybe a bit snobbish but nevertheless:
Instant pudding??? I mean I’m all about convenience but if packaged-to-be-cooked pudding (which is much tastier and somewhat less synthetic) is too much work for a food blogger then sorry no. Cool Whip is also an automatic fail.
In post advertising that goes on and on. I am not looking at your recipe for your opinion of branded ingredients or wines so make that part as short as possible and preferably put it at the end under full disclosure. Let the post be about the recipe. I never bookmark recipes that are really just long-form ads.
Finally, my biggest pet peeve: I will not even click on a recipe that is described as copycat. I have never seen a copycat recipe for anything that should ever be copied. Yesterday it was copycat Wendy’s chili. Seriously? Why aim for mediocrity when truly delicious chili would be just as simple?
Things I don’t mind are using a food blog as personal journal, and incongruous (but beautiful) food styling although 7 pics of carrots may be a bit much.
Thanks for the opportunity to rant 🙂
My recipe pet peeve is a recipe using a premade ingredient shortcut. For example making a breakfast pizza and it asks for a can of biscuit dough as the base… sure I can use my own recipe, which I often do, but it still bugs me 🙂
My pet peeve is the practice of blocking my ability to copy the recipe. No matter how wonderful the recipe sounds, I am not going to (a) copy it by typing it myself, or (b) take my laptop into the kitchen to consult the recipe from the blog. I don’t plan to pirate the recipe – I just want to save it to use later!
When a “recipe” mainly consists of “1 box of yellow cake mix” or “1 can of cream of mushroom soup”. Those aren’t recipes, those are adaptations (and not anything I would want to make).
I came over just to mention divided ingredients! I am the worst about dumping everything in without actually paying attention to how much in each step.
I try to keep it clear in my recipes by actually listing them separately. I list the ingredients based on when they’re used in the recipe, and if it’s used twice I list it twice–with the correct amount corresponding to when it goes it. Then I also list the amount in the instructions.
I also don’t like when a recipe has 4 ‘steps’ but each of those actually has you do 10 different things–then the recipe has 40 steps! I’m also more likely to miss instructions when recipes are written like this.
Great idea to write about recipe pet peeves. It’s really interesting to read everyone’s!
Caroline @ shrinkingsingle says
What a great post. One of my pet peeves is recipes that don’t mention marinating time in the total time to cook. So I find a recipe to cook tonight and I don’t look at it very closely. I pick up the ingredients at the shops then get home to find out I should have had the ingredients in the fridge last night.
I know quite a few of the recipe plug ins don’t allow for this so it is tricky. I wish they had this option. It would be great from them to have a prep, cook and marinating time as well a total time – I have seen this somewhere. Or at least include a flag saying that it needs marinating.
I am obscene kinds of in love with these s’mores.
My recipe pet peeve when I see older books and some blogs saying that you need to do “3 teaspoons” when they could just write to use ONE Tablespoon…
What a great topic.
I’m a seasoned cook but I hate when a recipe book just assumes that every cook should know the common sense things, or the things that come natural to seasoned cooks.
What about the beginners that haven’t been taught?
Also not all ingredients can be found in all areas, so knowing a couple a substitutes can really be helpful.
The third is when someone gives you a recipe and it doesn’t tell you how many it serves.
When I write out a recipe I write it out for the beginner.
Thanks so much for asking for our input.
Have a Joyful Day :~D
I don’t mind it when a recipe calls for a bunch of different spices, because I usually have those in my pantry. But when recipes call for a ton of different fresh herbs or other fresh ingredients that I don’t have on hand normally, I almost always skip it. Remember Pennsylvania winters? Produce is limited, and I’m no longer willing to drive to 3-4 stores to find one item (and yes, I’ve done it in the past).
My biggest pet peeve is in the size of the ingredients. Your idea of a medium onion may not be anywhere near my idea of one. Give me the weight too. Most everyone has a scale these days. And garlic cloves–one large garlic clove? There are several different sizes of cloves in one garlic head. Some of the ones on the outside of the bulb are enormous. Just tell me how many teaspoons.
Also, I hate it when the size pan is not specific (or given at all). A two-and-a-half-quart casserole dish could be wide and shallow or narrow and deep. It makes a difference in baking time. Also, try not to use the odd sizes of dishes that most home cooks don’t have. Who has a 7 x 11? Not me.
And last… tell me covered or uncovered, please.
Thanks for asking!
So basically, be more specific, and as a poster above mentioned, write it out for a beginner.
David Nelson says
One peeve is when a writer makes a mistake regarding ingredients, making it clear that he swiped a recipe from elsewhere and did not test it himself. I’m of Swedish heritage and occasionally make a dinner of Swedish specialties. A famous casserole, called Jansson’s Temptation in English (Jansson was a minister who was so tempted by this dish that he committed the sin of gluttony by gorglng on it), is composed of sliced potatoes, slivered onions, cream, butter (of course!), a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a tin of “anchovis.” Anchovis (NOT anchoviEs), are Swedish sprats with a lightly sweet-sour flavor. The food section of IKEA usually stocks them. To use real anchovies, as blithely specified by NYT food writer Mark Bittman, would create a repulsive dish. Have encountered such errors many times in decades of using major cookbooks.
I’ve not known you to do this, but I run across cooks all the time calling something “Healthy” when it contains enough sugar to put a diabetic in a coma. Processed sugar is the bane of our existence. Diabetics must be careful. Just ’cause it’s not white table sugar, doesn’t mean it’s OK. Check the GI/GL (glycemic index / glycemic load) of ingredients before calling something “Healthy”.
Be careful of portion sizes. If you’re concerned about weight control and body fat, check the portions on recipes.
You always use fresh ingredients, and that is much appreciated. Fresh food is fine, in moderation. As long as people don’t O.D. on delicious foods, we can eat just about anything we want. And of course… make sure you get enough exercise. 😉
Thanks for the fantastic and inspiring blog!!
My biggest peeve is when a recipe calls for “3 cups chopped apple” instead of the logical “one large apple”. In other words, although seasoned cooks may know how to ballpark the number of apples (or whatever it may be) before starting to chop, this may not be the case for beginners…and it just doesn’t seem to make sense.
Thanks so much again for this space. Alright, I am now off to make your avocado kale spring rolls for a dinner party! 🙂
Brandon Matzek says
Thanks for the feedback everyone! I’m not going to respond to everyone’s comments to keep this list cohesive for anyone who is looking to improve their recipe writing. So much good information here.
Karen Decker-Brown says
I came across one of your recipes that called for “Evoo”. I live in Alaska and a lot of items are not available here. What is it? I have other recipes calling for the same thing. Is it canned milk of some kind? I would appreciate knowing what this product is
Brandon Matzek says
Extra virgin olive oil. That abbrviation was made popular by Rachel Ray :P. Thanks!
I know this is an old post, but my biggest pet peeve is when a recipe has the word “quick” in the title, but has ingredients like “2 chicken breasts, cooked” or “12 oz pasta, prepared per package directions”. It’s not really quick when you have to do cooking before you start the recipe.
When the word “leftover” is in the title, it’s not so bad because you expect it.
Another pet peeve has to do with unnecessary dishes – sometimes “In a separate bowl…” isn’t necessary at all.
This is specific to my family but when people do things that basic science says no that does nothing or worse makes the product worse. I.e draping bacon on the top of a roasted turkey it makes the cooking more uneven and skin exists to keep things out.