I'm working on a cookbook that is designed to make it easier to master the steps that go into a recipe, and understand the timing, especially when trying to get multiple items to 'line up' so they all complete around the same time to serve a meal.

I've seen a number of interesting takes on recipe format that take it beyond the typical list of ingredients--list of steps format. These include the cooking for engineers format, and a wide range of illustrated recipes that are cute but actually make it more difficult to understand for a novice.

I have 'invented' something new unlike anything I've seen anywhere else, but I want to look around and make sure I'm not accidentally stepping on an existing idea; I don't want to be accused of having stolen someone else's concept. So I'm am curious if anyone has seen any interesting formats for recipes around.

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    I once modelled a baking recipe as a Petri net. But that was meant as a tutorial in modelling languages, not for real baking. Could be useful though, if you add quantities (we didn't, because we didn't want to scare the students with actual complexity).
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 14:54
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    I'm of the opinion that there's no way to actually make them all 'line up' correctly in a book. Maybe on a website, where you could customize the presentation for each person (as we each chop things at different speeds, some ovens take longer to pre-heat, etc.). What it sounds to me like you're doing would be presenting a recipe in a format similar to a gantt chart. You might also want to look at (or not, if you're thinking of trying for a patent) recipe software to see how they present things.
    – Joe
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 15:59
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    Take a trip to Borders, Bares & Nobles, etc?
    – zanlok
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 16:44
  • @Joe - Perceptive of you. The format I've been using does resemble a gantt chart, though I hadn't explicitly thought of it that way. Should have since I've produced and used enough. I'm also doing it for ebooks, which have the advantage of an arbitrary amount of horizontal space and the potential to link up multiple recipes together.
    – renegade
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 19:59
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    I once came home from work to find my husband in the middle of making spaghetti bolognese, in a flapping panic and crying out "pipelining fail! pipelining fail!" This joke probably only makes sense to you if you are a software engineer and a fairly embedded one at that :-)
    – Vicky
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 9:35

12 Answers 12


The cookingforengineers site has a nice ingredient plus method layout. I use a similar format for my personal recipes

  • +1 for unique presentation. Their presentation is interesting, and useful for picturing timing of stages. Commented May 19, 2011 at 21:56
  • notice though that that format works only for recipes where, in the end, you have only one thing - basically trees. If you have two outputs, for example stock and boiled meat, it does not work so well any more. Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 18:25
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    cooking for engineers hits the spot with (possibly) one of the best representation (read: simple, light, instant) of a recipe I've ever seen. That should be combined with Matt's clearhonestdata.com/2010/01/rethinking-recipes and modernized a bit. Genius!
    – mekdigital
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 5:28

Modernist Cuisine has an interesting recipe format. You can see a sample recipe here. The thing I like about the format is that it takes for granted you know how to do basic things like saute, reduce, blend and so forth, so it strips the recipe down to the essential directions. This actually makes it much easier to follow for reasonably skilled cooks.

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    I'm not able to access the sample; perhaps that forum requires registration? Commented May 19, 2011 at 16:23
  • Nope, I just tried it from a browser where I've never logged into egullet and it works fine. Can anyone else confirm or deny being able to follow that link? Commented May 19, 2011 at 17:36
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    The sample recipe gives me: "Page not found! We're sorry, but the page cannot be accessed." Commented May 19, 2011 at 18:09
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    Working in Safari but not Chrome for me.
    – renegade
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 20:01
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    Here is another sample from Modernist Cuisine jetcitygastrophysics.com/2010/10/18/…
    – TFD
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 10:40

The RecipeDesignWizard uses the format below:


Joy The Baker and Salt and Fat do a pictorial style presentation that I find inspirational. It's a story-woven-with-ideas format, with a fairly standard (simple) recipe listing at the tail of the picture essay.

I also have bread baking cookbook (Bread Made Easy) that boiled dozens of breads down to 6 basic recipes: a generic way of presenting recipes that would make for a great cookbook on soups, sauces, stews, etc.

  • I'd be very curious to see that bread book. I agree that a lot of recipes can be simplified down to a shared backbone, and once someone grasps the prototypical version of it they can more easily branch out and event invent.
    – renegade
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 23:37
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    It was Bread Made Easy (a baker's first bread book). The overall style was aimed to teach you how to make bread based on basic recipes, and then alter it to make other similar things. This would work brilliantly for many other foods. Commented May 20, 2011 at 0:02

I developed a new methodology for a recipe back in 2010 that you can find here. I'm currently exploring how to improve the methodology and plan to develop a cookbook using the technique in the next year.

EDIT The linked website is no longer available, here is the direct link to a wayback machine snapshot.

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    your representation is absolutely great!!!
    – mekdigital
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 5:25

The two main formats I've seen for recipes are:

  1. Ingredients list followed by instructions, which may be numbered, in several paragraphs, or in one paragraph. Sometimes the ingredients are listed to the side of the recipe instead of above.

  2. Ingredients listed immediately above the preparation step in which they are used, or next to it (in a column by themselves: the recipe as a whole is a table with rows corresponding to the steps and two columns - left column ingredients, right column preparation). The former option makes shopping a bit harder but makes the actual preparation easier; the latter option could be considered best of both worlds (easy shopping and easy preparation).

This answer is community wiki so that other people can add formats they've seen.


rouxbe.com uses a format similar to @MarthaF.'s #2 option above. 3 columns: 1. photo of step 2. ingredients 3. instructions

See sample here: http://rouxbe.com/recipes/2313

They also do video recipes, but I find the text instructions more useful. The video snippets for individual techniques are pretty handy though.

  • That's a clean format (especially for the web). Great use of horizontal space. Commented May 21, 2011 at 17:54

a few links for your delight:

being a computer scientist, I would suggest that you use some sort of XML, SGML or at least formal format and the transform it into typographycally correct output with a style sheet. But you need to be a nerd deep inside to do this :)

  • I know this is a really old answer, but it really strikes me as an important factor. I am working (like many others) on mapping the entire process of ingredients, preparation methodology and nutrition information. Some kind of json-ld seems appropriate. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 21:49
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    @Nothingismagick : json-ld? See developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/recipes
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 3:39

What you want is to arrange labor, resources, and time, in order to determine critical path and synchronize completion time (as well as possible). This sounds like a job for a GANNT chart to me. After decades of being completely useless in software projects, but I think we may have found a real use for one of these.

The components of the chart would be:

  1. Time
  2. The cook
  3. Equipment (oven, stovetop, etc.)

Tasks would be bars that go across the timeline. There would be two types of tasks: tasks completed by a person, and tasks that are completed by a piece of equipment. You'll want to make sure that the "person" tasks never overlap on the schedule (you can't do two things at once).

Dependencies should be joined, and non-dependencies should be scheduled in parallel where possible. For example, cooking a roast would be broken into several tasks (time, task owner in parenthesis).

  1. Season roast (10min, cook)
  2. Place roast in oven (1min, cook)
  3. Cook roast (120min, oven)
  4. Remove roast from oven (1min, cook)
  5. Rest (30min, no owner)

2 would be dependent on 1. 4 on 3, and 5 on 4. During the periods of #2 and #5, you could schedule other, parallel tasks (make salad, boil potatoes, etc.). This may be a little unwieldy to conceive and put together at first, but I do think it's doable, with the disclaimer that no system is going to be perfect, of course. I actually think this may be more useful for full menu planning, rather than single-dish planning. That would be a pretty compelling book for a cooking novice -- how to create a full meal and time the dishes correctly.


The iPad app "Baking with Dorie" features a gantt chart style view that is a bit different from other presentations I've seen.

Baking with Dorie screenshot

The book "Citizen Cake" features a wide margin and lists the ingredients in the margin next to the instructions. Most of the dishes are multi-component, so each sub-recipe has its own ingredients list adjacent to the instructions.

I've also seen presentations where the ingredients are only listed in the instructions, but set bold, italics, or color to make it easy to scan for the list of ingredients.


I don't know if this really counts as a 'format for a recipe' ... but I really appreciate tht in Alton Brown's cookbooks, he lists the "hardware" that you need for the recipe. (things like pans, appliances, utensils, etc.), which makes it much easier to tell if you're going to have trouble half-way through because you're missing something essential.

And I hate recipies that list all of the ingredients without mentioning 'divided' ... or better yet, list it twice, I'd rather the extra wasted space than accidentially dumping all of the salt in when I wasn't supposed to.


and, not specifically asked for, but too much to put into comments:

I'd recommend avoiding terms like 'large' to apply to things like onions ... I mean, I can get onions bigger than a softball, but most recipes mean something smaller than that. Even my mom's recipes which call for 'rolling into balls the size of a walnut' ... but I have no idea if she means shelled or unshelled. (she insists it means unshelled, but I've seen her make it, and it's closer to shelled walnuts; but it could also be confusion on terminology as to if 'shelled' means 'having a shell' or 'after being shelled' (ie, without shell). Even 'large eggs', which are 'standardized', are different between the US and UK)

For some introductory books, I think pictures at each step help ... trying to explain what color you're looking for when you say 'cook to golden brown', or 'finely diced' is easier in a picture than words. (you could always have a section that's just to explain specific techniques, if you don't want to have 12-20 images for each recipe ... unfortunately, it's harder to pull off in book form, rather than something like Deep Fried Live!


I edited a cookbook for the Kingston Yacht Club published in 1996 using Word Perfect and Page Maker as the composing programs. The format was that followed by "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" with Title and yield on the top line, Introduction in a short paragraph across the entire page followed by 2 columns (1/3 ingredients, 2/3 instructions) which alined the ingredients with the preparation directions. A final margin to margin paragraph might follow.

  • You've posted this as an answer, but the second half of it is a question about using word processing software. This is a cooking Q&A site; if you want to ask a specific question about food and cooking you're welcome to ask it using the link at the top, but if you want to ask something about using your computer, you might have better luck on superuser.com. I'm going to edit out the off-topic/not an answer part of your answer.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 4:18

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