When you're a food blogger who publishes recipe, recipe development is important. This month on Kitchen Geekery, Dr. J. has a list of must have kitchen tools that every food blogger should have to make sure their recipes are foolproof!
As food bloggers, we develop and play around with all kinds of different recipes. A lot of the time, we work on a recipe just because we feel like it and we have a craving, or because a certain fruit or vegetable is in season, and sometimes it’s because we're feeling nostalgic for a food we haven’t made and eaten in ages … there are a million reasons why we all develop new recipes or tweak old ones to post on our blogs later. The ultimate goal of the exercise is not just to publish a recipe that works for you or a recipe that makes for a pretty photo at the end of it all. That recipe also has to work for your readers, and for that you're going to need the right tools to properly record what you do and how you do it.
To measure weight: a kitchen scale
I’ve written about why you should weigh out your ingredients before. You know I love to include weight measures when I write my recipes. Pretty please, could you buy a kitchen scale and start weighing out your ingredients too?
Here’s why: when I go to the grocery store with your “beef with broccoli” recipe, and you tell me to buy three cups of broccoli florets, well ... I honestly don’t know how. My grocery store does not provide a set of measuring cups in the produce aisle, but they do provide scales. I can’t visualize what three cups of broccoli looks like, nor do I know how much that weighs, but if you tell me that I need 750 grams of broccoli florets, I know I might need to buy, say, two bags of frozen broccoli for your recipe, or x number of heads of broccoli. But tell me I need three cups of broccoli or seven cups of lettuce and I 'm at a loss in the produce aisle.
To measure volume: measuring cups & spoons
You need both dry and wet measuring cups because you should never measure liquids, like milk, in a stainless steal measuring cup designed for dry ingredients. It’s messy and those stainless steel dry measuring cups were not made for liquids. Period.
Also, I recommend always opting for measuring cups made of glass and non-reactive materials. I like to buy glass liquid measuring cups that are also microwave and dishwasher safe because you never know when you need to quickly heat water for a bread recipe, for example, and because the dishwasher is your best friend when you work all day in a kitchen.
If you can, buy more than one set of teaspoons and tablespoons. I find when I'm working on many recipes in a day I never have enough measuring spoons and I always end up pausing mid-recipe to clean them so that I can move forward. Also aim for narrow spoons that will fit into the openings of your spice jars because there's nothing more frustrating then having to tap spices into a measuring spoon, which is messy and wasteful.
One more thing about measuring cups and spoons: beware of decorative kitchen tools because they aren’t always as food-safe/non-reactive as you’d think. That’s not the worst part: they often aren't made precisely and can be way off from the volume they claim to measure. The decorative cups and spoons are fine for photos, but not for recipe development and testing.
To measure diameter and thickness: a ruler or tape measure
You need one or both of these because when you're rolling out doughs you want to know the dimensions to roll to, and also you want to indicate to your readers how thick the dough should be. I keep a plastic ruler and a tape measure from the hardware store (preferably with both metric and imperial measures) in my drawer of kitchen tools at all times, right below the counter where I roll out pie crusts and cookie doughs. These will also come in handy to indicate to readers what pan size you used for your recipe.
To measure temperature: thermometers
Here’s where I’m going to get even pickier, but are you sure that when you set your oven to 350ºF, it’s actually heating to 350ºF? Mine’s consistently off by about 25 degrees or so. So imagine if I tell my readers to bake the cookies at 350ºF, but technically I actually baked that recipe at 375ºF, if not 400ºF because my oven is off, but I don't mention that part to my readers? That’s not good!
Of course, you could argue that, sure, your oven isn't calibrated, but is that oven thermometer you bought at the kitchen supply store any better? I see your point, but I still like to use an oven thermometer to double check and record the temperature of my oven. It’s an attempt to give as much correct information as I possibly can to my readers. Tell your readers the temperature you're baking at in the recipe, and also give them visual cues so they know what the product should look like when they pull it out of the oven (in case their oven is off too!).
I also recommend you get an instant-read thermometer that works for candy and meats because when you're cooking the perfect Sunday roast, it’s important to know when to pull that roast out of the oven: what internal temperature does the meat have to reach so that it's “medium–rare” and not “well done”? An instant-read thermometer is also handy for bread recipes to tell readers when they should pull that loaf out of the oven. Hard-core bread makers might also note the temperature of the room with a room thermometer or thermostat.
And remember to tell your readers whether the temperature you're recommending is in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, because sometimes it's not as obvious as you would think.
To record it all: a kitchen notebook
The kitchen notebook is ESSENTIAL and the key to all of this because you MUST have something on hand that's organized and accessible for you to jot down notes, weights/volumes, temperatures, etc. In fact, the kitchen notebook is such an important tool in the recipe developer/food blogger tool kit that I will be dedicating an entire post to it, so hop by next month to see more on this!
One more thing: don’t take it personally
After you’ve gone to all that trouble of being precise and meticulous, there will still be readers who don’t pay attention to your indications. They will crank up the heat on their stove to high and burn the onions, or they will disregard the oven temperature you recommend and complain because their cake took over an hour to bake. They will halve the sugar in your cake recipe, or take out the oil and put in apple sauce. Then, if and when that recipe fails, they will come back to you and probably complain. Don’t take it to heart. I think you know when your recipe is solid, and when it’s not. I know I do.
If you develop your recipes in a professional way, using all the right tools and delivering as much of the key information as you can to your readers, then you’ve done everything right.
Do you have any essential tools that you would add to this list that every food blogger should have in their toolkit? I'd love to hear about the tools you use, so let me know in the comments!
Kitchen Geekery is written by Janice Lawandi. Janice is a PhD-chemist-turned-baker, which is why she loves to use science to understand and solve problems in the kitchen. She is currently working as a recipe tester and writer in Montreal, QC. Visit Janice’s blog, Kitchen Heals Soul, for more baking science and inspiration. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.