How to edit a recipe
Editing cookery content requires the same attention to detail and commitment to clarity and consistency as other types of editing, but measurements, oven temperatures and the fact that a recipe needs to work in practice add an extra layer of technicality that a skilled editor can help you to navigate. If you’ve written a cookbook yourself and need some pointers to get you started before hiring an editorial professional, I hope my top tips for editing recipes (gleaned from editing thousands in my time!) come in handy.
The devil is in the detail
Attention to detail is an essential facet of all copyediting, and recipe editing in particular. As a copyeditor, it’s my job to ask questions and never to assume. I save my clients from embarrassment by correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation. I sense-check, query absent ingredients or vanished steps. I ponder serving sizes and cooking instructions. I put myself in the steps of the reader, and assume no prior knowledge of the ingredients or cooking methods used. As a cookery writer, it’s a useful skill to have too.
Cook it yourself
Cookery editors, by and large, enjoy cookery. An interest in the subject matter not only makes the work enjoyable, it also makes the task at hand easier. If I’m struggling to see how an onion might caramelise if cooked for a few minutes in a saucepan, I’ll whip out my pan and try it myself. Added bonus: leftovers for lunch!
Don’t forget to ‘proofread’ the images
A traybake probably won’t come out round. Sliced potatoes differ from potato wedges. And a recipe that serves two probably won’t be divided between four serving plates. If you’re including images in your recipe collection, make sure the text matches up. Anything and everything edible shown in the photograph should be referenced in the recipe.
Check the temperature
Every oven differs, and for that reason, fact-checking the oven temperature stated in a recipe is crucial. Does the oven need to be preheated? (Top tip: the answer is almost always yes!) How far in advance? And don’t forget to add in any instructions for turning the heat down or up, whether cooking on the hub or tweaking the oven temperature. The last thing you want is for readers to be eating under-cooked food (a food safety risk, as well as being rather unappetising), or charring their creations to a crisp.
Watch your ingredients
Do make sure that all the ingredients are accounted for: if you set aside a little chopped parsley in the first step, does it get added back in at a later stage? Always check the ingredients against the method to check nothing has been missed or left unused.
Switch it up
Don’t be afraid to reorganise recipe steps if necessary. While the pie’s in the oven, could the reader be preparing the side salad? If something needs time to chill or marinate, might the reader use their time wisely?
If you’d like to work together on copyediting or proofreading a cookbook or set of recipes, you can get in touch with me on [email protected]