Cookbook editing: 10 tasty tips

Blog, On editing


When I was first asked to edit a cookbook, I jumped at the chance, despite never having done this type of editing work before. I figured it would add another string to my editor’s bow, and besides, with a family of four to feed – I’m always in need of culinary inspiration.

Through the process, not only did I learn that editing recipes is hungry work (and that working from home with unlimited access to my fridge wasn’t the best idea), but I also got an on-the-job lesson in how to make sure a recipe is clear, accurate and easy to follow.

Here are the top tips I learned along the way:

  1. The title of the recipe needs to be consistent wherever it’s used in the book – on the recipe page, in the index, in any cross references from other recipes. (The search function is your friend!)
  2. The little blurb about the recipe is called the headnote and can be used, among other things to explain unusual ingredients.
  3. A recipe’s ingredients should always be listed in the order they are used in the method – this helps readers to plan and work systematically.
  4. If the recipe calls for several items to be added simultaneously, they must be listed in volume order (greatest to least).
  5. Every item listed in the ingredients list should be accounted for in the recipe. As we all know – there’s nothing worse than reading a recipe that asks you to add an ingredient which wasn’t listed… how will you know how much of it you must add?
  6. Make sure the recipe is very clear about things like white or brown sugar, dried or fresh herbs, full cream or low-fat milk.
  7. Always say what heat to use – low heat, medium heat or high.
  8. Indicate what size and type of bowl, pan, pot, etc., the reader will need, especially if it matters to the preparation.
  9. Check the images supplied with the recipe to make sure there is no garnish in the picture that wasn’t mentioned in the recipe. The reader wants to be able to make the dish exactly as shown in the picture.
  10. And finally, use a style guide to ensure consistency across all your recipes – either one that has been provided by the publisher or create one as you go along.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

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If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let me treat you to a coffee so we can discuss the industry. Contact me at or 082 5002612










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