Ten Speed Press Cookbook Style Sheet

Ten Speed Press Cookbook Style Sheet

Handout provided by Lorena Jones, Editorial Director at Ten Speed Press at the May 20, 2003 forum on What Do Hiring Managers Want?

Cookbook Style Sheet January 2002 Contents

  1. General Style
  2. Recipe Structure
  3. Headnotes
  4. Ingredients List
  5. Recipe Method/Instructions
  6. Electronic Formatting
I. General Style

Style References: Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed; Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed; Recipes into Type, Whitman & Simon (out of print but available through www.ecookbooks.com); The New Food Lover's Companion, 3rd ed, Herbst.


Most recipes-except soups, stews, and desserts-should be made to serve four to six people.

Use the serial comma.

Cross References

Capitalize the titles of complete recipes when they appear in another recipe, whether referred to in the ingredients list or in the instructions. If possible, in the recipe instructions, use the generic term, lowercase, rather than the recipe name (say, "Add the chutney" instead of "Add the Mango-Lime Chutney"). Note that such generic references are never capitalized. Do not capitalize recipes for basic items like chicken stock, creme frache, or roasted peppers, especially if they are in the "Basics" section of the cookbook.

When listing a recipe in ingredients lists, the page(s) the recipe appears on should be given in parentheses. Example:

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Mango-Lime Chutney (page xxx)
3 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken stock (page xxx)

Note that there is no "see" included in the above parentheticals, which both cross- reference specific recipes; "see" is only used when a general piece of information is cross-referenced, such as a discussion of an ingredient, a source listing, etc.

Speaking of which,

Cross-reference sources, recipes, and other elements whenever helpful: "I always use Madagascar vanilla beans, which have a robust flavor unmatched by the more common Tahitian beans. Madagascar vanilla beans are available in shops that stock gourmet cooking supplies or through the mail (see page 000)."

Basic techniques, such as roasting chiles and toasting nuts, should be given in one central place (such as an introductory chapter or in a basics section) and cross- referenced, not repeated in recipe after recipe.

Define unfamiliar/uncommon ingredients in a glossary of ingredients/terms or a note, but not (repeatedly) in headnotes, ingredients lists, and methods.

If referencing another book in the text, do not use a formal method of citation within the text. For example, "I often refer to Diane Kochilas's Food and Wine of Greece (St. Martin's Press, 1990)." Instead, just give the title and author and list publication information in a bibliography, if there are many citations.

Names & Terminology

In general, brand names for ingredients and equipment should be avoided except in cases where no substitute exists. It's fine if an author wishes to occasionally tout one product that they find works particularly well in a dish (a certain kind of goat cheese they like), but the plug should be put in the headnote rather than the ingredients list. An exception to rule on brands: if the book is intended to be a beginner's guide to a topic (e.g., Bread Made Easy), it is acceptable to discuss brands and give modest endorsements.

Capitalize trade names, but do not use the registered trademark or trademark symbols.

Do not italicize foreign terms that are commonly used (that is, those that frequently appear unitalicized in other print media and are regularly heard on cooking shows and in other broadcasts). If the word is in Webster's 10th, do not italicize. When a word is italicized, do so every time (not just on first occurrence) it appears in headnotes, introductions, notes, and sidebars. Do not italicize foreign words or terms when they appear in recipe titles, ingredients lists, or part/section/chapter titles.

Avoid excessive use of restaurant lingo. Example: "I have always loved softshells with some kind of nut element." Please keep an eye on such language and rephrase where overly obtuse.

Capitalization of wine and cheese names: if a wine or cheese is named after a place, it should be capitalized (e.g., Chianti, Bordeaux, Burgundy, but pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet; Gouda, Cheddar, Brie, but mozzarella, goat cheese (or ch?vre).

Capitalize domestic fruit varieties (such as Golden Delicious, Stayman Winesap apples ) and some vegetable varieties (such as the names of heirloom tomatoes). For other varieties, capitalize only proper nouns and adjectives (American red raspberry, Key lime, Roma tomato). Check Food Lover's Companion or dictionary if unsure.

Numbers, Measures & the Like

Use numerals for all numbers associated with measurements of any kind (days, months, hours, inches, feet, cups, tablespoons, number of servings), but spell out ninety- nine and under when used in regular text. Example: "You might think this will make ten times too much, but it reduces quickly." Numbers that begin a sentence should always be spelled out.

Give the size for ingredients and pans only if a size other than "medium" is needed.

When dimensions modify a noun (8 1/2 by 6 1/2-inch pan), the hyphen goes between the last numeral and unit of measure. Use the word "by," not a multiplication symbol, with a space on each side to separate the dimensions.

Use hyphens only when measurements or amounts modify a noun. Example: 1-inch-thick piece, but 1 inch thick.

Spell out fractions when general amounts are referred to, such as "transfer one-third of the sauce to a bowl." (Note that a hyphen is used in this case.)

Do not put an en dash between numerals; use "to" instead ("Serves 4 to 6," not "Serves 4-6").

II. Recipe Structure

Recipe titles should be descriptive, but not a Homeric catalog of ingredients. While "Roasted Salmon" is nondescript, "Fresh Ginger-Soy-Marinated Sautéed Salmon with a Miso Reduction, Wild Parsnip Purée, and Saffron-Infused Risotto" is overkill. In naming a recipe, avoid personal names like "Judy's Blueberry Muffins" (unless Judy is not the author, and there is some very engaging story as to why Judy's muffins are so special). If a restaurant book, try to use recipe titles as they appear on the menu (subject to the above guidelines).

Use headline style for capitalization of chapter titles, recipe titles, and headings- that is, initial capitals for all words except those that are articles (a, an, the), prepositions, or coordinate conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor).

Headings and subheads are always in roman, not boldface, and never underlined.

Ingredient list and method subheads are not underlined or followed by a colon.

Subrecipes should be included within the main recipe, not broken out into separate stand-alone recipes. They should not include a yield and should be scaled to match the amount needed for the main recipe, UNLESS a subrecipe can only be reasonably made in a larger batch, keeps well, is very versatile, and/or is cross-referenced in many recipes in varying quantities. (If a yield is given, the headnote should explain what to do with overage-what it goes with, how long it keeps, how to store.)

For recipe yield, "Serves xx," "Makes xx," and the more rigid "Yield: xx servings" are all acceptable, though the chosen style should remain consistent throughout. In cases where it is more appropriate to describe a physical yield, such as "Makes one 10-inch pie" or "Makes 2 large loaves," it is fine to do so. It is fine to use a range in the yield line assuming that there isn't some component of the dish that automatically establishes the yield, such as a protein that is already divided (4 flank steaks, 4 salmon fillets, etc).

Delete periods at end of serves/yield lines.

Giving a thumbnail of preparation time for a recipe is particularly helpful in complex bread recipes, when various proofing/rising times for dough extend over 24 hours or more. If used, always distinguish between active, hands-on time and down- time.

III. Headnotes

The headnote is the writer's opportunity to inspire-and equip-the reader to make the recipe that follows. Commenting that "This blueberry tart is the best ever" fulfills neither function; better to talk about a personal memory that the dessert conjures; how it differs from the million other blueberry tart recipes; what adjustments might be needed if using frozen blueberries instead fresh; or some combination of the above.

While an entertaining headnote is always welcome, it should never be frivolous. The content should always relate to the recipe at hand and be succinct. Depending on the format of the book, headnote length may be restricted-in such a case, a maximum word count should be established by editor and author.

No headnote has to do it all-some can stick to practical matters (discussion of a particular ingredient, advice on executing a tricky step, wine pairing suggestions, etc.), while others may strive for the evocative (history of a dish, personal anecdote).

Details given in the headnote should always be consistent with the recipe itself (and any photograph, if included). If the headnote raves about how wonderful grilled pork chops are, then the chops better be grilled, not roasted.

See Whitman & Simon pp 10-14 for a thorough discussion of headnotes.

IV. Ingredients List


List ingredients in the order in which they are called for in the instructions.

Divide ingredients into sublists with succinct subheads. Example: "Sauce" or "Filling," not "For the Sauce." If a subrecipe could be made as a stand-alone dish or served as a complement to another main dish, it should have a proper name, such as "Corn-Tomato Salsa"; it can then be easily cross-referenced.

Make sure all garnishes are in ingredients lists. Example: "Chopped fresh basil, for garnish."

Capitalize first word for ingredients with no amount given. Example: "Pinch of salt."

Don't list materials, equipment used to prepare recipe (such as wood chips for smoking) or ingredients for prepping pans (such as oil and parchment paper) in ingredients lists. If an odd piece of equipment is required to prepare a dish, call attention to it in the headnote and discuss a viable alternative if there is one.

If the temperature of an ingredient is important, it should be specified in the ingredients list entry: "1/4 cup water, lukewarm" and "1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature." Adding approximate temperatures for such designations such as "lukewarm" is fine when such precision is important (as with yeast): "1/4 cup water, lukewarm (90 to 100F)."


Spell out all units of measure (ounces, cups, tablespoons, etc.). Don't abbreviate them.

List the preparation method before the ingredient name only if the ingredient has to be prepped before it's measured. Otherwise, the preparation method follows the ingredient name. Examples: "4 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger," but "3 yellow onions, finely minced."

For liquids, give measurements in cups, not quarts, unless amount equals 4 quarts or more.

Do not combine ingredients on one line, i.e.,"1 teaspoon each of basil and parsley." Instead:

1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley

Combining measures: If an ingredient is used more than once in the same form within a given recipe (or subrecipe), combine the measurements on one line, with the larger measure first:

"1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar" or (in the case of unspecified quantity) "1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for topping"

If the ingredient is used in several subrecipes within a main recipe, it should be listed under each subrecipe ingredients list.

(Note: when calling for the ingredient in the instructions, always use "of the" and "remaining" to remind the reader that the quantity is part of a larger portion: "Add 1/2 cup of the sugar" and then "Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.")

When less than 1/8 teaspoon of a liquid ingredient is called for, use "Dash of xx"; when it's a dry ingredient, use "Pinch of xx."

When a pinch (dry) or dash (liquid) is used, write as "Pinch of salt" or "Dash of soy sauce."

When amounts are not given for ingredients other than salt and pepper, specify use: "Confectioners' sugar, for dusting." (For salt and pepper, see note below.)

Salt and black pepper may be combined on one line if both ingredients are added to taste: "Salt and freshly ground black pepper." Note: the phrase "to taste" does not belong in ingredients list.

When referring to other recipes within a book, specify the quantity used. Don't say, "1 recipe chicken stock" or "1 batch chicken stock." Say, "1 cup chicken stock (page xxx)."

For baking books of a technical nature (as agreed by editor and author), ingredients should be given in both weight and volume measure. Weight should always be in ounces/pounds, and a gram equivalent can be given if desired.

Alternate & Optional Ingredients

Give alternate ingredients when appropriate, i.e., when something very specific, unfamiliar, expensive, or difficult to find is listed. For alternative ingredients, no parenthetical is required-a simple "or" will do, e.g., "3/4 cup dried cherries or dried blueberries." Separate alternate ingredients in ingredients lists with a comma only if a different measurement is called for. Example: "2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon almond extract." An alternative ingredient need not be mentioned in the method, unless using it requires an adjustment to preparation instructions. (For example, in a listing for "1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 whole vanilla bean," the bean might be added at a different time in the method than would the extract.)

When one can select from several ingredients: "3 tablespoons chopped herbs (such as parsley or chives)"; "4 cups baby lettuce (such as mizuna, oak leaf, red leaf, or tatsoi)."

When an ingredient is optional, the word "optional" appears in parentheses after the item in the ingredients list. In the instructions, always assume the ingredient will be used. Example: instructions would read, "add the basil," not "add the basil, if using."

Prep Instructions

Put complicated preparation instructions in the method, not the ingredients lists. Example: "8 ounces green beans, blanched, shocked, patted dry, snapped in half, and stemmed" would be listed as "8 ounces green beans, snapped in half, stemmed." Blanching and shocking instructions go in the method.

Make prep instructions as succinct as possible. Examples: use "halved," not "cut in half," and "stemmed," not "stems removed."

When an ingredient is to be chopped into uneven pieces, use "coarsely chopped," not "roughly chopped."

If helpful, specify whether the ingredient is cut crosswise, lengthwise, or on the diagonal (not on the "bias").

When numerals occur in succession in the ingredients list, try to place the second one in parentheses: "4 (6-ounce) duck breasts" and "1 (15-ounce) can corn kernels." If the second number gives essential info, just give numerals back to back: "2 3-inch pieces fresh ginger."

Cross-referenced preparation instructions go at the end of the relevant entry in the ingredient lists:"2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and sliced (page xxx)." For subrecipes that follow main recipe: "(recipe follows)."

Specific Foodstuffs

Specify the type of vinegars (cider, white, red wine, rice, etc.), oils, flours, rices, olives, pepper (white, freshly ground black), and paprika (sweet or hot).

Specify the type of onion, apple, potato, mushroom, lettuce, etc., and whether carrots, potatoes, cucumbers are peeled.

Apples: skin on and cored presumed unless other peeled apples in same ingredient list, then skin on should be specified.

Beans: specify fresh, dried, or canned.

Bell peppers: specify color.

Berries: specify whether fresh or frozen.

Black pepper: specify freshly ground black pepper.

Brown sugar: indicate firmly packed when cup measure, not spoon measure. "1 cup firmly packed brown sugar."

Butter: specified unsalted or salted. Give amount of butter in tablespoons or cups. Ounces (or sticks, if requested by editor) may also be given in parentheses: "1/2 cup (8 ounces/1 stick) butter." If butter should be at room temperature or melted, specify: "1/2 cup butter, at room temperature" or "1/2 cup butter, melted."

Chicken (and other fowl) breasts: presumed to be breast halves, and presumed to be bone-in and skin-on unless specified: "4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts."

Chocolate: Specify whether semisweet, bittersweet, unsweetened, white, or milk chocolate is required. The cacao percentage may be specified as follows: "4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped."

Fruit juices: are always "freshly squeezed." Example: "1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice" (but "Juice of 1 lemon/lime/orange").

Garlic: list as "2 cloves garlic," not "2 garlic cloves."

Green onions/leeks: Specify whether white part only or white and green parts are to be used.

Herbs: Specify whether herbs are fresh or dried. Omit "fresh" when amount is given in bunches or sprigs. If leaves are used whole, specify whether firmly or loosely packed if measure is in cups: "1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves."

Mushrooms: no need to specify "cleaned."

Salt: table salt presumed-no need to specify "iodized salt." However, encouraging use of kosher and/or sea salt is fine; if recipes are tested with either, this should be noted in a preliminary ingredients discussion and/or glossary since table salt is twice as potent by volume measure as kosher or sea salt. If rock salt is required, it should be specified.

Shrimp: specify the size (small or large, not count), whether they are peeled/deveined, and with tails or without.

Spinach: specify "2 cups firmly/loosely packed spinach" not "spinach leaves"; no need to specify cleaned.

Sun-dried tomatoes: specify whether they are oil or dry packed. Example: "2 ounces dry-packed/oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes."

Water: list in the ingredients list whenever a specific quantity, or mineral/bottled water, is required; it need not be listed when general amounts are required for boiling, preparing a water bath, or covering an ingredient/preparation.

Wine: when a bottle is called for, give size: "1 (750-ml) bottle pinot noir."

V. Recipe Method/Instructions

Style & Organization

While consistency and clarity of style in a cookbook are essential, a great recipe is not composed of stock phrases strung together in the correct order. When there is an opportunity to impart a piece of useful, unique insight that will aid the reader in preparing a specific step, do so. It is through these asides that the distinctive personality of a cookbook is developed. This is not, however, a license to ramble; excessive digressions compromise the usability of a book. Consider the audience and anticipate the questions that they may have, and take the opportunity to be creative when it presents itself. That said,

Instructions for the same steps should, in general, be phrased in the same language from recipe to recipe. Some linguistic variation is fine, but the reader who has already encountered one procedure and mastered it should, when encountering it again, immediately recognize the technique and desired outcome. If phrasings are not already consistent, copy editors should record the phrasings they establish.

The timing of various components of a dish should be taken into account when writing the instructions, always with an eye to efficiency and good sense. If short ribs braise in the oven for 2 hours, the parsnip pur?e that goes with it should not be prepared first; rather, lead with the longer procedure and then give instructions for preparing the pur?e while the ribs are in the oven.

Begin instructions for preparing parts of a recipe as follows: "To make the filling, whisk together the eggs and milk in a large bowl." It's acceptable to set off each step with a colon if that is the style established, but it should be used consistently throughout.

Begin each major step with a new paragraph. Do not number the paragraphs unless that is specified by the editor.

Give oven and grill/barbecue preheating instructions at the appropriate place in the recipe (not necessarily the beginning). Modern gas and electric stoves take between 8 and 20 minutes to preheat properly (30 to 45 minutes when heating a baking stone). Allow about 5 minutes to preheat a broiler and 20 to 30 minutes for charcoal to burn properly.

Finer Points

All instructions should give as much information as possible, including size and type of pans, bowls, and utensils to use, level of heat/flame, length of time and technique used for cooking, doneness signs, plus explicit serving and storage details. For baking, oven rack position should be indicated if other than the middle position.

If the ingredient has an instruction attached to it in the ingredients list, don't repeat the instruction in the method. Example:

1/2 cup chopped onion 1 clove garlic, minced

In the instructions, don't write "Add the chopped onion and minced garlic," but rather "Add the onion and garlic."

Use articles and prepositions. Example: "Sauté the zucchini for 5 minutes."

When frying, give amount of oil to use in terms of depth. Example: "Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over high heat."

Straining vs. draining: the former term is used to indicate removing solids/particles from a liquid such as a sauce reduction (what's left in the strainer is usually discarded, while the liquid is kept); in draining, the liquid is discarded (i.e., water) while what's left in the draining device (colander, sieve, etc) is kept.

Don't use "to taste" when seasoning a piece of raw meat or a mixture. Use a specific quantity for a mixture. With raw meat use "season." Example: "Season the hamburger with salt and pepper."

If marinades for meats are later be used to baste meats, thorough cooking must be assured.

When a preheated oven, boiling water, parchment-lined pan, oiled bowl, etc. is called for, always supply the preparation instructions first, before calling the item into use:

"Line a 12 by 16-inch pan with parchment paper. Place the rolls on the pan." rather than "Place the rolls on a parchment-lined pan." Similarly: "Preheat the oven to 450F. . . . Place the pie in the oven." rather than "Place the pie in a 450F oven."

Whenever working with a geometric shape (such as a dough that has been shaped into a 10 by 5-inch rectangle), always orient the reader as to what side to begin from. For example:

"Pat the dough into a 10 x 5-inch rectangle. Working from the short side, roll up the dough into a log."

Similarly, whenever a preparation/ingredient such as a dough, a piece of meat, etc.) is cut, whether in halves, thirds, or otherwise, always specify whether the cut should be made lengthwise, crosswise, or otherwise.

Avoid phrases like "combine all the dry ingredients together"; better to cite each ingredient by name. Exception: if all of the ingredients in a list (or sublist) are mixed at once, it's fine to say "combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl [or whatever the vessel is]" or "combine all the ingredients for the chutney in a small bowl."

When transferring ingredients or prepared food from one place to another, use "transfer" not "remove to."

Use "aluminum foil" on first mention in recipe, then just "foil" thereafter; "plastic wrap," not "plastic"; and "parchment paper," not "baking parchment paper" or "parchment."

"Decrease" is preferable to "reduce" when referring to heat, to avoid confusion with reducing a liquid.

When part of an otherwise useable piece of an ingredient is not used in a dish (such as a squab that is roasted whole and then cut up, with only the breasts used in the finished dish), indication should be given that remainder of the ingredient should be reserved for another use: "Reserve the remaining parts of the squabs for another use."

Doneness Times & Visual Cues

A comma should precede ways to check for doneness that rely on the use of the cook's senses rather than a given cooking time. Example: "Let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled."

With baking, time estimates AND visual cues are essential for most steps, so always give them in tandem. (Exception: When a basic step is called for, such as combining dry ingredients or mixing for a brief time where no appreciable visual change occurs.)

When a time range is given for a procedure, along with a visual cue, phrasing should be: "Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown." (Note: there is no "about" before the time range, nor is there an "or" before "until," since there is flexibility implied in the time range)

If a fixed time is given, "about" and "or" may be employed: "Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake is just set."

Give alternate instructions for using equipment (food processors, potato ricer, etc.) and substitutes for supplies cooks may not have.

Unless editor requests otherwise, use the degree symbol instead of spelling out, and follow the symbol with an "F".

Mixing Doughs

For simple batters for scones, muffins, and other quickbreads, by-hand instructions should be given, with mixer instructions given as an option if desired. Food processor instructions should not be given (though if an author is a diehard user of food processor for doughs, an exception can be made; it's also fine, even encouraged, if the author wants to give general instructions on use of a food processor in an equipment/technique overview section). For more complex doughs requiring lengthy kneading, stand mixer instructions should always be given along with by-hand (unless dough is so stiff that working it by hand is impractical).

When using both by-hand and mixer instructions (or other dual preparation options), always maintain parallel structure throughout the instructions. In other words, if you first mention mixer bowl and then by-hand equipment, always start with the mixer instructions in the text that follows:

"In the workbowl of a mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and warm water. With the paddle attachment on low speed or using a sturdy wooden spoon, mix in the flour, salt, and oil."

If by-hand and machine instructions are both given, and the dual sets of instructions are lengthy, it may be best to break them into separate paragraphs, set off with "To make the dough by hand" and "To make the dough in a mixer."

"Stand mixer" or "heavy-duty mixer"-both are fine, but the terminology should be consistent throughout.

When giving mixer instructions, always specify the correct attachment and mixer speed throughout the mixing process, noting if/when either should be changed.

VI. Electronic Formatting

All copy flush left, with an extra line space between paragraphs and each part of the recipe (title, headnote, yield line, ingredient list and subingredient lists, recipe instructions, notes, and subrecipes).

Recipes should be grouped in one continuous file for each chapter. Page breaks should be placed between recipes, sidebars, etc.

Fractions should not be autoformatted, since the electronic coding often will not translate from one program to another. If your word processing program automatically formats fractions, consult editor as to how to manually override.

Back to Meeting Notes: "Working as an Editor"

Copyright 2004, Lorena Jones, Ten Speed Press.



home | find the right editor | membership | about us
what do editors do? | next forum | forum index
editing resources | contact us | search

© 19972016 Bay Area Editors' Forum. All rights reserved.