If there’s one thing you can count on in this world, it’s this: everybody eats. So it’s easy to see why cookbooks are a perennial favorite. Good cooks are always looking for fresh ideas and new flavors to add to their arsenal. And those of us who (ahem) aren’t so good are happy for a little help with the basics.
So whether you’re thinking of making a cookbook to preserve old family recipes, raise funds for your favorite charity, promote a restaurant or catering business, or just to share your own creations, do it. There will always, always be room for one more way to cook a chicken, prepare a hearty soup, or bake the perfect holiday cookie.
With so many cookbooks to choose from, you’ll want yours to stand out. Here are a few ideas to give your recipes some spice:
Format with care
When following a recipe, sometimes the difference between success and failure is how well you can read it. Think of your book propped up on someone’s kitchen counter. The cook has both hands full, her pan is sizzling and she’s looking at your recipe to see what happens next.
Don’t let your reader get lost. Format your recipes for easy reading:
- Separate your ingredient list from your step-by-step instructions and make sure each line is formatted exactly the same way. This makes it easier to scan.
- Use numbered lists in the step-by-step instructions to help people remember their place.
- Write in short paragraphs and put a line break between each.
Photograph the results
Nothing makes a recipe more appealing than actually seeing the results… if you do it well. But you don’t have to be a pro to take a good food picture.
- Take your photos in bright, even light with little or no shadow on the food. If you don’t have professional photo gear, just shoot outdoors, set up near a window, or bring in a few extra lamps from around the house.
- Turn off your flash so the shots look more natural. If they come out too dark, use an external flash that can be tilted away from the subject. That reduces glare and shadows.
- Shoot low and get in close: you’re showing off the food, so let it dominate the frame. Shooting from eye level may feel natural, but the results are more interesting if you change the angle.
- Use macro or aperture-priority mode. If your camera has a “macro” setting (usually indicated with a flower icon), try using it to get the most out of a close-up shot. Or try aperture-priority mode on an SLR to control the depth of field.
- Make your food look its best. Lay it out carefully on the plate. Look for balance. Put the most perfect bits front and center. If it’s starting to dry out, try brushing on a little oil to make it glisten.
- Keep it simple. Adding a small prop or two, like a fork or wineglass, can add a sense of elegance. But keep the focus on the food.
- Work FAST. Don’t let your dish dry out, melt, or wilt. The longer your food sits and waits, the more difficult it will be to get that awesome shot.
Scan your recipe cards
If you’re making a collection of personal or family recipes, including the original recipe cards can add a lovely personal touch. And there’s nothing like grandma’s own handwriting! Any document scanner will do a good job with these.
- Place your cards carefully on the scanner. Line them up straight against the edge of the scanner so you don’t have to tweak the angle later.
- Scan in high quality and full color. If you scan at 300dpi (dots per inch), you can print your cards at their original size and get great looking results.
- If you don’t have a scanner, don’t fret. There are still ways to get your cards into a book. See our blog post on scanning services.
Check out what others are doing
The best way to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t is to spend time looking at other cookbooks. Like what you see? Figure out why you like it and then try to do the same in your own book. Here are a few of our own favorites to get you started:
- PEKO PEKO: Friendly Japanese Recipes — A Cookbook to Support Japan’s Recovery by Stacie Billis, Rachael Hutchings and Marc Matsumoto
- The New Renaissance of Italian Fusion Cuisine 2.0 by Chef Gianfranco Chiarini
- Secret Sauce: Kid Tested and Approved Recipes by Jenny Gensterblum
- Cookie Cravings: 30 All-Time Favorite Cookie Recipes by Maria Lichty and Heidi Larsen
- The Morrisette Family Cookbook by Laurice Morrisette Palmer
- Tastelyss: Baked Goods With a Dash of Happiness by Alyssa Odango
- Recetas De Mi Familia: My Family Recipes by Juan F. Hernandez
- Beards, Bacon, and Beer: A Man’s Guide to Breakfast Food by Chris Lopez
Find more cookbooks in the Blurb Bookstore.