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"How to Create Delicious Meals with Custom Menus, Recipes, and Shopping Lists?"

Home cook or Professional Chef, the process of creating menu's, recipes and shopping lists can be a difficult task. Pen to paper, which used to be the norm, is rarely seen in the age of high tech.

Let's start with a brief discussion of menu's. A menu is basically a written document composed of recipes. In a well run restaurant these recipes are usually standardized for the cooks to follow, and to ensure consistent dishes as the customer would expect.

A recipe is a formula of ingredients and a list of instructions for creating prepared foods. It is used to control quality, quantity, and food costs in a foodservice operation. A recipe may be simple to complex based on the requirements of the operation and the intended user. For example, an experienced chef may need a recipe with only a few details, while a beginner cook may need more information about ingredients, preparation steps, cooking times and temperatures, visual cues, and equipment requirements.

Recipes are formatted differently depending on the author and the intended use. Professional chefs record recipes in pocket notebooks, binders, or digital devices, using simple to complex details, depending on the type of recipe and the experience level of the chef.  Information might include ingredients, prep steps, kitchen notes, and hand-drawn plate presentations. Recipes for the general consumer must be written with the assumption that the intended user knows very little about food preparation. When writing recipes that others will use in your kitchen, provide as much information as possible so that anyone who is preparing, inexperienced or skilled, can easily understand. Include information on ingredients, prep steps for fabricating or measuring, cooking instructions, recipe yield, and required equipment.

Recipe Limitations

It’s not uncommon for two cooks to end up with different results when preparing the same recipe. There are many variables involved in the cooking process, and no recipe is foolproof. Ingredients, like fresh vegetables, often lack uniformity, and substitutions may be required that produce different results. Tools and equipment vary from one kitchen to another, affecting cooking times and outcomes. For example, an oven that is not calibrated accurately may take longer when baking a cake, or sauté pans made of different metals (aluminum or stainless steel) may not cook as efficiently or produce the right browning effect. Recipes cannot account for inaccurate measuring or misunderstanding of directions. Experience and proper judgment help to produce consistent results over time.

Recipes generally fall into a few categories:

Abbreviated Recipes – Some books, including Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire and Hering’s Dictionary of Classical and Modern Cookery, include minimal information on ingredients and directions and assume the reader possesses a certain mastery of culinary skills. Personal recipes kept in a pocketbook by a cook or chef may simply include ingredients with a few preparation steps.

Home Recipes – Based on small yields and quantities often measured by volume. 

Procedural (Prep) Steps – Used in professional kitchens for simple assembly of quantities of ingredients based on portion size; for example, a salad may call for 1 cup of lettuce, 3 wedges of tomatoes, ¼ cup of croutons, and 2 ounces of salad dressing.

Standardized Recipes – Customized house recipes that include ingredients, precise quantities, detailed steps, portion sizes, and recipe yield. Some may include food cost information and required tools. Standardized recipes are often for large quantities of prepared food. Standardized recipes are important to foodservice operations because they provide consistency and uniformity in quality, yield, and food cost. Standardized recipes include information on quantity, yield, portion size, ingredients, portion cost, and menu price.

I have included a series of professional forms below, one of which is a standardized recipe template.

Download DOC • 26KB

And last but not least, shopping. This is where it can get a bit tricky, especially in a restaurant. How much of each product do you require? Well, without getting into a long winded chat about inventory, popularity index and menu mix, let's just say I use technology for this.

To be honest. the process of taking a physical inventory, in a restaurant or at home is always a good idea before shopping. So menu in hand, you basically look over your current inventory and subtract this from the list of ingredients required to produce your menu.

As you might know from my previous blogs, I work with a few different recipe management software companies: Meez, Master Cook, Calcmenu and cookkeepbook. After a lot of research, I have decided to go with Cookkeepbook. Best features, price and functionality. At $100 per year, it's affordable for the home cook and professional kitchen. Have a look at the format below.

Shopping List -
Download PDF • 35KB

I also enjoy using mastercook, and still recommend it for folks that prefer a PC based program vs a cloud platform.

That's it for today, have yourself a great week!

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