recipe book

How to Develop a Recipe

Creating recipes can be challenging, but also rewarding to your staff (through engagement) and to your patients (through scratch “cooking”). Making your own recipe does not mean starting from square one. You can look for recipes online, in magazines, cookbooks, or your grandma’s recipe box, whatever the source you can adapt them to your criteria, however, before you get in the kitchen you need to consider the following:

  1. Budget
  2. Demographics
  3. Nutritional requirements
  4. Skill of labour available
  5. Kitchen equipment available
  6. What do you want to achieve? It could be providing locally sourced ingredients or providing more diverse menu options for example.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you are developing for an institution what demographic are you catering to? What menu items have been most popular? Which have been the least popular? Looking at past and current trends can help determine the direction you should go.

BRAINSTORM RECIPES. Ask staff what their favourite recipes are, explore the web for traditional recipes, use the resources at your disposal. I personally love because there are many user reviews to see what worked well and what substitutions were made. In some instances, reviewers give suggestions for healthier substitutions, such as applesauce for oil in quick-breads. The work of making healthier recipes is already done!

You may want to focus on a certain area such as Indian cuisine, vegetarian entrées, gluten free items, or seafood options; having a focus may expedite the brainstorming process. Choose the recipe that you believe will work best for your criteria.

TEST & TASTE. Testing will iron out any kinks in the recipe. You will make adjustments so do not expect it to be perfect the first time. Serving sizes stated in the recipe may differ from actual results, taste profiles may differ from what you envisioned, or the recipe may be a complete dud. You won’t know until you try though. Oftentimes recipes will call for American standard volumes (cups, tablespoons). When a recipe is written in such a manner convert it to metric units by measuring out the stated volume and weigh it (example, one cup all-purpose flour converts to 120 grams). Recipes should be written in metric format (gram, kilograms, millilitres, litres) for most consistent results.  For testing in Burlodge equipment, such as the Multigen, cooked recipes are made in 2” tall ½ size hotel pans. With this in mind, design the recipe for one half-size pan. Once you find a recipe you are happy with you can scale up appropriately. No need to produce extra quantities in testing and have it go to waste.

RETEST. As you do your initial testing, take notes of all measurements (via weighing in metric units). When you retest, make corrections based on your initial findings. Record what changes have been made. Compare tasting notes for any remarkable improvements in recipe versions. It is a trial and error process. When you have determined the final recipe, calculate the number of serving sizes. Pour the batch into a clear measuring jug or bin. Divide the total quantity by the desired serving size (6oz scoop for example) to determine the number of servings (a 72oz batch portioned to 6oz provides 12 servings). If it is a casserole, you can equally cut the portions in the pan to set the number of servings (this method is appropriate for items like lasagna).

UPSCALE RECIPE. To produce a greater quantity, you need to determine the quantity produced in the recipe tested and the goal serving size.

Example: A recipe for sweet and sour chicken fits a 2” half-size hotel pan and makes 12 portions at 6oz each portion. Therefore, there are (12 x 6oz) 72oz total. You want to produce enough for 150 portions.

Find the Conversion Factor in one of two ways, either based on number of servings or by portion size.



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Our conversion factor is 12.5. To make 150 portions (900oz total) we would need to multiply the quantities in our original recipe by 12.5. However, we designed our recipe to fit a half-size hotel pan. We have two options. We can evenly distribute 12.5 half-size hotel pans into 12 or 13 pans, or simply round up our conversion factor to the nearest whole number, which is 13. Depending on the recipe you will have to round to the nearest whole number, such as a lasagne or shepherds pie. A recipe like Chicken a la King may not require rounding as it can be scooped. Cooking times may need adjusting however.


LAST POINTS. Remember that a recipe is a guideline and can be adjusted to your tastes. Keep in mind that recipes must work within your resources, but no matter how small a kitchen or level of skilled labour you can make recipes in-house. Do not see limitations, but rather see opportunity to be creative.