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How to write a cookbook review

Have you ever thought about writing a review of one of your favourite cookbooks or one written by your favourite chef?   Would your review be objective?

My passion for collecting cookbooks led me to writing cookbook reviews.  I just love browsing through a cookbook, placing  sticky notes on the pages of the recipes I want to make,  admiring the photos and reading the anecdotes (if any).  This way I get a feel of the cookbook.  By the time I get to the kitchen, I am ready to cook!

I found it challenging at first to write a cookbook review, but the more cookbook reviews I wrote, the more impartial I became.  Not all cookbook reviews will be identical as authors have different writing styles and guidelines.

Listed below are the basic guidelines I follow when reviewing a cookbook.   Be ready to take notes while researching the cookbook.  Write the review in easy to read text.  Have fun with it!

READ THE COOKBOOK

Every cookbook tells a story.  Read the cookbook from cover to cover.  This way you will familiarize yourself with the story and the author’s writing style. Is the author sharing stories about the origins of the recipes?  What attracted you to the book – the cover’s photography, the title, the colour scheme, the text?

CHAPTERS

How are the recipes in the cookbook organized – by ingredients, seasons, appetizers, main courses, desserts?  Does it include Equipment and Ingredients chapters or a Glossary?    Are the Table of Contents and Index well structured?  Are the recipes cross-referenced (i.e. does   “banana bread” appear under “bananas” and “bread”)?

THE RECIPES

Study the layout and format of the recipes. Read the entire recipe.  Are the ingredients and the cooking instructions well organized and easy to follow?  The ingredients should be listed in the order they are used in the cooking instructions.  Note whether the recipes list any hard to find ingredients.  Do the recipes include footnotes describing any of the ingredients?

TECHNIQUES

Techniques such as chopping, frying, and baking should be well defined.  Jot down whether the cookbook includes any ‘step-by-step’ instructions describing particular cooking techniques.

PHOTOS

The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ goes a long way in cookbooks.   A photo of the completed recipe can be enticing!  Is there full colour photography throughout the book or photos insert?

TEST THE RECIPES

This is the fun part!   Select from two to three recipes (appetizers, main meals, desserts).  Read the selected recipes thoroughly.  Make sure you have all the required ingredients and equipment at hand before you begin cooking.  Do not make any substitutions or adaptations.  Doing so will not result in an accurate review of the recipe.

Take photos of the completed recipe if you can otherwise you can request the photos from the publisher.  Keep in mind that sometimes the photos you requested might be available to the media.

Note as you follow the cooking instructions:

  • Were any ingredients omitted?
  •  Were the cooking instructions clear and concise?
  •  Describe the taste, the aroma and the texture.
  • Was the recipe successful and visually appealing?
  • Would you make it again?

GIVE CREDIT

If your review includes recipes or photos from the cookbook, request a ‘permission statement’ from the publisher.  This statement acknowledges that you have been granted permission from the publisher to use the selected photos or recipes.  Include the name of the publisher and a link to the publisher’s Web site.

Also add the ISBN number and the cost of the cookbook.  Where can the cookbook be purchased – at a retail bookstore, online retail bookstore or both?

SUMMARY

Express whether or not you recommend the cookbook and the reasons why.  Does the cookbook justify the cost?   Was it written for both the novice and seasoned cook?  There is a substantial  amount of work involved in writing and publishing a cookbook, so be considerate when writing either positive or negative comments.

The internet provides us with thousands of recipes just by using a few keystrokes, but it cannot replace the touch and the feel of a cookbook.