how and why to start a cooking diary or recipe journal
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What amateur or professional chef doesn’t love to document their achievements in the kitchen? And who doesn’t want to always remember lessons learned and discoveries about what does and doesn’t work? A cooking diary makes it easy to gather the information you need to improve your cooking skills, and to keep a personal record you’ll love looking back on. Keep reading to learn how cooking diaries make it easier to be a great chef, and how to start a recipe journal of your own.

What Are Cooking Diaries?

A cooking diary is a blank or guided journal where you can write about your adventures in the kitchen. If you’re a professional chef, you may use one daily to record everything from the dishes you made that day to developments in your professional career. If you’re an amateur chef who cooks for yourself, family, and friends, you may want to use it to highlight your favorite dishes, major achievements in the kitchen, and other food-related things that pique your interest.


A cooking diary can be used whatever way you want it to be. Ultimately, it will be a record that celebrates all the hard work and creativity that goes into the art of creating great food. The diary should make your life easier and add an extra sense of fun to the time you spend in the kitchen.

9 Ways to Use Your Cooking Diary

Whether you decide to pack your cooking journal with lots of different things or have a single focus for the entire book, your cooking diary is a tool to use in the kitchen. When you write in your diary, think of how useful the content will be in a week or even years down the line. Here are nine ways you may want to use your cooking journal:

Work on Your Own Recipes

Anyone who strives to create their own recipes know that failures happen more often than successes, but they can be part of the fun. It is even a point of pride for some chefs to point out the dozens or even hundreds of attempts they made at perfecting a recipe. You may use your cooking diary to chronicle the original recipe and the date it was created, then also record every change you make. Once you have a recipe exactly like you want it to be, you may want to go through the journal to see where you could have simplified things and came to your conclusions for the perfect dish sooner and apply those lessons to your next experiments.

Save Recipes You Want to Try

A cooking journal is also an ideal place to keep recipes that look appealing to you. Go through old magazines and used cookbooks from thrift stores to look for promising recipes, then cut and paste them into your journal. Use the recipes as inspiration or try them exactly as they were written, then also make notes in your journal about your impressions once you make and taste them.


Jot Down Tips to Make the Recipe Pop

As you create recipes multiple times, you may make adjustments to improve the taste, texture, or some other aspects of the dish. Use the diary to write down helpful tips that improve either your own original recipes or those you’ve saved from other sources.

Record Why the Recipe or Dish Is Significant to You

Some dishes may be created specifically for a holiday or special occasion. Others may be passed down for generations. A journal allows you plenty of space to tell the story before the food that matters so much to you. Be detailed and thorough. Imagine what someone may want to know about a recipe if you aren’t there to explain its significance in person, then write down the real story behind the recipe and why it matters to you.

Make a Note of Which Beverages Complement a Dish

Wine pairing is growing in popularity, but it’s not the only kind of meal and beverage pairing that’s worthwhile. You may observe that soda goes well with casual comfort food or that sweet tea makes a certain cake taste even better. When you have a pairing note, write it beside the recipe in your journal.

Modify Recipes with Substitutions

Nearly any recipe can be modified to accommodate vegans. A meat-laden recipe can easily become meat-free with the many varieties of meat substitutes that are available in mainstream grocery stores today. However, not all substitutes will cook the same way that the original recipe described, so make notes on any changes that the recipe requires. This is also true and important for recipes that are modified to include less sugar for diabetics, no gluten for those who have celiac disease, or nut-free for those with food allergies.


Create a Glossary to the Common Cooking Terms You Use

Many cooks have their own sort of shorthand and terminology that they use in a specific way. If you work with a team in the kitchen, you may all communicate with each other in simple, shortened ways. You may also want to use that terminology in your recipes. If so, create a section of your cooking journal to state the terms you use most often and describe what they mean to you.

Make Lists of Dishes You Want to Try in the Future

A cooking journal is also a great place to keep track of all the recipes you want to make in the future. Create a chef’s bucket list for complex or especially appealing dishes that you want to learn how to make well.

Record Feedback and Critiques of Your Work

Remembering praise for your creations is important. If you receive constructive criticism, you may also want to keep it in mind to help you improve in the future. If you’re a professional chef, save the reviews that are significant to you, then paste them in the diary along with any notes you have about the review. It’s a safe space for you to clap back or indulge in your enthusiasm. If you are cooking for your family and receive a great compliment, record that, too. You may forget it over time and looking back over it will make you feel good and remind you that your efforts in the kitchen are appreciated.

Cooking Diaries To Try

Want to try your hand at keeping your own cooking diary? Consider these options that allow you to follow a set template or create your own style and sections for a recipe journal that works for you.

Paperblanks Grande Journals, $14.95+ from Paperblanks

Paperblanks journal diary

Paperblanks/Facebook

The many gorgeous Grande journals from Paperblanks are large and designed to be both beautiful and durable. The beautiful hard covers of the journals are often based on old leather designs that date back centuries, yet vegans can be assured that none of the books are ever made from leather. You can choose a dot-grid design, a blank page design, or a lined page design for the interior of the journals, making it easy to create the type of cooking diary you want. For the chef who wants to create a series of beautiful cooking diaries according to their own ideas and recipes, these journals are ideal. They’re also available on Amazon.Buy Now

Moleskine Recipe Journal, $30 from Food52

Moleskine Recipe Journal

Food52

The Moleskine Recipe Journal is one of its series of Passion journals that are designed to help people celebrate the things they love to do. It has six themed sections, including ones for appetizers, main courses, sides, and desserts. If you love cooking and want a journal that has a format designed to keep your book easily organized, you may want to pick up a few of these to keep on hand in the kitchen. This journal comes with cooking tips and informative pages that help you easily reference measurements, conversions, food calendars, and food facts. It has three ribbon bookmarks for placing on often-used recipe pages. (It is currently out of stock but you can sign up to be notified when it’s back.)Buy Now

Peter Paul Press Our Family Recipes Journal, $7.99 from Amazon

Peter Paul Press Our Family Recipes Journal

Amazon

Peter Paul Press has a cute Our Family Recipes journal that is good for home chefs who want to keep a record of their tried and true recipes along with ones that have been passed on within the family. In addition to recording the recipe in the journal, it has a place for you to reflect on its meaning. It has sections for appetizers, main dishes, desserts, beverages, and more.Buy Now

Header image courtesy of yulkapopkova / E+ / Getty Images

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