Whether you’re a special occasion cook or baker who whips up elaborate meals and desserts for holidays and anniversaries and relies on frozen meals and takeout the rest of the year or you’re someone who is constantly creating delectable meals for your family and friends you likely have amassed a lot of recipes. Maybe you even have lots of recipes that you have collected that you hope to try “someday” and not just tried and true favorites. Unless every recipe you use comes from a cookbook, all those scraps of paper and computer links are scattered around your house and you long to figure out how to organize them.
There are basically two ways to organize recipes these days: digital or old school paper. Within those two schools, however, you have different options available. Before you jump into any system, take some time to think about how and where you use recipes and how comfortable you are with different technologies so that you can choose the option that will work best for you.
It’s the 21st century and the world has essentially gone digital. That means you likely find and access recipes on your computer, smartphone, and/or tablet all the time. You collect links, save files, and possibly even print out dishes to use later. There are basically three ways to collect recipes so that you’ll have them anywhere, on any device.
The cloud is a given in daily life, but it’s not just for storing pictures and music. You can curate your own recipe collection using Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive, iCloud or any other cloud storage. The advantage here is that you can design a system that incorporates not just written recipes, but photos, step-by-step videos, and links to the recipe source. You can use a spreadsheet, a database, or even a word processing document or slide show program to create the perfect recipe archive.
More and more home cooks are using Pinterest to find and store their recipes. They can build boards with links to their favorites and organize them according to their personal cataloguing system. Pinterest also makes it easy to store photos and videos to help when it’s time to prepare a dish and makes it very easy to share your recipes with your friends and family. No need to copy, email, or even share a password, it’s all right there on your board.
More recently the rise of recipe apps have made it even easier to collect and share recipes. Some of the more popular apps include Paprika, ChefTap, and PepperPlate, but some people swear by Evernote as an app that wasn’t designed for recipe storage, but works great. These apps may charge an annual fee, especially if you have a large collection of recipes. The best apps combine the anywhere access of the cloud with the ability to bring together links, bookmarks, and even pins together with more traditional recipe formats.
Technology has its uses, but what if your Wi-Fi glitches in the middle of cooking? How about the difficulty of swiping screens when your fingers are covered with batter or oil or any other food product? These are a few reasons that some cooks still swear by paper copy recipes as the way to go.
The old standby recipe file is not yet extinct. In fact, many digital recipe sources pride themselves in providing printable versions that fit on standard index cards. You can even purchase kits that include labels to decorate the outside of your box and dividers to sort the recipes. Or you can just buy plain cards and a box and put your recipes together however you want. You may need to manually write (or rewrite) recipes to fit the cards, but that makes it easier for you to annotate recipes. Even recipes torn from magazines can be pasted onto cards and organized any way you wish.
The other paper option is to use a binder for your recipes. Three-ring binders aren’t going away anytime soon and it’s easy enough to purchase paper, dividers, and even plastic page protectors to create a recipe system to sit next to your cookbooks. If you go for this option, be sure to print out your favorite online recipes as soon as possible so that you don’t forget to do so later. You can also create an index in your binder that tells you which cookbook (or website or Pinterest board, etc.) has your go-to recipes so that you don’t waste time paging and scrolling to where you thought you saw something.
Realistically the average cook is going to use a combination of digital and paper methods to organize their recipes. Try out the various options and you’ll eventually settle on the one that helps you cook yummy meals without the stress of scrambling to find the necessary recipe.