Tips for creating winning recipes

Already on this blog we’ve had a look at how to write an original recipe – but how do you go about creating a competition-winning recipe?

While we can’t tell you how to write the winning recipe (as that will be decided by the Best Home Chef community and by our judges), we can provide some helpful tips:

1. Read the competition rules

Sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this step!

If you want your recipe to win, you have to first make sure it fits the rules and criteria of the competition.

In the case of Best Home Chef, your recipe needs to be:

• Easy enough for an untrained cook to make at home. (This rules out excessively elaborate techniques involving liquid nitrogen and sous-vide machines are out – sorry Heston!)
• Affordable – the cost of your ingredients must be less than $80.
• Accompanied by a photo of the dish.
• Original. (Please refer to this blog post for more info).

2. Experiment

Practice, practice, practice – this is, unfortunately, the only way to get awesome at things. But at least when it comes to cooking, you get to have fun and eat delicious food while you’re at it!

The key to creating an original recipe that people will love is to cook it several times using different variations. Experiment with different ingredients and techniques to find out what works and doesn’t. Always remember to taste your food throughout the cooking process – and take notes so you don’t forget how much salt/spice/flour/etc you’ve used.

Cooks who are willing to take risks in the kitchen end up creating the most inspired results – which is something anyone who has watched Heston’s Feasts will know. (Dynamite duck a l’orange, anyone?) Yes, you’ll need to brace yourself for some less-than-amazing results (and possibly also some kitchen fires) but the payoff is you might end up stumbling across something utterly delicious and – most importantly – totally unique.

3. Don’t overcomplicate things

There’s a difference between being creative and being insane – a very fine difference, but a difference nonetheless.

So often in life it’s the simple things that are best – bread and butter, strawberries and cream, figs and honey. Rather than forcing unusual flavour combinations, it helps to go back to basics and gain an appreciation for what’s tried and tested. There’s a reason why some dishes keep surfacing again and again on menus and in cookbooks – it’s because they’re great!

The other thing you need to bear in mind is just because something was difficult to make doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the yummiest thing in the world. Great recipes don’t necessarily require three pages of instructions – so for best results, try to keep things as simple as possible.

Plus in a competition such as Best Home Chef, you want to make sure your recipe can be understood and replicated by people with no formal cooking training.

4. Make it look good

Humans are visual creatures, and the way your dish looks can have a big impact on how it’s received by your dinner guests and, indeed, by an online recipe-sharing community.

Get creative when it comes to plating up. Inspiration can come from many places – such as from cookbooks or TV cooking shows, and also from the real world at restaurants and cafes.

Once you’re ready to take a photo, there are some simple tricks you can do to make your food look great. While obviously a good camera will help, what’s possibly more important is the lighting – make sure the setting for your photo is well-lit, since flash photography tends to make things look startlingly bright and artificial. Another thing to remember is to remove clutter from the area surrounding your dish – tea towels, dirty dishes or last week’s newspaper are all things that will detract from the image.

Finally, make sure you take lots of shots from many different angles. That way you can choose the best of the bunch when it comes time to post your recipe.

5. Give your recipe an appetising name

One of the easiest ways to get people excited about your recipe is to give it a really delicious-sounding name.

For example, if you’re making a French-style dish, consider giving it a French name. (More fancy-sounding = more yum!)

The author of ‘How to Make Up a Fancy Foreign Name for Any Food’ offers this suggestion:

“My side dish of zucchini (an Italian-sounding name, conveniently enough) lightly fried and slightly burnt in olive oil with lemon juice and spices could be called ‘caramelized zucchini medallions in a light citrus reduction.’ Or, in “French,” petite sautee de courgettes a la Grecque. Or in “Italian”? Poco rosso di zucchini con limone et olio della Toscana.”

Remember to have fun

The most important step is that you enjoy yourself! Cooking and eating are two of life’s greatest pleasures – so really you’re already a winner! Anything more than that is just a cool bonus. ;)

Happy cooking!

Louise Carter
  • Recipes Submitted
  • Recipes Cooked
  • Reviews Submitted

Louise Carter

Best Home Chef's resident writer and sweet tooth, Louise once decorated ice cream cakes for a living. Although this job had several health consequences, osteoporosis was not one of them. Louise is also an ex barista whose biggest pet peeve is burnt milk. She loves travelling, and has recently returned from a pasta-eating excursion to Italy. One day she hopes to grow vegetables and make her own cheese and wine. She lives in Sydney. Google+

Leave a Comment

  • Thanks for the good tips Louise :-)


    by Angela H. on 16/01/2014, 09:09
    Angela H.