Organizing Your Recipes: 8 Foolproof Methods
Problem: Finding a Recipe
- Solution No. 1: Mark the page. The next time you're browsing and see a recipe that makes your mouth water, slip on a Book Dart ($10 for 100, bookdarts.com). Made of paper-thin metal, it does the job attractively and won't fall off, wrinkle the page, or leave a mark. Book Darts come in bronze, silver, and brass, so you can color-code to distinguish recipes you have tried from those you haven't, or entrées from appetizers. Or place markers for favorites at the top of the page and mark others on the side.
- Solution No. 2: Make an index. On an index card, write the recipe title (or a name you're more likely to remember), the book or magazine issue it's in, and the page number. File the cards alphabetically in a recipe box, dividing it into sections like Desserts.
Problem: Locating a Cookbook
Solution: Make a kitchen book nook. Nothing personalizes a kitchen like a row of cookbooks arrayed on a shelf or in a hutch. Keep a chair or a stool nearby so you have a place to sit and peruse. Avoid placing books on open shelves where they’re exposed to humidity and grease, namely “over or next to the stove or over the refrigerator,” advises Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, in New York City. She also urges using bookends to keep books from slumping and bindings from breaking.
If your kitchen is tight on space and short on free shelves, consider adding a steel shelf with hooks that dangle below so it can do double duty as a pot rack.
Problem: Cataloguing Cookbooks
Solution: Organize books to match your style. Your system should reflect your logic and tastes. It may make sense to alphabetize one section by author, create another section for themes (barbecue, dessert), and order a third section by geography. Sharon Chickanzeff, a curator at New York University’s Fales Library, in New York City, says she received a donation of about 7,000 cookbooks from a collector who had “a whole box of books just on Hawaii.” If you too are big on world cuisines, suggests Slotnick, start with those from your region, then move along the shelf in a logical direction―from California to New York, down to South America, across to Europe, then to Africa, and so on. Another shelf could follow a trail from the beginning of the day―breakfast―then to sandwiches, snacks, appetizers, and main events. Whatever works for you.
Problem: Keeping Track of Clipped Recipes
- Solution No. 1: Create a filing system. Sort recipes in labeled folders and keep them in a file drawer or in an open-sided magazine storage box on the bookshelf. Or set up a three-ring binder with tab dividers and plastic page protectors for both full sheets (for pages from a magazine) and divided sheets (for three-by-five-inch recipe cards). Start simply, with just a few sections (Special Occasions, Favorites, and Recipes to Try). Because Recipes to Try can easily turn into Recipes Clipped for Reasons Forgotten, keep this section from getting out of hand by adapting the rule of wardrobe control: Every time you add a recipe, eliminate one you have yet to try.
- Solution No. 2: Buy a ready-made system. Two binders with lots of organizing tools are the C.R. Gibson Bon Appetit Deluxe Kitchen Binder ($35, crgibson.com) and the Gallery Leather Recipe Organizer ($32, galleryleather.com).
Problem: Parting With Cookbooks
- Solution No. 1: Keep recipes; toss books. The computer is a cookbook hoarder’s best friend. No matter how much you love a book, you probably use only a handful of its recipes, so why not scan the ones you love and file them electronically? (Or photocopy them and file in a binder.) Give the books to a food-loving friend, or donate them to a thrift shop or your local library.
- Solution No. 2: Make an online cookbook. Use the Internet to find as well as store recipes. You can search recipes by ingredient, course, or occasion in the "Food & Recipes" section on this site. When you find a recipe you like, print it out; if the dish was a hit, keep the recipe in a binder. You might also investigate recipe-keeping software that offers additional features (see Organize Your Recipes on Your Computer).