So you want to be a recipe tester!?

So you want to be a recipe tester? Do you? Do you know what's involved?

I'm sure everyone's experience is different, depending on whose recipes you are testing, whether it is for a magazine or a cookbook, etc, etc.

I'm currently testing recipes for Robyn's next cookbook with about 10 other people. We each test a total of 10 recipes, time how long each one takes, measure out portion sizes, document our thoughts on taste, texture, presentation. We also write head notes, make any suggestions for retesting and edit the step-by-step instructions.

This last weekend, for example, I tested two recipes: one for shrimp & tomato bruschetta and one for lamb chops with slowly cooked onions. I took photographs of each, but unfortunately, my photography skills all of a sudden decided to go on a hiatus.

The bruschetta recipe I tested in the late morning after a night of salsa dancing and had it for breakfast. Luckily, the recipe only needed a small amount of tweaking. The flavors mingled really well together and the whole dish was a breeze to put together. The lamb recipe I tested in the afternoon: just in time for a late lunch. It was fantastic, and I've been adding lamb to my salads for the last few days: if you cook it pretty rare, it's great when cold.

While I wish I could tell you that after years of testing recipes I learned how to cook neatly, clean as I go and take easily read notes, I can't. My kitchen always looks disastrous; sometimes I have a hard time reading my own notes, and I am always left with a large pile of dishes to clean.

On a plus side, in the process of testing recipes, I've acquired quite a collection of spices, grains, mustards and  vinegars. I've also had a chance to try different combinations of ingredients I would have otherwise avoided: and actually got to like some of them!

And because I'm still not comfortable with writing a post without a single photograph, I leave you with a photograph of coconut rice pudding I made for Robyn's blog. It's an incredibly simple combination of milk, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla bean and carnaroli rice.

Good thing my friend Jenn came over soon after I made the rice pudding and I did not have an entire bowl of it sitting and begging me to eat it.

So tell me, have you acted as a recipe tester? How was your experience?


Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...

I have recipe tested as well for a couple of cookbooks, and I love the process :) That said, it has not made me a neater cook at all. LOL.

The rice pudding looks scrumptious :)

wendy said...

Olga - beautiful photo - I love your teacup!

Megan said...

I definitely love testing recipes. Wish I could do it for a full-time job!

Beth @ Kitchen Minions said...

How do you get to be asked to be a recipe tester? It sounds like a lot of fun!

Melissa Jones said...

My kitchen is always a disastrous mess when I cook despite the fact that I "clean as I go". Every time the explosion happens I end up looking around and thinking, "How the heck...??" That's when I wish I had (a) a sous chef (b) a boyfriend or (c) a neighbor with OCD who really liked to do dishes. sigh. At least my dog lick the floor clean?

Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray said...

What a cool thing to do! How to you find opportunities like that? It would be a great way to get exposure to new foods and cooking techniques.

Happy Cook / Finla said...

I have done it once and loved it, it was exciting to try the recipe and write what I and my family thought about it.

Meister @ The Nervous Cook said...

Recipe testing is fun, but can also be stressful! I was so nervous about doing everything exactly right and being as accurate and helpful as possible.

I tested a few for my friend and the Food editor of the Washington Post, Joe Yonan, whose excellent new cookbook just came out: "Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One." The recipes in that book are fantastic -- and I can say that from experience!

Olga said...

for everyone who's asked how to become a recipe tester: I met Robyn 7 years ago at Sur La Table at their culinary program.

You can contact your local newspapers and see if the food section needs recipe testers; follow cookbook authors on twitter as they sometimes put a call for testers, or look out for "help" requests on blogs.

Meister, I actually just received Joe's book in the mail a few nights ago: can't wait to try his recipes. Have met him several time in person ;)

Megan: I'd love for it to be a full time job (a well paid full time job)

Lo said...

I'll admit, I've only been a recipe tester for one or two recipes. But, it's always been an enjoyable experience. Like you, my kitchen is never as organized or friendly to the process as I'd like -- but I've grown to accept that. *sigh*

leslieconn said...

I love recipe testing! This winter I tested for the next Happy Herbivore cookbook and Tess Challis's next vegan cookbook. I never had to think about what to eat for dinner, because I HAD my ideas given to me! I had some amazing meals too. :)

I met both ladies through Twitter, which is also how I came to find you and Robin, too!