Food: Instructions

(updated 7.20.22)


Unless there’s a reason for layering, be brief in telling how to assemble a wrap, sandwich, or burger.
Serve burgers on rolls with tomato and onion slices.


Drain bacon on paper towels. (instead of: “Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.”)
crisp-cooked and crumbled (not “cooked and crumbled”)


Don’t break a fraction or a single-digit number and its measurement at the end of a line.


Don’t use en dashes between numerals in instructions copy; use “to” instead.
Bake cookies until lightly browned, 7 to 9 minutes. (not 7–9 minutes)

See also Punctuation.


  • Times should come at the end of the sentence, following the “until” part. Cook until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Use the word “until” (not “till”) when used to describe a doneness test.
  • Use “about” when a range isn’t given. Until… is the most important; the time it takes to get there may vary. Cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
  • Stirring instructions should fall between “Cook” and “until”. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Exception: The phrase until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 135°F should follow the time because it’s so unwieldy and can lead readers to overlook the time. Example: Cook steak 5 to 6 minutes per side, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 135°F. 

Punch dough down; turn dough out


Drained and undrained should be included in the ingredients list only. If not possible (for space reasons), italicize in the instructions text.
1 16-oz. can tomatoes, undrained (ingredients list)
Add undrained tomatoes to sauce (instructions copy, if not in ingredients list)


Italicize or place in opposite typeface any ingredients in instructions that aren’t listed in the ingredients list, including water, salt, pepper, and nonstick cooking spray, except water that is only to cook in or soak an ingredient. Subrecipes are an exception. Do not italicize the additional use of an ingredient in the instructions that is already included in the ingredients list (unless the ingredient is a full package, such as a 6-oz. container of yogurt).
add 1 teaspoon salt to the mixture
add pepper to taste


  • In a food processor or blender
    (not “In a food processor bowl or blender container”)
  • Say pulse or blend (depending on vessel used) until smooth (or desired stage) rather than “process with on/off turns”


We will assume everyone knows what container is safe to use. When cooking, we will assume high or 100 percent power unless stated otherwise. Microwave chocolate and shortening, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.


  • Use “if using” when referring to optional ingredients. Put in parentheses after the optional ingredients. Do not use “if desired.” Add walnuts (if using), apples, and cinnamon.
  • If there is a series in which all three ingredients are optional, say: If using, sprinkle with avocado, cheese, and green onion.
  • If there is an optional ingredient within a list and we are using the condensed style in the method, move the optional ingredient to the end of the list: In a bowl combine next six ingredients (through salt) and parsley (if using).


  • Use the degree symbol (option-shift-8) and “F” for Fahrenheit after the oven temp (no spaces, no periods).
  • In the method, indicate “preheat oven” at beginning of recipe or at appropriate other point in recipe (e.g., after a long chill time or after rising for bread). It is not necessary to repeat oven temperature in actual baking instructions.
    Preheat oven to 350ºF.
    Bake until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. (NOT “Bake in the preheated oven …” or “Bake in the 350ºF oven …)


Call for black pepper in instructions copy when other varieties of pepper are also used in the main recipe, such as cayenne pepper, jalapeño pepper, bottled hot pepper sauce, etc. Call for ground black pepper, cracked black pepper, coarse ground black pepper, etc., only when specifically needed for a recipe.

PERCENT SYMBOL (updated 10/6/22)

Use the percent sign, not the word “percent” in instructional copy (ingredient list, method) (100%; 100%-cotton cheesecloth). Spell out percent in narrative copy (deks, captions, FOB copy).

POULTRY TEMPS (updated 5/9/23)

Final temps:
Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves: 165°F
Bone-in chicken breasts: 165°F
Skinless, boneless chicken thighs: at least 175°F
Bone-in chicken thighs: at least 175°F
Whole broiler-fryer chickens: at least 175°F in the thigh
Chicken hindquarters: at least 175°F
Turkey breast half (boneless): 165°F
Turkey breast half (bone-in): 170°F
Whole turkey: at least 175°F in the thigh


Omit this phrase unless there is a point in a recipe where you have to say this for clarity.


Use “stand mixer” rather than “standing mixer” or “freestanding mixer.”
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment combine…


Specify granulated sugar in ingredients list and instructions copy when other types of sugar are also used in the main recipe, such as powdered sugar, brown sugar, etc. If the recipe calls for more than one type of sugar (or flour), in the method say “Add both sugars…” if they are going into the mixture at the same time.


Timings given with recipes can include some or all of the following. They should be listed in recipe order. (Do not use colons following these headings.)
Hands On (no longer use Prep)
Start to Finish (reserved for quick recipes; usually 30 minutes or less)


  • For recipe instructions, start the instruction in each step by calling for a vessel or utensil:
    In a small mixing bowl combine …
  • Omit the type of bowl (mixing, salad, etc.) unless it is crucial to the task.



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