With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas coming up in a few weeks, you probably have cooking on the brain. Even if you managed to get out of hosting the festivities, your family members likely still dragged you into meal preparations on Thanksgiving. And, let’s face it, they’ll probably do it again on Christmas. If you have a traditional holiday meal that your family prepares every year, your task just got harder. Odds are, your sweet potato casserole won’t measure up to Grandma’s expectations or your cousin’s honey-glazed ham won’t taste quite as good as great-aunt Beatrice’s. Fortunately, it’s probably not your fault. Family recipes are frequently conveyed orally and, even if they are written down, they aren’t always complete.
Why is it so hard to get a family recipe? Well, if you’ve ever tried to do so, this not-so-hypothetical conversation might sound familiar.
“How do you make your lasagna?”
“Oh, I just follow the recipe in the book … except I use cottage cheese instead of ricotta … and I put in a can of tomato puree … and I let the sauce simmer for longer …”
You get the picture. It’s not that your cooking’s wrong; you don’t have all the information. What you need is a list of equipment, ingredients and detailed instructions. You need a recipe that is updated whenever someone tweaks something, and you need to be notified when that happens. What you need is a recipe management system.
Your recipe management system will start you off with the first important step of cooking that many of us ignore: making sure you have the equipment. This might not be a big deal if you’re cooking in your own kitchen. Odds are you know if you have a turkey baster, or a candy thermometer, or a food processor. You’re probably less sure of this if you’re at an in-law’s house (and probably under more scrutiny).
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Once you make sure you have the equipment you need, use the recipe management system to make sure it’ll be available. Most large holiday meals involve preparing multiple dishes simultaneously. Even in a large, well-stocked kitchen it’s a logistical nightmare. And even more so if you turn to grab the one remaining cutting board and realize your father-in-law beat you to it. The recipe management system tracks when your equipment will be needed for what so you can coordinate its use and avoid a tug of war.
Similar to equipment, there’s nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of making something and realizing you don’t have an ingredient. Since you only use the pumpkin pie spice once a year, you might remember having more of it than you do. The recipe management system will give you a complete list of ingredients and how much you’ll need of each. Plus, a web-based system lets you access the recipe from anywhere and version control ensures you’re using the most recent recipe (i.e., the one your mom tweaked last).
Your ingredient list also has parameters to ensure precise measurements are included that you’ll be able to replicate. “Just a pinch,” “a dash,” or “a dollop,” are not options. So, when Grandma updates that recipe, she’ll be forced to indicate tablespoon, teaspoon or some other quantifiable unit.
Some meals are simple. You pour all the ingredients in a Crock-Pot and let it cook for a few hours. Holiday meals rarely follow that formula. For your holiday meal, you need to know what to do, for how long, and in what order. Your recipe management system can tell you exactly when to complete each step to ensure all 12 dishes are ready to be served at the same time. Besides increasing efficiency, the system can also reduce the effort required on your part.
Automating certain processes saves you time and helps you avoid embarrassing mistakes. Have you ever popped a dish into the oven, only to discover an hour later that the oven was never on? Use your recipe management system to automate preheating the oven. For processes that can’t be automated, enlist the aid of family members and make sure they’re trained on the tasks at hand. A training management system that’s integrated with your recipe management system ensures other family members know the recipes and what needs to be done before they’re allowed near the kitchen.
You should be able to relax once you’ve got dinner on the table, but that can be the most stressful part. Everything you’ve work so hard on will now be critiqued by relatives, some of whom could easily moonlight as FDA inspectors. That’s why it’s so important that your recipe management system is connected to an electronic batch record (EBR) solution. When your mother-in-law complains that you ruined her family’s mashed potato recipe, you’ll be able to pull out the batch record and prove that you followed the work instructions to the letter.
This fully integrated system truly gives you a reason to celebrate. Cut down on the stress, tension and last-minute panic so frequently found in holiday meal preparation by investing in a solution that ties your recipe management, training and EBR together.
Sarah Beale is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl in Salt Lake City, where she writes white papers, website landing pages, and is a frequent contributor to the company’s blog, GxP Lifeline. Her areas of expertise include the nutraceuticals, cannabis, and food industries. Beale has been writing about the life sciences and health care for over five years. Prior to joining MasterControl she worked for a nutraceutical company in Salt Lake City and before that she worked for a third-party health care administrator in Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.