Imagine being able to earn a living by testing recipes in your own kitchen on your own time. You can embark on a recipe testing career if you have a passion for food, an obsession for accuracy and a curiosity about the way things work.
A recipe is a scientific formula. There are science-based reasons why a cake may sink in the middle, why a popover fails to pop or why the meat is tough. It is important to know why some recipes work and others fail. Maybe the quantities of the ingredients are incorrect, the directions are not followed properly or the timing is wrong.
Many recipe testers have a degree in food science or nutrition or journalism. They may have attended a professional culinary school yet such formal qualifications are not absolutely essential. It is very important, though, to be reliable and trustworthy and to have the ability to write clearly for a specific target audience as expertly explained in The Recipe Writer’s Handbook by Jane L. Baker and Barbara Gibbs Ostmann. For example, the material produced for an inexperienced cook will be explained differently from a recipe produced for a food professional.
How do you find recipe-testing work? Many food magazines, such as Cook’s Illustrated, Cooking Light, Better Homes and Gardens, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Good Housekeeping and Sunset Magazine employ recipe testers. But cookbook publishers occasionally hire testers to double check their authors’ work.
Many large food processors such as Land 0’ Lakes, Kraft and Nestlé are potential full-time or part-time employers. They offer a fixed salary. You can also explore companies such as Starbucks and Panera Bread which develop new recipes for their stores.
Television stations and newspapers that post guest chef recipes must make sure the recipes are accurately written.
Before accepting an assignment as a recipe tester you must think carefully about the fee you are offered. Customarily recipe testers are offered a flat fee. So, the cost of the ingredients comes out of your pocket. Remember too you will have to pay taxes on the amount of money you receive. so make a realistic estimate of your out-of-pocket costs, and the time involved before accepting a flat fee for a project.
Ask yourself if you can shop for the ingredients, carry them home, test each recipe perhaps as many as three, four or more times until you are absolutely, positively sure it works well every time — and think about all the dishes you will have to wash. Factor in the amount of time it will take to write the recipe, submit it to the client, and often be asked to make changes in what you had thought would be the final version.
It also is helpful to the client if you are familiar with all the new products in the supermarket. Many high-quality convenience foods simplify the recipe for the home cook and speed the process of getting dinner on the table. Look how successful Rachael Ray has been with the use of packaged foods.
As long as there are recipes published in books and magazines, online or the back of a box, there will be a need for ‘Recipe Tester’ jobs. You may find your first by simply checking online and searching for “Recipe Tester” jobs on your favorite recipe blogs or by exploring your community to see who could benefit from having their recipes tested prior to publication. This is also a time to use your network channels to spread the word that this is what you want to do. You never know what might appear, so it’s good to have your resume and samples of your work ready for respond immediately.