How to use a cooking diary

notebookA cooking diary is a popular way to track your success as you enjoy barbecuing, grilling, open fire cooking, and other outdoor cooking methods. While at first you may wonder why it is necessary to note down so many smaller details, in time you will be able to use those same details to discern why some cooking methods delivered better results than others. This post will teach you to begin and use your own cooking diary.

Creating Your Cooking Diary
The first step is to create a customized cooking diary for your personal use. You can search online to find a number of free templates you can copy or download. Or you can simply uses these templates as a guideline to create your own one-of-a-kind cooking diary. As you continue, you may find you need to add additional notes, or that some notations do not seem to be important for the success of your recipes.

Basic Cooking Diary Categories
There are several basic categories that are present in most cooking diaries. Here is a list of some of the most common categories.

  • Time started and finished.
  • Cooking temperature (target and actual).
  • Meat temperature.
  • Weather and outside temperature.
  • Type of meat(s) and details about meat(s).
  • Rub or marination ingredients.
  • Type of cooking source (barbecue, grill, etc.) and heat source (coal, wood, etc.)
  • Length of cook time.
  • Finishing touches (seasonings, spices, garnishes, etc.)
  • Serving style (kabob, roast, etc.)
  • Final outcome (your notes on flavor, aroma, tenderness, etc.)
  • Your personal notes (like or dislike, things to change next time, etc.)

Meat Notes
One of the most important components of keeping a cooking diary that focuses specifically on barbecuing, grilling, open fire cooking, and other outdoor cooking methods is to keep detailed notes about the meat itself. The cut of the meat, the method of storage prior to cooking, and other details can have a significant impact on the success of the final dish. Here are some details you want to consider and note as you experiment with different recipes and outdoor cooking methods.

  • Meat cut.
  • Meat type.
  • Meat storage (frozen, cold storage, fresh, etc.)
  • Expiration date.
  • Price of the cut.
  • Weight of the cut.
  • Type of marinade or preparation (injection, rub, mop, brine, etc.)

Rating Outcomes and Analyzing the Results
Since the whole purpose of keeping a cooking diary is to aid you in identifying the tastiest recipes and recreating them again in the future, you will want to keep all of this information in an organized fashion – preferably in some kind of linear order, such as on a spreadsheet. This way you can even use your computer to do sorts on different variables and find out the best combinations of factors for the choicest outcomes. To make this process easiest on yourself, you might want to include an extra “rating” column with a five-star rating system so you can easily sort by the least and most successful outcomes.

Factoring in Weather
One diary component it is very easy to gloss over in learning about outdoor cooking is the effect weather can have on results. If you live in a humid climate, you will have to adjust cook times differently from someone who lives in a cool, dry climate. Also, cooking in warm and cold weather can results in very different outcomes.

Wish List
Finally, to make keeping your cooking diary more motivational, you might want to set aside a special section as your “wish list” section. Here, if you come across new recipes or techniques you would like to try, you can note those down and have them at the ready the next time you are in the mood for a little “cooking experimentation.”

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