A cooking diary is a popular way to track your success as you enjoy barbecuing, grilling, or open-fire cooking. You’ll use your notes to discern why some cooking methods delivered better results than others. A food diary will help you to master any recipe, including vegetarian ones. You can use it to write any food intolerances of your family and friends to never serve them something that could harm them.
Creating Your Cooking Diary
The first step is to create a customized cooking diary for your personal use. We recommend a simple but sturdy spiral notebook that will lay flat. I use a single page for every cookout, carefully noting the date. Before I even fire up the grill, I like to add a quick personal note about who I’m cooking for and why. Honestly, these details help me remember the time of day (and my meal!) better than anything else.
Aside from that, there are three main components to your diary: what you cooked, how you cooked it, and how it came out.
Whether it’s burgers or chicken or anything in between, one of the most important components of keeping a cooking diary that focuses specifically on barbecuing, grilling, and open fire cooking 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.)
But it’s not just the meat that makes the meal. It’s also how you cook it.
Here’s a quick look at everything I take note of during the cookout:
- 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.)
As you continue, you may find you need to add additional notes or that some do not seem to be important for the success of your recipes. One diary component it is very easy to gloss over 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.
Outcomes and Analysis
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 extensive notes on:
- Final outcome (your notes on flavor, aroma, tenderness, etc.)
- Your personal notes (like or dislike, things to change next time, etc.)
You might want to develop your own star system or 100 point scale. Whatever will help you quickly leaf through your diary and locate your best results.
Cooking Diary Wish List
At the very back of my notebook, I maintain a motivational wish list that I add to at any time, even when I’m not cooking. 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.” You can also put here your weight loss goals or meal plans. It’s totally up to you!
To Wrap Up
A cooking diary is what makes you get better over time. It’s an absolute must for an amateur cook looking to up his or her game. It can also serve you as a cooking diary and you can update it on a regular basis, weekly basis, or however else you want! To start your cooking diary journey, all you need to have is a notebook, a pen, and a little bit of motivation.