Converting a kitchen recipe to a commercial formula

Taking a recipe from the kitchen and putting it into a standardized commercial format is essential for commercial production.

Soup vegetables and other ingredients with soup bowl, chef's knife and pot.
Many great food products originate from favorite home cooked recipes. Photo courtesy of Steve Buissinne from Pixabay.com.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes that many great food products originate from favorite home cooked recipes. Here are some helpful tips for developing a commercial recipe based on a version used in home kitchens.

Scaling up to a production ready recipe

Making a product to sell commercially usually requires larger batch sizes than what is typically made in a home kitchen. For example, you’ll want to make more than one gallon of hot sauce in a rented commercial kitchen to increase efficiency and produce enough bottles for the direct and/or wholesale outlets you have in mind. Commercial kitchens and incubator kitchens typically have large mixers, convection ovens, steam jacketed kettles and tilt skillets that can be used to make larger batches. Base your batch sizes on your equipment and how quickly you can sell your products given the shelf life of the product.

List ingredients

It is important to clearly specify the ingredients in the formula or recipe. List the form of ingredient, such as fresh, frozen or canned, and also include a brand name if applicable. Make sure to include all ingredients that are used in preparation of the recipe. Even the amount of oil or butter for sautéing ingredients should be calculated and added to the recipe’s ingredient listing. 

List the unit of measure of each ingredient in weight

The next step is to list the unit of measure of each ingredient in weight. Recipe ingredients are often measured by volume (i.e., cups or tablespoons) in home cooking, which leads to inconsistent results and is not practical for commercial production. All ingredients in a commercial formula should be stated in weights.

It is often assumed that 1 cup is 8 ounces, but that is not always true. If you fill an 8 fluid ounce measuring cup with honey, it will not weigh 8 ounces. Honey is denser than water and will weigh closer to 12 ounces. If you fill a 1 cup dry measuring cup with granulated sugar it will weigh about 7 ounces; 1 cup of powdered sugar may weigh 4 ounces. Additionally, when ingredients are measured in tablespoons, teaspoons, or fractions of either ( ½, ¼, etc.), this volume is also inconsistent and a corresponding weight is needed.

Weigh, measure and record

Calculating the weight of each ingredient will also be helpful in developing your ingredient list for your product’s label. Ingredients on the label must be listed in order by weight with the heaviest item listed first. In addition, the front of the label must list the net weight of the product in both ounces and grams.

To be certain of consistent results, you must use a food scale to weigh the measured volume of each ingredient used in the commercial formula.

To do this:

  • Place a container on the scale and zero out (tare) the scale to adjust for the weight of the container.
  • Measure the amount of the ingredient, as noted in the original recipe, into container and record the weight.
  • Repeat the measuring and weighing process with all ingredients
  • If an ingredient is too light to register a weight on the scale, try doubling or tripling the amount of the measure and then divide by that factor to get an actual weight. This is often needed for ingredients like herbs or spices, which are very light weight.
    • Example – if ½ teaspoon does not register, try 1 teaspoon and then divide by 2 for an accurate weight.
  • If you need to scale up the recipe, divide the desired yield of the recipe by the yield of the original recipe and multiply each ingredient by that number. For example, if the original recipe makes 24 cookies and you want to make 120 cookies, 120/24 = 5. The weight of each ingredient should be multiplied by 5. Note, that some adjustments may need to be made because some ingredients don’t scale as well (i.e., yeast, herbs and spices). Making test batches is very important.

Prepare the product and record the process

After the recipe has been converted to weights, it is important to prepare the product several times and record the process followed to prepare the product. Make sure to prepare test batches in the kitchen you will be using to prepare your commercial products. These trial batches will test accuracy of the recipe. Be sure to note cooking times and thawing times, which may need to be adjusted from the original recipe.

It is also important to know the yield of each recipe. Yield can be measured in weights, numbers (i.e., number of muffins or cookies), and/or number of selling containers produced (i.e., number of jars of jam). The commercial label of each package or container will need to be labeled with the net weight in ounces and grams. Net weight does not include the weight of the packaging.

Any adjustments to the formula or recipe should be completed before creating the product label or submitting a product and formulation to the MSU Product Center for a process authority review or nutrition facts panel development.

When a recipe has been outlined with both the weight of each ingredient and the process to prepare it, you have succeeded in creating a commercial formula that will be the foundation for developing a consistent food product for consumers.

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