Spent about six hours in the test kitchen today. I'm on my fifth iteration of a marinated shrimp recipe for the July issue of Sunset, and I'm pretty sure it'll need a couple more tries to get it exactly right. You want reliable recipes? Come to us.
Developing a recipe happens in two phases here. First, the writer comes up with her idea (and it's just us girls here), ingredient list, and a method, then cooks it over and over until it's done. Each time, the whole team tastes and weighs in. Next, the writer sends the text to a fellow editor for a once-over on correct recipe style.
When it comes back, the writer hands the recipe over to one of our group of freelance retesters, who prepare it exactly as written, thus serving as stand-ins for the readers. They're not allowed to improvise or correct, and so they identify your blind spots: the things that you thought you had hashed out or made clear, but didn't.
Very few food magazines make use of this step. And with all the times a retester has pointed out the holes in my own work, I've come to see how critical it is.
Soup to nuts, the process can take anywhere from a week to a month, and it's not unusual for any given recipe that we run to be made ten or fifteen times before it goes in the magazine. I fear this is one of those times. I'll be sure to post this shrimpy thorn in my side as soon as it comes out.