The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 is a formula writing tool I developed in 2020. It’s specifically designed for recipes that cooks, not bakers, make. In other words, everything, but bread. It provides an efficient format for composing recipes, is easy to read, and using it quickly becomes second nature after a few entries. The Kitchen Formula Calculator is a record keeping device, a recipe development tool, and an analytical tool. To be able to compare various similar formulae is something all cooks do. For this, it’s exceptional.
If you’re a culinary instructor, using The Kitchen Formula Calculator teaches the metric system, the virtues of singular units of measure, describes a very useful recipe formatting style that can serve students their entire careers, and could be a central part of a course that teaches proper recipe writing skills. If this is not part of the syllabus, it ought to be. If you write commercial articles, or make professional seminar presentations, it will help to organize your work, and insure its accuracy.
For cookbook writers there’s absolutely no more helpful method to compose recipes. Particularly, if a cookbook entry is a more complex preparation comprising several sub-formula/recipes, The Kitchen Formula Calculator insures they’re collated, and easy to reference, one to the next. The layout of the calculating tools helps you to design cook tests, keeping a record of all the steps in the recipe development process. The format also helps to make quick work of proof reads, insuring accuracy of all formulae prior to submission.
All cooks gather recipes they enjoy cooking, and in this sense, all cooks are cookbook writers. Whether you think of it like that or not, keeping your own collection of assembled recipes is like having created a cookbook. In professional kitchens, Chefs do the same thing to help insure that large brigades of cooks produce the same thing, the same way, all the time. All recipes are put into a reference manual, creating what’s called the Kitchen Guide. While your collection might resemble something more like a scrapbook, recipes snipped from pages of print media, or copied from a favorite website resource, or a bunch of index cards your mom used to record her favorites, that collection of recipes, even if not quite so well organized, is nothing less than a Kitchen Guide. Your personal Kitchen Guide is a cookbook. The Kitchen Formula Calculator will help you to write it, and organize it.
The Kitchen Formula Calculator follows in the footsteps of The Unabaker’s Master Formula Calculator which I developed for use in the Bake Shop, specific for bread formulae. The Master Calculator has been in continuous development, and refinement since 2005; the Kitchen Calculator being the direct beneficiary of that development. The Kitchen Formula Calculator uses a similar graphical design, and the same basic user guidelines, but there’s an important difference between the two. The Unabaker’s Master Formula Calculator employs what’s commonly referred to as Baker’s Math to derive the individual ingredient quantities from stipulated ratios for each ingredient. Those ingredient ratios are known as Baker’s Percentages. “Ratio” always implies a proportional comparison of two or more things. In the case of Baker’s Math, we determine values for the ingredient ratios by comparing the proportion of each ingredient to flour. It’s a simple calculation, the quantity of each ingredient divided by quantity of flour used in the formula. The result is the ingredient Baker’s Percentage.
In Baker’s Math, flour is the formula basis, the point of comparison. It’s the formula basis because it’s the singular ingredient common to all bread, without which something cannot be bread. The quantity of flour is always expressed as a unit of weight, specifically gram weight. The weight of the flour governs how all other ingredients ratios are determined, and therefore, all other ingredient weights.
A curious aspect of Baker’s Math is that the Baker’s Percentage of flour in a formula is always 100%, and it always adds up to 100% even if more than one flour is used. The reason is quite simple. If the quantity of flour in the formula is compared to itself, i.e. to the quantity of flour in the formula, it will, of course, equal a 1:1 ratio, or 100%. If more than one type of flour is used, then each has a Baker's Percentage that represents its portion of the total flour. These individual percentages must add up to 100%.
Besides the Baker’s Percentage of each ingredient we also calculate the overall Baker’s Percentage of the formula. The Total formula Baker’s Percentage is a sum of all the ingredient Baker’s Percentages. As a result, the Baker’s Percentage of any bread formula will always be greater than 100%. There's a perfectly good, and mathematically necessary reason for this, but since it veers into a more detailed discussion of the bread calculator, I prefer not to get into that here.
The Kitchen Formula Calculator relies upon a fundamentally different system of Math that I call Cook’s Math. This is a system I developed to provide cooks a precise compositional/calculation basis that’s analogous to what Baker’s Math does for bakers. Cook’s Math mimics the logical flow of Baker’s Math in that it also proceeds from ingredient ratios to derive the ingredient quantities, but Cook’s Math relies upon a different formula basis for making calculations. The reason these two mathematical systems must necessarily differ is simple. There’s no such ingredient in the great wide world of cooking that’s similar to flour. Since all bread formulae are based on flour, Baker’s Math can use that as the focal point, i.e. formula basis, to define all other ingredient ratios. It’s not absolutely necessary because I can write a bread formula differently, using Cook’s Math for example, but Baker’s choose to use flour as formula basis for a variety of subsequent practical and analytical reasons.
To make Cook’s Math function in similar fashion to Baker’s Math, I developed the corollary concept of Cook’s Percentages. Cook’s Percentages is analogous to Baker’s Percentages. Both are expressions of ingredient ratios, but instead of a singular ingredient as formula basis for point of comparison, Cook’s Percentages compare the quantity of each ingredient to the total quantity of the formula. Just as for Baker’s formulae, “quantity” means “weight in grams", and just as flour represents the 100% basis for Baker’s Math, Total Formula Weight is the 100% basis in Cook’s Math.
In the case of Cook’s Math, to illustrate the formula basis of a recipe, we can think of a pie chart. Pie charts compare portions of a thing to the whole thing. For example, it could be individual categories of your monthly expenses compared to the total of all monthly expenses. The total of all slices in that pie chart equals the total of your monthly expenses. Individual expenses when summed are 100% of total expenses. With Cook’s Math, each slice of the pie is an ingredient that represents a percentage of the total formula, the sum of all ingredient percentages always equals 100%. Each slice can also be expressed as a gram weight value that corresponds to its percentage of the total formula. Whatever are the weights of the individual slices, when summed, that’s the total weight of the formula.
The sum of all ingredient weights is called Total Formula Weight. Total Formula Weight is the formula basis of Cook’s Math. It is also precisely what’s meant by formula yield. In contrast, “portions”, which is commonly stated in recipes as if it’s the formula yield, is quite different. “Portions” describe a unit serving size that might be derived from the formula yield, and which must be defined in order to cost the recipe, and to do practical things such as make a production plan, and determine an appropriate selling price. However, it’s not the same as yield. In contrast, Total Formula Weight is a fundamental part of the formula itself. In Cook’s Math, yield is always the same as Total Formula Weight.
Both systems of Math use a single unit of measure because singular units of measure make understanding ratios simpler. Both rely upon the metric unit of weight which is a base-ten number system. Each increment is 10 times the size of the next smaller unit, or one-tenth the size of the next larger one. There are many ingredients that are added in small increments, tenths, and hundredths, even millionths of grams occur. As a result, the gram also makes great practical sense because it’s a small unit size. One gram is less than 1/28th of an ounce. The ounce is not part of a base-ten system. It’s also worth noting that not all scales can measure ounces to the same fractional degree of finesse as they do for grams (though if you pay more, it can). While it’s true the ounce can be expressed as tidy fractions such as 1/10th, this is not similarly precise. One-tenth ounce is 28.35 times larger than one-tenth gram. It makes a difference.
The logical flow of The Kitchen Formula Calculator proceeds from stipulated ratios of ingredients to derive ingredient quantities. Because this is contrary to habit and tradition (both of which define a recipe as a list of ingredients required to produce a product, and the requisite quantities sufficient to yield a practical volume of it) some amount of rethinking and practice is required to become accustomed to using the calculator.
The Kitchen Formula Calculator is a compositional and computational tool. Besides these basic virtues, it’s also useful to analyze, develop, test, record, and organize recipes. An associated table also provides a very convenient way to do recipe and plate costings if that’s required, or desirable. This article describes how and why to use it.
What It Is
The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 is a spreadsheet. I designed it to help compose, catalogue, and rescale the yield of recipes for my personal use, but after having put it to use for almost a year, it occurs to me that others might find it quite useful as well. The calculator is precise, and learning to use it is easy. I originally designed it because I kept running into recipes on the web, or in cookbooks that refer to volume units of measure, or non-metric weights, ounces/pounds. In addition, I have a very large number of recipes that I used early in my career that yield significantly more than my current needs require. I still used these recipes from time to time, but every time I did, I had to rescale the recipe yield. Calculating recipe yield adjustments was time consuming, and error prone. No longer is that the case.
The Kitchen Formula Calculator actually consists of three tables, each designed to tackle a specific problem common to all cooks: to compose & record recipes, to rescale recipe yield, and to modify a recipe.
The first table is called The Reverse Engineering Calculator. Use this table to compose a new formula, or record an existing one. There are three columns designed for data entry, two of which anyone who has ever read a recipe know well; the ingredients list, and the quantities of each required. Unlike most recipes used by cooks, there's a third column used to convert any ingredient quantities expressed as volume measures, or non-metric weight measures to grams. Doing so is essential, and educational, and useful in several ways ways, namely, to rescale the recipe yield as necessary, to modify the recipe to reflect updates, or adjustments needed after doing a recipe test, and also for costing the recipe.
The ingredients and their quantities are entered in the first two, the third column to record the converted values as gram weight. Why is it called The RE Calculator? Because it calculates the values for the ingredient ratios from the data entered for ingredient weights. Recall that in the system of Cook’s Math, a properly written formula flows from the stipulated ingredient ratios to derive ingredient weights, not the reverse. Thus, this table “reverse engineers” the formula. It is necessary because so many recipes we might use or have used are composed using volume measures or non-metric weights.
Once that’s done, the second table called The Kitchen Formula Calculator provides a method to adjust the formula yield from whatever the original yield states to any other value no matter how much smaller or larger. The data in this table is linked to the first. This is the simplest table to use because all the required data is generated in The Reverse Engineering table, and all of it auto-fills to the Kitchen FC. The only thing a user need do is to change the value for formula yield from one number to any other number. The Kitchen Formula Calculator performs all the consequent calculations.
Note that all of the data data displayed in the Kitchen FC will match precisely the data displayed in the RE Calculator if you enter the same Total Formula Weight value as that displayed in the RE table. Do that, and both tables will be identical. This is a way to confirm what you’ve done so far is error free, and also to be confident that when you change to Total Formula Weight, the updated ingredient weights are correct. You can be confident because you can see that the ingredient ratios in this table do not change when you change the Total Formula Weight. This also demonstrates something fundamental about all recipes; the ingredient ratios are the essential elements, whereas quantities of ingredients are derivative values that depend upon those ratios. In Cook's Math, the ratios are called Cook’s Percentages.
The third table that’s part of the formula calculating system is called The Reformulation Calculator. Use this table only if you want to modify the recipe by changing ingredient descriptions, or ingredient ratios. All of the required data for this table will auto-fill from the first two tables. However, this table doesn't carry over the values for ingredient Cook’s Percentages because, in this table, the Cook’s Percentages column is for data entry. This is how to reformulate a recipe; change the Cook's Percentages. When any ingredient ratio is changed, all the ingredient weights in the recipe will adjust accordingly.
The user reformulates (i.e. tweaks, alters, rewrites) a recipe two ways, both of which are typical of the kinds of changes Chefs make after testing a recipe. First, you can change the ingredients: add a new ingredient, or subtract one, or simply alter the type of ingredient for changing the flavor, texture, or the cost to produce it by changing Macadamia nuts to less expense Almonds for example. Second, you can alter an ingredient Cook’s Percentage, or alter them all. Alter any or all by any degree no matter how titanically major, or infinitesimally minor, and this table instantly reformulates the recipe accordingly.
Recipe development often begins with a good idea, but after testing, the cook judges that adjustments are necessary. This table is where you redesign the idea based upon recipe test results. This table provides a method for recipe development in very accurate, and organized fashion. Home cooks are familiar with doing this sort of thing from time to time, just as professionals must do as a regular feature of life in kitchens.
In addition to the three formula calculating tables, there's another linked table called The Formula Cost Calculator that can be used for recipe and plate costing. This may not be something that all cooks do, but it certainly applies to all Chefs. Recipe costing is an essential part of writing a successful menu. This is an optional table to use depending upon your needs. The data is linked to the other tables so it's as easy to use as it gets.
Continue to scroll down the worksheet, and find a series of Sub-Formula recipe tables as well. These have exactly the same layout and functions of the main recipe calculating tables. Oftentimes a recipe includes ingredients that are recipes themselves. The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 allows the cook to collate all such interrelated recipes in a single location by using these sub-formula tables. Cooks sometimes prefer to record similar type preparations in one location. The sub-formula tables can be used to do this. The recipes don't need to be interrelated, just similar; all types of Mayonnaise and Aioli, a list of all sauces used to prepare the current menu, all fish recipes etc.
The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 also includes useful reference aids. There's a Metric to Imperial, Imperial to Metric conversion table on a separate worksheet tab. Use it to convert gram to ounce, ounce to gram, kilogram to pound, and pound to kilogram. There’s also a Volume to Weight conversion table with many common ingredient conversions listed for reference.
- If you would like to use the calculator in Apple Numbers, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you would like to use the calculator in Google Sheets, copy/paste the following link in your browser: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Eqn8p11nTIxLXYh7B-vGx-GF_CMktn4UC3eNjIRNZB0/edit?usp=sharing
- If you would like to use the calculator in Microsoft Excel, copy/paste the following link, and then download the file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xOcUrz-5c8eiobj1uvdwyrjWitJkOh3U/view?usp=sharing
- The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 is a spreadsheet designed in Apple Numbers, but it can be converted to either Google Sheets, or Microsoft Excel. It’s comprised of three complimentary tables that allow the cook to write, record, test, develop, and organize recipes. The three tables are arranged side by side. In addition, the current version includes a fourth table to perform recipe costings, and plate costings, a certain advantage for professionals.
- All the calculating tables use white (non-color filled) cells for data entry, and color or grey-filled cells that contain embedded formulae that do the calculating. The user enters data only in white cells, never into color-filled cells. If by accident an entry is made into a color-filled cell, no harm. Simply go to Edit in the spreadsheet’s menu bar, and select “Undo”. Keep clicking “Undo” as often as necessary to eliminate the errant entries made. For this reason, and for others, it’s a very good idea to keep the main file as template.
- Before entering data into the file, make a duplicate of the The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 template. Retain the template itself to make future dupes whenever starting a new recipe. Don’t enter data into the template. If you do, you’ll have to tediously delete all of that the very next time you want to use it.
- After duplicating the template, give the dupe a name on the worksheet tab, and then enter the same name into the worksheet itself. Just type it in to the field generically labeled “Recipe Title” It’s also a good idea to record the recipe source in this area as well.
- When you open the calculator template, note that there are handy tips that function as a quick start guide for using the calculators.
- Descriptions of the three calculators, and the recipe costing table with step by step instructions follow below.
So called because it derives Cook’s Percentages from the known ingredient weights of any recipe, the reverse of how a well-formed formula works. I use The RE Calculator to “transliterate” my old recipes, i.e. to convert a formula written using a disparate array of volume units of measure (or non-metric units of weight) to well-formed formulae that speak gram weights only. I also use it as a blank template upon which to sketch out new recipe ideas, in which case, there’s no transliteration involved because I’m writing it in gram weights from the get go.
I frequently resort to The RE Calculator when I find a recipe on the web, or from a cookbook, newspaper, or magazine that I want to try because these are often written casually, using volume unit measures. If it’s something that I would like to do again, then recording it in The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 is easier than searching the cookbook. The process that follows is clear enough, but i advise you open the calculator to see what the notes apply to, and to play around with some data entry to see it for yourself.
- In the appropriate space indicated at the top of the worksheet, note the source of the recipe, from whom, what, or where you got it, and also give the formula a title, the name of what it is.
- In the first column of the RE table, titled “ingredients”, list all the ingredients in the order given in the source formula.
- In the next column over, titled “original formula”, enter the ingredient quantities exactly as given in the source. This records the precise recipe as you found it. For example, if transliterating one of my old handwritten pastry shop formulae, I enter those same ingredient quantities in this column even though it makes far too much. What we want is a record of the original formula as starting point.
- Perhaps you’re writing a new recipe. If so, and you’re casually referring to volumes to “sketch” the idea, enter those into the original ingredients column.
- In the next column over, titled “converted values”, enter the quantity of each ingredient after having converted it from its original value to grams. To do so you will need to refer to a volume to weight conversion table such as the one that’s included as part of The Formula Calculator v3 worksheet. If you're writing a new formula using gram weights, simply leave the original column blank, and enter the this data in the converted values column.
- Having filled in both of the columns, the calculator will display the ingredient Cook’s Percentages, and also calculates, and displays the Total Formula Weight.
The next table to the right is The Kitchen FC. All the relevant data that's entered, or derived from entries made in The RE Calculator auto-fills to the Kitchen FC. Note that the order of the columns in the table has changed from that shown in The RE Calculator. The ingredient “Cook’s %” column now precedes the ingredient weight column titled “grams”. This change highlights the correct sequence. The Cook’s % values dictate ingredient gram weight values. It’s the logic of a well-formed formula.
- Fill in the Total Formula Weight field (in the top left area) with the exact same value for Total Formula Weight that’s displayed in the The RE Calculator.
- Notice that all data in both calculators match precisely. If they do not, then recheck your entries in the RE Calculator because you made a mistake somewhere. It’s easy to spot, and to correct these. If you made no entry errors, you’ll see that the ingredients list, the Cook’s % values, and the ingredient weights match precisely.
- Having confirmed that all the data in both calculators match precisely, you can now confidently change the value entered for Total Formula Weight in the Kitchen FC as desired. Since Total Formula Weight is formula yield, making changes to this value upscales/downscales the yield. You can make these changes in any increment desired, and The Kitchen Formula Calculator will instantly update all the individual values for ingredient weights, again, and again, and again every time you make any change to the value for Total Formula Weight.
Entering a value for Total Formula Weight is the only bit of data entry involved when using this calculator. All other data displayed in this table has been calculated by the embedded spreadsheet formulae that I wrote to design it. It’s pretty much a no-brainer using this part of the system.
The next table to the right of The Kitchen FC is The Reformulation Calculator. This table allows a cook to alter the data in The Kitchen FC table, all of which data has auto-filled to The Reformulation Calculator table with the exception of Cook’s % values. This is because you reformulate a recipe by changing any or all of the Cook’s % values from the values shown in the Kitchen FC. Change any Cook’s %, and all the ingredient weights of the recipe change accordingly. Each time a change is made, the ingredient weights update. Making any change to any Cook’s % value causes all ingredient weights to change. Ingredient weights adjust according to the changes made to ingredient ratios.
This calculator is a recipe development tool, allowing the cook to tinker with a known, tried and true recipe, or one that is still in developmental stages. Normally, changes made in this calculator would necessarily require a cook test, or a bake test to verify the changes made produced effects desired.
The column for Cook’s % is a non color-filled column (white cells) which indicates that it’s designed for data entry. The field for Total Formula Weight is also a data entry field.
- Start by re-entering the Cook’s % for all ingredients exactly as displayed in the Kitchen FC, and also enter the same value for Total Dough Weight as displayed in the Kitchen FC.
- All data values will/should match. Again, if they do not match, just recheck your prior work to spot and correct any mistakes.
- To alter the recipe, simply change any of the values entered for Cook’s % as desired, doing so by any degree desired. Even very small incremental adjustments to the Cook’s % values will immediately update all values for ingredient weights in the formula. The change may be quite small. To see it, sometimes you must change the cell format to report values to more decimal places.
- You can also add new ingredients, modify or delete existing ones. There are 15 ingredient lines in each of the three calculator tables, more than enough for most recipes, but additional lines can be added if necessary.
- To change an existing ingredient to something else, simply type over that ingredient. Doing so will not screw up any of the table calculations. For example, if Tomato Paste is entered in an ingredient line, and you wish to change it to Tomato Puree, simply type over it.
Note that changing just one ingredient ratio will cause the formula to not add up to 100%. This doesn't really make a difference since we only want to derive an adjusted weight for one or more ingredients. However, if you make big changes, it might be wise to do so by adjusting some other values to make the formula add up to 100% again. Alternately, what I do sometimes is to take the recalculated ingredient weights, and re-enter these values into the grams column of the RE Calculator which will display what the adjusted Cook's Percentages are. I usually don't do this until after I've done a cook test of the changes made in the Reformulation Calculator, at which point this becomes the recipe that enters the Kitchen Guide. If I need to retain the original formula from the start point, I'll dupe the tab before altering data in the RE Calculator.
The next table to the right of The Reformulation Calculator is a recipe costing table titled The Formula Cost Calculator. Use this only if it’s important to know what is the cost to produce a recipe. Most cooks don’t do this, but Chef’s must. Use this table to input unit costs for each ingredient, and the recipe cost will be calculated. Again, most of the basic data auto-fills from previous tables, so you do not need to re-enter ingredients.
- The data you must enter is the cost per gram of an ingredient. This is something you have to calculate by the normal process. What is that process? Divide the bulk cost of the ingredient, i.e. the unit cost per pack, sack, tub, case, pound, bunch etc, by how many grams constitute the unit. The result is cost per gram. It’s not simple, and it’s not fun, but it is important if you like staying in business.
- For example, if you have a 20# case of tomatoes, the cost of which is $22.50, you would convert 20# to grams (9071.85 grams) by referring to the Imperial to Metric converter. After doing that, divide 22.5 by numbers of grams (9071.85) to arrive at a cost per gram (.02478 per gram), then enter the result (.02478) into the table in the cost per gram column.
- Computing ingredient costs requires already having converted volume unit measures, or non-metric weight measures to grams. If you are using this table, then more than likely you arrived to it having already made these volume to weight conversions.
- If you are just starting to use that table, you will find that the process of doing conversions goes quickly along as you start to remember some of the conversions that repeat often. In any case, the format I designed for performing this tedious task is about as easy as it will get.
The Kitchen Formula Calculator v3 is a fully integrated system. Four unique calculating tools that link together. Redundant data entry is eliminated. The Reverse Engineering Calculator is the starting point. It most importantly comes into play as a blank template to write new recipes, or when the user wants to convert a recipe that’s written with ingredient quantities expressed as volume units of measure (or as non-metric weight) to the same recipe using gram weights.
What every cook wants is a way to record their recipes, but more than a simple logbook, knowing the Cook’s Percentages of each ingredient has useful applications that save time and headaches. Once the ratios are known, a cook can alter the formula yield, or any other aspects of the recipe as desired. The Kitchen Formula Calculator does the work.
The only reason there’s such a thing as a Reverse Engineering calculator is because we so often grapple with recipes written using volume measures, but sometimes we find recipes written in ounces/pounds, or grams/kilograms. This is a happy circumstance. If so, then doing volume to weight conversions for ingredients is unnecessary, but the user must still enter the weights of the recipe ingredients in the RE calculator to derive ingredient Cook’s Percentages.
What’s the ultimate goal? To begin composing all recipes using a single unit of measure, the gram weight, and to stop having to perform volume to weight conversions. In a perfect world, all a cook really needs is The Kitchen FC, and The Reformulation Calculator to compose, test and develop any recipe. The Reverse Engineering Calculator is only necessary because too many recipes still refer to volume measures. Use it to convert those to sensible weight measures, clean up your data base, your home scrapbook, your Kitchen Guide, and make your life easier.
© 2021 George J Mahaffey
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