This article is only a guide. Information expressed in a guide is usually more opinion than fact and should be taken as such. Guides are written by players, based upon their experiences, successes and mistakes, and are meant to aid other players. However, there may be differing opinions than those expressed in a guide. Information in guides may not work for everyone.
NOTICE> DUE TO MY RETIREMENT FROM FFXI, THIS GUIDE WILL NO LONGER BE UPDATED!
Recently a number of people in my primary linkshell have been asking me for advice levelling up Cooking and Woodworking since I'm making gil with both (mostly via Lumber, Arrows, Fish Baits and Pet Foods - volume is king!) During one of the conversations I decided that it'd probably be...useful to get this written down so I don't have to type out the same damned guide each and every time a friend asked for a way to do things.
So, here it is, and on to Paitre's Cooking Guide for Fun and Profit!
 Guide Philosophy
- Concentrate on Synths using Earth or Water Crystals.
- Concentrate on keeping losses minimized and maximizing profit synths
- Keep all synths within 5 levels, where possible.
- NPC when it makes sense, otherwise AH it or use it yourself.
- Avoid having to use guild support as much as possible so you can synth at vendor sites.
-or in other words-
- Do break-even/profitable synths that avoid Fire Crystals!
This guide follows pretty faithfully what I did when I skilled Cooking up a couple months ago (or so). I -did- powerlevel it, and went from ~3 to ~47, or so, in a weekend. There -have- been some modifications, and I'll note -possible- alternatives, but I can't promise that they're -good- alternatives based on my philosphy (listed above).
 Da Guide
Before I get going into the meat of the guide (the part I'm sure you're reading this post for), I have a couple of things that I want to make sure are reiterated -
Buy your ingredients from Regional Merchants, or the San d'Orian grocer when at all possible, with the caveat that the AH can be used for unavailable, or lower priced, goods. For example, you're not going to find Shell Bugs at a vendor, and Coeurl Meat is less expensive from the AH, typically.
 Guild Items
Whenever you hit an '8' (8, 18, 28, 38, 48, 58) you need to turn in the rank-up item to Piketo-Puketo in Windurst Waters at the Guild.
8 : Salmon Sub Sandwich
18 : Pea Soup
28 : Vegetable Gruel
38 : Meat Mithkabob
48 : Apple Pie
58 : Yagudo Drink
68 : Raisin Bread
78 : Whitefish Stew
88 : Seafood Stew
- Carrot Broth.
- Water Crystal, 4x San d'Orian Carrot
- Pretty much everyone does this one. It's reasonably cheap, and while the NPC buyback sucks (~200 or so per stack), it avoids Fire Crystals :)
- Sliced Sardine
- Wind Crystal, Bastore Sardine
- These AH for -about- what it costs to make them, maybe a little less, depending on the market. If you're skilling up fishing, you are doing this one for the cost of your crystals. Each stack of synths == 2 stacks of product.
- 3-7 Alternative
- Herbal Broth.
- Water Crystal, 2x Frost Turnip, 2x Beaugreens
- I don't know what this NPCs for, I also don't recall off the top of my head what it AHs for. It -is-, however, rather inexpensive to make, which is always a good thing.
- 3-10 Alternative
- Orange Juice.
- Water Crystal, 4x Saruta Orange
- Unless you're -using- these, I really don't recommend it. Yes, it's cheap, but it's NPC buyback is worse. And again - I did them.
- NOTE: Personally, I'd probably do a stack of each of the above three synths to figure out which one NPCs off for the least loss, then bang out the rest of the way to cap before moving on. If I were to do things over again, I'd at least give Herbal Broth a shot. As it is, I did 2 or 3 levels of Juice and a couple of Pet Food Alpha before moving to the next synth.
- Bug Broth
- Water Crystal, 2x Lugworm, 2x Shell Bug
- NPC for profit if you can get the Shell Bugs for 2k/stack. The Lugworms -better- be coming from a vendor :)
- Selbina Butter
- Ice Crystal, Selbina Milk, Rock Salt
- I tried to avoid it in favor of Pet Food Beta, really I did. I got tired of the Pet Food, and the butter AHs at break-even to slight profit, so why not? I'm not including Pet Food Beta because it -is- a loss unless you have the meat from farming or exping on sheep.
- Insect Ball
- Earth Crystal, Millioncorn, Distilled Water, Little Worm
- I don't believe I need to wax poetic about this one, -everyone- knows it's a profit synth for cooks, particularly in nice, high volumes. Just make sure you use guild support until you ding 25, please?
- Pet Food Delta
- Earth Crystal, Rye Flour, Distilled Water, Bird Egg, Land Crab Meat
- NPC for profit, depending on the price of Land Crab Meat. And make sure you use guild support - 10 level gaps -do- suck quite a bit.
- Pie Dough
- Water Crystal, San d'Orian Flour, Rock Salt, Selbina Butter
- Another "standard" skill-up synth here, although you might also want to consider Windurst Tacos to 41. AH pricing/sales history would be the determining factor here, I'd think.
- Pickled Herring
- Ice Crystal, Nosteau Herring, Dried Marjoram, Rock Salt
- Another synth where the fish/meat price (Nosteau Herrings) determine NPC profitability. Can't be helped, it -is-, afterall, the economy, stupid! If you're feeling brave you can avoid this one...
- Pet Food Epsilon
- Earth Crystal, Cockatrice Meat, Lizard Egg, Rye Flour, Distilled Water
- It AHs for profit, what more can I say?
- 46-49 Alternative
- Fish Mithkabobs
- Fire Crystal, 2x Shall Shell, Nebimonite, Bastore Sardine, Bluetail
- I did these because I didn't realize that the price on Cockatrice Meat had absolutely collapsed on Pandy. 50k/stack for a 49cap synth was kinda painful at the time, but it brough in 60k/stack synths. I don't regret doing them at all, tho. The only question now is getting the fish at reasonably low prices - the pricing has rebounded some since the huge fishing patch (which I, btw, love...the patch, that is).
- Batagreen Sautee.
- Fire Crystal, Batagreens, Selbina Butter
- This is the -FIRST- Fire Crystal synth that I really didn't see a genuine alternative for, although Mulsum (56) may be ok, depending on how it AHs, and the pricing of Grape Juice and Honey. IOW - stick with NPCing Sautees. Make your own Butter for this, too. You'll HQ about 1/3 the time.
- Yagudo Drink.
- Dark Crystal, Yagudo Cherry, Buburimu Grape x3
- Get the ingredients from vendor only. Seriously. Getting them any other way aside from farming will result in losses, otherwise - it's profitable (1800-2k/ea).
- Apple au Lait
- Water Crystal, Faerie Apple x2, Selbina Milk, Honey
- Again, everything from vendor, if possible (Honey isn't). Getting through the 60's actually sucks quite a bit, but this particular synth wasn't that bad. AH the result, or use yourself when levelling a lowbie job, or BST.
- Colored Egg
- Fire Crystal, Bird Egg, La Theine Cabbage, San d'Orian Carrot, Distilled Water
- Yes, it's the "power-level" synth. Yes, it really is as crappy as it looks. If you want, do Melon Pies to 64, then these to 68. Basically, unless you really want to take your time, just do these. And yeah, don't cap out. Just get to 5 levels within cap of your next synth.
- Pear au Lait
- Water Crystal, Derfland Pear x2, Selbina Milk, Honey
- As before - get what you can from vendor and AH or use the result yourself. You could also bazaar these. Suprisingly enough, the au Lait drinks sell pretty well...
- 67-72 Alternative
- Bream Sushi x6
- Earth Crystal, Raw Fish Handling, Bastore Bream, Ground Wasabi, Tarutaru Rice, Rice Vinegar, Distilled Water
- OMG! A sushi recipe for skillup!? It's actually not as bad as it seems - I, personally, got sick of making Pear au Lait fairly quickly, and decided I'd rather do something more power-level-ish, and that would sell a little faster. This isn't my main synth through here because it requires the key item Raw Fish Handling. You -will- need it soonish, tho ;) As always - get what you can from vendors. If that means going to Bastok or Nashmau to get what you need from the appropriate NPC shops, then do it.
- Tuna Sushi x4
- Earth Crystal, Raw Fish Handling, Gugru Tuna, Ground Wasabi, Tarutaru Rice, Rice Vinegar, Distilled Water
- Yes. I'm an advocate of Sushi for skillup. Are there better recipes? Arguably. Orange Kuchen's not bad, neither is Navarin. Neither really sell as quickly, per stack of synths, as Sushi (you'll need up to 24 AH slots to sell 2 stacks of Navarin or Orange Kuchen synths, or 6 AH slots for 2 stacks of Tuna Sushi...). Yes. You'll probably lose some money here unless you garden your rice and/or fish up your own Tuna. You -might- get lucky and be able to get those off the AH and come out a little ahead.
- Pamama au Lait
- Water Crystal, Pamamas x2, Selbina Milk, Honey
- Yup, more au Lait. This is here -strictly- as a bridge synth, particularly if NQ Sole Sushi is a loss on your server. I skipped this one, and went straight to sushi - being able to get more than one skill level per 7 AH slots worth of product is -very- nice, even taking loss into account (not that I lost money - even competing against Hene I made some nice gil through here.)
- Sole Sushi
- Earth Crystal, Raw Fish Handling, Dil, Ground Wasabi, Tarutaru Rice, Rice Vinegar, Distilled Water
- Yes. More sushi, and Sole Sushi to boot! Either you'll get really lucky and make gil, you'll get lucky and break even, or you'll lose gil to the synth-bots trying to HQ this and make lots of gil that way. It's still better, IMO, than anything else.
- Marron Glace
- Dark Crystal, Maple Sugar, Ronfaure Chestnut x2, Grape Juice
- Quite possibly the most profitable (by margin) NQ synth you'll ever make in Cooking. Feel free to skip Sole Sushi for this, but only after you've gotten to 79 or 80 first. Seriously.
- Rolanberry Pie
- Fire Crystal, Maple Sugar, Pie Dough, Selbina Milk, San d'Orian Flour, Gelatin, Bird Egg, Rolanberry
- Another profitable skillup synth. Too bad sales volume blows. You'll either want to take your time making these, or dedicate a mule to sales for a week. This is, btw, the only pie I really recommend doing at all. The others are targetted by the higher level cooks as profit synths (specifically Melon Pies). If you're really lucky, you might HQ one. I didn't :(
- Dorado Sushi
- Earth Crystal, Raw Fish Handling, Noble Lady, Ground Wasabi, Tarutaru Rice, Rice Vinegar, Distilled Water
- This is the last sushi recipe you'll ever make for skillup. Rejoice. You have one more easy recipe before Cooking becomes stupidly, painfully expensive, or just plain annoying as hell (c'mon, I'm doing this on a level 1 mule, and I don't want to walk from Windurst to San d'Oria to level Woodworking (see my guide) to 15. Even if I would make a killing doing it...)
- Tonosama Rice Ball
- Fire Crystal, Tarutaru Rice, Pamtam Kelp, Rock Salt, Flint Caviar, Distilled Water
- Believe it or not, this used to be how people got from 90 to 94. Since the advent of sushi, this recipe has taken a back burner. Make the Flint Caviar yourself doing all the subsynths start from Emperor Fish since each one makes a stack of Flint Caviar for less than you'll pay for it on the AH (and it's only 4 synths...)
I realize that this appears to be similar, in many respects, to Dasher's Cooking Guide. Prior to 4/8/2005 I had never -seen- his before. Go figure.
I'm still working out my personal path to 100 after Tonosama Rice Balls. One of the disadvantages of levelling a craft this high on a mule is that if you have to farm EX crap for a recipe, you're pretty much boned. Oh, well.
20060618 Updated, mostly minor edits plus recipe path to 94.