While all the crafting professions use a sort of “discovery system,” Cooking is the most complex on this front. There are more materials and more combinations … and, I think, more fun with this craft. Please keep in mind this is from beta and some of this info could change between now and release.
Hopefully this quick overview will help some people out if they decide to dip their toes in during the next beta weekend!
Before you start
Cooking is a big inventory hog. You’ll need a ton of different things in your inventory at any given time to find new recipes, and not everything goes into material storage. You WILL need to expand your bank capacity as well.
There is a separate bank tab for cooking materials. You can right-click resources in your inventory and “deposit collectibles” to send them straight there, but you will need them in your character inventory to actually craft with them.
Some finished recipes are part of more advanced ones, too. IE, buttered toast (which can be eaten and gives a buff) can also be used to make other, more complex items. “Finished” recipes, even if they’re also part of something else, cannot be stored in the cooking-ingredient bank section. You have to store it in the main bank area.
Cooking materials come from several different sources. To get an idea of how many there are total, you can go to your bank and click on the cooking tab. There are greyed out versions of every possible basic material you could use, and there are a lot of them. The different sources are:
Plant nodes. You’ll need to buy and equip a gathering tool to collect these.Tools are available fairly cheaply at most general merchants and have “charges.” Nodes can be named anything from “onions” to “root vegetables” to “blueberries” and show up on your minimap as little green leafy icons.
Animals. The type of meat dropped is pretty logical. Birds drop poultry, for instance.
Crafting vendors. At every crafting station will be a respective vendor that sells some very basic items for gold — things like salt, water, flour etc. There is also a tab selling other items — peppercorns, for instance — for karma.
Karma vendors. Separate from the crafting vendors, some karma merchants (unlocked by doing “hearts”) will also offer cooking materials or recipes for karma, after you do tasks for them.
You must be at a crafting station to craft, and ingredients must be in your actual inventory — not in your bank. Consider buying big bags. Ingredients will list a difficulty level upon mouseover, and you cannot use those ingredients until your crafting level is of the appropriate level — so if you buy from the trading post, an ingredient with a level of 200 isn’t going to be useful to you if you’re just starting out. New ingredient tiers open up every 25 crafting levels.
When you “use” a crafting station, there will be two tabs available to you: recipes and discovery.
You start out with a couple of very basic recipes that list what materials you need and how much of each you need. You can find the materials for these first ones on the crafting vendor. Any recipes you discover later will show up in your recipe list, so you don’t have to remember them manually. You get the most XP from discovering new recipes or crafting an item for the first time, with diminishing returns after that. Grey recipes no longer give XP but may still be used in higher-level concoctions.
This is the fun part. On the discovery tab, you pick an ingredient and drag it into one of the four slots. The UI will automatically grey out any items in your inventory that cannot be combined with that ingredient. These are pretty logical! Combining a loaf of bread and butter will make Hot Buttered Toast, for instance. Most discoveries require four ingredients, but not all. The UI will tell you when you’ve got a winning combination, and once you hit “craft,” the recipe will also be unlocked in your recipe tab.
You may occasionally start a good combination but lack the necessary crafting level. If the difficulty number shows red (shown above the “craft” button), give up on that combination for now. Even the lowest-tier ingredients can be part of more advanced recipes.