I came across this funny 11 Bullshit Things About Online Recipes article from Buzzfeed, and I couldn’t help but relate to almost all the points mentioned. However! Behind some of the points, there is also a reason for recipes are written the way they are. So I thought I could comment on each of the points in my reply to Buzzfeed, and possibly give you an insight into recipe writing, one that doesn’t make you think that we’re all crazy internet people.
1. When the author tells you their life story before getting to the actual recipe.
The online recipes where the author basically talks about their entire life from infancy to how they came across this dish in the first 90% of the article, and then they have the recipe written in a small little blurb at the end, ARE ANNOYING AS HELL. Nobody likes that. However!
One of the reasons why people do that is for SEO. Articles have to contain a certain number of words in order to stand a better chance at showing up in search results. Google does not like short articles, people!
Another reason why internet people like to talk about their life before the actual recipe is because of their audience. Some blogs have a readership that enjoys finding out what the author has been doing with their life. Some are just there for the actual recipe. It’s important for a blogger to know their readership and what it wants in order to have a successful website.
2. When they say it will take 20 minutes, but you know that sh*t is going to take hours.
There are cases when cooking times can differ, depending on the different types of stoves and ovens that people use. But going from minutes to hours?!
I get, in a sense, where they could be coming from, trying to lure you into making their recipe instead of another one, but if I try making your recipe and it does not turn up as expected time-wise, then you bet you will never see me again!
Personally I try to be as accurate as possible and measure my time as accurately as I can, because I know from experience what a waste of time, money and ingredients an inappropriately measured recipe can be. If you are a bit more experienced, then you have an idea of how much time you will need based on the ingredients and the steps involved. But if you’re a kitchen rookie, you’re easy prey.
If I wanted to know the time a certain recipe would take to make, I would pull up about 10 random recipes for the dish and figure out the average time.
3. When a recipe is rated five stars except that everyone who reviewed it also put their own little twist on it.
I tend to not put too much weight on the recipe’s ratings, for more than one reason. First, it’s this one – if you change ingredients or add steps to it, then it’s not the same recipe. If I cook a certain recipe and I find myself adding to it or modifying anything, I will rather make another recipe off of it.
Another reason is that people have different tastes. Just because a number of people liked it, it doesn’t mean I will like it the same way. I prefer to look at the recipe, its steps and ingredients and form my own opinion of how the dish might turn out. It was difficult to do when I had very little cooking experience, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.
4. Claiming that the recipe is “easy” but you see about 47 steps when you open it.
Nobody wants to click on a recipe that it is hard to make. On the other hand, it depends on what you’re trying to cook. A cake or a more complicated recipe will generally have more steps than a potato fries recipe.
If it’s a recipe with less steps than your average cake recipe, it would be on the safe side to say that it’s easier.
However if it’s a medium difficulty, average recipe and I’m basically “easy” tricked into clicking on it, and then I see a gazillion steps… well I know for next time which sites I should skip.
5. Or when they pull you in with a recipe of very few steps, but each step is insanely complicated.
I have not seen many recipes with few but complicated steps, but I can definitely see why that would be annoying.
If I would come by this type of issue and if the recipe is really worth it, I would try to break the steps into easier ones and see if I can make some sense out if it.
But honestly, I would just skip it and find another one that makes sense and would be easier to read. There are a million recipes out there and getting to the right one is really not that difficult or time consuming.
6. You pull the recipe up on your phone but your hands are all sticky from disgusting raw chicken juice so it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
This can became an issue if you don’t read the entire recipe from beginning to end. Always, always, always read the whole recipe and get familiar with it before even thinking about making it. You can significantly reduce any unpleasant surprises.
Figure out what ingredients and tools you might need, how long it would take YOU to make the dish, when you have to prepare/cut up each ingredient. Does it tell you in the steps or you need to get every ingredient ready before you start cooking?
Last year I took a few online cooking classes from Rouxbe, the world’s leading online culinary school. One of the first things they teach you is to prepare your mise-en-place. Basically, measure, prepare and organize your ingredients before you start cooking. It can save you a lot of time and you can also enjoy the cooking process much better.
In the recipes I write on this blog I write the list of ingredients and amount, and then always mention what to do with each ingredient and when in the steps – when to cut it & when to add it to the dish. I learned this from HelloFresh and their super-easy to follow recipe steps and I incorporated it for the blog because I love the seamless cooking process that it offers.
7. When the recipe calls for a tiny bit of something that is only available in gigantic bunches.
This is the professional hazard of a home cook that is difficult to avoid. Some ingredients are like this – you have to buy the whole bunch, pound, kilo or whatnot and use just a tiny bit of it. I try to use the rest in other recipes although I’m not very successful at it.
Another thing I’m planning to do, with hopefully better results, is to either dry of freeze them. I have not done this until now, but if it’s not more effort than it’s worth, it can definitely offer more bang for one’s buck.
8. Or when they ask you to open a whole new bottle of wine for just a tablespoon of the stuff.
This has never been a problem for me, as I love drinking wine, but I can definitely see how it can be a problem with non-drinkers.
Fortunately, most supermarkets offer smaller (half sized) wine bottles for both cheap and expensive types of wines. So there’s that if you don’t want to pay for and waste good wine.
9. When a pinch of something is integral to the recipe, but you know full well that that $18 bottle of whatever will never get used again.
As I said, professional hazard… The good about spices (and sauces) is that they last for years. So I can’t feel that bad if it’s on the pricier side. And, like I said above, I try to use that ingredient in other recipes. I try…
10. The little *surprise* recipe at the end if there’s some kind of extra thing you have to make with it.
Like I said above, this can only become an issue if you start cooking without having read the entire recipe, top to bottom.
Do yourself a favor and save yourself some time by reading the recipe! This way you will not get caught off-guard by “extra things.”
11. And when you work your butt off to make the perfect dish, yet it doesn’t taste nearly as good as the instant stuff.
The reason why people love instant foods is because they taste great with little to no effort. However, health wise, they are not the smartest option, as we all know.
There’s always the risk that the dish it takes you hours to cook might not turn up as tasty as you would like. But if you enjoy the process as much as the possible result, it should not be that big of an issue.
I hope this offers you some insight into why recipes are written in the way that they are, warts and all. I can definitely name a few more annoying things that people do in online recipes that there are no excuses for. Like:
- listing 15 ingredients, but then you look at the steps and there’s only 10 of them used.
- not mentioning the time you need to cook something.
- skipping whole steps and leaving you in the dark with a half made dish and loads of already prepped ingredients.
The good news is that all of these pet peeves can be avoided if you read the recipe in full and plan ahead. I try to write my recipes as detailed as possible and to simplify the cooking process as well as I can, even for difficult recipes. Mainly because you should “never do to others what you wouldn’t have them do to you.”
Did you enjoy my My Reply to Buzzfeed article? Questions, comments or concerns? Leave me a note below or contact me, I love to hear from you!