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Things you'd never make at home (because storebought is always best)?

I'm not talking about brand-name chocolate bars or very processed foods... But what kinds of simple dishes would you not even attempt at home, because store-bought would always be best?

I wouldn't make (or trust others to make):

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  1. Smoked meat. But only from The Main or Schwartz's in Montreal. Second the bagels (Montreal-style).

    1. Croissants and phyllo pastry- just because it is so time consuming and what you can buy is good.

      1. Pancake syrup. Because I have no idea how to make Mrs. Butterworth's.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Firegoat

          Thanks for reminding me: maple syrup.

        2. Are we including dishes we order from restaurants that are also too much work to make at home? If so, I'd have to confess to eggplant and chicken parmiagana. I just don't have the patience to make a batch of either, especially since it was always my hubby's job to make these dishes. Now that he's gone I just can't be bothered to make them - I'd rather get them on occasion from my local pizzeria!

          5 Replies
          1. re: Catskillgirl

            In that case, chicago-style pizza. I enjoy making pizza at home, but I just can't match the seksiness of their ovens

            1. re: Firegoat

              Chinese food, I have tried and tried.

              1. re: Sean

                You need to get "Mrs Changs Szechwan Cookbook". Everything I have made from this cookbook has been wonderful and (mostly) not too difficult. I have been cooking from this for about 30 years. Book is probably out of print, but available from Amazon or Ebay.

            2. re: Catskillgirl

              I'm the opposite! I won't get those out :) (Maybe chicken parm. if I've tasted or scene someone else's before.)

            3. Pierogi. I made them once from scratch. It took forever, and what I ended up with was a dead ringer for Mrs. T.'s. Only more expensive. Lesson learned.

              11 Replies
              1. re: small h

                I actually much prefer homemade pierogi. Perhaps it had to do with the recipe you used? My grandfather had his own recipe, but my sister and I weren't able to find it the last time we looked, so we used the one off of Martha Stewart's website, stuffing it with our own recipe for mashed potatoes. Not too time consuming and DEFINITELY worth the effort. Store-bought pierogi are now an absolute last resort for me.

                1. re: Al_Pal

                  The recipe was fine. What I ended up with was fine. But I've eaten pierogi approximately 8,000,000 times, and there isn't much variation, as far as I can tell, between homemade (I've had other people's), restaurant-made, and store-bought. Thus, any effort on my part is too much effort. I was hoping that I'd end up with something fantastic. Didn't happen. The MS recipe does look different than what I used, though, so if I get ambitious, maybe I'll try again.

                  1. re: small h

                    You might also want to switch up what you stuff it with. In addition to potato, we've also always eaten cheese (farmer's cheese) and sauerkraut pierogi, which I've never been able to find frozen. Also, one of the most noticeable differences between our homemade pierogi and the storebought is the thickness of the dough. The frozen ones tend to be far too thick with more dough than stuffing. If you ever try making them again, roll the dough very very thin. It makes a huge difference.

                    If you're going to stick to storebought though, you might want to give Target's Archer Farms potato and mushroom pierogi a whirl. They're surprisingly good :)

                    1. re: Al_Pal

                      Scroll down for my opinion of cheese-filled pierogi! I'll try the Target, if I'm ever near a Target. Thanks!

                      1. re: Al_Pal

                        I don't know a lot about pierogies, but I've been told by someone that makes them for a living that the problem with sauerkraut pierogi is that (even when flash frozen) sauerkraut doesn't freeze well. It's the only variety he makes that is sold "fresh only, never frozen".

                  2. re: small h

                    Mrs T's pierogi are an abomination! The dough is so thick, it's like chewing on rubber bands. Absolutely dreadful. The dough should be tender and thin. And no self-respecting Pole would use cheddar cheese! Tangy farmer cheese, lots of golden brown onions, and riced russet potatoes for the filling.

                    1. re: phofiend

                      Gracious, such vehemence! I've been eating them all my life, and I like them, and if you don't, fine. I think cheese pierogi are an abomination, myself, farmer or otherwise. Potato, mushroom, sauerkraut, the end. Cheese is for blintzes. According to me.

                      1. re: small h

                        Mrs. T's was my very fist pierogi. Probably not traditional, but we ate them boiled and topped with spaghetti sauce. Believe it or not, one of my favorite frozen pierogies were Pathmark brand. The dough was kind of chewy and had a mochi-like quality to it. But I then discovered how good mashed potatoes wrapped in wonton wrappers were. The dough was so thin and delicate.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          That would never have occurred to me, but I will definitely try it. Thanks for the tip!

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            How do you cook that? (the mashed potatoes in wonton wrappers)
                            Those sound pretty yummy.

                          2. re: small h

                            my Polish mum always made periogi with both cheese and potato together in the filling. Also thin, tender dough. Delicious.

                      2. I have to go with sushi. We had fun making it, but it was a gazillion-step pain in the neck.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mamaciita

                          ditto, I received a wonderful kit for xmas one year but it makes you really appreciate that art - I would much rather enjoy sushi out.

                          1. re: mamaciita

                            Oh no! That's sad to hear. Of course, I grew up making my own, but it really is much, much cheaper than going out, and you can customize it to your own taste, i.e. sushi/fish/nori ratios. After a bit, it really is faster and yummier to make your own.

                          2. croissants.

                            Tried to make them once.. took days.. tasted like cr@p.

                            ergo, puff pastry. Too much stuffing around

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: purple goddess

                              Hmm! I wouldn't have thought Chinese food would be that hard to make at home.

                              Ditto the croissants and smoked meat.
                              (Though brining may be doable.)

                              I'll add MARSHMALLOWS. The home recipes look nice, but those cr@ppy dusty storebought ones will always be the benchmark.

                              1. re: bellywizard

                                And marshmallows are really sticky!

                            2. yogurt...tried to make it once, only once
                              I'll second sushi too

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: misnatalie

                                Funny, yogurt and sushi are what I always make at home.

                                But puff pastry--buy it when I can!

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  If you make seaweed salad and can your own jams or pickles I'll have you move in. I'll do the pastry, no problem.

                                  1. re: misnatalie

                                    Hahaha! Quick jams and pickles--all the time. Fresh or dried seaweed?

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I think they call the seaweed salad that I would have no idea how to make at home wakame.
                                      I buy it every day.

                                      1. re: misnatalie

                                        Wakame! I've got the bases covered! packing my bags!

                              2. sushi
                                anything more than pretty basic chinese food
                                phyllo dough
                                non-mustard based barbeque
                                puff pastry

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Vetter

                                  Until now, the only supermarket puff pastry dough around here was Pepperidge Farm's frozen - no butter, and even when carefully thawed, wanted to crack along the folds. So I'm very pleased that Trader Joe's now has a butter puff pastry dough, frozen, in a package containing 2 separate squares. I thought this might be an item in the Martha Stewart line at Costco, since so many of her recipes use puff pastry, but so far it isn't.

                                2. Ravioli. I have tried this a couple of times and it took way too much time. The frozen stuff is just about as good and a whole lot easier.

                                  1. I would second eggplant parmigiana......but the one dish I know I can never make better myself at home is the Spicy Fried Chicken from Popeye's.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      I second the Popeye's fried chicken. I don't do fried chicken at home because Popeye's and Bojangles does chicken better than I can (and cheaper)

                                      1. re: pepperqueen

                                        +1 on the Fried Chicken, did it semi-succesfully once. What a hassle! I'm obviously not from the South and therefore do not have the fried chicken gene. Which is fine because I almost never crave it. (Once every few years)

                                    2. Bread, cheese, and cold cuts. The basics. Anything else that needs to be cooked is made at home.

                                      1. For $5, the rotisserie chicken @ Costco gives me all the reason I need to avoid cooking one at home.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: 50sGuy

                                          The local Popeye's in Teaneck, NJ has a Tuesday Night Special:

                                          20 Piece Dark Meat Special.....ten legs and ten thighs
                                          2 Apple Pies

                                          for $13.99 No Fuss

                                          1. re: 50sGuy

                                            I recently tried that chicken, and not only was it a large, tasty, juicy bird that was seasoned perfectly, it was really big! I don't know if I could buy one raw and turn out a rotisserie chicken that good for less.

                                            I also thought immediately about Popeye's fried chicken when I read the original post. I have tried all kinds of fried chicken recipes, but they are never as good as Popeye's spicy. They are good, but not the same. And quite a bit of trouble, I may add, with all the marinating in buttermilk, hot sauce and manning the large pot of oil.

                                            1. re: 50sGuy

                                              I second Costco's rotisserie chicken. I've been buying rotisserie chickens for years (I prefer that meat over deli meat on my sandwiches), so I've become a bit of a rotisserie chicken conoisseur. I've lived in several different places and had to rely on different supermarkets, but I've never found one that can beat costco's.

                                            2. Generally dough-related things as I've got a fear of making them. Phyllo, puff pastry, bread, pasta, bagels, dumpling wrappers, rice noodles, etc.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                Other than bread, pretzels and gnocchi - I'm with you on the general dough topic. I'm going to have to add sushi, yogurt, and anything fried. I bet I could do an admirable job at home if I tried, but I hate the idea of cooking at home with that much oil. Leave it for someone else to bother with.

                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                  Deep frying is quite a bitch. Lots of mess. I rarely eat deep-fried foods as it is but was in the mood for them one night. About two or three weeks ago, I had the marvelous idea of making frites to go with my mussels at home. After over an hour of trying to figure out how my mandoline worked, I proceeded to fry my potatoes, creating all this oil splatter over my kitchen cabinets, stove and floors. After buying $6 worth of oil, I decided in the end it's not worth it anymore and will just go downstairs and buy a load of fries for $5 if the need arises.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    I don't deep fry at home; but then, I don't buy deep fried goods at the store or at restaurants either. Now and then I am asked to make tempura, but then at other people's houses.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      You're smart not to do it at your own house. I remember all the time I used to spend cleaning my mom's kitchen as a kid after she made tempura. But it was a small price to pay to eat yummy battered shrimp and veggies. After my parents got on their health kick, no more tempura for me. : (

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        I didn't grow up with much fried food, and now I try not to eat it that often. Out of sight, out of mind....so I think there's also a case of items that can be home made and done well, but with practice. And if you're not going to eat something often (i.e. fried food), then when it is done it's probably more likely to come out suspect or not nearly as good as when it's bought.

                                                        I should also add gefilte fish to this list. Cause the potential smell factor when making it at home is just not worth it.

                                                    2. re: Miss Needle

                                                      We never ate fried foods growing up, but my sister now lives in new orleans and brought home some beigniet mix from cafe du monde. Total pain in the ass. I can't justify putting that much effort into making something just for myself. Maybe if I was entertaining, but even then I'd look for something store-bought first.

                                                      1. re: Al_Pal

                                                        Come now, beignet are dead easy to make. Of course I'm thinking of the Quèbecois version so perhaps the Nouvelle Orléans version is different, but really, it's just deep-frying a seasoned batter. Takes little time and the aroma is irresistible: bet you can't eat just one.

                                                        1. re: mrbozo

                                                          I think Al was talking about the deep-frying aspect of it. Making beignets aren't too bad (especially if you're using Du Monde's mix), but deep-frying them are a pain.

                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                            It was definitely the deep-frying I was referring to. Maybe since I'm not used to frying food it just took me a bit longer than it would have if I was a seasoned deep-fryer veteran.

                                                2. I disagree with sushi being a "never make at home".. the rice is the big part, and then roll it up with whatever to make maki.. getting really fresh fish is the challenge, if you want to do certain nigiri, etc. I still would rather buy it, though, just for convienence..and gnocchi is easier than egg pasta, in my book...

                                                  Tortillas, for me.. certain base ingredients are just tough to do at home.. not impossible, but not worth the added value because of the effort. I will fry up store-bought tortillas to make hard shells though.

                                                  BBQ.. like true, hours-by-the-low-fire BBQ - I really respect those that can do it, its just not me.. but not store-bought of course - a good BBQ shack-bought..

                                                  Pickles - I've done half-sours a few times, but they are inconsistent - just easier to buy the things.. find some deli that make tons of them, they're locked in...

                                                  Sourdough - again, a lot of things require someone doing it a LOT, at the volume to make something consistently and sourdough bread is one of them - I am not going to feed a starter at home, and I have a good bread place nearby

                                                  Steamed hot dogs - I know its easy at home, but there is something about buying them out of a cart on a summer day, or at a ballpark..

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                    You picked my number one choice, sourdough bread. I really miss my SF sourdough, and bring home many loafs when I visit, but I just can't make it at home.

                                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                                      +1 on the sourdough. Not at all worth the hassle!

                                                    2. Chinese and Indian food, see my profile.

                                                      Maple syrup

                                                      Smoked meats. I've tried but it isn't worth the effort when I have so many places close by that do it to perfection. Really good Carolina and TX. BBQ eludes me.

                                                      Ive made phyllo in the past, and still do it once a year, the stress level isn't worth the small taste improvement.

                                                      Bagels and puff pastry are easy to do with a bit of experience. I love to bake and find it quite relaxing. I do draw the line at decorating intricate multi-tired wedding cakes and pulled sugar work.

                                                      Fried chicken, I hate the mess afterward.

                                                      Ravioli, pirogi and other filled pastas are easy with practice.

                                                      1. Battered fish and chips. Making batter is a pain, cooking everything properly so it is not greasy is a pain, I don't like deep-frying at home in general. Much easier just to go out and get some when the craving hits.

                                                        1. phyllo and puff pastry, definitely.

                                                          Thai curry pastes: I've made them myself a couple of times, but by the time you gather all the ingredients and pound them up, it starts to seem less worthwhile. And the canned stuff I can get is very good.

                                                          Vietnamese summer rolls: I started making these because we have no Vietnamese restaurants around here. But mine look terribly sloppy and really just don't cut it.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Kagey

                                                            Second on the Thai curry pastes--I've done it twice. The second time I broke my mortar. I think I'm done now! Anyone out there tried "Curry Simple?" A friend of mine mentioned these (I think she got them at Whole Foods)--you just add the appropriate meat and veggies. I'm suspicious, though she seems to like them.

                                                            1. re: Kagey

                                                              I am another one who can't do those Vietnamese Summer Rolls...so yummy but mine never turn out looking quite right. So frustrating as I've got friends who rave about "how easy" they are to make! Arrrgh.

                                                            2. I don't know if it qualifies as a simple food...but when I make rice pudding, I'm only aspiring to make it taste as good as KozyShack European Style rice pudding.... And I don't think I'm there yet. :-|

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: bsheitman

                                                                LOL! Rice pudding is a real PITA to make. I made it over & over with different recipes for hubby - he finally confessed that he'd prefer if I'd just buy KozyShack in the grocery and stop wasting time, milk and rice. :-)

                                                                1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                  Indian style rice pudding is actually very easy to make. 1 liter of half and half, sugar, rice, golden raisins and the contents of 2 cardamom pods crushed. It just takes a long time to make. Very, very delicious.

                                                                2. re: bsheitman

                                                                  That reminds me...when I make macaroni & cheese I'm aspiring to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Deluxe. With the can of creamy cheese, not the powder. Sadly, it's still my ideal.

                                                                3. Ricotta.............

                                                                  I made some for MS Ricotta Spinach Gnocchi, and think it was no better than bought.

                                                                  1. Pie. When my son was small we used to go berry picking every spring and then make pies. Even then I used to buy the pie crust. It's a lovely shared memory, but no way I'm ever going to make a fruit pie as good as Whole Foods makes them. And I love key lime pie. There are several places around here to get wonderful key lime pie, and it wouldn't cross my mind in a hundred years to try to do better.

                                                                    1. Puff pastry and flaky pastry... and anything made out of them (ie. croissants, danish pastries). I'm happy to pay bakery prices to get some nice pastries made with real butter...

                                                                      Stuffed pasta, 'real' pizza, fried chicken, and anything deep-fried.

                                                                      Also (I'm ashamed to admit it) tapioca pudding. I've tried to make it a bunch of times and it always comes out runny or gluelike, nothing at all like Kozy Shack.

                                                                      1. The first thing that popped to mind was beer. If you have ever seen how it is made you will think the people who do all of that work for something that tastes like washing machine runoff are completely nuts.

                                                                        Also, potstickers/chinese dumplings. I always think, "How easy and cheap to make!" Then, when I do make them, I end up with a hundred dumplings that go bad before you can finish them. Also, the first ones are nice looking and have a proper amount of filling and the later ones are overflowing and ugly because I get tired of doing it.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: PJ4

                                                                          Dumplings are something I usually make at home -- not because I find it cheap and easy but because I like to personalize it. I always freeze my dumplings so I don't have the problem with them going bad. But I won't ever attempt to make the dumpling dough from scratch.

                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                            Good thought on the freezing. I actually buy frozen ones at the International store. Why didn't I think of that? Anyway, the ones at the store are so good and cheap I don't go through the hassle anymore.

                                                                        2. Puff pastry for sure.
                                                                          Pasta, too (by which i mean the noodles themselves, not the completed dish).
                                                                          Veggie burgers - mine are good, but not as reliably successful as Morningstar Farms.
                                                                          And most condiments, of course.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: piccola

                                                                            ditto on puff pastry, pasta, condiments and veggie burgers (although I'm torn between Morningstar and Yves...depending on my mood)

                                                                            However I am getting tired of paying $6.95/box for Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps... I have a recipe for them that I've promised myself I'll give it a try at least once.

                                                                            1. re: maplesugar

                                                                              tell me how it goes! i love the fig and olive ones

                                                                              1. re: piccola

                                                                                I certainly will. If I'm successful you'd have to tie me down to keep me from jumping for joy :)

                                                                              2. re: maplesugar

                                                                                try them--if it's the faux stowe recipe it's great. Do let it cool in the fridge overnight and use an electric knife if you have one. Remember it's a quickbread and is perfectly good toasted!

                                                                            2. pizalle's - although I've never tried to make them, I think you need a specific machine. The ones at Hanaford Bros. Market are awesome (pwder sugar coated) and only 1 point on WW.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                Our Italian grocery sells pizelle presses... that's something I've always wanted to try making too but I've never picked up a press - mainly because I didn't think I could improve upon the store bought ones.

                                                                                1. re: maplesugar

                                                                                  i have a pizelle press. it is so easy and the ones you make at home will blow your mind, and they cost pennies to make. and you can make any kind you want!
                                                                                  coconut sesame! salted cocoa! fresh ginger! i encourage you to try.

                                                                                  you can also easily shape them into adorable shapes to make your own waffle cones - how fancy.

                                                                              2. I'd als like to add wonton wrappers to the list. I just made sesame wonton crisps today and they're labour-intensive enough (not difficult just busy-work) on their own without having to also make wonton wrappers.

                                                                                Maybe if I grew up making asian dishes and not haggis I'd be more eager to tackle homemade wonton wrappers :)

                                                                                1. I want to add a good glazed doughnut to the list. And wine and beer. And Funyuns.

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                    I understand that some people do the home brewing beer....but has any home kitchen ever produced decent wine?

                                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                                      Oh, no! That reminds me of my dad who once made his own wine by putting grapes and sugar in an old kimchi jar and letting it sit out under the sun for a few months. I was a kid when I tried the wine, but it was NASTY!

                                                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                                                        My father and uncle used to make wine and Champagne in the fall and they won awards with their results. I doubt it would compare well with the best of Europe, but it was very good table wine.

                                                                                        Ive been known to make wine, beer, cider and other spirits on occasion with family, just for the challenge of doing so.

                                                                                        1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                          Where did they get their grapes from for that? In general, most wine grapes I know of are grown with the intent of making wine for that vineyard - but I guess this also reflects never having a curiosity to seek out wine grapes to buy.

                                                                                          I've never had any desire to make any alcohol though and blame it entirely on living near a Jim Beam factory as a child. That smell (combined with the smells of a near by artificial flavor factor) is nothing I would ever have a desire to bring near my living space.

                                                                                          1. re: cresyd

                                                                                            My grandparents had a 4 acre lot that allowed cultivation of some grapes, and they were also able to purchase the necessary fruit from a local orchard. I live in N-E Ohio, and we do have a small but growing wine industry, so making your own isn't out of the question.

                                                                                            We also had hop vines in the back yard for a few years, but the local climate isn't conducive to cultivating the proper species for beer.

                                                                                    2. Fresh pasta. I've now tried it three times and I just cannot get the thickness right. Some always ends up sticking together too. The fresh pasta they carry in our market is much better than anything I've been able to produce.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: JenBoes

                                                                                        Oh I absolutely agree with that one. My homemade pasta was a disaster!

                                                                                      2. I would echo the croissant and the pasta, noodles of any kind. The croissant here in Montreal are so wonderful, I'd be wasting my time.

                                                                                        Also, I won't make ladyfingers at home if I want to use them for tiramisu. The store bought ones are more regularly shaped and have a better texture for soaking. For straight eating, my homemade ones are yummy, but they don't soak well.

                                                                                          1. re: CaviarAndCodfish

                                                                                            ahhhhhhh, my great grandpa had a smokehouse in Nova Scotia where he smoked fish (mostly herring) and I still can't get that same quality anywhere and I certainly wouldn't attempt that myself.

                                                                                          2. bagels, donuts, croissants, fried chicken (which I never make and rarely eat, but I know I can't make it as well as restaurants), pizza (because I can't make a good crust without a pizza oven), ice cream

                                                                                            1. Biscuits - I can make biscuits, but they never taste quite as good as the ones in the can.

                                                                                              Puff pastry - I'll admit I"ve never even tried. I don't even care to try. Frozen is just too easy to use.

                                                                                              Stuffed pasta - I have the Imperia roller-cutter and I've successfully made long pasta with it before, but ravioli were a tedious mess. I'll stick to store-bought ravioli.

                                                                                              Wonton skins - in fact I use store-bought ones to make ravioli!

                                                                                              Chinese and Thai food - I never get it the way they do in restaurants.