HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

Do you give out your recipes?

  • 82
  • Share

There are a few special recipes for baked goods that have been passed down through my family that I'm reluctant to give away when asked. I sometimes do when I know the person well, but when I'm at a potluck and I barely know the person, I sometimes say no.

What is your policy? Do you give your special recipes away freely?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. I always give out my recipes. Always. I don't care who it is, I don't care how "special" the recipe might be, I don't care what the circumstances. First of all, I can't see the down side - are we both going to show up at the same potluck with the same dish? Not likely. And in my experience the results wouldn't be absolutely identical anyway - different ovens, different cookware, slightly different ingredients - so it's not really a problem. And I make my living in this business. Always glad to share.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Nyleve

      Agree with Nyleve. Invariably, the "special family recipe" that you think you have is all over the Internet anyway as someone else's "special family recipe". As Nyleve said, sometimes there are slightly different ingredients, different cooking times, etc., but it's usually the same base recipe.

      If you don't want to give your family recipe out, find another one that is very similar and send a link to that person.

    2. Yes. However, I only have one recipe. It is my mother/s chrusciki which she got from her mother.
      http://www.chow.com/recipes/18662

      I don't have any of my own children and since my husband and his children are Lationo, a Polish recipe isn't going to matter much to them.

      I would hate to see this recipe die with me.

      I understand though why some people would be reluctant to share. My grand aunt would have almost killed for that recipe. The problem was that she would have claimed it as her own unique idea and given my grandmother no credit for it at all.

      When I first posted the recipe on Chowhound years back, I did a few Google searches and there was not one recipe like this on the web. There was only a brief mention of this variation of chrusciki on an obscure Polish site.

      I published it and asked anyone using it to give my mom credit if they used it on their site.

      You can find this recipe out there on the web a lot now ... with not one mention of my mother's name.

      The site I really love though is the one who not only copied the recipe, but copied my family story and claimed it as their own.

      Still, doesn't matter to me. I'd rather have people enjoying the chrusciki for generations to come whether or not my mom ever gets any credit for it.

      It always make me sad to hear that someone took an amazing recipe to their grave. Seems a pity no one will ever enjoy it again.

      1. As a poet named Lew Welch once wrote,

        'Guard the mysteries!

        Constantly reveal them!'

        Cheers!

        1. I neither like nor trust people who will not share recipes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: pikawicca

            I share recipes, but I shouldn't have trusted a former friend who begged for my crumb cake recipe and shortly after informed me that she was starting a home business based on my cake. So rude, she didn't even ask first. Luckily when she found out all the rules and regulations involved it went by the wayside, but she was up to the health inspector visiting her home kitchen. Anyway we parted ways for other reasons soon after.

            As I get older I love giving out recipes, hoping maybe people will remember me, now and when I'm gone. I know that when I make a recipe I was given, I think of the person the whole time.

            1. re: pikawicca

              I feel the same way. It says something about their nature to be so mean. I give away recipes freely - except for ones that my aunt gave me because she is a caterer and uses them in her own business.

            2. I give them out freely and believe everyone should... but that requires me to write my creations down, which I rarely do.

              1 Reply
              1. re: stalkingwine.com

                that's the problem for me. i can't write down what i do because i don't measure. i won't measure it out backwards so i could write it down. 'some.' that's usually all i can tell anyone. who wants to try out recipes over and over again just to write it out....? And then there's the problem of telling someone you just fed them anchovy paste.... so put me down as a No but not for selfish reasons.

              2. Giving out your recipes that your friends want to make is a high form of praise indeed. Oh yes, we've all heard of the person winning untold millions making a recipe that was not original to them... but how else would a loved recipe live on if not through you. ?
                Give it up.

                1. Yes

                  1. Food is meant to be shared, ergo, the recipes that produce the food need to be shared as well! What else will give us such insight and understanding of those who create the foods we appreciate?

                    1. A good rule of thumb for all parts of life: Only do what you're comfortable with! So if you're not comfortable giving family recipes to anyone who asks, don't do it. Your grandma will be proud! '-)

                      1. I will give most of my recipes out. But I make my living with them. I have a few signature dishes that I won't share or even sell.
                        That being said, I liken it to getting free services from a friend in another profession. It is nice when it happens. But you just can't put a persons living at risk by expecting freebies always.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: bigfellow

                          If you're a professional, you're exempt from sharing recipes -- they are your livelihood. It's home cooks who refuse to share who get my goat.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            I guess my reluctance comes from seeing these family recipes as very very personal. I am 100% for sharing recipes with all members of the family...but to random people I barely know? I'm more hesitant. I don't know if I want to give the recipe to people when my relatives who worked and worked to perfect it and then the person I barely know might take all the credit for it, or not even care about the history behind the recipe other than it tastes good.

                            Plus, I kind of see it as something special to hand down to my kids.

                            1. re: focioncroci

                              >>> I kind of see it as something special to hand down to my kids

                              I hope you have written them down. I was lucky that the year before my mom got sick, she decided to write it down. I watched her make these every year since I could remember, yet I doublt I would have been able to duplicate it just from hanging out in kitchen.

                              I know so many people who failed to get that special family recipe. This time of year, I think of these creamed onions that for one family practically defined the holiday. Yet not one of those dopes asked to learn the recipe and once the matriarch died, that was it for that recipe.

                              1. re: rworange

                                I'm in the same camp as focioncroci. I will share any recipe I have EXCEPT my mother's rugelach recipe. Oddly enough, I have yet to see her exact version on the internet.

                                For the most part I believe that it is a great compliment to be asked for a recipe and an expression of friendship to graciously give it. However, I lost my mother when I was very young and her her rugelach is one of only a few recipes I have clear memories of. I treasure her hand-written recipe card and hold it dear as a special memory. I view that recipe as a small part of her that will always be mine alone. I have told my daughter that I will teach her that recipe when she is ready and she knows she is the only person with whom I will share. I feel as if I will be giving her a little bit of her grandmother that she would otherwise not have.

                                I remain grateful though to a late aunt who happily shared every recipe for which I asked (and some I didn't ask for, too). Her recipes define the holidays for me and every time my daughter and I make them we keep Aunt Frances' memory alive that much longer.

                            2. re: pikawicca

                              Agree 100%

                            3. re: bigfellow

                              This reminds me of when I asked a very well known chef in Boston about whether she'd give out on of her recipes. She said she would, but then she'd have to kill me.

                              1. re: bigfellow

                                so well put. i occasionally too make my living with what i know, and having been in the design field, have little patience with people wanting services for free. there's a tendency to discount the value of creative work. i had to learn to be very direct. and my feeling is that if you have a family secret recipe, your allegience ought to be to your forebears. personally, if i had such a thing, i would share it only with a well-respected, established cookbook author to publish with proper attribution.

                                1. re: lil magill

                                  Speaking as someone who makes his living doing creative work (including, sometimes, writing recipes), I don't understand that concept at all. What am I losing if I give out my mother's pork chops and rice recipe? My mother doesn't care, what with her being dead and all. It's not like the person I give it to is going to run around the city and buy all the pork chops in Boston and corner the market. I can still make the recipe myself even if I give it to someone else. This attitude just doesn't make any sense to me.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    "It's not like the person I give it to is going to run around the city and buy all the pork chops in Boston and corner the market."

                                    I have a friend who owns a bakery and makes amazing scones. he gives cooking classes and hands out the recipes because, in his words, "You're going to make these a couple of times for a brunch or to impress someone, but after than you're gonna come back here because you're lazy and don't want to get up that early."

                                    He's right.

                                    1. re: lulubelle

                                      HA HA HA! All three of you are right (Barmy, lulu and lulu's friend). :)

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        But, scones are so easy and quick!

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          And usually extremely over-priced when purchased. I'm waiting for the Meyer lemons so that I can make my favorite Meyer Lemon/Cranberry Scones.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            "I'm waiting for the Meyer lemons so that I can make my favorite Meyer Lemon/Cranberry Scones".

                                            I have Meyer Lemon trees in my garden...
                                            Would you be willing to give out your recipe? Pleeeeze?

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              You should be able to find it on epicurious. If you can't, let me know and I'll post.

                                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            They are easy, and quick, but chances are, I am not going to get up on a weekday morning and whip up a batch on my way out the door at 7:30, whereas I will stop by the bakery to get my coffee and scone on the way to work, besides, unless I wanted to bake a batch every morning and bring them in to work, or freeze them (and then I would not be able to wait and would gnaw a frozen scone in the car) I would have a lot of leftover scones in a one person household.

                                            (Since I now live in a place where a fabulous bakery down the street is a fantasy, I do indeed make his recipe for scones pretty often)

                                            1. re: lulubelle

                                              Make them yourself, freeze them, and take one out every night to defrost for the next morning.

                                2. I give out a lot of my recipes, I'm honored when someone thinks my food is good enough to want to make it. However, I'm into competitive cooking so sometimes I will make something for friends & family to test but won't give out the recipe.

                                  Because I am into contesting, some of my recipes are on the web and in food related magazines such as Taste of Home & Light N' Tasty anyway so sometimes when my friends are thinking about a recipe, they'll ask me if I have anything posted like what they want, and if not, I'll come up with something for them. I don't mind sharing at all.

                                  1. Assuming one actually keeps written recipes, why wouldn't you share them?

                                    Recipes don't make for good food. Good cooks make for good food.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      "Good cooks make for good food."

                                      Yeah, I've shared recipes w/ people who can't cook and they butcher the dish w/ their substitutions but then are kind enough to credit me for the recipe. Thanks.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Interestingly, what I have found is that more often than not, people will ASK for a recipe and then never make it. I think it's partly compliment ("Ohhh that was so good - please share the recipe so I can make it too!") and it's partly ignorance ("All those ingredients? Really? And all those steps?"). It's actually pretty funny.

                                        And then there are those who will actually use the recipe, and I don't know which is worse. Recently I shared a recipe - three actually, for a particular meal - with a friend. Afterward, she reported that the chicken skewers burnt under the broiler and while she was letting the smoke out of the kitchen her dog escaped and she spent half an hour trying to chase him down. Then, according to her, the tagine had absolutely no taste other than heat (the recipe contains quite a few different spices, not all of them hot ones) and the couscous clumped together in a mass and couldn't be fluffed. If she asks for another recipe, will I give it to her? Absolutely! You can't BUY this kind of entertainment.

                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                          LOL, I get the "all those ingredients?" questions, too. Some friends were giving me a hard time that I make those things that everyone else looks at the recipe for and quickly move on. I agree that most people don't make the recipe but what a pleasure it is when people do and report back on how much they enjoyed it (or being flattering friends will say something along the lines of "Well, it wasn't nearly as good as yours but I loved it." Flattery will get you everywhere).

                                          What a great story for your friend! It's one of those that live on in infamy.

                                        2. re: chowser

                                          haha. my mom always does this! For example I shared an amazing tortilla soup recipe (LA Times circa 2000) with her. She butchered it: dried onions instead of fresh; beef boullion instead of chicken stock; chili powder instead of chipotles, and ground beef instead of chicken. Her rendition is TERRIBLE. And, she always credits me.

                                      2. Yes, if someone asks me for a recipe, I'm always happy to share it. However, I do always caveat it that I rarely follow recipes, including my own. On any given day, I may deviate from my base recipe in any of a half dozen ways, and I'm terrible about measuring. The base recipe I give out will always work and be a good place to start, but I do caution people that ask for it that it's only a starting point.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sidwich

                                          a recipe is just a suggestion.... wasn't that julia? or rombauer/becker? i once showed a dear, sweet clueless friend -- showed, mind you! -- how to put together ratatouille, and she butchered it! how do you say, 'please don't use my name...?!' btw, i have a 'recipe' for a vinegar pie that is so not Emeril's concoction -- much more authentic! should anyone care. and i serve this to paying guests. i'll share with good cooks. it's quick, easy, cheap, ingredients always on hand and always, always goes over famously, and looks and smells delicious. tastes like baked lemon custard.

                                        2. I love to share my recipes. Like many of the other posters, however, I typically don't measure so it's hard for me to *exactly* tell people what I've done...

                                          It's also a pet peeve of mine when an individual or a restaurant gladly gives me a recipe -- but it's missing something. Heck, if you want to keep it a secret, just *say* it's a secret and don't give me a recipe that won't work!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: shaogo

                                            One of my neighbors growing up had a "secret" recipe for apple cake. APPLE CAKE! Made my mom and me think perhaps part of the "secret" came from a box.

                                            Agree with you--if it's someone's secret, that's their thing. But please don't give me a half-@$$ed version of the recipe with something missing. Or a weak substitute for the real deal.

                                            Same as asking for directions...it's OK to tell me you don't know (or maybe do know and just don't want to be bothered), but please don't get me LOST in your attempt to redirect me when you don't know what you're talking about! ;)

                                            I reconnected with an old friend after being out of touch for more than 10 years. One of her requests was for a recipe of mine. I was so touched not only that she remembered it after all those years, but wanted MY recipe. Such a nice feeling.

                                          2. I do not cook with recipes often – almost never. Yet, people ask for my recipe and then look at me like I'm lying when I say I don't have one and they think I'm some sort of wretch for not sharing.

                                            What to do?

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Atahualpa

                                              As an example, I made a vegetarian biryani with cauliflower and eggplant for a school club's end of year party. It was raved about and even a number of the Indian students in the club even thought it better than their own parents' biryanis.

                                              One of my colleagues asked for the recipe. I don't have one. It was the left over vegetables in my fridge, the garam masala I made the day before (which varies in composition), and rice which was par-cooked, tossed with butter, layered with nuts, vegetable mixture w/ garam masala, cilantro, fried onions.

                                              I have no quantities for anything. The layers where just whatever looked right, the seasoning with the masala was whatever tasted correct, the amount of butter was whatever was just enough to keep the grains loose, etc. . . . I also have no idea what the cooking times were – I merely cooked it until it was done.

                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                The vast majority of the time I cook the same way. When something is exceptional, I have to write it down immediately after eating because I won't remember the next day. But even at that, the weights and measures are approximate. I live with it. Don't know why other people get upset when they want my recipes and there are none. I DO tell them what is in something, or as near as I can remember. Example: I make my own barbecue sauce from scratch. It always brings raves, but what it is not is the same every time. Variety is the spice of life. And barbecue sauce. '-)

                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                  But that's not the same as NOT giving out a recipe.

                                                  You didn't have or use a recipe.

                                                2. re: Atahualpa

                                                  I'm with you, Atahualpa. I don't cook with recipes, and (unless I am baking) rarely measure anything - it's always a pinch of this or a dash of that and then taste, and repeat if necessary.

                                                  When people ask for a recipe, instead of trying to walk them through the steps, I just say, "I'll do you one better than giving you the recipe, go buy these ingredients, open up your kitchen, and I'll show you exactly how it's done and you can take notes while we're at it."

                                                  1. re: Atahualpa

                                                    When I'm cooking, I don't follow recipes, either, or use them as a vague guideline. Even here, when people ask how I make some things, I'll post something similar to what I do but it's never exact, except when I'm baking. It does sound evasive sometimes and I like ipsedixit's approach.

                                                  2. I know of a few people who won't share recipes. I think they're throwbacks to a different era. How less generous can you be? And honestly, have you really ever eaten anything that you couldn't figure out how to make? Seriously? I might mess up a few times in my attempts. But after a while i can approximate pretty much anything anyone can bring to a pot luck.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                                      Me, too. And I don't get it because one of my dearest/oldest friends from when we were teens is this way. We went to his house for a cookout over the summer and he pointed out how different his burgers were...then we asked what he put in, and it was that whole secretive deal. His brother and I poked fun at him on the way home. I said, "Yeah, teriyaki seasoning was the secret ingredient!" He's all sorts of nutty about his special apple pie, too. Ahhh, Michael, we love ya anyway.

                                                      Agree with you--I have figured out lots of dishes and created original recipes out of my own little head, too. I've come a long way since I was that little girl who tried to make hot apple cider with flour. ;)

                                                    2. I don't understand the concept of not sharing recipes. What do you gain by not sharing? Does holding onto a "secret family recipe" give one an advantage of some sort? I don't think so. I'd consider it more of a mean spirited thing. Twenty some years ago my step-mother gave me her recipe for Ammonia Cookies with the caveat that I never give it to anyone else. Why? Unfortunately I never asked her. Her fears were unfounded as all these years no one has ever asked for the recipe. And it's easy to find online.

                                                      I always share my recipes, and consider it flattering that someone likes a dish enough to want to re-create it for others to enjoy.

                                                      1. I am often asked for recipes for the things I bake and I will usually share if there is a genuine interest. But I usually can't give the recipe right away. Most of my recipes are so full of notes and additions/deletions, that they take some deciphering first. Or they might be a combination of two or more recipes, like my Dutch Apple Pie. It's dough from one book, filling from a different pie recipe and topping from a recipe that isn't even for a pie.

                                                        And there are other recipes that are just ingredients with something like 'cookie method' or 'sponge method' below them. Then it takes a bit to write or type it out using instructions that someone else could use.

                                                        Finally, there are recipes that just can't be passed on because too much depends on me knowing what the product should be like at various steps. Can't really give a recipe to someone that says, 'add enough flour so it look right' or 'add more salt if the batter doesn't taste right' or 'add part of an egg if the dough's too stiff'. If someone really wanted to learn one of those, I would gladly give a lesson.

                                                        1. Many people love my sauce and meatballs. In one family, they all love the meatballs but especially Abraham, who is only 7. I've told the kids that when they get a little older, I'll invite them to my kitchen and show them exactly how to make them. I can't wait!!!

                                                          1. I ran into a former neighbor last week at the grocery store, and she made a point of telling me that a recipe I'd given her many years ago for a very simple "Poor Man's Stroganoff" remains a family favorite to this day. I can't think of any food related things that would make me happier. Sharing is good.

                                                            1. There was only one recipe that I ever guarded, but the only people I wouldn't give it to were folks living in my school district. That was my recipe for pumpkin bread (and pumpkin muffins - same recipe). The reason for keeping it under wraps was that for many years running, it won first prize at our local Community Fair. My kids would bake the muffins using the recipe, and I'd bake either pumpkin muffins or bread (sometimes both), and it was just unbeatable; we'd all take home blue ribbons (not to mention a $3 cash prize). One year my son even won Best in Show for baked goods in his age category. These days, even though the Fair is as big as it ever was, the kids are grown and I've lost interest in submitting entries, so I freely share the recipe with anyone who wants it.

                                                              Other than that isolated example, I'm always happy to share recipes -- and flattered whenever anyone asks.

                                                              1. No one ever wants my recipes :(

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: iluvtennis

                                                                  Hang around the Home Cooking board a while and that will change. I promise. :)

                                                                2. I'm always happy to share recipes. I just hate it when there are omissions or substitutions that totally change the dish and i get "credit" for the remade fiasco. If I am generous enough to give you a recipe, have the respect to do it my way.

                                                                  Not giving out recipes was actually a medieval means of preserving marriages. In times before women were allowed to read and write, recipes were the only intellectual property women had. To give away a prized family recipe opened the possibility that the vixen down the lane would steal one's man if she made a better version (with "dessert" afterward.) Keeping recipes from other women helped the family remain in tact, or so it was hoped.

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                    That's an interesting one!

                                                                    I always share a recipe if I have it or can remember what I did. The point is to spread the good food, right?

                                                                    But I've actually known people who will give out recipes and leave out an ingredient or detail so that nobody else's can be as "good" as theirs. Talk about mean-spirited!

                                                                    1. re: Kagey

                                                                      That's just evil.

                                                                    2. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                      Very interesting piece of historic info Chefpaulo, thanks.

                                                                      And as for your statement "omissions or substitutions that totally change the dish and i get "credit" for the remade fiasco." You see just this type of thing often under Cookbook Of the Month. How on earth someone can take a recipe, swap out ingredients (and sometimes leave them out) and then post how disappointing a recipe is, is beyond me, and it certainly doesn't help anyone thinking about making the recipe either.

                                                                      1. re: Axalady

                                                                        Actually, axalady, I disagree. People make all kinds of substitutions in cooking, unintentional (because they misunderstood something in the recipe and didn't realize their error until it was too late) or intentional (for reasons of availability or dietary restraints or just because it's Tuesday) and as long as they disclose any departures from the recipe, I think their feedback can be very helpful. You never know when someone else out there was wondering what would happen if they used low-fat milk instead of full-fat because they are trying to maintain a healthy weight. Or pecorino Romano because they can't find Manchego anywhere in town? Or rosewater instead of orange essence because they had a whole bottle of it in their cupboard and this particular recipe seems like it would be a good vehicle for it? Would it be a total failure? Absolutely ho-hum? Or, would the results still be delicious, even if they aren't faithful to the recipe?

                                                                        The COTM's are chosen by a diverse group of people located in several countries. You just can't assume that someone in a remote town in the Midwest, is going to have access to the same ingredients as someone in London. I suppose you could make a rule that only Manhattanites and Londoners and Angelenos can participate because only they have access to all of the ingredients for all of the COTM cuisines, but I think there's more value in the diverse range of perspectives inclusiveness offers. And it certainly seems lousy if we have to insist that someone with an allergy to some trace ingredient in fish sauce sit out for Vietnamese month.

                                                                        Of course, adapting a recipe for whatever is not the same as being faithful to the recipe, but as long as you're completely transparent, I don't see the problem. And, for the most part, in COTM, when people make substitutions and their results fall short, they usually offer up a mea culpa, something along the lines of, "I should have followed the recipe..." I seldom notice people blaming the recipe for their own substitution failures. We're not recipe testers on COTM, we're just home cooks trying to get meals on the table, learn something, have fun, pursue deliciousness...

                                                                        I agree: that tidbit of history from ChefPaulo is fascinating.

                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          Brilliant reply, TDQ! I totally agree with you.
                                                                          I'm actually one of the COTM cooks who more than occasionaly make substitutions and/or additions to recipes. As one of my favorite new-to-me cookbook authors, Virginia Willis, has said, "One shouldn't be chained to a recipe." And, many other authors propose variations of their own recipes.

                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time to write that. I used to be slavish about following COTM recipes, which usually meant a significant outlay of money each month to buy a slew of ingredients. Now, I often make more of a judgment call - if I have blanched almonds, and not slivered blanched almonds, and the recipe calls for grinding them up, well, I'm going to substitute and not go out and spend money on blanched whole almonds. If I'm out of white wine vinegar, I might use champagne vinegar instead. If I'm out of shallots, I might just mince some onions. As with you and other COTM participants, I always post any changes I made to a recipe, and a report of the outcome, and never blame the recipe when I've been the one to make changes and it hasn't turned out.

                                                                            At the end of the day, I think this has made me a better cook, as I have more understanding of how ingredients affect a dish - for better or for worse - and what flavors are good substitutes for other flavors, and which are not.

                                                                            P.S. I willingly share recipes with anyone who asks, and don't leave out ingredients.

                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                              P.S. I, too, give out recipes freely without leaving out ingredients.

                                                                              My grandmother had family "recipes" she refused to share for years. I put "recipes" in quotes because she never wrote anything down--just cooked by feel. I think this may have been part of her unwillingness to share, because documenting them probably seemed daunting. Now that she's willing to share them, she hasn't made them in so long with most of the grandkids grown up, she doesn't really remember them. :( Some of her recipes are lost forever.

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              I'm not talking about such obvious substitutions as mentioned above (low fat milk vs whole, grinding whole vs slivered almonds, onions vs shallots), these are no brainers. And I realize not everyone has access (or money to buy) lots of different ingredients. Perhaps I should have mentioned that I am more focused on the ethnic cookbooks.

                                                                              These are dishes I've never tasted and in a lot of cases spices I've never used. Perhaps I'm not as adventurous or savvy as other Chowhound cooks, but it's my belief that when a cookbook author gives a recipe for his/her own spice mix (harissa, dukkah, ras el hanout for example) they do it for a reason. These types of spice mixes can have dozens (if not more) of variations and the ratio of spices in the mix make a huge impact on the finished dish. How can I swap out one ingredient for another under these circumstances until I know how the cookbook author intends for the dish to taste?

                                                                              I've read COTM posts where people have substituted out for store bought mixes then professed the recipe unappealing and a waste of ingredients.

                                                                              Yes, it can be costly to buy the ingredients called for, and it means I may have to delay a day or two, but I believe that I'm better served in the long run and the dish has a much better chance of being a success when I follow the recipe to the "T" - at least the first time.

                                                                              JMHO.

                                                                              1. re: Axalady

                                                                                Your last paragraph is hard to argue with. I agree that following the recipe to a T, with the right ingredients and equipment really is the best recipe (pardon the pun) for success, especially with some of the fantastically well-tested, well-written cookbooks we often encounter in COTM.

                                                                                Fortunately, the scenario you describe, while I don't doubt that it's happened (I know it has, in fact), is not the norm in COTM. For the most part, many of the participants go to great expense and effort to locate the precise ingredients and equipment. In fact, many claim that this is part of the learning and fun for them.

                                                                                On the other hand, I think that people need to participate at their own level. It's hard to imagine that a recipe made with an off-the-shelf spice mix is going to be as successful as one made with freshly-ground spices, but, I hope in those situations, the person learns at least a cooking technique in making that recipe. (It doesn't sound so in the specific situation you cite, but, oh well. And, again, I don't think that is the norm. Plus, I have confidence that other people, who are following the recipes more precisely will know now to evaluate that person's feedback on that recipe and, won't just conclude: boy, that recipe must just be a real loser... And, maybe, if those people try the recipe anyway, the real way, and post about it, even the person taking the short-cuts might eventually re-evaluate.)

                                                                                On the other hand, speaking of just doing your own dang thing, I am doing COTM these next two months, but I don't have time or focus for proper braising. So, I'm following Molly Stevens mostly via crock-pot (and haven't really been posting about it, alas, because, I really am making so many adjustments to liquid ratios and cooking time, etc.). I know my results aren't as good as if I'd followed the recipe, but, for me, it's at least getting me into the book to see what recipes are the book for when I do have time, and I'm learning a lot about how to best adapt recipes to the crock pot, which, I use a lot this time of year. And I think we're eating pretty well. Not amazing, mind you, just well.

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                          2. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                            Oh, Boy. 35 recipes for gruel! Twenty for root crop scrap soup! Mmmmm.

                                                                          3. In rereading these posts there is ONE situation where I won't give out the details (note: did not say "recipe") about how a dish is made.

                                                                            When I know the person really likes the dish, but doesn't know what goes into it, I'll generally refrain from disclosing the ingredients and the details of how it is made. For example, I make cornbread with rendered beef fat and if I ever disclosed that to some of my co-workers I know for a fact several would upchuck on cue.

                                                                            But other than that, I see no reason why a person wouldn't share a recipe.

                                                                            Like I said up above ... recipes don't make for good food; good cooks make for good food.

                                                                            Cheers!

                                                                            1. I happily give out my recipes. However, there are times when I don't want them associated with me.

                                                                              My mother makes a fabulous breakfast casserole. It's like most of the ones you find on the internet, but she uses really good bread, two different cheeses and seasonings that are significantly more complex than the usual sprinkle of nutmeg, or spoon of dry mustard. I made it for a friend's bridal shower and her mother, a notoriously bad cook, asked me for the recipe. At a brunch a few months later, her mother proudly introduced the casserole as "Lulu's special recipe". She had, of course, used box croutons, and American cheese. :-( I said "Oh, I think you've made it your own" but I was embarrassed for the rest of the morning.

                                                                              On the other hand, I introduced the 7-year-old son of a friend to the wonders of ganache, and he now insists on frosting all of the birthday cakes in their house with "Lulu's frosting".

                                                                              1. I give out my recipes and I've had good luck receiving from others.
                                                                                I've actually had wait staff give me recipes for salad dressings I loved.
                                                                                The chefs were more than willing to give the recipes out.
                                                                                The most recent salad dressing I just loved was from a restaurant supply cafe in my area that has the most wonderful maple/garlic salad dressing....the chef will not give out the recipe to anyone and has given strict instructions to her staff to tell anyone who asks.
                                                                                I've just asks for the ingredients....it's met with a NOPE! She's like the salad dressing nazi.
                                                                                Hilarious.

                                                                                1. Like some other posters, I consider it a compliment when I'm asked for a recipe, and I'm happy to share them. What happens after they leave my hands, I can't help, and that's okay.

                                                                                  1. I never hold back when somebody requests a recipe. And the only time it came back to bite me was when a friend said that another friend had used one of my recipes and complained it turned out awful. I simply told her, "A poor carpenter always blames his tools."

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                      I'm reminded of the episode of "Friends" where Monica is trying to recreate Phoebe's grandmother's special chocolate chip cookie recipe. After many batches, they finally find the exact recipe on the back of the bag of chips, when Phoebe mentions it came from a French relative -- Nestlé Tollhouse (spoken with a faux-French accent).

                                                                                      I love to give out recipes, on those rare occasions when I can do so meaningfully. Most of the time, I can't recall exact enough proportions. I'm proud to say that there's one very unusual recipe you find all over the Internet today, and it's my own invention that I posted on Usenet back in 1994 or so!

                                                                                      1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                        Well, c'mon now, you know we want to know what recipe you're talking about! ;)

                                                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                          I wanna know! Post it here, or link it please!

                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            Me too! Come on, dmd_kc - don't leave us hanging! LOL

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              I don't want to embarrass anyone, because quite a few people claim it as their own...

                                                                                              That's overly coy, isn't it?

                                                                                              It's the vegetarian fish sauce recipe that everyone used to steal as their own before a new version appeared some time four or five years ago -- and now everyone claims THAT. Here's an appearance here eight years ago:

                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/287639

                                                                                              Now that I've given up vegetarianism, I realize just how far off the mark it really is -- but it's still good in nuoc cham. For what it's worth, mine is far closer to the real thing that the recipe with lemon and lime juice in it.

                                                                                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                Cool! Thank you for sharing!

                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                    2. "My recipes" as in they happen to be in my recipe file, sure I do....and when I come across an exceptional recipe from someone else I want to share that too. But to claim originality or ownership of a recipe is (c'mon honestly) a difficult claim. Original recipes aren't hard to trace and "adapted" recipes support dozens of food sites and recipe shares....so do I give out MY recipes...the borrowed and the retooled ...yes I do...but they were never MINE to begin with.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                        Spot on, HillJ!!!!

                                                                                      2. Freely. It's my route to immortality.

                                                                                        1. "Secret recipe". Yeah, whatever.

                                                                                          If someone pays me the compliment of asking me for the recipe for something delicious that I made for them, I share it with them. Always. I want everyone to be able to eat delicious food. Why would you deny someone delicious food?

                                                                                          1. I do not mind giving out recipes but I am often reluctant to, not out of mean spiritedness, but because I often think the dish is not recreateable without the specialized equipment I have. For instance, my fried rice is really good. However, I have a 22" carbon steel wok outside in my yard with a propane burner under it that throws 65,000 BTU's. It's like cooking over an afterburner. I can guarantee you that the exact same ingredients assembled in a Tfal pan on an electric stove are not going to taste anything like my rice.

                                                                                            I use a propane grill, an applewood barrel smoker and a 6 qt. crockpot to make pulled pork. If you want my bao recipe and you don't have a Kitchenaid, I don't know how to tell you to make it. My best chicken requires a 6 qt. Crockpot, a bunch of tygon tubing, a digital probe thermometer with an overtemp alarm and a Foodsaver. And if you want my candy recipes you are going to need a copper pan. My tools are an integral part of my cooking.

                                                                                            If someone asks me for a recipe and I write it down how I really make it, more often than not I feel like I am alienating that person.