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reading on line recipe reveiws

I use the epicurious site and various other recipe sites, including chowhound. I find it helpful and instructive to read the comments of others who have previously made the recipe and the ways that they would change that recipe to improve the result (the next time).
I am surprised however to read posts and comments from people who do not make the thing as written and then give comments based on the changes they were 'forced' to make as a result of not having the ingredients.."I had to substitute X for Y or I made it this way to reduce fat or I don't like cabbage so I added chocolate chips.
How is that helpful and what does it say about the original recipe? Nothing.

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  1. Well, you answered your own question from your personal viewpoint. Let me give mine.

    What this can tell someone reading it is what substitutions work successfully and what don't, how flexible the recipe can be or whether it's only useful when it's done precisely as written.

    Subjectively, I acknowledge I just like to hear/read folks talking about cooking, and if it's a recipe I was curious enough about to investigate the comments, so much the better. I get much more annoyed when someone writes in looking for a particular ingredient, say, and someone else responds, "That stuff is awful. Yecch. I hate it." What does THAT add?

    1 Reply
    1. re: lemons

      I agree -- I'm a chronic substituter, so I like reading about how other people have tweaked the recipe and what worked and didn't. Those types of comments often give me ideas about how to use what I have in my pantry in the dish. (But yes, it's silly when they conclude that the RECIPE is awful and not just what they did to it.)

    2. I think experienced home cooks will make subs for a variety of reasons - diet, allergies, availability, past experience etc. I read CH Cookbook of the Month threads every month and I'm always interested to see how some posters made a recipe "fit" their requirements. Does it indicate whether the original recipe is solid? Not necessarily, but I still think the information is valuable.

      I agree that subbing chocolate for cabbage is ridiculous, and some of the subs I've read on epi and myrecipes.com make me wonder what the cook was thinking - but the knowledge that one could sub say kale for cabbage in a recipe, that might prove useful - or noting the subs made in a traditional recipe so it's gluten free - and reporting that it was successful - that kind of information is useful to people who eat gf and the friends/family who cook for them.

      1. i saw a recipe for dorie greenspan cornbread once that looked great. one poster didn't have cornmeal, so used jiffy muffin mix. used half the butter, eliminated the sugar. her bread was disgusting and she threw it in the trash. "i will never make this again." lmao, since she didn't make the greenspan version... um, which i actually did and was perfect and delicious!

        i tweak stuff all the time, but that woman should not have been let near an oven or the internet, lol.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          I get such a kick out of the ones who do this, completely change a recipe and then complain that it never came out right. I also think most people know to not take those kinds of comments seriously (or I hope). There is a difference between posting something along the lines of "I didnt' have any curry powder so I used a dab of curry paste and it still came out fantastic !! " and what you've described. Those are helpful suggestions sometimes when your cupboard is a little bare. Same goes for suggestions for say, toasting the quinoa or something, before proceeding to the recipe.

          But if you've followed the recipe to a "t" and still it flops..... it's ok to post that. I'd make sure though that it wasn't the fault of my ingredients first (as was my recent experience with Ina Garten's blueberry coffee cake; old baking powder + frozen blueberries = pudding, not cake)

          1. re: im_nomad

            Probably more due to the baking powder than the blueberries, but they probably didn't help much.

          2. re: hotoynoodle

            I think those that make such changes are completely unaware of how their changes will make the end product so unlike the original recipe. As im_nomad said, substituting curry paste for curry powder is quite different than a wholesale change of the recipe. I've often found good hints from comments like "Next time I'll use less heavy cream - it just didn't need all that liquid, and it diluted the overall flavor" or "recipe calls for apple juice; way too bland" helpful in my planning on how to make the dish for myself (I would then cut back on the heavy cream by half and use fresh apple cider, if I had it, and maybe reducing it to add more intense flavor).

          3. I agree with you. It seems like most of the time the changes range from "this won't really taste like the actual recipe" to "this isn't even the same freaking recipe any more". If they want to post a recipe that includes their changes, they should do that.

            1. I read reviews to research the dish I want to make. It is interesting to see what has and has not worked for other people. At most, I skim substitution-rich entries to avoid the junk, like the chocolate chips for cabbage (yuck!!)...

              For the same reason, I look up as many other recipes for that dish that are available; gives me a better idea for proportions or what ingredients are crucial.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cookiephage

                (of course that was a joke about the chocolate chips) Your suggestion, to read a number of recipes for something, let's say coq au vin, is valuable to understanding a recipe. And helpful in making something so forgiving as pot roast. I think it's all more tricky in baking, chemistry.