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where's the value in a review if you've changed a recipe?


I regularly (a lot) make the above cookie recipe from epicurious (I double the chips, using ones I chop myself from bittersweet chocolate and 1/2 the size of each cookie).
The issue that confuses me when I read recipe comments is, how is possible that someone will review a recipe after substantially changing it - add an egg, leave out the cocoa. How is that valuable? It's fine and helpful to talk about what one has done to a recipe but not to use that as a basis for rating the original recipe. Agree?

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  1. I agree with you 100% as long as we emphasize your last sentence---that there is definite value to discussions of alternative experiments and improvisations. And their successes and failures. But you can take comfort from the fact that some ensuing comments observed and reacted the same as you re: the quality of the results if you follow the damned recipe.
    The blessed democratization created by interactive media such as epicurious gives us the glimmer, daily, of the vast quantity of stupidity in our midst. The info that 'I added this to, I omitted that from the recipe and it sucked' is good to know. Thanks--I won't make that mistake. But the statement 'I added this to, I omitted that from the recipe and I don't see why people think this recipe is good--it sucks'.......should be deleted on the grounds that this person is far too needy of remedial skills to be interacting with adults.

    ***end rant***

    1 Reply
    1. re: JonL

      I agree with you. The CHOW powers that be have apparently scrapped their idea of a collaborative Recipe Lab. A couple of years ago they started the effort, with a tamale recipe. It didn't fly, largely because ingredients weren't readily available in many areas, and it had a large yield. People didn't want to make dozens of them. Then they tried turkey/pork meat loaf and cole slaw recipes, also very large. I didn't participate because I could tell by reading the recipes that I would not like them. Other responders changed the recipe a lot. I suggested that the protocol needed to be that you make and critique it as written before you switch things. Though people tended to agree that adhering to the baseline was needed for all responders to be on the same page, they nonetheless wanted to make their own alterations. I agree that the comments are more valuable than the actual rating. I don't think I've ever rated a recipe because I virtually always alter them.

    2. I think that the comments and amendments are the single most valuable feature on epicurious. When I review a recipe that I have changed, I generally will rate the result I got with my changes provided that they are tweaks. If however the recipe is seriously flawed (though fantastic with changes) I base my rating on the original because I know that everyone does not read the comments.

      I've noticed that some users will specify that their rating is based on their changes or that they gave the recipe on 2 forks but it would earn 4 with their substitutions. I recognize this throws off the overall rating a bit but hope that it still gives a good snapshot.

      One thing is for certain, I always read the comments before I make the recipe! Even though I dismiss some users based on their comments, I always find some useful information or good advice.

      1. That's a good question. I also agree with others that the reviews with changes are important. So, the question is, how would you rate a recipe where you made some of the changes recommended? Rating it as is wouldn't work but rating w/ the changes isn't rating the recipe. Maybe people could just not rate but leave reviews, if they've made significant changes. I think skewing the overall ratings because of changes isn't helpful.

        1. I agree completely. "Reviewing" a recipe requires that it be prepared as published. The review should include comments on the results of the experience.
          Then, and only then, should the reviewer offer suggestions for changes. Any suggested changes should be based only on the reviewer's experience after having made the changes suggested and preparing the item using those changes.

          1. Any cookie recipe such as chocolate chip or oatmeal are subjective, we all like them the way we like them. I can understand that if a person makes their cookies a certain way and they run across a recipe missing a common ingredient such as an egg, they'd want to add one.

            But I see your point about submitting a review,most importantly it's not fair to the author. It's annoying for everyone. Sifting through the reviews I did find that a few peoples did follow the recipe and gave viable feedback, I look for that.

            5 Replies
            1. re: chef chicklet

              Along the same wavelength as personal preferences and subjectivity, I do find that many "editing reviewers" replace ingredients for the purpose of making it healthier, or dairy-free, for example. That, to me, is very helpful - just to know how the "e.r." feels the revised recipe turned out.

              But must agree that if you don't follow the recipe and then give said recipe a bad review, you're kind of being a schmuck.

              1. re: WhatThePho

                I am actually more concerned about the opposite scenario. You find a poorly written recipe, read the feedback and learn that it was missing a few ingredients and that you need to change the cooking method, follow that advice and love the dish. Do you rate the original dish (that you didn't make but is obviously no good) or do you rate the variation so that other cooks will select the recipe, read the reviews, make the changes (one hopes) and enjoy a great recipe? Or do you give a low rating, driving away some cooks and then explain that you loved the dish with substantial changes to the bad recipe?

                1. re: Kater

                  Of course with experience you start to 'sense' a bad recipe. And if you read the reviews and everyone is changing and adding, and rating based on changes..keep looking. But basically the rating is for the recipe as originally written, otherwise you are just giving yourself a few stars for what you have created,

                  1. re: Kater

                    In that case, I would repost the recipe as you made it as a new recipe and note in the comments that you started from Recipe X but realized it was unworkable as written. Then folks can rate your recipe (and, of course, tweak and perhaps screw it up in their own way in the process).

                    1. re: weezycom

                      oh that's a really good idea - I have never taken then trouble but maybe I will start!

              2. I think it doesn't make sense to be slavish about following recipes exactly to review them. The ratings are inherently very subjective and should be viewed as a very rough guide at best. We all have different taste buds. And we use ingredients and equipment that may differ. And one person's three forks may be another person's four forks. I think the comments including modifications are the most important part of the feedback and I wouldn't do anything that would squelch that experimentation. Including a very technical ratings policy. Because it's not a very technical business.

                1. Most of the time the modifications are helpful but sometimes a cause for comedy relief. AllRecipes.com is good for this, as they don't seem to screen their reviewers, either.

                  My favorites? Crab-stuffed mushrooms caps, rated 4 stars. The reviewer then said she added onions, red bell peppers, celery, and jalapeno peppers ...none of which were in the recipe. Oh, and she also left out the mushrooms.

                  A pickled garlic review rated 4 stars as well, but..."can't wait to make them .....since i haven't made them yet i can rate them on how i think they will turn out."

                  I think part of the problem with AllRecipes reviews is that, while they have a, "Was this review helpful?" link, they only have a "Yes" option. A "No" option is also needed.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: al b. darned

                    Seriously, I want to smack those people. I've also seen some who give a recipe 0 or 1 star because "this recipe sounds awful, I would never make something like this..."

                    Ugh. Stupid people make me want to puke.

                  2. "I made a coq au vin this past weekend, but substituted flank steak for the chicken, terriyaki for the wine, omitted the vegetables and it was too hot inside so i grilled it instead of braising. I do not understand why people say it will fall off the bone when the bone did not even make it to the plate. This was not good for me and I will never make again. Rating = ZERO stars."

                    Why bother sometimes...jfood agrees. If you make a minor change, like leaving out the 6T of cayenne that's one thing but jfood has seen changes to recipes almost as wild as hyperbole above and then they do not like it and skew the ratings frompeople who actually came close to following the steps.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      LOL beautiful. I want to slap your imaginary reviewer.

                      1. re: jfood

                        lol This is exactly how my mom "follows" the recipes she asks me for; then she gives me the credit for the "recipe" for the resulting horrible meal! Needless to say, I've stopped gving her my recipes.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Man, i hate those types of reviews. Why would you even bother looking at recipe if you weren't going to follow it? The best (worst) review I recall reading was for a habanero jerk shrimp boil that gave it zero stars cause the reviewer doesn't like spicy food and she stated next time she'd make it without habaneros.... why on earth did she make it in the first place i'll never know.

                        2. eh. it's all subjective. I agree that some of the reviews are hilarious with their changes, but overall, it's fun to draw your own conclusion from the preponderance of the evidence. Just like a restaurant review in which the reviewer ordered their beef well-done, opined at length on the excellence of the jalepeno poppers, and mentioned that their other favorite restaurant is Olive Garden...one can apply one's own grain of salt.