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Does learning how to cook something "ruin" you for ordering it in a restaurant?

I've always loved Chinese food, and about a year ago I decided to try to learn how to cook some basic dishes. Well, it turned out I enjoyed this and was able to duplicate many of my favorites. Now I tinker them to get them just how I like them, and bit healthier to boot, and I always have basic Chinese condiments at hand. So today, as I passed by what used to be my go-to Chinese restaurant, I realized I haven't gone there in a long, long time, and, weirder still, I have no desire to!

Same goes for many things I make myself (especially baked goods!) So, have you noticed this about yourself? What will you never order out because you know how to make it yourself?

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  1. Oh, yeah...Since I started making bagels, the ones available here in the upper Midwest are not good to us at all - even the ones made in-house at independent places.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      would you post your recipe, please?

      1. re: sunshine842

        You bet! I use Peter Renhart's recipe with a few very small changes:

        -I substitute a wee bit (1/4 cup) each of whole wheat and rye flours for flavor
        -I don't retard them overnight
        -I had to reduce the flour a bit because the flour in my area is very dry
        -I put toppings on both the top AND the bottom of the bagels - why should the bottoms be plain, I say?
        -Mine need to bake a bit longer than the recipe states - ??


        Have fun! We freeze them and have them available almost all of the time.

    2. Not really. I like to explore and try new things. And some things are just not practical for me, since I m a single person household.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        +1 on single person household (esp. since my son moved out for good). Sometimes I need to be waited on, or am too tired to cook and/or don't have the ingredients on hand. And let's face it, as good as I can make certain things, there's always someone else who can make it better. Usually.

        Edited to add: Travel is a factor too. Yes, I'll order something I can make at home, just cuz that's what I'm in the mood for at that particular restaurant. Tasted the most outrageous eggplant parm last summer and discovered a new way to make it. Will try it next time, whenever that is.

        1. re: alwayshungrygal

          Somethings just too much to do or to have. I love baked ham or roasted fresh ham, but to make one for just me, ah no. Fried foods like eggrolls, french fries also no.

        2. re: Quine

          +2 on the single-person household situation, but sometimes i see it as an excuse to throw a dinner party ;)

          1. re: Quine

            Oh, lordie, yes to the single person household thing. some much stuff I find myself going "It will be good, but do I really want to eat it for the next two or three days?"

            1. re: Quine

              I succumbed to empty nest syndrome AND divorce about the same time, and fell victim to, "I can't make THAT for just me..." And then I discovered, "The HELL I can't!" Not a bad way to fly, and now I have TV dinners that are much better than anything from a store. Why not?

              As for the OP's original question, I had the frortune/misfortune of landing a master chef as our personal chef for three years, who taught me how to cook. It pretty much took the edge off ALL restaurants for life. But curiously, I am not now, nor have I ever been, the least critical of food when I am a guest in someone's home. It just never occurs to me, and I'm always touched that people care enough to invite me into their home. But I also am aware that some find my cooking intimidating, and that makes me sad. I once had a first time guest at a Christmas season dinner help herself to a second portion of beef Wellington while loudly announcing that I would NEVER be a guest at her table, because she couldn't cook like me!" I just looked at her and said, "Entertaining shouldn't be reduced to a contest," but the point was lost on her. That facet of my cooking skills always makes me sad. There is no greater seasoning for any food than good company. It can even make not-so-great cooking taste wonderful!

              1. re: Caroline1

                "There is no greater seasoning for any food than good company. It can even make not-so-great cooking taste wonderful!"

                Beautifully stated.

            2. Never looked at it as "ruining" anything, but more of allowing me to further explore a menu and not "miss out" on a dish I have come to love and would order over and over if I could not recreate it.

              Outside of Indian cuisine and the occasional Chinese dish (e.g. pan fried noodles) where I do not have the tools nor proper stove/heat level to make things correctly, I quite often do the de-construct then re-create for most dishes I've come to love when eating out.

              Everything from spaetzle with chicken and marsalsa cream sauce to carribean fajitas with jerk chicken, jerk sauce, pineapple, sweet potatoes, sauted onions and chiuaua cheese, to pad thai to tempura fried sushi rolls with eel sauce and sweet chili sarachi mayo.

              Technique and correct ingredients are most of the battle.

              If I'm eating out and haven;t had a certain dish in a long time I often order it again if in the mood even though I can make it at home. Maybe I get great satisfaction out of the fact that if there is a blizzard outside or even during a zombie attack, I won;t be deprived of the dishes I love to eat the most.


              1 Reply
              1. There are things I make, that I won't order from a restaurant, because I like the way mine comes out. Some things are still worth eating out, though. No to French Onion Soup, yes to stromboli. No to caesar salad, yes to steak frites. Just depends......

                1. For me it's more about the $. It's hard to stomach paying $6 for a bowl of oatmeal at a breakfast spot, but it's okay with me when I'm there for the company of friends and want something filling and healthy. And my homemade oatmeal is still better (and only costs pennies).

                  If I'm at a restaurant for the food experience, I want something I don't have the time, extra arms, equipment, or ingredients for (do you keep venison stock on hand?).

                  Then again, sometimes it's a great way to learn how another chef/cook does a dish I like, and I can incorporate new flavors or cooking techniques into the same dish I love to make at home.

                  And I always get a giggle when people highly recommend a restaurant I've seen the Sysco truck pulled up to... then there was the time I was at a raved about hot dog joint, only to see two teenage employees pull up in a convertible VW Bug piled with hot dogs from Costco and carry them in the back (the closest Costco had to be at least a 30 min drive!). Yes, it was a super hot summer day. Most people never seem to realize they're paying top dollar for something out of a can or something from Costco they could heat up themself, lol.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mlou72

                    Well, Costco sells some quality dogs, and if you lack a supermarket that carries them or the time to drive the 30 miles, it might be a bargain. I think I can buy a hot dog a Costco's concession for about what it would cost me to get the same quality dog at a market and prep it myself, maybe less.

                    But I agree, people pay a premium at restaurants. It works for those who hate cooking and doing dishes.

                    1. re: mlou72

                      +1 mlou. Unless someone does an over-the-moon version of eggplant parm, I'm not going to pay big bucks for it. I find I'm like this about the foods I cook the most, a lot of Napolitano red-sauce dishes and some French Canadian ones. For example, there's a great market in my town (British and French Canadian specialties) that sells steak-n-kidney pies. Once in a while, I'll pop a few bucks for those. But not their cretons, because I do the mental math and it's not worth it to me. Anyway, I liked your post.

                      1. re: mlou72

                        (mlou72, O, hahahaha! the people who are okay with the dreaded Sysco Truck Restaurant Choice...O, yuuuuuck, the hot dog story - I seem to have radar for places with food-infection probs, don't remind me! ha ha!) Things I don't order up and or buy prepped?? Tons. In my town, restaurants are just social for me, not food-fun, they're so bland or bad or meat-centric; so I have std fall-back safe menu choices. (As for Whole Paycheck, bread franchises, I ain't that rich...)Anyway, here's my list:
                        Chinese; bagels; (easy!) cheese straws (see Mark Bittman!!) AND all salads, bread, sweet rolls; soup & oatmeal except one rest. that is gr8; any pie; brownies; rice- but it's ok to call ahead to p/u rice at the Chinese restaurant to save sanity; grains and baked-beans except @ our all-veg restaurant; properly chosen & cooked meat when serving meat-eaters even tho I don't eat it.
                        Boxed mixes are just VILE, therefore, any gratin or cake or noodly-goodness or so-called ethnic--even frozen pricey or vegan ones. Once ordered oatmeal @ a noisy,pricey,bally-hoo'd popular brkfst spot: waiter proudly walked out a bowl of near-glue with the spoon firmly vertical in the "oatmeal". Actually returned *oatmeal* and never went back or rec'mnded; their sweet rolls could kill a diabetic with one bite, too: nobody has that much insulin at-the-ready,natural or otherwise.
                        Learning Indian regionals, a little at a time-- gosh that's crazy good food.
                        It's just the two of us at home, usually, but we don't have a leftovers problem --and we're are skinny and definitely not rich.
                        You can too, people.
                        Lots of other recipes I do myself, just bec it's far less pricey that way: pizza, tempeh, soy milk, coffee, tea, all baked goods. I'm all set up to grow mushrooms and a kitchen garden. Our town is crammed with far too many mediocre to terrible restaurants, so I really ramped up the kitchen skills: once you learn it's fast and easy--you get the planning and timing dialed-in so you're not living in the kitchen. We do have very good Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, and ok Indian restaurants here, thank goodness, for special occaxns and visitors.
                        Alas, no easy source *at all* of good seafood, rest. or monger, so we mostly do without the good stuff, esp now that the Gulf is off-limits forever.But I can really cook up a seafood feast at home, when I get my hands on it.

                      2. I don't know that it ruins it for me, but it does tend to raise the bar.

                        If I make it and find that it's not too difficult to turn out a very tasty version of a dish, then my standards for a restaurant prep of that dish go up...under the "if I can do it, they sure can!" clause.

                        Some things it actually makes better -- I love tamales, but after one marathon tamale-making session to create hundreds of appetizer-sized tamales I vowed I'd never again roll another tamale. So I go out and order tamales, relieved that I don't have to fiddle with the damned things other than to eat them.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: sunshine842

                          absolutely on the tamales, we've done that and they were really good but it IS a major pain.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I have yet to have a tamale better than freshly-made homemade ones. I'm not bragging here; they just don't keep very well in a restaurant environment. They get sort of gelatinous when held. I ate at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill last week and there were tamales on my plate - while they were very good, the ones I made a few weeks ago were a tad bit better; probably due to eating them as soon as they were finished cooking.

                            1. re: sandylc

                              We're so fortunate to live where we can run out and buy daily-made tamales from a Mexican native. When she got to know me, she adjusted for vegetarian,and I can call ahead a couple of days, and I buy a lot of them at at time. Is that not just plain fabulous? Are cooks not just the Best People?? ;)

                          2. Nah. The interesting thing for me is all the little differences in how one person makes something from another. That said, I tend to like things in restaurants that are either very technique heavy or that show off a really great ingredient or two.

                            1. Definitely agree with you. Now that I feel that I've got a perfect creme brulee recipe, ordering one one at a restaurant seems like such a waste because mine is oftentimes better. I've found it hard to order chicken piccata, chicken marsala, shrimp scampi, mac and cheese, most cookies, chicken tortilla soup, chicken noodle soup, and a few other things. My tastes have become discerning, I suppose. I would have to agree with a prior comment that it's more fun to let the restaurant chef amaze you with something that's more technique-heavy or something that would be hard for you make because the ingredients might not be so readily available.

                              1. I pretty much only go to restaurants that specialize in things I don't now how to make, or am unwilling to make/stock ingredients for. Examples are dim sum, Korean bbq, and croissants.

                                1. There are a number of dishes that I make better than restaurants. Not only won't I order them, but I don't let anyone in my family get them either. Nobody likes to eat out with me anyomore :-).
                                  At this point I tend ot get things in restaurants that would just make too big a mess in the kitchen, or that are so full of calories that I try not to have them around but are OK for an occassional treat.

                                  1. Not at all. There are some things I love to eat out that I have no intention of cooking, but the fact that I prefer my own meat loaf, potato salad, fried chicken or chicken enchiladas suizas to any I've ever bought is no reason to avoid trying what restaurants have done. Some of these have been a lot like mine, some very different but as good in their way, and of course some were just wrong. Some I like to see how the tougher challenges were met: potato salad, for instance, is easy in small batches, but not at all easy in a commercial kitchen, as they tend to peel and cube the potatoes and then cook them. When I taste a salad whose potatoes are flavorful, firm-tender and not rubbery, I know they took the trouble to do it right, and it tells me a lot about the establishment.

                                    You know, I'm quite sure Julia Child could turn out a swell hamburger. But in her 90th birthday TV interview, she admitted that in her purse she always kept a list of every In-N-Out location between San Diego and Santa Barbara.

                                    1. I still order some things I can make just to get a different perspective or learn a new finish.

                                      1. Yes, to some extend, but not entirely. I think the yes part is obvious, so I will just answer the no part. Even when I get pretty good certain dishes and find some restaurants do not make as well as I do, some other restaurants still do better than me. So it is a continuous learning curve. In addition, even when I do get extremely well at a few dishes, I won't be good at everything, so there are still plenty other dishes to try. However, you are correct that getting good at cooking different dishes will increase your knowledge and raise your expectation and therefore make some of the restaurant foods undesirable.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Agreed. We don't go out to eat much except when going out with friends or traveling.

                                          I still order fried kibbeh in a Middle Eastern restaurant even though I make them better. I use it as a benchmark of that restaurant.

                                        2. I do tend, at restaurants, to stay away from things I can *easily* replicate at home. On the other hand, do I ever make pho? Hells no, but it is basically my favourite food in the world. Could I ever make pho? I'm sure I could, but both the long ingredient list and the cost per serving size (ie., 1 -- my dear benighted boyfriend calls it 'sock soup' and won't touch it) make it something I really prefer having at a resto.

                                          I also get a good deal of satisfaction out of going and enjoying that roasted thing I've been craving, say, when it is a zillion degrees at home and I hate even looking at the stove. Come winter, though, I'll do the braise myself to make the apartment cozy..

                                          Replicating a well-executed resto dish, though, is indeed fun to try. I'm still trying to nail a veg-n-bean dish I had in Stockholm in July, for instance. Failure never tasted so good :)

                                          1. Yes, but that's ok when it's better than the restaurant. Also, you know what goes into the dish and how fresh it is.

                                            1. Yes, it's a real issue!

                                              The only times I feel like splurging for the restaurant version ('splurging' as it's often much more expensive to get in restaurants than to make at home) is when 1- it'll make a big mess or stink (most deep-frying, some fish dishes, a lot of complicated desserts) or 2- I do not feel like buying a whole new wardrobe-cuisine of spices and ingredients, so to say (like starting to get serious about indian or thai cuisines for example...)

                                              It's a good thing I love learning new things, the sad thing is my BF now can use that great excuse " Why go out for X? Your version is my favorite!"

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. Roast dinners. In the UK most pubs will serve a Sunday roast, but none will ever be as good as mine!

                                                Also steak. This is perhaps more about the money, I would rather go to my local butchers (who supply the best steak restaurants in London) and pay £15 for a Porterhouse steak than go to the restaurant who serves it for £60. I can cook it pretty good as well, and just the way I like it

                                                1. Not for me -- I like to eat out if it's good -- but for my wife, yeah. I have broached the topic several times of "Hey, let's go to _____ and have some _____," only to be answered with, "But honey, yours is SO MUCH BETTER."

                                                  This may explain how I have subconsciously continued to bungle my attempts at making sushi and egg rolls at home.

                                                  1. It doesn't ruin it for me. If anything I gain an appreciation for what they're doing (or possibly lose respect for them because I do it so much better). I like to try new ways of making things, too. A chef with good ideas inspires you to try different thing. I also find I can gauge how much of a value a place is in terms of what you get, for how much, and what the craftsmanship is relative to what I do at home.

                                                    1. It doesn't really ruin it unless it's too expensive at the restaurant probably because I'm jaded when it comes to comparing how foods are made. When I was a kid, most of our family friends and relatives were in the Chinese restaurant business. Every time we ate at a Chinese restaurant, all the cooks in our group would critique every dish, complain that they could cook it better themselves, and cook the dishes more cheaply. But that never stopped them from ordering and eating those dishes in the future. I guess I'm the same way.

                                                      1. I do see what you mean, in a way. I find that, generally speaking, meals out tend to be a bit unsatisfying or even disappointing, except at really fine restaurants. For that reason, I don't eat out very often--much less often than I did five years ago. However, when eating at a fine restaurant I now delight in "studying" the dishes, especially if there is a commonality with something I make.

                                                        1. Things like crab legs, steamed lobster, etc. I will not order in a restaurant because, really, how hard is it to do yourself at home and at 1/3 (or less) the cost?

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: LorenM

                                                            I absolutely agree! And in fact, I dislike eating whole lobster in a restaurant because it's such a messy process.

                                                            1. re: visciole

                                                              In the summer, I buy steamed Maryland crabs "out" and bring them home to eat on my own screened porch. The best of both worlds...

                                                          2. There are things I generally wouldn't order in a restaurant, or buy at a bakery, because my version usually tastes better, and it's something I can make easily. This includes things like vegetable soup, or chocolate chip cookies.

                                                            There are other things that I could make and have it taste great, but the amount of mess or effort means that I don't do it very often, so I usually get it at a restaurant instead. This includes most deep fried things.

                                                            Then there are things that aren't really practical to make at home. This includes things like fresh ramen, croissants, pizza, or stinky tofu, which I always get at restaurants. (FWIW, the problems for each are picking noodle bits out of the couch for weeks afterwards, high humidity climate, only a toaster oven, and having my kitchen smell like a sewer, respectively). Beijing duck and sushi qualify too, because making the duck is a really involved process, and it's hard to get sushi quality raw fish.

                                                            What I find in general is that learning to make something myself means that my standards become higher when eating that food in restaurants. So I might grow out of the greasy go-to Chinese restaurant on the corner, but still enthusiastically eat at a higher quality one. This applies to buying food, too. I would not voluntary purchase frozen fish sticks, or processed cheese, or jarred tomato sauce because I'm used to freshly made fried fish, good cheese, and home-made tomato sauce.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                              Agreed. I still frequent noodle houses in Chinatown, pizza joints in New Haven, Crabhouses in MD/Del, etc., etc. I wouldn't think of trying to recreate that kind of food at home--and certainly couldn't replace those types of experiences. However, once a cook commits to high quality ingredients at home, that cook discovers that food "out there" often tastes bad and is poorly executed. I mean none of this in a snobby way.
                                                              Any food experience = quality of ingredients + care in preparation/execution...
                                                              To the extent that formula is followed, I'm a very happy eater...

                                                            2. If by "learning how to cook something" you mean "knowing what's in it", then yeah...it has ruined some stuff for me. I will not order soup in a restaurant because I suspect how much cream and butter may be in it. I also can't order bread pudding for the same reason.

                                                              17 Replies
                                                              1. re: danna

                                                                while that same information usually prompts me to order it...

                                                                  1. re: Manybears

                                                                    yeah...mashed potatoes...scary.

                                                                    What REALLY frustrates me are things I know do not require a bunch of fat, but it becomes clear the restaurant has decided to add some. Risotto drives me nuts. Should only have touch of butter to saute the veg and some parmesan cheese. The creaminess should come from technique, not cream. But I find that risotto is frequently a "gut bomb" if you'll pardon the expression.

                                                                    1. re: danna

                                                                      I also think restaurants tend to add more cream & butter than necessary just because it kinda guarantees things will at least taste pretty good. IMHO it's an easy shortcut if they're lacking in great ingredients and flavor combos.

                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                      A. it makes you fat and has various unpleasant long-term health effects.
                                                                      B. in excess it leaves an unpleasant slick mouthfeel, a heavy-feeling belly post-meal.
                                                                      C. as visciole says above, in dishes where it's just an unnecessary add-in, it so often serves to cover up for lack of other flavor.

                                                                      don't get me wrong...if we're talking foie gras or chocolate...things that just ARE fat...then bring it on and I'll deal with the consequences. But don't sneak it on me.

                                                                      1. re: danna

                                                                        A. natural fat does not make you any more fat than other foods, and less fat than many do. It has long-term HEALTH effects, as it enables the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and slows down the uptake of sugar.
                                                                        B. the unpleasant mouth-feel comes from artificially manipulated fats such as margarine and shortening. Heavy-belly feelings more usually come from additives and/or dairy products.
                                                                        C. It is better to rely upon fat for flavor than artifice.

                                                                        Fat and salt are seriously maligned nutrients.

                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                          "A. natural fat does not make you any more fat than other foods, and less fat than many do. It has long-term HEALTH effects, as it enables the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and slows down the uptake of sugar."

                                                                          That is the upside of fats, but also believe fats have other consequence than calories. Fat (saturated) consumption can increase LDL cholesterol level.

                                                                          "saturated fat, trans-fatty acids and dietary cholesterol can also raise blood cholesterol"


                                                                          Fats are salt are essential, but in modern day society (say USA). Most people consumed more than necessary. I think very few people are fat deprived or salt mariturient. Many things need to strike a balance. Iron is another example. Too little iron, you run into iron deficiency diseases like anemia. Too much iron, you run into iron dosed problems. Same for salt and fat except most people are not deprived of those.

                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                            Butter is a dairy product!

                                                                            Don't get me wrong, I love butter -- but I prefer it in smaller quantities than many places seem to use it. Too much butter in anything tastes yummy to me on bite #1, good on bite #2, but by bite #3 I'm finding it too rich. And too much of any fat taken in one sitting makes my stomach feel lousy.

                                                                            I love to bake, and butter is indispensable in baking. Yet I frequently find baked goods I buy to be way too butter heavy, so that all I can taste is the butter. This I do not enjoy.

                                                                            On top of it, even though what is or isn't "healthy" is constantly being debated, it is a pretty well-accepted fact that too much saturated fat (and of course trans-fat) is bad for susceptible individuals. Many members of my family have heart disease, so I try to go light on the butter, cheese, etc.

                                                                            And my food still tastes good!

                                                                            1. re: visciole

                                                                              You're right, a lot of lovely food can be made with little to no fat at all. As far as butter being dairy, it is less difficult to digest than, say, milk or cream.

                                                                              As far as debates and studies, it isn't at all an accepted fact that saturated fat is bad for you - many well-educated individuals will argue otherwise, and many societies do quite well heart-wise on saturated fat-rich diets. I understand that you did say "too much" saturated fat, however....I'm sure we can agree that balance and moderation are always good for our health.

                                                                              We won't solve this here, although it's fun to talk about. And, please, everyone, let's NOT get into a "links-to-every-study-ever-done-about-fat" battle, K? We could do that 'til the (dairy) cows come home and prove every side of the discussion ten times over!

                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                Well, I agree that there are many different arguments, but, since I don't actually know what the truth is, I try to go with common sense and moderation. I actually do use quite a bit of fat in my cooking, but I tend to use olive oil -- which luckily I like, and which, as far as I know, hasn't been declared the devil -- yet ;)

                                                                                1. re: visciole

                                                                                  I like fat - I regularly cook with lard and butter and olive oil.

                                                                                  But dumping too much fat into a dish that doesn't require it can be lazy cooking, and it does make the food more calorie dense that it would be otherwise. And as far as aesthetics go, it can make a dish too heavy and greasy.

                                                                                  I would extend the same argument to over use of salt and sugar. There's a reason why a lot of fast food and prepackaged stuff tends to contain astonishing amounts of one or more of those three things - it helps overcome the fact that the food without it isn't particularly good quality or taste.

                                                                            2. re: sandylc

                                                                              You are , of course, entitled to those opinions, but I find them wrong across the board.

                                                                              A. Natural fat is absolutely no differnet calorie-wise than adulterated fat. I can't understand why people don't understand that. Consider: one bowl of plain rice vs. one bowl of plain rice w/ a stick of butter melted into it. Which one has more calories? It's very, very simple.

                                                                              B. NO...unplesant mouth-feel comes from too much fat, of any sort. Note to restaurants...please stop "finishing" my food w/ a torrent of olive oil. Drizzle - yes, Floodstage - no.

                                                                              C. can't agree, reference my risotto example...I'll take proper technique over cream.

                                                                              1. re: danna

                                                                                Consider a stick of butter. Now consider a stick of butter with a bowl of rice. Which has more calories?

                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                  I don't see your point. It's not like plain butter is a dish one might order. (although....some people might... come to think of it)

                                                                                2. re: danna

                                                                                  "Natural fat is absolutely no differnet calorie-wise than adulterated fat."

                                                                                  One is good for you and one isn't.

                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                    It's an old thread but, in my opinion, and in many new studies, it's the rice that's the gut bomb and not the butter. There's so much more to health than calories. Ugh, this whole topic just frustrates me so much - the idea that low fat equals healthy. Good grass fed butter is so very good for you!

                                                                        2. It does for a few things. Mostly pasta and simple fish dishes. But people have mentioned cost of ingredients vs.restaurant cost, and a lot of times that dish will be less expensive to have out as we're only two people. This is especially true with some international dishes. I have a lot of Chinese and Thai condiments around and I crank out asian meals often. But Indian and Middle Eastern dishes at home would create the need for a pricey grocery haul. With things like that, I like making it a couple of times to know that I can, and to understand what goes into it.
                                                                          Deep fried foods are something I always order out. What a pain in the rear to do it at home!

                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                          1. re: alliegator

                                                                            re frying: well if one had cleaning staff and a proper fryer it would be a different story.

                                                                            damn you Fate.

                                                                            1. re: alliegator

                                                                              I'm right there with you, allie -- I deep-fry once or twice a year, if that much. Pain in the rear, waste of oil, and a big honking mess.

                                                                              Even fried chicken doesn't show up in my kitchen very often, and that's not even deep fried.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Why, oh, why did I not appreciate the roaring deep fryers in front of me when I was a 15 year old Hardees employee? :)

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  At our house, we just don't fry. We just make sure to have things like tempura and fried chicken when we eat out.

                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                      and the utter p.i.t.a. of getting rid of it when you're done!

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        You can just pour it in your backyard if you have one. It's biodegradable.

                                                                                        Also, we have a deep-fryer that filters the oil, so it can be used a few times. But it still stinks up the place which is why we fry on the patio. PITA is right.

                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                          Two words: big dog.

                                                                                          If I were to pour fry oil in my back yard, he'd dig halfway to China because he'd be SURE that whatever it was that was making the smell must be buried just a little bit deeper.

                                                                                          And I'd have to dig a hole halfway to China to have even a prayer of hiding the smell from him -- you can't slip anything past a hunting breed.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            My guy would just eat the dirt. He's a former stray and is convinced that he's about to starve at any moment, so he'd better eat all the food, plus anything that might be food RIGHT NOW.

                                                                                            1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                              Mine, too -- I've gotten quite good at reaching down his throat to retrieve stray chicken bones from oh, I don't know -- somewhere around his TAIL -- because he finds them laying on the street and eats them, thinking it's all there is for today. (all this at 110 lbs and on light chow permanently on dr's orders because he gained so much weight)

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Funny conversation. Mine is also a former stray and prefers wandering around parking lots, dumpsters and picnic tables rather than the school yard or the nice neighborhood. He'd hate to miss out on any speck of food that might have been carelessly discarded. He's eaten his fair share of chicken bones and even scarfed down packets of cheese from pizza delivery, foil package and all. The odd thing is, he's still skinny as a rail and hardly ever eats his full portion of the fancy food we buy for him.

                                                                                                1. re: agoodbite

                                                                                                  I suspect that my dog thinks his name is "Don't eat that!" He once ate most of a large pizza in the time it took me to take out the garbage. It's amazing how fast he'll suck it down. Talk about a chow hound!

                                                                                                  1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                                    last time i was at home my dad took four nice big New York Strips to the grill with him when he was lighting it. he then ran back upstairs to grab a pair of tongs and came back outiside to a very happy Sophie (my dog) and the realization that he would be grilling chicken that night instead.

                                                                                          2. re: linguafood

                                                                                            eewwww, Id have to move if my neighbor poured used cooking oil on the ground in his back yard. its bad enough that he chucks his Christmas trees out the back door and it sits there until June (seriously)...I can only imagine the pests that would be attracted. Sheesh, we have coyotes running through the back yard, if there was cooking oil out there they'd think there was a bbq going on!

                                                                                            1. re: freia

                                                                                              We're in a fairly suburban area, so besides squirrels and chipmunks, we have nothing to worry about. Guess we're lucky that way.

                                                                                  1. ANYONE who has had good homemade Hollandaise Sauce will very rarely order it in a restaurant. That freeze dried powdered crap most restaurants serve bears little resemblance to the real thing.

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                                                                                      1. I can't order red Thai curry in a restaurant anymore; thanks to Mae Ploy curry paste, making a restaurant-quality one is Hamburger Helper level cooking, and it makes you look like some kind of culinary demigod if you have company coming.

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                                                          +1 for Mae Ploy. I enjoy making pastes a lot of the time, but damn, that is the best quick dinner.

                                                                                          1. re: alliegator

                                                                                            Can you give me your recipes for the Mae Ploy?

                                                                                            1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                              I think JK is referring to the brand. I love their sweet chili sauce. If you live close to an Asian market, try to get it there - it's a lot cheaper.

                                                                                              1. re: nikkib99

                                                                                                Nikki's exactly right, the recipe for Mae Ploy curry paste is to head to the store and buy it. There's always at least the red in my fridge.

                                                                                                As for what I do with it, my red Thai curry recipe is the one on the back of the tub, with some fish sauce added along with the coconut milk, and then some lime juice and brown sugar added once I've taken everything off the heat. Note that the back-of-tub recipe is Thai spicy. It's just the way I like it, but it's been known to blow timid diners' eyebrows clean across the room. People who prefer a milder curry would be wise to halve the amount of curry paste.

                                                                                        2. Yup, it sure does. But only if I've got a recipe down that I really really like and is to my taste. If I order the same thing from a restaurant, it just isn't what I've really enjoyed at home. My husband feels the same way. We'll actually not go to a restaurant that has the food that I can make really well at home because its a bit disappointing. There are some foods that I can't seem to get a handle on, and quite frankly, don't want to get a handle on because I enjoy eating out, and if I get those recipes down, well, what's the point of going out?

                                                                                          1. there are generally two reasons learning to make something WELL at home ruins a lot of restaurant dishes for me:

                                                                                            1) if i know that at a resto they will load it with extra calories that arent in my version, but my version tastes just as good. BIG turnoff for me. my calories are jealously guarded and not parted with easily!

                                                                                            2) if it is much cheaper for me to make at home. no way I am paying 20 dollars for a burger when i can get 10 burgers for the same amount by making it at home. that just doesnt make any sense to me!

                                                                                            sometimes though, i will have a really killer version of something that i make, but i know a restaurant makes a very good, but different version. for example, i love to make chicken mole, but i will almost always order it at a mexican place, because theyre all so unique! or maybe the menu will list an ingredient or flavor combo ive never thought of before... then its being ordered for sure.

                                                                                            1. sounds like you need a better "go-to chinese restaurant." I often find that trying to learn a dish makes me more appreciative of skilled chefs who do it well.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: mikhastur

                                                                                                Well, this is true -- if I were to go to a very good Chinese restaurant, I'm sure it would be a lot better than what I can make. But, my point was, I used to go frequently to a place near me that is inexpensive and convenient to get my Chinese food "fix." And now I don't.

                                                                                                1. re: visciole

                                                                                                  well, you *do* generally get what you pay for. and it's not surprising that you might be able to improve upon the fare offered by the cheap greasy spoon chinese dive on the corner. that being said, my point still stands re finding a better "go-to resturant" for your chinese fix when you don't feel like doing it at home.

                                                                                                  1. re: mikhastur

                                                                                                    Uh, I said "inexpensive & convenient," not "cheap greasy spoon chinese dive." It ain't that bad!

                                                                                              2. I definitely am this way. I am very, very particular about what I'll order at an Italian restaurant (except when in Italy) because I cook so much of it at home, in the way I am used to and have perfected, I can't deal with sub-par crappy Italian. A pasta dish especially has to sound really different and interesting for me to order; however I love to order risotto when out because its a PITA to make at home, ditto lasagne. Also I'll always order a house-cured salumi plate or other specialties that should show off the chef's talents and quality sourcing of ingredients I might not have easy access to.

                                                                                                I most enjoy eating out for Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean because those aren't the cuisines I know how to cook well or have the patience for (or, in the case of sushi, the right sources for the best fish.) And things like ribs and fried food - we don't have the set-up to make it right at home nor the regular interest in making them, but I love them as an indulgence when I do eat out.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: sockii

                                                                                                  Risotto is so simple, why is it a pita? The stirring? Bring a magazine or call a friend you don't get a chance to talk to. Plus "constant" is not always necessary at the right heat level.

                                                                                                2. Absolutely agree. I'm a classical-french trained chef and after being in the restaurant industry for over a decade, going out to eat just is not the same. I've become so critical of eating at a restaurant I can't enjoy myself anymore. Instead of actually enjoying my ordered meals which are generally good if not great, I find myself nit-picking and pointing out all the imperfections. To the point of being able to tell what ingredients they had in the raw and how they prepared it, just through sight and taste. It's literally a gift and a curse.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: chefjeff1984

                                                                                                    Sounds more like a curse to me. Bummer, man.

                                                                                                    On the other hand, if your own cooking is at such a fantastically high level, you literally don't have to go to restaurants anymore.

                                                                                                  2. Most pastas, especially filled ones.

                                                                                                    1. I took a sushi-making class and a Thai noodle class. I learned how to make Pad Thai but I'd never make it--too complicated! And as for the sushi, I enjoyed what I learned to make but they were pretty simple rolls. So no, I still enjoy eating at sushi and Thai restaurants.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                                        I find that both are quite simple to make, but they involve tools and ingredient sets which I do not always have ready to hand, so it's a "production" to get things together. That's why I, too, tend to go out for them,

                                                                                                        But if you were to make them most days of the week, it could be be pretty streamlined, no?

                                                                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                          Alas, if I made them most days of the week, I'd soon tire of them. ;o)

                                                                                                      2. I eat out for an experience. If I can cook the dish on the menu then I am unlikely to order it. Unless the restaurant is likely to do something special with the dish.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: dryrain

                                                                                                          If I didn't order the things on the menu that I could cook it would leave very little to order.

                                                                                                          But I know what you mean and do the same when I can.

                                                                                                        2. I love to cook and lots of things end up being equal to or better than I can find locally but I do like the occasional outing. I lean towards things that I find to be too much effort to do on a regular basis or something that others prefer not to eat.

                                                                                                          I do look forward to good service although in some places the best I can hope for is common sense. We've lost a lot in quality of service as the pooling of tips and restaurant chains have increased. The second restaurant I worked at in the mid '70s had a waiter named Billy who was 78 I believe. Billy was no longer the fastest on his feet but always pulled in the most tips. Half of the wait staff were young enough to be his grandchildren. The smart ones paid attention to his craft and increased their own tips, while the others resented him and then vanished. If a patron had a problem with Billy, it usually resulted in the entire restaurant staff having a problem with the patron.

                                                                                                          Good service can elevate a passable meal into a pleasurable dining experience. Plus, I don't have to clean up :)

                                                                                                          1. Once I found out the recipe for the beloved Cream of Green Chile Soup at Duarte's (a popular northern CA roadhouse), I no longer order it at the restaurant. I mean, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, cream, and green chiles, blended together? Since then, we've made our own from scratch, and it's much better. Hmm -- time to dig out that recipe.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Steve Green

                                                                                                              @SteveGreen: Duarte's in Diego?? Great pancakes!! Their bread pudding is good also... But, I think mine is better.

                                                                                                            2. I think this is a great question! My answer is yes and no, depending on circumstances. I recently got into a phase with short ribs, where I was cooking them every weekend. When that was over and I finally got the appetite for them again, I ordered them at a fancy-ish place, and was pretty disappointed. They were good, but no better than what I can do.

                                                                                                              However, I come from a large Italian family, and while it kills me to pay more than $10 for a plate of noodles and sauce, I will do so over and over again. No matter that everyone in my family, myself included, can do a fantastic sugo, and no matter how many red sauces I try, they're all different and I love 'em. Trying restaurant versions of items, even if I can cook the hell out of them, can give some ideas or inspiration for new methods.

                                                                                                              And restaurants can also serve up basically the same thing you could (say, a big hearty breakfast), but you don't have to do the dishes, and it all comes out ready at the same time.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                "you don't have to do the dishes, and it all comes out ready at the same time"

                                                                                                                with a few exceptions, that is the main appeal for me

                                                                                                              2. For me it does not. It just makes the next visit more enjoyable. If I order a dish and take a liking to it, I will usually ask for the restaurant manager and request the recipe if all possible. I always give praise for an exceptional dish and strongly emphasize that the recipe is for my private collection and only for my personal use. Several times I have been told that the recipe was not available to the public but have been very lucky to receive many great recipes and even a cookbook. Besides, it's always better when professional hands are making it.

                                                                                                                1. Absolutely! I would not pay for a steak at any restaurant because I can find a nice cut of rib-eye from a butcher and create a delicious meal with my cast iron pan - sans stick of butter.

                                                                                                                  I have a hard time buying cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. Won't waste those calories on crappy desserts at a supermarket and won't spend $2 on a cookie at a bakery when I know I can make something just as good at home.

                                                                                                                  Pizza, bread, etc... I have mountains of all types of flour at home and I can wait a couple hours if I want it that badly.

                                                                                                                  The more I learn to make things, the less inclined I am to purchase them at stores or restaurants. I also notice that when I make something at home, I don't need to pile on extras (butter, ketchup, funky sauce) just to make it taste good.

                                                                                                                  1. For the most part foods that I've learned to make at home or 'master' - are often foods that I've doctored to my taste. But where it does come into play is actually the kind of restaurant I want to go to. My "Italian"/pasta home recipes for the most part are recipes that I've played with over the years to the point where they ultimately give me the exact meal I want. They are often influenced by more authentic/classic recipes - but often end up being quite different.

                                                                                                                    However, because I cook faux-Italian/pasta regularly at home - I rarely desire to go to an Italian restaurant because I make that broad kind of food so frequently at home. When I go out to eat or get take away, not only do I not want to cook - but I also typically want to eat something different. In the name of variety, I also find the reverse true. Where I work, there are very limited options for take away - and one of the best options (taste and value) is an omlette sandwich. It's not that I can't make an omlette at home, but mine aren't wildly better - and it's the cheapest, tastiest lunch option I have available. So I save it for days when I don't bring my lunch.

                                                                                                                    1. Cooking Chiles Rellenos has made me more delighted to eat them at our favorite Mexican place here. They were right on to what is served there, I knew I had it right, but what a labor intensive meal. I am VERY happy to eat them there, and am more appreciative of them since I have made them a couple of times.