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How do you tell if people like your cooking?

So, I'm fairly new at cooking and don't consider myself very good at it yet. I can follow a recipe and it turns out well but when I deviate there's huge potential for disaster. I recently made a meal for my boyfriend's friends. They didn't really seem to give any reaction or say anything about the food. When I asked they said it was "good" in a very nonchalant way. But they finished all of it very quickly and even drank all of the soup.

I want to get better at cooking and I know I probably won't get the "omg, this is soooo good" reaction all the time. In a way, I want to feel good about my cooking based on people's reactions and I enjoy cooking, especially for people who seem to really enjoy my food.

I apologize if I seem childish about this, but I wanted to impress my bf's friends...

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  1. serve it to someone who doesn't have to be polite, but can be brutally honest: such as your mother or mother-in law. Yes I know you are talking about a boyfriend, so NO MIL, yet.
    Your mother won't mince words. Other close friends will give an honest opinion if you let them know up front that you are looking for honest feedback, not fluff.

    Young 20-30 something guys wilol eat all kinds of garbage and as long as it's served to them, and they aren't paying, they'll scarf it down and say it's good....more please!

    5 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      Thanks for the input. They are 25-27 and one of them said "I eat anything", so I guess you're probably right.

      1. re: bagelman01

        Exactly, they and usually SO tell it like it is or it's revealed months later and you get the point

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          Exactly, fldhkybnva. My husband's best criticism is "This isn't bad, but I'm not sure I'd want to eat it again."

          1. re: Isolda

            Also if they don't request it again you usually can sense it wasn't so great.

            1. re: Isolda

              my dh says the same thing. it's a good response because you don't feel bad, but they don't have to eat it again. ;)

        2. Well if they ate everything, that's usually a good sign. How old are your BF's friends and are they CHs? My appreciation for food developed as I grew older. When I was a youngish guy in my late teens and early 20s, I would pretty much eat anything and it was all good. Guys that age don't express themselves very much. Especially to the GF of their buddy. But clean plates is a good start.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Bkeats

            They're in their mid to late 20's. Neither of them can cook so definitely not chowhounds lol.

            I might be overreacting but I cooked them pho which I simmered for 12 hours... so I worked really hard on it and I thought I would get a better reaction.

            They both like pho and that's why I chose to make it.

            1. re: Momofuku

              It's pho. Pho is an evil dish to make, because you're just going to get about the same as a good restaurant.

              It's longcooked, so even "fresh ingredients" don't help.

              Try making picadillo, or stew, or something that you can actually make "awesome"

              1. re: Chowrin

                Sadly, we live in the midwest where good pho is near impossible to find.

                I'll give picadillo a try, looks very good.

              2. re: Momofuku

                Good on you for making pho! A thankless job. Maybe because they can buy a huge bowl of it for $7, they had no idea how much work you put into it.

                1. re: Momofuku

                  One good indication is the rapidity with which people accept your dinner invites.

                2. re: Bkeats

                  They're in their mid to late 20's. Neither of them can cook so definitely not chowhounds lol.

                3. Make a dish suitable for sharing at work and see how fast it goes. A true test!

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      Or thirds or fourths. I knew my roast chicken was a success when one guy ate four servings.

                    2. First I would make sure that I liked the dish. Mainly to verify that it is correct and no blatant mistakes were made. And then I would worry about what others think. I would also listen to your boyfriend. Does he brag about your cooking to others? Are there specific dishes that he asks you to repeat?

                      I see eating it all, asking for a recipe, and asking for it to be made again, etc. as positive feedback.

                      How do I know? When I overhear BF telling him parents or grandmother how much I spoil him with my cooking. Or when his coworkers, approach me and ask when am I going to bake them more cookies or when they make requests.

                      1. Since they ate everything you put in front of them, it's fairly safe to assume that it was a successful dish. A 'successful' dish is one that gets scraped clean (or if there are leftovers, people ask for seconds). Young guys rarely rave about food... but if it's a bad dish you can tell because they DON'T demolish it, they leave some of it on their plates, try to feed it to the dog etc. (a really unsuccessful dish has them reaching for the phone to call for pizza, and even the pets won't touch it!)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kajikit

                          Thanks, I feel much better about last night's meal now that people are confirming this about young men. I'll just take it as a success!

                          1. re: Kajikit

                            Seriously! My fiancé usually has "second dinner" of pizza if he feels the cooking wasn't up to par or if it was too small of a portion.

                            1. re: melpy

                              I had an aunt who was a terrible cook. My uncle would call home late in the afternoon and ask her if he should stop at the store on the way home to get anything she might need. Why he was really calling is to ask what was for dinner that night. Depending on the answer, he would stop at McDonald's or Burger King on the way home. He was outed by one of his kids who caught him putting the fast food wrappers into the trash can in the garage. That and his car smelled like french fries.

                          2. I think you did great by your bf's friends finishing it all and then tipping their bowls for the broth! And pho too -- what a treat!
                            Don't overthink it. Young men aren't complicated at all. Keep cooking, Momofuku! :)

                            1 Reply
                            1. Not "childish" at all. You want to know if it is good and you will make changes for the next time if it is less than good.
                              I always ask dinner guests to be genuine and candid. Some are so polite that they can't do it.
                              We had dinner at our neighbor's. The husband had been to the seafood market and brought home some fresh local Hake. He cooked and I thought it was excellent. His wife gushed with superlatives.
                              When he got up from the table to get the dessert she said: "It was awful!" to us.
                              The next day she was still going on about how bad the Hake was that I asked her: "Why would you lie to your husband?" "it's not a lie, I was taught to be polite." HUH?? "Now he thinks you like it and will keep buying it!"
                              Go figure.
                              I am always appropriately genuine.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Motosport

                                Yes, I agree with you on that matter. I appreciate honest answers, but I also try to keep in mind that not everyone will enjoy the dish even if it was successful.

                                This is why I'm wary about my BF's answer when I ask if he liked the food. He is so kind to everyone, he probably won't ever say he dislikes anything I make him.

                                1. re: Momofuku

                                  I have a similar significant other -- he'll eat *anything* I cook for him. As well as some combinations he comes up with that, shall we say, stagger the imagination...think ramen with canned beets...

                              2. It's not childish at all to want to please people we cook for. Your meal may have been better than you think, it's just that some people aren't into food enough to appreciate it, or they love everything. If they ate all of your meal, that's a good sign!

                                To get real criticism, find a foodie friend and cook for him or her, then ask for feedback. In the meantime, just keep trying out new recipes and techniques. It's practice that makes a good cook.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Isolda

                                  Yea I have had this issue with a few people who simply prefer Cheetos to anything that comes off of a stove or out of an oven. If they hate it all, I assume that's good.

                                2. With more cooking experience, you'll know yourself if something you have cooked is just ok or is great. Keep cooking and experimenting on your boyfriend and his friends. I agree that non-Chowhounds probably are not going to give you a lot of verbal praise, they don't think like that. If they seem to be eating everything, well, like others have said, there's your answer.

                                  I remember hearig a story about my mother's cooking from early in their marriage. Apparently my maternal grandmother used to make a 'salmon loaf' from canned salmon. So my mother made it for my father and although he ate it, he said something like "It wouldn't bother me if you didn't make that again."

                                  1. It pays to know what you are doing and to be honest with yourself.
                                    So, on those points:
                                    See if there are any low cost community courses for social cooking. We have many around our town, usually half day courses in a certain cuisine. Watching others cook will give you heaps on hints and tips and help you learn technique far better than cookbooks or television. The other participants in these courses will also be far more honest in their criticism.

                                    As for being honest with yourself, this ALWAYS begins with rule #1 - TASTE TASTE TASTE!
                                    I see so many young cooks and chefs who put a meal together using all the right ingredients, all the right techniques, all the right timings, and the meal is still shit because they never TASTE it.
                                    As you become a better cook, your palate should develop alongside your skills. You should be able to identify over seasoned foods fairly easily, or know when an ingredient is over or undercooked. This is all practice, but it starts with being critical of your own work and identifying areas you need to improve.
                                    Ultimately, if you develop yourself as a great cook, your taste buds will be far more refined than those you are serving and you should get better feedback as a result.
                                    Good luck!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cronker

                                      Yes I taste my food often. One problem I have is that I over season... One bite tastes bland so I make it perfect then halfway through the meal you realize it's way too flavorful lol. I would love to take a cooking class one day. Thanks for the advice!

                                      1. re: Momofuku

                                        "One bite tastes bland so I make it perfect then halfway through the meal you realize it's way too flavorful lol. "

                                        I do this, too. Not enough salt, add some, now way too much. Ugh.

                                        Long story short, I got chikungunya (a mosquito-borne disease) years ago, which broke my salt-meter, and it still rears its ugly head, sometimes even changing my perception of salt during a day. Well, the husband got chikungunya same time as me, and his salt meter is also affected, so sometimes we'll be on opposite ends of the salt spectrum and it just... it isn't fun dealing with at time.

                                    2. When they make yummy sounds...

                                      1. Looking at your chow handle, now that you've made pho, you must make ramen. Not instant, but the real deal.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                          My bf and I are huge fans of ramen! It's definitely on my list of things to make. If you know a good recipe, please feel free to link. :)

                                          1. re: Motosport

                                            This is a clear sign for me as well because leftovers are usually a sign to others (e.g. family and SO) that I didn't like the meal that much as I rarely leave any food on my plate. In fact, a few weeks ago I got up from dinner with food still on my plate and SO commented "OK, we're not having this one again, eh?"

                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              Your post reminded me of something that happened when I was a young teen. My mother was a good cook and liked to experiment with new recipes. Although I was the youngest, I was also the one son who would try just about anything she cooked. Anyway, one night she made an herbed chicken dish using chicken breasts. I think she could tell it wasn't going over all that well with us and she asked me what I thought. I told her the chicken was a little dry. She was quite disappointed to hear me say that (we all want our food to be liked by others) and all these years later I still feel guilty about it.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                I usually let my fork do the talking, the face when someone hears something bad about their food directly is so sad. I think it's also good to consider that people just like different things. I know people for instance who don't mind dry chicken. I have had moments when SO was really not into a dish that I just loved but I think we have to sometimes not beat ourselves up but remember that we all like different things sometimes and then just save it for when that person is not around.

                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  In my case, I'm sure my mother got over it and foegot about that comment. I was a 13 year old who was sad to disapooint my mother.

                                                  Later on I also figured out that I just am not a fan of chicken breasts. The curious thing is that both of my parents are the same way. One of my brothers doesn't care because he has no taste and the other brother has been brainwashed by his wife.

                                                2. re: John E.

                                                  I remember my mom's terrible cooking from when I was a kid. It's unclear if she was a bad cook or if the things she cooked were disagreeable to a child's palette. She likes using weird Chinese dried herbs in everything (wolfberries and dried dates). I couldn't eat so I'd wait til she wasn't looking and hid it around the house. Needless to say, I got in a lot of trouble for hiding food behind the toilet.

                                            2. Ha! Motosport, I wrote this the exact same time as you, great minds think alike!

                                              Ok this won't work for every guest, but I cook big and there is always plenty left after the meal; so I offer some of the leftovers for guests to take home if they'd like. Some people aren't into that whole scene, but if they accept then you can be sure it was a hit! And that's the point where you get some specific feedback too usually.

                                              1. If you later ask them what they'd like to eat, and they say "oh that chicken thing you made last month". I have a teenager and the only way I know he likes something is if I get a smile when he sees what's being prepared. I made this chicken from bon appetite and it was a hit


                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                  We're friends with a couple who rate every single new recipe they try on a 0 (burn the recipe) to 10 (perfection) scale. We've taken up this idea, at least verbally rating things--helps me at least consider keeping a so-so recipe (maybe a 5) & tweaking it next time to see if we rate it higher--if not, out it goes.

                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                    I love this method and it's what I use for myself as well as SO. My email archive is full of reports on recipes and dishes similar to a restaurant review site. I also will include details of prep which worked well - thickness of meat, time, temperature, etc. to refer to later.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      I ask my BF and my brother to rate my cooking like this... so far everything I've gotten from my BF has been 9+. My brother gave me a 6 once for an experimental fried rice. However, its pretty apparent they both feel bad giving low rating. Even so this system helps me evaluate my cooking. Plus for some reason its fun to do. :)

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        We also rate but not on a number scale:

                                                        Very Good
                                                        Very poor

                                                        Anything good and above can be made again. Although we make so many different things that I have had to re evaluate and change to very good only for our repeats.

                                                  2. Involuntary noises of eating pleasure are a sure sign. Also, if people question you in detail as to what's in the dish and how you made it - that's a sure sign that they loved your food.
                                                    I agree with all the other comments that many young men aren't particularly discerning about food so don't be dismayed at their lack of effusive praise.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Billy33

                                                      I had a friend who would "mmmmm" the entire meal. It was a compliment but it was quite hilarious.

                                                    2. Most of it has already been said.

                                                      They cleaned their plates. And they ate it quickly. They even finished the soup. OK, thats 3 for 3, the bases are loaded. If he brings them back for another meal, or even a snack, in the near future you can count it as a grand slam.

                                                      But like another poster said, the most important thing is that you liked it. And you are a chowhound. I'm pretty sure, like 99.99% of the people in here, there isn't anyone who is a harsher critic of your food than you. It's kind of like throwing a party. If the host/ess has a good time then its a fair bet that mostly everyone else did too.

                                                      If the cook liked the food, chances are so did most of the other people. I know, TV is full of 'reality' shows where the cook thinks they are the second coming of Julia Child or Graham Kerr only to find out they would be kicked out of most animal shelters for serving such slop. But in the non tv world, those people are far and few between. Most lousy cooks know they are lousy cooks.

                                                      If you care about your cooking, it is obvious to anyone who eats it. And you will definitely improve with practice. Which does not mean it isnt good now.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        One more sign that they liked it would be that while they were eating all conversation stopped until the plates were cleaned.

                                                      2. Sometimes, if I've made several new dishes, I ask family members to tell me which (if any) are "keepers". It gives me feedback but saves them from feeling awkward about criticizing.
                                                        Of course, the scraped clean dishes when I expected leftovers...a good sign too ;)

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Ama658

                                                          There are some dishes which friends and family always ask for. When I invite them I say: "What would you most like me to make?"
                                                          One of every one's favorites is linguini with a cream sauce with thin smoked salmon slices in it. (My secret ingredient is adding the tinniest amount of fresh ground anise seed to the sauce. Fresh chopped tarragon and fresh lemon juice to finish.) Careful not to make the sauce too thick so I use whole milk with a few drops of whipping cream and a little butter. You have to 'hold your mouth just right' to get the sauce right. Esscoffier has a great cream sauce recipe.
                                                          Oh yeah, and REALLY hot plates.

                                                          1. re: Ama658

                                                            I use this approach sometimes too although if I'm nervous about introducing a new dish I will preface the dinner with "I'm not sure how this will turn out, but I've heard it's good so I thought I'd try it" so at least I'm off the hook for coming up with some nasty wacky idea and assuming it was tasty.

                                                          2. <I apologize if I seem childish about this>

                                                            You are forgiven since you have put a puppy photo as your icon. :D

                                                            Back to your question, there is always a chance that you boyfriend's friends are not picky eaters. As such, you will not easily disappoint or even impress them. They just don't care all that much. Sometime ago, I used a smart phone as my counter-example. In my case, I don't think someone can really impress with the newest iPhone or disappointment me with a 10 years old flip phone.

                                                            I think if you want to look for feedbacks, then you need two things. First, people who can give constructive criticism. Someone who can tell you what they think about your food, be specific and what is (are) lacking. Second, people who are knowledgeable about the food which you are trying to make. If you are trying to make Japanese food, then that person better knows about Japanese food. If you are trying to make Indian foods, then the person better have experience in Indian foods. If the person is not knowledgeable, then he/she can be as honest as it comes, and he will still give you the wrong feedback.

                                                            1. If the plate is cleaned twice, and the serving dish is empty, then someone liked it.


                                                              1. If they eat it and ask for seconds. Or if they ask you for the same thing again. Many people do not compliment others' cooking, because they haven't been trained to do so.

                                                                First thing is to please yourself though. If you feel it is really good, then it probably is.

                                                                1. At my last dinner party, while I was cleaning up in the kitchen, one of my guests was picking out cold leftovers from the roasting pan and eating it with his fingers. I think he liked it.

                                                                  1. I think most people will politely lie, and even clean their plates, if they are invited over for a meal. The acid test is their level of eagerness to accept further invitations. If you ask them over again, declining once or twice due to prior commitments might be legit, but if you get three or four refusals in a row, take the hint and don't issue any further invitations.

                                                                    1. many thoughtful replies to your query.

                                                                      to add my own view, albeit a controversial view,

                                                                      if I have to, not want to, but HAVE to reach for the salt shaker... my words may be kind, but my actions speak louder than words.