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Jan 1, 2014 03:59 PM

You can't make it just as good

"I can make it just as good".

Can't count the number of times I've read a reply that contains the above phrase. It's always in response to someone who has posted a recipe that includes an ingredient, technique or an amount of time to simmer or stew. Someone will post they use a shortcut and it's just as good. I want to say, "No you can't." You can make something that's good enough for you, but it's not just as good as using the proper ingredient, technique or time.

I use short cuts all the time. I'm not complaining about those. They are sometimes necessary to get dinner on the table. But I know when I've made a quick spaghetti sauce it's not going to be as rich as a ragu that simmered all day.


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  1. Many times I can make veggies better than the ones I get in almost any restaurant. Same with salads and salad dressings. But I get what you are saying.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      Your techniques are probably better than what the restaurants are using. :o) My comment really wasn't about the difference between what a restaurant will produce and what you can make at home. It's more about people who take the time and care to make something and someone else coming along and saying, "Oh, you don't have to go to all that trouble..."


      1. re: JuniorBalloon

        You know there are people who really can't tell the difference between a well prepared dish and a so so dish.

        This is maddening for those of us who take care with our cooking. But it is a fact of life, I think.

        1. re: sueatmo

          Actually, that lack comes in handy at times with my spouse. He's generous and genuine with his compliments so he knows good food when he tastes it. But he'll happily eat pretty much anything I serve and has told me more than once (when consulted regarded menu planning) that it REALLY does not matter to him.

    2. Being a pretty rigid recipe follower I totally get what you're saying.

      1. I can't make mayonnaise as good as Hellmans and I've stopped trying.

        1 Reply
        1. re: zackly

          Secret to that is a tsp/tbsp of dijon and the right amount of lemon juice.

          I've made mayo that was an exact copy of Hellman's, and I love Hellman's.

        2. I have that response to a lot of substitutions done for health or other dietary reasons - sometimes those substitutes are necessarily, but most of the time they make an inferior dish (although there are exceptions). That fake meat substitute is not the same as using beef, yes I can tell it's not butter, skim milk thickened with flour is not a good substitute for heavy cream, and noticed you left the salt out.

          For specific ingredients, I find that in many cases bottled lemon and lime juice cannot replace fresh, pre-ground pepper can't replace freshly ground, and Kraft Parmesan in the green jar can't replace freshly grated.

          For techniques, Bolognese sauce and gumbo are ones I find can't be messed with in terms of shortcuts. Bolognese takes at least 6 hours to make properly, and can't be vegetarian, gumbo needs that carefully browned lard and flour mix for the depth of flavour (and is similarly non vegetarian).

          18 Replies
          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

            this is why I tend to not read recipe reviews "I cut the sugar by half, added three times the cinnamon, substituted ground almonds for the flour, and used liquid tofu instead of milk and this recipe SUCKED".

            Yep, I'm sure it did. You didn't make this recipe.

            1. re: sunshine842

              I LOL when I read a review like that on epi.

              1. re: sunshine842

                This is also why I don't leave recipe reviews - I rarely cook the recipe exactly.

                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                  if it's the first time, I'll at least stay fairly close to the recipe...but yes, for most recipes, I rarely follow it to the letter.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    I'm exactly like you, sunshine, I stick pretty close the first time I try a recipe, then make it to my taste after than.

                  2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    The exception for me is COTM. When they vary from the recipe they note that and give the reason. But I would guess those 'hounds are a notch up from the average epicurious reviewer :)

                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                      I usually look at a handful of recipes for the dish I'm looking for, and triangulate between them for what I want. I often have to substitute ingredients, due to local availability, as well.

                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                        I also do this.Recipes are just a guideline for me when cooking.I do follow them when I bake something.I always felt you could give two home cooks the same ingredients and recipe. They both would be different.

                        1. re: emglow101

                          Do you ever visit the COTM threads. I'd say most of them follow the recipes. And most of them are better cooks than I'll ever be. That's why I follow recipes :)

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Never. I'm sure they are much better cooks than me also. I don't usually stray to far from them. They are a guideline for me.

                    2. re: sunshine842

                      This is one of my ultimate pet peeves when it comes to recipe websites. I think I see it most often on Food Network.

                      If you are a vegan with celiac disease then why would you want to try making Paula Dean's flaky buttery pie crust? I'm sure that it just won't be the same made with gluten free flour and organic shortening.

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        If you are a vegan with celiac disease then why would you want to try making Paula Dean's flaky buttery pie crust? I'm sure that it just won't be the same made with gluten free flour and organic shortening.

                        I think if you are a vegan with celiac disease, just uttering the word "Paula" followed by "Dean" would cause you a medical episode.

                    3. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                      to add to tastesgoodwhatisit's list:

                      fresh ginger and fresh garlic always tastes better than powdered
                      fresh or dried legumes always taste better than anything that comes out of a can.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        I find that fresh ginger and powdered ginger are totally different ingredients that simply can't be substituted either way - fresh ginger can't substitute for dried when the recipe needs the powdered version.

                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                          just made a chickpea tangine for my new year's eve party.

                          made two versions which i served side by side.
                          the first used powdered ginger (as the recipe stated)
                          the second used an equivalent amount of freshly minced ginger.

                          both versions were served to the 10 guests at my new year's eve party without telling them what, exactly the difference was between the two, just that there was a difference in preparation methods.

                          the fresh ginger tangine, was completely consumed.
                          the powdered ginger tangine ended up with about 1/3 of the pot left over.

                          certainly this wasn't a scientific study, but every time i've done any sort of side by side comparison, the food made with powder has NEVER been the favorite.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Baking often uses powdered ginger, and I don't think fresh would substitute well - for something like ginger cookies even finely grated ginger would be clumpy, and not spread itself through the dough.

                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                              There's a triple ginger poundcake on epicurious that calls for fresh, dried and crystallized ginger, and it's really good. Fresh ginger isn't clumpy in baked goods when it's been grated with a rasp or a ceramic ginger grater. I use both dried and fresh, and in quite a few recipes I use both together.

                    4. You're absolutely right.

                      I can make it better.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        You are the exception that proves the rule. Not everyone is a ninja kitchen master. :0)