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The Downside of Sharing Recipes...

  • meatn3 May 16, 2014 08:27 PM
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I'm always happy to share a recipe. I explain any changes/substitutions I've made. If it is a dish that I wing I give the ingredients by proportion along with pertinent instructions.

The thread about folks not sharing recipes got me thinking...

There have been a handful of times I've regretted sharing a recipe. Not because they now have my "secret" but because the individuals held me responsible for their failure to get the same results!

Most recently I shared an on-line link for the chicken with fennel and clementine recipe from Jerusalem. I noted the changes made (used thighs, ouzo, added enough water to the sauce to to cover the chicken once I transferred it to a crockpot for travel).

One acquaintance repeatedly wants to discuss why her rendition wasn't as good. The first conversation I asked a few questions and nothing really jumped out as an issue. Short of watching her make it I can't give her the answer she is seeking. Could be anything from a difference in quality of ingredients to how we interpret instructions.

I do think some people simply have a better "touch" and experience goes a long way too. I can tell she thinks I'm withholding my trick. At this point the only thing being held in is my increasing exasperation with the topic!

Anyone else have a shared recipe become a regret?

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  1. I don't regret sharing recipes. My response to complaints (or accusations) when the results aren't the same is simple: "A poor carpenter blames the tools."

    1. For me, the downside to sharing a recipe means I'm actually using a recipe.

      1. I gave an Australian friend my recipe for American pumpkin pie.

        She posted on a message board to which we both belonged at the time that she'd cut the sugar by half, substituted skim milk for evaporated, and left out the cinnamon.

        She just didn't understand why people love pumpkin pie.

        I pretty much just facepalmed and never replied to her post.

        1. Cooks Illustrated was slammed when a blogger used their recipe and posted about it, with changes. While most people came down on them, I understand their view. They test and test their recipes. If someone changes it, it's no longer their recipe (just don't call it that, blogger!) and they can't control the repercussions. "Well, I tried one of their recipes that a blogger posted and it was terrible! I'll never buy CI material."

          I don't mind sharing recipes, or if someone butchers it but please don't share that you got it from me in that case! I have had someone tell me she used my recipe, only used a box cake and canned frosting instead. Okay, why even ask for a recipe in that case?

          22 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            That kind of review/comment probably constitutes about 75%-85% of those posted on Food Network and, to a lesser degree, well-known food magazine sites.

            Invariably they've substituted 4 out of 8 ingredients, used margarine or oil instead of butter, changed the flavorings or spices, perhaps even changed (or omitted) steps in the process or the way it's cooked/ baked, and then either praise the site's recipe, or take them to task because their family hated it.

            I have never seen either a positive or negative review say: "Well, with all the changes I made, I guess this is really my recipe, and the praise or blame is mine to own."

            1. re: mcsheridan

              I just saw a classic one yesterday while browsing Bundt cake recipes. The reviewer gave it 5 stars "with the following changes." She added another stick of butter (?), omitted the flavoring extracts (??), and added a BOX of pudding mix (???). With canned frosting beaten with 2 boxes of cream cheese. FIVE STARS ALL THE WAY, I LOVE THIS RECIPE!


              1. re: nothingswrong

                an extra stic of butter, a box of pudding mix and two boxes of cream cheese?

                Yike -- not only is that stomach-churning to even think of eating -- blergh.

                WTF indeed!

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I know. I am constantly amazed by the capacity of (some) Americans to bastardize recipes with copious amounts of fat. I like butter as much as the next guy, but that all just sounds disgusting.

                  1. re: nothingswrong

                    It seems like more often, the commenter subs OUT all the good stuff (cream, fat, sugar, salt, spices) and then complains of lack of taste (like the Aussie making pumpkin pie).

                    1. re: DebinIndiana

                      Yeah I do see that. But then I see a lot of recipes where they sub out all the good stuff (cream, butter, sugar) for applesauce, flax, bran, etc., and say it's "soooo good!"

                      I can't help but think "this poor lady probably hasn't had a REAL cookie in years so of course it tastes good to her."

                      1. re: nothingswrong

                        Worst one I saw was just yesterday, and it combined the topic under discussion here with a huge dose of yucking someone else's yum.

                        Over on The Splendid Table, there's a recipe for "Supernatural Brownies". Now the commenter didn't even bother about the recipe; but jumped in to make the point that he/she didn't have time to bake. The solution to this? Take a box of dry cake mix, add some whirred-up, drained black beans & water instead of what the mix called for, and bake. When challenged, the poster got defensive and huffy about it.

                        1. re: mcsheridan

                          I love those reviews where people don't even bother making it. There was an epicurious cheesecake that people raved about and one person said the ratio was all off, she knew as an expert cheesecake baker, and it wouldn't turn out. When people called her on it, she also got huffy about it because she is an expert, in her mind.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Nothing screams "vanity blogger" more to me than when the people who leave comments on a recipe post clearly have not tried making it. It's just comments like, "Sarah, your brownies always look amazing!"

                            Not that there is anything wrong with blogging just to blog--I'm all for it. It's the number of useless comments blowing smoke up their blogger friend/relative's bum that amuses/annoys me. It's not really feedback or questions about the food or recipe, but all about complimenting the blogger/blog author/amateur food photographer's ego.

                            1. re: team_cake

                              I especially like that when there's 105 comments saying "All your recipes look soooooooo good girl!" and then one comment at the end that says: "I made these the other day. They were terrible."

                            2. re: chowser

                              Or the ones where they give it 5 stars because they are "definitely going to make this someday!!!" Seems the concept of rating to help others is a concept lost on them.

                            3. re: mcsheridan

                              oh, Christ.

                              That would be Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownie recipe, I'm guessing -- if I'm right, it *is* a stellar brownie recipe.

                              (seriously -- WTF -- black beans and cake mix? Are you sure this wasn't a troll?)

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Seriously. This is an old vegan recipe hack. I recall hearing about it back in the early 70s. I am *never* eating anything like this. Never.

                                And yes, you have the recipe source nailed. It's shown up on a lot of blogs/sites, from what I can tell.

                                I plan to make these...following the recipe right on down the line.

                                1. re: mcsheridan

                                  you'll love that recipe -- it's really very, very easy, and the brownies are really, really, good. You might also look at the Green & Black's Organic Chocolate-Cherry brownies -- similar recipe, and similarly easy nd delicious. (I just leave the cherries out)

                                  (I'm pretty open-minded, foodwise, but there just ain't no way I'm going to sub out black beans for brownies. And I *like* black beans)

                                  1. re: mcsheridan

                                    I was at a family bbq last year. Me, to cousin's wife, "Oh, you made chocolate chip cookies!" Cousin's wife, "Yes, and you'll never guess what the secret ingredient is!" Me: "Chickpeas, right?"

                                    Harumph, I had to eat one of the chickpea cookies to be polite. Really, moms of young children everywhere - we can taste the chickpeas! If I wanted chickpeas, I'd eat hummus!

                                    1. re: 16crab

                                      And here I thought the black bean brownies were a bridge too far. Chickpeas in the near-hallowed Chocolate Chip Cookie? There's a giant leap off the same bridge - which frankly should have happened *before* the oven got turned on.

                              2. re: nothingswrong

                                That's my feeling, too. All those Hungry Girl type followers who rave about fat free, sugar free pudding w/ fat free, sugar free Cool Whip just don't know what real food tastes like

                                1. re: chowser

                                  I couldn't agree more.
                                  HG's food paradigm is based on very outdated information.
                                  Fat, in moderation and the good kinds, are good.

                                  HG eschews everything fat.



                                  1. re: monavano

                                    I said in a discussion years ago that Hungry Girl probably wouldn't be hungry if she would just eat real food.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Ha! So true.

                                  2. re: chowser

                                    I guess it goes to both extremes. I started out saying how gross it was that I saw a recipe where a reviewer added an extra stick of butter, box of pudding mix, etc.

                                    Although in your standard 9" cake recipe, adding a WHOLE extra stick of butter is really excessive--typically doubling it. Unnecessary.

                                    I have a distant family member who is extremely obese, bordering on 550 lbs. God bless her; I'm not trying to hate, but that is how she cooks. A full extra stick of butter is stirred into every dish, even after butter has been used to cook it. Spinach, corn, potatoes, sauces, etc. To her, it's a "garnish" that makes food edible.

                                    I'm glad my mother raised me with primarily EVOO being used for cooking, and we used butter in moderation (mostly in baked goods) like any cook should. That was my grandfather's motto, and he said it all the time: "EVERYTHING IN MODERATION." It's a Greek thing.

                      2. re: chowser

                        But that blogger said she "modified it from a CI recipe", NEVER said it was a bad recipe, but CI wrote her and claimed they "don't allow" printed modifications to their recipes. And the person who wrote her ended up getting pretty rude about it.

                        And as Aloisha wrote back to their PR person "However, I was just informed by a wonderful cook friend that lists of ingredients are not copyrighted, only method."

                        In this situation, I still side the blogger, and think that ATK/CI was being ridiculous. But the simple thing to do is NEVER say you're getting a recipe from CI - even if you're modifying it.

                        Here's the Wayback Machine's cache of that blog post:


                      3. I've had this happen, usually with friends who want to recreate a baking recipe. I always gladly share it, making sure to add any details/instructions that might benefit those who don't bake a lot. Things like yeast or pastry dough can be confusing or easily botched. Aside from my mother, my friends inevitably will come back saying "Wow, I didn't realize it was so much work to make that. I gave up halfway through." Or I had one friend make my cinnamon rolls and then complain about how dense and dry hers were. She said she'd added 3 extra cups of flour (!!!) and let the dough rise uncovered and un-oiled on the windowsill... I can't even... I just said "It happens to all of us on occasion."

                        On the flip side of your complaint, there are a handful of recipes I've gotten out of my mother over the years and the results are almost unanimously not even close to what she makes... My aunt and I do think she always leaves something out. Of course mom never ever uses recipes, so any instructions are estimates, but it will still seem like something's missing that you can't quite put your finger on. Very frustrating!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: nothingswrong

                          and then you have those hand-me-down recipes that seem to just deny logic.

                          I have recipes from both of my grandmothers, and my family asks me to make the angel-food cake and the stewed green beans. We all have copies of the exact same recipe, but for whatever unknown reason, mine come out better than anyone else's every time.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Yes, I wonder sometimes if some recipes just suit some cooks better than others. I've seen my mother make her sautéed green beans a hundred times. I know she's not leaving out ingredients. But mine just are nowhere near as good. Similarly, I've given her my very carefully measured recipes for yeast breads and pastries and hers are always kind of flavorless, dense, or dry.

                            It's like how perfume can smell amazing on one person and awful on the next.

                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              My ex-MIL always complained that her braised cabbage never came out as good as her MIL's, even though she used the exact same recipe and was taught to make it by her MIL (who lived with my ex-MIL the final 10 years of grandma's life).

                              I was at dinner one night when ex-MIL made the dish and was complaining about the results. I went downstairs to the in-law apartment where grandma had lived and opened the kitchen cabinets. My ex-wife was with me and I asked her to point out the pot her late grandmother used to braise the cabbage. I took the pot and went upstairs to my MIL.
                              I explained that I had figured out the reason the cabbage wasn't the same.
                              Late grandmother had always braised her cabbage in a 'club aluminum' pot. MIL was using a Farberware stainless steel pot. The cabbage never browned in the stainless pot, it just wilted and got glassy, no carmelization occurred. The next time my ex-MIL made the dish she used the aluminum pot and achieved perfect results. Its now 30 years later and she still makes it in the old pot with consistently good results. (I'm on good terms with my exes, so I have eaten there recently).

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                that could be part of it -- I have the cast-aluminum pot with the Bakelite knob on top that my great-grandmother and my grandmother made green beans in for decades.

                                I was handed the mantle of "green-bean maker", though, long before I ever came into possession of "the green bean pot" (that's actually what we call it)...so while I love using it, it's not the whole story.

                                It is also the pot of choice for chicken and noodles -- another specialty from both sides of the family. (I'm the only one who has the patience to roll the noodles paper-thin...so I get elected to that job, too)

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  The irony of this is not lost on me, but I would love the recipe for the green beans if you don't mind sharing. My grandmother was the supreme stewed green bean maker in my family, and I wish I'd asked her what her method was when I had the chance. Perhaps yours are similar :)

                                  1. re: 16crab

                                    it's so easy -- proportions vary by taste...but I end up with about 1/3 pound of bacon and a big yellow onion to about 2 pounds of beans.

                                    I cut thick-cut smoked bacon into lardons and put them in the bottom of the big pot you'll cook the beans in. Once they begin to render, toss in a diced onion and saute until the fat is rendered and the onion has gone translucent and started to brown.

                                    Tail and trim the beans, and chop into manageable lengths. Rinse them well, then add them to the pot with the bacon and onions. Add fresh-ground black pepper.

                                    Add cold water til you can just see the water approaching the top of the beans.

                                    Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for several hours, stirring whenever it comes to mind. They'll be dark green and very fragrant. Salt to taste (it'll take quite a bit)

                                    If you have the time, make them the day before and refrigerate overnight. The flavors will marry, and they'll be even better when reheated the next day.

                        2. I'm puzzled by people who "blame" you for how things turn out for them. Whenever I make something that isn't as good as someone else's I figure I messed it up somehow.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: UTgal

                            One of my Mother's caregivers is still complaining about a recipe I "gave" her.

                            I had brought a crock pot cookbook on my visit hoping it might provide my Father some new ideas and tools for making dinner. The caretaker asked if she could look at it and copied a few recipes. A few days later she was furious that the meat never became tender in the recipe she made. Turns out she had purchased an inappropriate cut for the recipe.

                            She knew I'd never prepared anything from that cookbook. My Father and I tried explaining about general differences in meat cuts and how they are best prepared. She is still complaining about "my" recipe six months later.

                            On an odd note she will not share recipes. Her reason is if someone else knows how to make it then they won't come to her home to eat it...

                            1. re: meatn3

                              I don't find her attitude about sharing odd at all. In fact, I think she's being consistent!

                            2. re: UTgal

                              Exactly. And the same thing if they try and blame me when theirs doesn't turn out as expected.

                              1. re: UTgal

                                Yes, or my brand of ingredients or tools or oven or something. It's virtually impossible to replicate absolutely everything.

                              2. This is an old poem about that. I don't know who wrote it.

                                I didn't have potatoes,
                                so I substituted rice.
                                Didn't have paprika,
                                so I used another spice.

                                I didn't have tomato sauce,
                                so I used tomato paste.
                                A whole can not a half can -
                                I don't believe in waste.

                                My friend gave me the recipe -
                                she said you couldn't beat it.
                                There must be something wrong with her,
                                I couldn't even eat it.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: wekick

                                  Has to be shel Silverstein!?!

                                  1. re: FattyDumplin

                                    I wondered that too!

                                    Shel and food, makes me smile.....Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout...

                                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                                      I think Melinda Mae would be more appropriate here:

                                      Melinda Mae - Shel Silverstein

                                      Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
                                      Who ate a monstrous whale?
                                      She thought she could,
                                      She said she would,
                                      So she started in right at the tail.
                                      And everyone said,”You’re much too small,”
                                      But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
                                      She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
                                      Just like a good girl should…
                                      …and in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
                                      Because she said she would!


                                  2. I think I mentioned on the other thread but I really hate being asked for recipes - not because I don't care to share but because unless I am following another recipe verbatim I am not a rigorous cook - I make a handful of dishes quite often but I do not make them the same way each time - I am happy to give my method but it is not very helpful to people who like exaction.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JTPhilly

                                      I'm the same way. I rarely follow a recipe to a T, and if it's savory, I usually wing it. I always sound so evasive when people ask for a recipe and I'm not trying to be. "I sort of start w/ this but then I...."

                                      1. re: chowser


                                    2. As mentioned a few times upthread, I think that people significantly modifying your recipe and then expressing dissatisfaction at the result without any acknowledgment or apparent awareness that their choices might have contributed to the unsatisfactory result is probably the most annoying thing for me.

                                      But in the end, it's possible they could have followed my recipe to the letter and still not liked the result.

                                      In either event, unless it's a typo or error on my part, it's just not worth defense, argument, or further discussion.

                                      1. It's mainly baking recipes that become a problem, in my experience. I'll share a recipe with someone who isn't really a baker and who thinks that baking is magic, rather than chemistry. This thinking is the problem.

                                        With magic, you can throw in anything, use any technique, and have it come out well. With chemistry, you have to follow the damn recipe!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Isolda

                                          A lot of the time in baking it's poor measuring, otherwise it's generally poor technique.

                                          1. re: Isolda

                                            I was just about to post on the topic of technique. Some people can read quite well but just can't cook.

                                            No matter how detailed a recipe, some people have NO hint about nuances of technique. Products are first brought to room temperature for a reason, just as bowls and beaters are chilled. Scalding does not mean boiling. Lightly beaten doesn't mean frothed. Alternately incorporating wet and dry ingredients is also for a reason.These are issues of technique that are meaningless to some. I could go on and on.

                                            My dad (an organic chemist and food technologist) once underscored how much chemistry is in baking (dry cooking) and that there is no such thing as a baking recipe, only baking formulas. A recipe (wet cooking) can guide the cook in a process of adding or reducing liquid, adding salt and seasonings, skimming fat, and myriad other additions and subtractions as part of an ongoing creation. A cake or tart, however, is formulaic as once the oven door is shut, that's it. You can't retrieve it ten minutes later to add the baking powder. It either works or it doesn't. And, true, it comes down to chemistry and technique that many don't regard as important.

                                          2. Making butter cookies with shortening.

                                            1. If someone asks for a recipe because they loved my food, and then didn't execute correctly, it's not on me.
                                              The worst that can happen is that they don't ask again, and that's ok too.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: monavano

                                                There are worse things that can happen. They can tell all your mutual friends and acquaintances that you're a bad/petty person because you didn't share the 'real' recipe.

                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                  Ooh, that's dirty pool.

                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                    With friends like these...

                                                2. This can happen I like to send links or print it out for them and add comments if necessary.

                                                  I try to make sure the recipe in mind is in line with the skill of the person I'm giving it to. If you've never baked in your life I'm probably not going to give you a recipe that takes many steps, has very many temperamental elements and the skill and experience required to make it work.

                                                  I don't know if I've ever had anyone blame me but more of a "Wow that recipe you gave me took so long for me to do and it didn't turn out as nice as yours"

                                                  I am happy to trouble shoot, if possible. but if they deviate from the recipe I give them it is near impossible to do.

                                                  1. This was barely a recipe, more a technique... a coworker and I were discussing how we loved roast chicken, and how easy it is to make.
                                                    Our supervisor stepped in to the conversation and wanted details, so I told her "breast side down, start at high heat, turn down to medium, let sit in the turned off oven an extra half hour at the end...".

                                                    She came back to work on Monday and wasn't pleased with roast chicken. Turns out, to improve on my method (which makes a delicious crackling skin), she added one step - cooked it in a 'roasting bag'. Which made it flabby and rubbery. I didn't say anything, she obviously felt that roasting bags were necessary to roast anything. (this was back in the 80s, when gadgets reigned).

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                      Roasting bags remind me of my mom's cooking.
                                                      Every once in a while, I get the urge to buy some and try a roast or something in one.

                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                        the bags for a slow cooker are, however, a gift directly from the heavens.

                                                        No mess at all, no wrestling that big crock. Yay.

                                                    2. I get the feeling that there are some people who simply cannot follow a recipe as it's written. Even if they have all the ingredients and tools on hand - they *always* have to change some things up to "tweak" it. It's actually kind of insulting to the original author of the recipe, especially if they spent a considerable amount of time perfecting the recipe to begin with.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Atomic76

                                                        and then there are the folks who so completely lockstep a recipe that they won't even adjust cooking times to allow for things that are done a little sooner than expected, or lighten up the salt...

                                                        1. re: Atomic76

                                                          I don't get that it's insulting. If the recipe receiver has great cooking chops, they can substitute and tweak with excellent results.
                                                          Maybe even make it better!

                                                          I'd hate to think that my giving a recipe to someone came conditionally.
                                                          I would be interested to hear the results of tinkering.
                                                          Being insulted is sort of weak.

                                                        2. Same issue here, I was accused of withholding ingredients, because the person didn't get the same results. Annoying and hurtful.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                            Now THAT, I get.

                                                            Why would someone think you (or anyone) so deceitful?
                                                            Not to mention mean and insecure!

                                                            1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                              File this away for future use:

                                                              "So now it's MY fault you're a shitty cook??"

                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                I think I'd start with:
                                                                "Are you calling me a liar?"

                                                                See how they like them apples!

                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                  Fake sweetness/sympathy can sometimes be fun. "Oh, I'm SO sorry you didn't get it right!"

                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                    That would me my response!

                                                                    "Oh, I'm sorry it didn't turn out well for you!"

                                                                    If I were ever accused of omitting or altering a recipe in any way, that would be the LAST recipe the jackass would get!