What food is only good when done the "right" way?
October 24, 2013 1:46 PM   Subscribe

What food is only good when done the "right" way? I don't really like store tomatoes, but fresh garden tomatoes are AMAZING. I don't like store-bought packaged chocolate chip cookies but know that nothing beats a warm homemade chocolate chip cookie. What other foods are like this?? (I got to thinking about this when thinking about yucky canned baked maybe they are good when they are homemade)
posted by beccaj to Food & Drink (71 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lasagna. Microwave lasagna is terrible.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


pancakes and waffles
posted by mulligan at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Fugu isn't prepared correctly, it'll kill you.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:50 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Local honey from somewhere in your area is way, way better than whatever weirdo simulacrum you get on a supermarket shelf. Ditto for faux maple syrup and The Real Deal (hint: buy Grade B. It's more mapley and generally cheaper).

Freshly baked bread at home, ditto for homemade ice cream which lets you get a whole lot more fat into the recipe for a mouthfeel you can't get from the mass-produced stuff.
posted by jquinby at 1:51 PM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I grew up eating frozen broccoli and hating it. My mother was of an age to think that processing food made it better, because more scientific. Also I think she thought it was easier to cook frozen broccoli spears than fresh ones.

When I began cooking myself, I realized that I love broccoli and that frozen broccoli is neither (a) better, (b) easier to cook, or (c) at the end of the day, "broccoli."

I do wonder, however, if the shorter list would be What food is only good when done the "wrong" way? I can't think of anything pre-made that I like better than the same thing I make myself.
posted by janey47 at 1:51 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


A steak. It's surprisingly easy to mess up a piece a meat - underdone, overdone, bland, too much seasoning etc.
posted by lstanley at 1:52 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fried bologna. I'm not even kidding.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:53 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


mac and cheese.
posted by koroshiya at 1:53 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guacamole
posted by Kruger5 at 1:55 PM on October 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Pasta sauce. Bears no resemblance whatsoever to the stuff out of a jar. Most cakes and breads. Most muffins. Beef stew.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:59 PM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sauerkraut (canned or in jars vs. home fermented). Hate the former, can't live without the latter.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:01 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bagels.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:01 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks can we keep this sort of broad question fairly narrowly focused please?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:07 PM on October 24, 2013


eggplant. brussel sprouts
posted by oneear at 2:11 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The obvious answer is fish. Grocery store half-rotten soggy fish is nasty. Good quality fresh fish that has been kept cold since it was pulled out of the sea is incredibly delicious.
posted by foodgeek at 2:13 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


According to my husband, with asparagus, green beans, and tomatoes, roasting renders them edible. He's not a fan of raw or steamed versions.
posted by telophase at 2:14 PM on October 24, 2013


Eggs. Cheap eggs suck. Pay for the good ones.
posted by bfranklin at 2:14 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've found most things are a order of magnitude better the closer you are to the end product. Something as simple as canned black beans, say, kinda so so from the store, but buy dry beans and cook them yourself and they are so much better.
Bread, absolutely. Homemade cheese, even if it is the easy mozzarella.. and so on.

I don't eat store beef, but will if I know the farmer/butcher just fr sheer quality wise, same with pork.
posted by edgeways at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty much anything "banana" flavored that is store bought, does not really taste like real bananas. Homemade banana bread is infinitely better than anything store bought, for example. (Though banana flavored Chobani yogurt is not too bad.)
posted by gudrun at 2:18 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chili is incredibly easy to ruin; just add beans. Canned chili always seems to have beans.
posted by Sternmeyer at 2:19 PM on October 24, 2013


Cooked collard greens. Absolutely the only way these are edible is if they are fresh cooked. NOT frozen and most CERTAINLY NEVER canned.

But fresh cooked, with a ham hock or sidemeat or whatever? Pure heaven.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:19 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Homemade macaroni and cheese, made with a bechamel sauce with good, sharp, white cheddar added at the end, is worlds away from the boxed crap from Kraft or even Auntie Anne's.
posted by coppermoss at 2:21 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okra! In the wrong hands, it's slimy awfulness. Cooked well or pickled, it's amazing.
posted by *s at 2:22 PM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh oh oh. Spinach! I thought I hated spinach all my life. I also thought spinach only came in frozen blocks. Good God, was I ever wrong about spinach. Mmm, fresh spinach.
posted by Sternmeyer at 2:23 PM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think this is true for everything. Obviously, the degree to which this is true varies greatly, especially depending on personal taste. I think for any example of a food that you can think of, there will be at least some group of people that think the "done right" version is significantly better than the commodity version.

For example, I know that some people would say that flour is flour, but to me, there is an enormous difference in the quality of flour between what I use and commodity flour.
posted by ssg at 2:24 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


What other foods are like this?

Seriously: are there foods that aren't like this? Even setting aside that something "done right" is pretty tautologically going to end up better than something "done wrong," freshly obtained high-quality ingredients made by specialist artisans who don't take shortcuts are always going to produce better-tasting results than industrial glurge produced with the goal of extended shelf life and sugary/salty/fatty hyperpalatability. Maybe there's a matter of degree involved (Stoned Wheat Thins are closer in taste to a fresh-baked artisanal product than Twinkies), but everything made from farm-fresh ingredients by a talented cook tastes at least some degree better than the industrial equivalent.
posted by RogerB at 2:24 PM on October 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


Red velvet cake (not just cake dyed red).
Fried chicken and biscuits.
posted by mlle valentine at 2:26 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you've ever had fresh bread for any length of time, any store-bought variety will be tasteless. Thanks to living abroad several years ago, I still can't eat supermarket bread, either the sliced or the french, italian, cibatta, whatever varieties. It just tastes like mush.

I only had brussels sprouts boiled before, and I couldn't understand how anyone ever decided they were a good idea to consume. Then I had them roasted, and that made all the difference.
posted by bibliowench at 2:28 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


there is almost nothing that needs to be prepared that can't be prepared so poorly as to render it inedible. Its just a question of how bad is bad enough.
posted by JPD at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apples!! Store bought apples are woolly and gross 99% of the time.
Now, an apple from a tree, that's one of the most delicious, mouth watering, earth shattering tastes ever. I LOVE apples from a tree but I never buy apples from the store.

Same things with strawberries, peaches, pears etc.

With a fruit that has a 6 week natural season (like the strawb) the stores prolong the "season" unnaturally, so what you get is bad tasting strawberries all year round, rather than delicious berries when they are actually in season.

Also agree with you about the Tomatoes thing. ALWAYS smell your tomatoes before you buy them, a strong tomatoey-smelling tomato is going to be a good one, and never keep them in the fridge - the fridge sucks all of their flavour out even if they were delicious smelling to begin with....
posted by JenThePro at 2:31 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coffee.
posted by sm1tten at 2:39 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fresh pineapple is way better than canned.
posted by barnoley at 2:43 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tofu. It's no wonder people who aren't familiar with it think it's gross. It takes a long time to learn how to cook it so that it tastes good, and most restaurants don't even get it right.
posted by something something at 2:52 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What RogerB said, with the addition that these are at least partially matters of opinion. I mean, there are plenty of people that prefer Kraft macaroni and cheese to scratch homemade, y'know?

Also, beer.
posted by box at 2:52 PM on October 24, 2013


If you can't get fresh cilantro, don't bother. Dried cilantro tastes like straw.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:54 PM on October 24, 2013


I've made what KFC calls a Famous Bowl (and others call a failure bowl) using quality ingredients, and it was every bit as good as the Famous Bowl is bad*.

* I would imagine, anyway. I'm not gonna eat that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:08 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pretty much everything?

I mean, what are you asking? Are you looking for foods that are difficult to prepare correctly? Like, souffles will fall, egglplant has an irritant that has to be cooked out; gnudi are hard to get to hold together without the right ratio of egg to flour.

Or do you just want people to list their idiosyncratic tastes about what qualifies as "right"? Like, falafel can be like that, and for me, making it with fava instead of garbanzo is "wrong."
posted by klangklangston at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


apple cider. the stuff you get in the store year round has a preservative in it that tastes unpleasant. the stuff you get at the orchard (and some selected stores) tastes like happiness and apples.

and bread. bread made in a good bakery or at home is orders of magnitude better than those weird square sliced things you see in the supermarket.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2013


klangklangston: "Or do you just want people to list their idiosyncratic tastes about what qualifies as "right"? Like, falafel can be like that, and for me, making it with fava instead of garbanzo is "wrong.""

On that note, lettuce and tomato have no place on a Cuban sandwich.
posted by jquinby at 3:24 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Souffle. Poached eggs. Omelettes. Most egg-based dishes, IMO and IME.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:27 PM on October 24, 2013


Calamari. If it is done 'wrong' it tastes like eating rubber bands. If it is done properly, it is delicate and delicious.
posted by valoius at 3:29 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Butter (and, therefore, everything it touches).
posted by gnomeloaf at 3:35 PM on October 24, 2013


Cranberry sauce.
posted by tan_coul at 3:36 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eggplants and artichoke and asparagus are all things I love but rarely risk ordering when out -- people have trouble cooking eggplant properly (and often the skin's too tough), and either it's not known how to properly trim artichokes and asparagus to remove all the woody/'choke' parts, or it's not thought cost-effective to do so.

I don't know if this is useful for your musings, but my metric for 'is this actually a good dish' is whether or not a food is still tasty at room temperature. If it has to be piping hot or ice cold to taste good, it's usually: not actually very good.
posted by kmennie at 3:39 PM on October 24, 2013


I would submit that there does not exist a food which wouldn't taste better prepared by a knowledgeable chef with fresh ingredients.
posted by kavasa at 3:40 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Counterpoint to those arguing that all things are better when "properly" done - "What things are better when they're worse?"
posted by estlin at 3:53 PM on October 24, 2013


This is a potentially useful question that's not quite worded right so it is verging on chatfilter. From your tomatoes example, is your question more "what common foods are actually very different and arguably better when not mass-produced?" Because the apple cider, tomato sauce, and pineapple answers definitely fit that, and I totally agree about pineapple (although disagree about cranberry sauce, because I absolutely love the Ocean Spray variety!)
posted by radioamy at 4:10 PM on October 24, 2013


Any preparation of squid.
posted by spitbull at 4:49 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tree ripened peaches are almost a different fruit from what you can buy in the grocery store.
posted by gteffertz at 4:55 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ice cream. An ice-cream maker was one of the best gifts I ever got. Yes, my chocolate ice cream is better than Haagen-Dazs' and Godiva's put together, thanks for asking!
posted by Smells of Detroit at 5:37 PM on October 24, 2013


Sushi, though no one reading this will probably agree. Both me and my mom are Japanese and would never, ever, ever, eat that prepackaged sushi sold at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Seven Eleven and basically everywhere these days. But then we would never eat the sushi (which is food made with vinegared rice, by the way, not "raw fish") in 99% of Japanese restaurants outside Japan since they are virtually never run by Japanese people and the food doesn't taste like Japanese food.
posted by Blitz at 5:48 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Klang.. I don't like baked beans. I thought it may be such a huge difference between canned and homemade, maybe I would actually go make baked beans. Just like I grew up thinking i didn't like tomatoes. But then I discovered REAL tomatoes. I guess I was hoping to hear the great versions of mediocre or yucky stuff. I grew up making myself Jelly toast for breakfast and supper. I was just hoping to learn about yummy foods that I didn't realize were yummy.
posted by beccaj at 5:48 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sushi. My little hicksville town has a Japanese restaurant run by a Japanese couple, he's the Chef and she does front of house and the food there is amazing, at least 1000 times better than anything else I have ever eaten that was called Sushi.

Apple need to be eaten picked ripe from the tree, not stored for months and ripened with gas. Though I think all fruits and veggies taste better this way.

Milk fresh unpasteurized and from the cow with the cream still in is so much better than the white water they sell at supermarkets.
posted by wwax at 6:10 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Liver. Well done, it's great. Badly done, it's grainy and disgusting.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:21 PM on October 24, 2013


I was just hoping to learn about yummy foods that I didn't realize were yummy.

But we don't know what you don't realize is yummy already, so it's all just shots in the dark here. Having said that, many people I know have had that "oh wow didn't know it could taste this way" experience with pungent, strongly-flavored vegetables, so maybe try starting there — beets, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms. Even with just strongly flavored "acquired taste"-type stuff in general, like olives or peaty whisky or smelly cheese, sometimes suddenly people seem to hit that one that does it for them and have the conversion experience, so it's worth tasting more than just the common grocery-store varieties, maybe with the guidance of someone who already likes them. But then, some other people just don't ever learn to like those flavors! And how about textures that come out unpleasantly mushy in their badly cooked version — tofu, pasta, zucchini/squash? There's also the problem that if you have already learned to like the so-called "bad" industrial version of some tastes (e.g. weak dishwater coffee or Starbucks burnt beans, or hypersalted Tater Tots) it can actually make the "good" one seem unappealing until you learn to appreciate its taste. This is all highly personal, and that's okay! But it makes it hard to give any universally applicable suggestion.
posted by RogerB at 6:32 PM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


. I don't like baked beans. I thought it may be such a huge difference between canned and homemade, maybe I would actually go make baked beans.

I hate baked beans, but once I went to a picnic and it was one of the only things they had, so I ate it, and it was great. They were fresh heirloom local beans, firm and sort of chewy, and the sauce had mustard, vinegar, sugar, lots of good things in a perfect balance of tanginess and sweetness. So, that fits your example.

Two themes unite most of these recommendations. One is ingredient quality, and the other is a good, from-scratch cooking method. Whenever you have the chance to improve a food in either or both ways, you'll see a difference.
posted by Miko at 6:48 PM on October 24, 2013


butter balls, cheese nuggets, chicken stickers, and creamed olives.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:52 PM on October 24, 2013


I haven't had good salmon in a restaurant since leaving the Pacific Northwest. Everywhere else they overcook it.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2013


"Klang.. I don't like baked beans. I thought it may be such a huge difference between canned and homemade, maybe I would actually go make baked beans. Just like I grew up thinking i didn't like tomatoes. But then I discovered REAL tomatoes. I guess I was hoping to hear the great versions of mediocre or yucky stuff. I grew up making myself Jelly toast for breakfast and supper. I was just hoping to learn about yummy foods that I didn't realize were yummy."

People's palates become less sensitive to bitterness as they get older. I would suggest trying some foods that were too pungent for you before.

As to your broader question, that's impossible to answer for two reasons: there's no way to know what you don't find yummy, and the definition of "prepared right" is pretty much "yummy." I can think of unpopular foods or foods that are rarely done to my taste — I just had some okra that was fried light and crispy with a lightly pickled chili sauce that made okra delicious for me, but I know plenty of people who think doing it right is making it all mushy and fatty.

And since this is total chatfilter, I'll mention my dad's trajectory. Up until he moved in with my mom, my dad had never really liked any food. He'd eat burgers and that was pretty much it — he didn't even like pizza and made his spaghetti with ketchup. My mom, being vegetarian, basically forced him to try all sorts of new things and think about what he ate. He likes pretty much everything now, and is a stellar cook.

So, I dunno. Start with beets, I guess, and caramelize them as mandolined chips. They have a ton of sugar in them, and that caramelization can cover up the sometimes overwhelming earthy taste without going into the weird candied bullshit.

But I've never been able to stand asafetida, though I'm sure some folks would tell you what they think is the right way.
posted by klangklangston at 7:00 PM on October 24, 2013


Hi RogerB. I understand tastes are very personal. I knew some answers wouldn't be a fit for me. But a was thinking they would for some other Metafilter person. I've asked for the most delicious muffin before (heathy). I know not everyone would be the most delicious in the world to me but one might have been and another may have been the most delicious to someone else.
I guess it gave me an opportunity to try new things ( and of course decide whether it was worth growing an eggplant or making corn bread from scratch or something like that).

I guess this is too chattfiltery because is seems to broad. I just was hoping to learn new, beyter, or different ways to eat foods that people are often exposed to, and maybe even the best ways to eat foods I never even had.
posted by beccaj at 7:46 PM on October 24, 2013


Well, I don't know if homemade is ALWAYS the right way - like as a universal rule - but ever since I started baking, I have not been able to enjoy storebought cake the way I used to. There's nothing like fresh warm cake that you've made yourself even if it isn't beautifully decorated or made with fancy ingredients!
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:57 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hummus.
posted by dekathelon at 9:12 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I think there is a wording precision problem, but also that there is a useful question in here. I mean, most things I think are best if they are fresh or homemade, but not everything. I think Heinz ketchup is perfection (to the degree that I like ketchup at all) and don't like homemade ketchup. Or I think fresh coffee is better than stale coffee (of course), but think it's incredibly delicious if made with good water, flavorful beans ground fresh, (and probably many other things that I don't even know about that make me prefer Peregrine's coffee above all others). Guacamole 100% fits the bill, in my opinion, because when it's good it's fresh and flavorful whereas when it's bad it's sour and uninspired. Maybe the question should be, what are examples of foods where there are greatest differences between "average" and "stellar?"

Two more that come to mind:

- Tomato soup (specifically Cook's Illustrated Creamless Tomato Soup)
- Butter (specifically Tatamagouche)
posted by semacd at 1:33 PM on October 25, 2013


Cake made from scratch, not a mix. I will not even bother to try a cake if it wasn't made from scratch. The icing/frosting needs to be from scratch, too.
Agree about bagels. Outside of NYC, good bagels are very rare.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:40 PM on October 25, 2013


Yeah, pretty much any of the widely-panned-by-kids green veggies: asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc. Grow up eating them canned or overcooked, and they're disgusting. Learn how to properly prepare the fresh stuff and they're delicious. Roasted brussels sprouts are basically candy that is good for you.

Also, this is going to be highly controversial since it's otherwise considered a universally-loved food even when it's "bad", but for me, good pizza was a revelation. I think chain store/mass-produced pizza is disgusting in any and all permutations, and thought I was just going to forever be that weirdo who doesn't like pizza. But the first time I ever had it made with fresh ingredients... dang. SO GOOD. I still tell people I don't like pizza because 95% of the pizza I will ever be offered is the terrible kind, but my friends and loved ones know I will happily go out with them for good pizza 5 nights a week and then make my own at home on nights 6 and 7.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:15 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I also thought I hated olives until I had some that didn't come from a can.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:21 PM on October 25, 2013


Oh! And how could I forget the little oily fishes? Most people are familiar with anchovies and sardines in canned format, and they're pretty yucky. But if you like fish at all, the fresh fish are delicious grilled, baked, or fried.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:27 PM on October 25, 2013


valoius: "Calamar"

Not surprisingly, octopus is similar.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:01 PM on October 28, 2013


Flan. For me it's either creamily transcendent or tastes like somebody dumped syrup on bad scrambled eggs, there's practically no middle ground.
posted by dr. boludo at 8:31 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh oh oh. Spinach! I thought I hated spinach all my life. I also thought spinach only came in frozen blocks. Good God, was I ever wrong about spinach. Mmm, fresh spinach.

This this this. Spinach! I thought I hated spinach the first 18 years of my life. I also thought spinach only came in cans. Fresh spinach is WAY better.
posted by aniola at 8:17 PM on November 7, 2013


I grew up making myself Jelly toast for breakfast and supper.

I bought my partner jam and jelly spreads from the farmer's market every week for half a year and he thought I was being extravagant. Then I bought him some mass-marketed high fructose corn syrup imitation jam. He now no longer thinks good jam is extravagant.

Also peanut butter. WAY better with just peanuts and salt than with partially-hydrogenated oils to make it last longer on the shelf.

And, as people have mentioned, bread.

In conclusion: PB&J.
posted by aniola at 8:29 PM on November 7, 2013


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