Cooking at home is such a joy, from scouring the farmers market for the perfect ingredients and finding new recipes to try to standing in from the of stove in a state of culinary Zen and finally sitting down to enjoy meal with family, friends or solo.
No matter how much pleasure one derives from cooking however, some dishes are best left to the professionals. That’s not to say you don’t possess the skills and prowess to successfully pull off any of these recipes, not at all. Some things simply aren’t worth the trouble. Some leave you dealing with vats of hot oil — which are such a pain to dispose of — some take hours and hours of careful prep, and some are so finicky and temperamental that, unless you are a seasoned veteran master chef, they might garner very little pleasure and even end in total disaster.
Rather than tempt fate, it might be easier to find a local restaurant instead of making any of these dishes at home (though we have included recipes for some of them, just in case you want to live life on the edge, which we encourage). Read on to discover 18 popular foods you should never make at home.
Baked Alaska is a truly magical dessert, and it is one that is all about temperature — opposing temperatures, that is. It may, at first, seem impossible. It is a cake, covered in ice cream that is then slathered in meringue and baked in an oven. You may see variations that use a Swiss meringue and a blow torch too. Either variation can go pear-shaped very easily, so why risk it?
Though certainly not the most complex recipe on this list, baklava is known in some circles to be a tricky dessert to master. The trouble is that making your own homemade phyllo dough is incredibly time-consuming and fiddly. Of course you can just buy the frozen stuff, but even then some folks may struggle with the incredibly delicate and paper-thin dough — handle it incorrectly and you could be left with a crumbly mess.
A dish that has become synonymous with Gordon Ramsay, beef Wellington is full of risk. First of all, you’re dealing with an expensive cut of beef — a whole fillet, which is going to cost an arm and a leg. Who wants to shell out that kind of cash and then wrap the whole thing in puff pastry (making that from scratch is a different kind of hell). In its cozy, buttery blanket of pasty, insulated by duxelles, in to the oven the Wellington goes! And now you wait and hope and pray you don’t over- or undercook it. How’s that dinner party stress? No thank you, sir.
It’s not necessarily that beef bourguignon is technically difficult to make — it’s that it take so long to make! Some recipes take a full three days to make — so if you get a sudden craving, it’s a heck of a lot easier to just go to the nearest French bistro than to begin the multi-day culinary endeavor it takes to make this rich French beef stew.
First you confit a mess of duck legs… Do you see where this is going? Cassoulet, a classic French dish, takes a long time to make. A very long time to make, if you are making it all from scratch. Once you have the duck legs cooking in their own fat, you need to soak the beans overnight. Once you are ready to cook the beans slowly for hours and hours, you still need to make sure you have some delicious homemade stock on hand. (After all, if everything else is homemade, don’t even think about using some boxed supermarket stock — oh no!) When it comes time to cook the beans, you need pork trotter and an array of salted meats like pancetta or cured pork belly. One the beans are cooked, you still need to assemble everything, cook some sausage, add a tasty breadcrumb topping and cook it again…. Very, very time-consuming.
When it comes to croissants, it’s all about laminated dough. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a seriously difficult thing to master. Even seasoned chefs often avoid dealing with it and leave it to the pastry professionals. It is a technique that involves creating distinct layers of butter and dough by rolling, folding, refrigerating and repeating, until you have numerous paper-thin but very much defined layers. When these layers cook in a hot oven, the butter melts and causes steam which in turn causes each layer to puff before it evaporates and creates distinct layers of flaky pastry.
Ahhh, the croquembouche, a fantastic showstopper of a dessert whose whimsy does not end with its name. What exactly is it, though? Well, I’m glad you asked. A towering… well, tower, made entirely of choux puffs — impressive, right? But the splendor doesn’t end there! The choux puffs, often filled with pastry cream, are stacked, one on top of the other, glued together with volcanic caramel that is them garnished with a fairytale cloud of spun sugar. It’s the type of dessert you see at weddings, and for good reason. It is by no means a stable structure, and the slightest amount of humidity is likely to melt the sugar and cause the entire thing to come crashing down in a spectacular disaster.
What at first glance seems to be a fairly innocuous and mainstream dish is actually rife with opportunity for disaster. If by some grace of God you don’t burn the bacon or English muffins (which is possible when you consider the number of moving parts to the recipe) then you must contend with the hollandaise — a notoriously moody sauce that will break and curdle if it feels so inclined. Once the sauce it complacent, you must say a prayer and hope that none of the eggs you must now poach will break. Sure, all of this sounds easy-peasy, but try making it for more than one person… now do you understand why it’s probably best to just go out for brunch?
When it comes to fried chicken, it’s not the actual recipe that causes us concern, it’s having to deal with boiling vats of fat that really keeps us on the edge of our seat. First you must contend with it hot, which is bad enough, but afterward you are left with a cauldron full of old oil, and that’s really unpleasant. You are probably better off just heading over to your nearest fried chicken joint — make them do all the hard work
To make a truly special lobster bisque (and it’s really not worth making unless you’re aiming for that in the first place) you have to make your own stock using the shells of the lobsters. If that doesn’t sound so bad, know that if you do choose to take on this mammoth task, your home will smell like lobster for weeks. No matter how delicious the bisque is, is it really worth that?
Macarons are delicate and very temperamental, which is what makes them so tricky to make if you aren’t an experienced baker. The right consistency of the shells is key to making a flawless macaron and is something that can take multiple attempts to get right. If you fancy some of these dainty French sandwich cookies, hit up your local artisanal bakery instead.
The truth of the matter is, making marshmallows can result in a total mess. Before they set to their delicate and ethereal fluffiness, marshmallows are a sticky cloud-like disaster waiting to happen. Unless you are a total marshmallow obsessive, you are much better off just buying them. If you are determined to make them at home, brace yourself for a sugar-coated kitchen.
The difficult thing about mole is the sheer number of ingredients one needs to make it. The traditional Mexican sauce it traditionally made from multiple kinds of chili peppers, and can also include onion, tomatillos, tomatoes, an array of herbs and even more spices and even chocolate. All of that means that if you don’t already have a full pantry and spice rack you could end up spending a small fortune on ingredients that you’ll only use once. Save yourself the trouble and find your best local Mexican restaurant instead!
The first thing you’ll need to make a perfect paella is a perfect paella pan, that’s right, you’re going to have to buy an entirely new piece of kitchen ware. When you do decide to start cooking, there’s a lot to contend with. You are cooking numerous different kinds of proteins in the rice, so timing is everything. Who wants raw chorizo and overcooked shrimp? We haven’t even begun to talk about the rice, which needs to be perfectly cooked, never stirred, with the grains remaining separate but not dry and forming a wonderful crust on the bottom of the pan — the socarrat, a highly desired, if not the most desired, part of paella. All in all it can be a very stressful recipe to execute.
Soufflés already have a fairly prickly reputation. Horror stories are told of soufflés that go in the oven looking positively angelic and soufflé merrily away, only to collapse as soon as the dish is announced to the table. Who has the time for that kind of drama?
Sushi chefs typically train for years before they’re even allowed to make a roll, so what makes you think you can just whip out a bamboo mat and make something even half as delicious at home? Once you have made the perfect sushi rice — a feat in itself — you still have to handle raw fish in an apt manner, and roll the damn things — a process that is much messier and more fiddly than the professionals make it appear to be.
To make this traditional Moroccan dish, first you need to buy the actual dish to cook in. Tagine refers to the cooking vessel as well as the dish, and you are unlikely to find a tagine at your local Target or even Williams Sonoma. Once you do own your own tagine, you have to soak the whole thing in water before you can use it, ideally for 24 hours, so you can’t just whip one up on a whim. Better leave the tagine-making to the experts and go out for dinner instead.
It goes without saying, but most home cooks probably don’t have the space or equipment to successfully pull off some tasty whole-hog barbecue. Better to leave it to the experts and stop by America’s best barbecue chains instead.
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