No matter how much you enjoy cooking, there are some dishes best left to the professionals. From boeuf bourguignon to flaky croissants, some of these popular foods take hours of careful preparation while others require meticulous techniques. So unless you’re a seasoned chef or an expert baker, put the apron away and let the pros handle these.
Beef Wellington is complicated for a few reasons. First, it requires an expensive cut of meat: a center-cut beef tenderloin. So, unless you’re absolutely sure you can nail this dish, many people aren’t going to want to shell out that kind of cash only to overcook or undercook the meat. The puff pastry, whether you make your own or grab a pre-made one, is the other tricky part considering it needs to be rolled out gently and draped over the meat.
Baklava is a scrumptious dessert made with layers of pastry, each filled with chopped walnuts, sugar and butter, all soaked in a sticky honey syrup. The trickiest component of it is the phyllo dough itself. Homemade phyllo takes time and requires continuous rolling and stretching to create a single large thin sheet of dough. You can always buy store-bought phyllo from the grocery store, but it’s still delicate and almost paper-thin. Instead of doing either, you’re better off going to a restaurant for authentic baklava.
Unless you have Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and a particular interest in things that take hours and hours to make, this is something you shouldn’t attempt at home. Boeuf bourguignon is a carefully cooked beef stew braised in red wine and beef stock. The comfort food needs to cook very slowly for about three hours until the meat is fork-tender. And it’s not even that the recipe is super complex — it’s just one of those French classics that should be left untouched.
If you’re making it from scratch, cassoulet can take a considerable amount of time to prepare. You will also need to plan ahead to order a duck (if your local supermarket butcher doesn’t usually carry them), duck fat, confit and to find the perfect bone-in pork and lamb stew meat. The cannellini beans, however, should be no problem. Aside from the extended stirring and cooking of the broth, both the meat and beans need to sit overnight in their own marinades. Not to mention cooking the sausage, combining each part of the dish into one cohesive pot and then cooking it again.
When it comes to croissants, it’s all about laminated dough. It’s a meticulous technique that involves folding the pastry over dozens of times to create a “book” of dough that will have layers and layers of dough and butter. When these layers bake 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. And with mouthwatering croissants available at coffee shops and many of the best breakfast places in America, there's really no need to roll up your sleeves for this one.
This list is mostly for the sophisticated meals that people score the hardest restaurant reservations to try, but even the most popular ballpark food fits the “do not try at home” criteria. The emulsified, cased meat is reason alone to stay away from making your own hot dog links and just stick with the healthiest store bough options.
To make a truly decadent lobster bisque, you have to make your own stock. And you can do that by submerging live lobsters in boiling water for about 20 minutes and then saving the water for the base. The lobsters’ claws and tails also need to be cleaned, and the meat, legs and swimmerets must be reserved for the actual bisque. It’s a lengthy process that can take more than three hours, and if you have that time anyway, why not just venture out to a top-rated seafood spot?
Macarons are tricky to make if you aren’t an experienced baker. The right consistency of the delicate shells made with almond flour and egg whites is key to making a flawless macaron and it can take multiple attempts to get just right. If you fancy some of these dainty French sandwich cookies, there are plenty of pastry shops around the country to indulge your craving.
If you’re a brunch enthusiast, pick from any of these delicious homemade brunch recipes. But for English muffins, head straight to the store. A soft and satisfying muffin with just the right texture isn’t easy to pull off at home. Not only do you need to let the dough rest overnight to create the nooks and crannies characteristic of English muffins, but you also need to cook the dough using two methods: a stovetop griddle and in the oven.
The first thing you’ll need to make a perfect paella is a perfect paella pan. And because paella involves cooking different kinds of proteins in the rice, timing is everything and can be tricky. The browned chicken and chorizo generally get added to the rice mixture first, followed by the clams and shrimp. The rice should not be stirred during the cooking — and the proteins should be gently tucked inside. The ideal dish is flavorful and the rice is fluffy, moist and has a toasted crust on the bottom of the pan called the socarrat.
Baked Alaska is worthy of being the centerpiece of any table. However, it may need to be devoured quickly. It’s basically cake topped with scoops of ice cream and covered in a fluffy white meringue before being baked in the oven. Some recipes call for freezing the mounds of pound cake and ice cream until the ice cream is hard before baking, taking quite a bit of forward planning and time, and some variations use a Swiss meringue and a blowtorch to create the dramatic golden peaks. But the truth is, meringue is not fool-proof and takes a bit of work — preferably the work of pastry chefs.
Mole, the traditional Mexican sauce used mostly for tamales, enchiladas or over meats, requires a number of different chilies and a list of other ingredients. Along with the guajillo chiles, pasilla chiles and ancho chiles, mole calls for both tomatoes and tomatillos, prunes and apricots, wine, Mexican chocolate and more. So if you don’t already have a full pantry and loaded spice rack, you could end up spending a small fortune on ingredients that you’ll use only once or twice. Save yourself the trouble and find the best local Mexican restaurant instead.
Making homemade mozzarella sounds like an exciting endeavor, but it's likely too much work for something you can buy easily. All of the kneading and stretching required to make homemade mozzarella just isn’t worth it, especially with so many supermarkets offering cheese counters and extensive selections of gourmet cheeses.
Marshmallows need only a few ingredients to come together, including gelatin and corn syrup, which you may not always have on hand. Most recipes call for a sugar syrup that needs to be cooked until it reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. It also needs to sit and dry out overnight, meaning you’re going to be waiting over eight hours for your marshmallows. It’s way easier to grab a bag of pre-made marshmallows or even duck into a gourmet candy shop for some fancy ones.
Souffles are one of the most impressive things you could make, that's why they can be found at many of the most expensive restaurants in the world. But they’re known to be a challenge. The most common concern for home cooks is a souffle collapsing as soon as it comes out of the oven — made even more horrifying if you have guests over. The main technique required when making a souffle is properly whisking air into the egg whites while at the same time not overbeating them into a deflated mess.
A tagine is not just the name of the dish, but also a cone-shaped cooking vessel traditionally used in Morocco made of either ceramic or unglazed clay. Authentic tagines are made in the vessel, but many chefs use a Dutch oven instead. Most tagine recipes layer lamb or chicken with vegetables, herbs, fragrant spices and oil. Much like a lamb or beef stew, a tagine requires careful seasoning and patient stirring.
Barbeque is a summertime staple and it may seem like most people could pull off barbeque with all the side dishes. However, it almost goes without saying that most home cooks probably don’t have the space or equipment to successfully pull off some tasty whole-hog barbecue, so it’s better to leave it to the experts.
If there’s one thing on this list that you might actually be able to pull off at home, it’s fried chicken. But because of the huge vat of hot oil you’re left with after, it’s best to head over to one of the top fried chicken spots in America instead.
A croquembouche is a dramatic dessert tower made entirely of cream puffs that are stuffed with pastry cream. The choux puffs are glued together with caramel and whimsically wrapped in spun sugar. The tower is the end result, but each part of the dessert requires some skill. The dough is made in a saucepan over heat, which means the eggs need to be tempered properly. The pastry cream needs not to curdle and the homemade caramel should be just right (along with the sugar strings). You’re 100% better off heading to a French patisserie or the sweetest dessert shop near you for a bite into a cream puff.
Sushi chefs are highly trained so it’s best to let them take care of it. Though it can be fun to attempt at home, you not only need a bamboo mat, a raw fish selection and perfect sushi rice, you also need to roll everything together in one piece. Instead of laboring away making your own, try any of the best sushi restaurants in every state.
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