Dessert

Is This the Worst Recipe on the Internet?

July 19, 2017

Recipes are casually, with little logic, fêted as “the best”—by algorithms, by bloggers, by us—in our digital landscape. It’s not every day that a recipe is trumpeted as the worst.

Meet the recipe that may have earned this title: Allison McAtee’s Tiramisu, featured on the Hallmark Channel and uncovered by five-time James Beard Award–winning writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl of Minneapolis St. Paul magazine.

Forgive a few of the standard-issue typos (“Set bagel on it’s [sic] side”) and make your way to the recipe’s substance. It’s composed of ingredients that may make some of us bristle when we find them in a tiramisu recipe: bagels with shavings of chocolate grated on top; powdered, non-dairy creamer; cream cheese. All sound fine on their own. Together, in a dish that’s usually made with spongy ladyfingers and dotted with bittersweet cocoa powder, it certainly constitutes quite a riff!

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For one of us on the editorial team, seeing this recipe reignited the traumas of Paula Deen’s much-maligned English Peas, paddling along in a pool of butter. One Twitter user pointed to a mole recipe composed of hot sauce and Cocoa Puffs. I don’t consider myself too churlish or rigid when it comes to the way people cook—I encourage fanciful experimentation, as I'd like to think we all do at Food52 (and I'd expect the same of you, our readers). That’s part of the fun of convening around a shared love of cooking, a value that's baked into the DNA of this site.

Yet experimentation inevitably begets failure, and it’s crucial to acknowledge when our culinary imaginations risk taking us in unwanted directions. The internet's an endless repository of recipes, and I've no doubt that we've all got some unpleasant memories of making recipes that've ended in disaster. “The worst”? That’s a terrible label for any recipe to be affixed with! If you’ve made this tiramisu, please set the record straight. Perhaps it’s better than anyone can imagine. Someone’s worst may be another person’s best.

What's the worst recipe you've ever made from the internet? Don't be shy—let us know in the comments.

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43 Comments

Krista A. October 30, 2017
A few years ago my boyfriend pulled out a book of recipes that his grandmother had collected over the years. One of them was a clipping from the newspaper from the 1960's for Glorified Perfection Salad. The ingredients were so disgusting that I laughed harder an harder as I read the list out loud. I just googled and this is the closest to it I've found. Thank God the dressing is "Optional" but who wouldn't want mayo with their jello!<br />PERFECTION SALAD:<br /><br />2 pkg (6 ounces each) lime jell-o<br />4 c boiling water<br />3 c cold water<br />2 c finely shredded cabbage<br />1 c finely shredded carrot<br />1/4 c thinly sliced celery<br />1 c crushed pineapple, well drained<br />1 pkg (3 ounces) lemon jell-o (plus water called for on package)<br />OPTIONAL DRESSING:<br />1 c mayonnaise or miracle whip<br />1-2 Tbsp milk, (more or less to your preference)<br />1-2 Tbsp sugar, (more or less to taste)<br />
 
snapper September 13, 2017
I'm from NYC. Old school Brooklyn, to be exact. The Brooklyn of amazing Italian food. Many years ago (around 1987), a coworker of mine who ended her stint working with us, and decided to move back to her home town of St. Louis, invited me to a goodbye dinner party she was throwing for herself. When I arrived, her apartment was jam-packed with people, all standing, holding plates of pasta. That was the first odd thing. In my mind, a dinner party means a sit-down dinner. This was more like a cocktail party - people were chatting loudly, there was music blasting - except with plates of food, instead of drinks. The hostess spotted me from the kitchen, and ran out with a giant bowl of pasta smothered in a red sauce. She said, "I'm so glad you came. Now have a bowl of my mother's FAMOUS recipe! You're going to love it, since Brooklyn people seem to love Italian food. It's actually not my mother's original recipe. She got it from a cookbook from the BEST Italian restaurant in all of St. Louis." In my mind I thought, "I'm pretty sure Pizza Hut is considered an Italian restaurant in St. Louis, so that doesn't say much." Of course I said nothing of the sort out loud. I just handed her the going-away gift I'd bought, and thanked her for the bowl of pasta. She was abut to watch me taste it, because she was sooooo sure I'd love it, but then someone yelled from the kitchen that she had a call. When she walked away, I tasted the pasta. To say it was lousy would be an insult to lice. It was truly vile. I didn't even dare take a second bite. I was already regretting the one swallow. It was sort of.....pungent, is the best word, I think. It reminded me of a virgin Bloody Mary, with sugar added, poured over incredibly overcooked, very wide spagetti. There was not one thing RIGHT about it. I knew I could not cope with a second bite, and decided to try and find a way to discreetly dump it. Suddenly, I was glad this had turned out to be a weird, stand-up affair, because I never could have ditched a whole bowl of pasta at a formal sit-down dinner. I made the rounds of the apartment - I couldn't just go throw it away in the kitchen, because the host was in there on the phone. I ended up dumping bits of it into several flower pots around the place - enough to go back to the kitchen looking as if I'd eaten a fair amount, but had my fill. I headed to the kitchen to return my bowl, all ready to say, "This is delicious, but I can't eat another bite - I had a late lunch." I walked in just in time to find the hostess at the stove, pouring a quart-sized can of Sacramento tomato juice into a giant pot of overcooked noodles which had been drained. There was a sugar bowl without a lid on the counter, just next to her. Suddenly the awful taste made perfect sense. She noticed me, and got all coy, saying, "Hey! No fair. Now you know the secret ingredient! Don't go stealing my recipe!"
 
snapper September 13, 2017
I'm from NYC. Old school Brooklyn, to be exact. The Brooklyn of amazing Italian food. Many years ago (around 1987), a coworker of mine who ended her stint working with us, and decided to move back to her home town of St. Louis, invited me to a goodbye dinner party she was throwing for herself. When I arrived, her apartment was jam-packed with people, all standing, holding plates of pasta. That was the first odd thing. In my mind, a dinner party means a sit-down dinner. This was more like a cocktail party - people were chatting loudly, there was music blasting - except with plates of food, instead of drinks. The hostess spotted me from the kitchen, and ran out with a giant bowl of pasta smothered in a red sauce. She said, "I'm so glad you came. Now have a bowl of my mother's FAMOUS recipe! You're going to love it, since Brooklyn people seem to love Italian food. It's actually not my mother's original recipe. She got it from a cookbook from the BEST Italian restaurant in all of St. Louis." In my mind I thought, "I'm pretty sure Pizza Hut is considered an Italian restaurant in St. Louis, so that doesn't say much." Of course I said nothing of the sort out loud. I just handed her the going-away gift I'd bought, and thanked her for the bowl of pasta. She was abut to watch me taste it, because she was sooooo sure I'd love it, but then someone yelled from the kitchen that she had a call. When she walked away, I tasted the pasta. To say it was lousy would be an insult to lice. It was truly vile. I didn't even dare take a second bite. I was already regretting the one swallow. It was sort of.....pungent, is the best word, I think. It reminded me of a virgin Bloody Mary, with sugar added, poured over incredibly overcooked, very wide spagetti. There was not one thing RIGHT about it. I knew I could not cope with a second bite, and decided to try and find a way to discreetly dump it. Suddenly, I was glad this had turned out to be a weird, stand-up affair, because I never could have ditched a whole bowl of pasta at a formal sit-down dinner. I made the rounds of the apartment - I couldn't just go throw it away in the kitchen, because the host was in there on the phone. I ended up dumping bits of it into several flower pots around the place - enough to go back to the kitchen looking as if I'd eaten a fair amount, but had my fill. I headed to the kitchen to return my bowl, all ready to say, "This is delicious, but I can't eat another bite - I had a late lunch." I walked in just in time to find the hostess at the stove, pouring a quart-sized can of Sacramento tomato juice into a giant pot of overcooked noodles which had been drained. There was a sugar bowl without a lid on the counter, just next to her. Suddenly the awful taste made perfect sense. She noticed me, and got all coy, saying, "Hey! No fair. Now you know the secret ingredient! Don't go stealing my recipe!"
 
Nanette September 13, 2017
St. Louis has it's own style of Italian-American food. It doesn't compare to Brooklyn's version of Italian, which is also usually a far cry from any regional Italian I've had in Italy. Your former employee's version is nothing like any STL Italian I've had. There's good and there's bad, and whatever she served sounds just awful. However, she doesn't deserve to have a guest dump food into her plants. That's far more egregious than her serving lousy food.
 
miznic July 24, 2017
lol, worst recipes? My mom has a 70s-era Betty Crocker recipe box, complete with questionable recipes. This bagel tiramisu doesn't hold a candle to those, fortunately, but it sure brought back some wacky memories. <br /><br />I don't have an issue with the so-called "worst recipe"; those were done with good intentions and use of available ingredients. If you have the marsala, espresso, ladyfingers, mascarpone (which we all know is pretty doggone expensive sometimes) and chocolate for shaving - good for you, make it and have a great time doing so. Cooking has evolved over the years to not only include more cuisines from more countries, it has also evolved in the way we try out recipes from this site and others. Compared to the box of 70s disasters that my mom has... I think we're pretty lucky that we can evolve and expand our cooking knowledge and enjoyment. <br /><br />Trashing this site, or any other, because of your personal biases defeats the purpose. If it's gross to you - it's pretty simple, don't make it. Food was never intended to be this divisive. It's intended to nourish and sustain us.
 
Matt H. July 22, 2017
This is really elitist. Regular viewership of the Hallmark Channel outside of the holidays skews lower income and middle American. Maybe people who watch this program aren't surrounded by tons of Italian bakeries and restaurants that make tiramisu all the time like the Food52 staff are.
 
adambravo July 23, 2017
I think stereotyping Hallmark viewers the way you did is elitist--had you not pointed it out, I would have been unaware. And, while the initial tweet may be perceived as elitist, the article mentions the idea of kitchen experimentation, indicates "the worst" label may be unfair, and asks if anyone's tried it--all appropriate in my book.
 
Riddley G. July 20, 2017
HUGE fan of all your work, Mayukh! i think the ramen noodles I tried to make once that instantly turned to mush upon hitting water was the worst recipe I've ever made, but almost most definitely from some fault of my own.
 
Nanette July 20, 2017
Food52 loses all credibility when it states, " It’s composed of ingredients that may make some of us bristle when we find them in a tiramisu recipe: bagels with shavings of chocolate grated on top; powdered, non-dairy creamer; cream cheese. All sound fine on their own. " NO, all do NOT "sound fine on their own." How is non-dairy creamer EVER EVER "fine"? Full of chemicals and zip food value. If you need a portable creamer, try non-fat dry milk. All real food! <br />
 
Laura R. July 20, 2017
Judgy much? Not everyone can tolerate dairy creamer, for a whole multitude of reasons. I'll still to my Silk soy creamer.
 
Nanette July 20, 2017
If you read the recipe, Laura, the reference is to powdered creamer, like CoffeeMate. Typical ingredients.... Sugar, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and/or Palm Kernel and/or Soybean), Corn Syrup Solids, Less than 2% of Sodium Caseinate (a Milk Derivative)**, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium Aluminosilicate, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor.
 
Kayleigh July 20, 2017
All ingredients that are safe in the amounts intended to be consumed, and that many of us are fine with consuming in such amounts on occasion (or even regularly). Not everyone avoids the same things--I don't think it's fair to say Food52 "loses all credibility" when they say that it's okay to consume non-dairy creamer.
 
Nanette September 13, 2017
There are lots of foods that are safe to consume, Kayleigh. My point is that there are alternatives to the powdered fake creamer that are portable, shelf stable, and add flavor, richness, and texture to coffee, and likely to this recipe as well. <br /><br />True, not everyone avoids the same things. I offered a healthier, more flavorful alternative. I could have been more polite about it. :-)
 
LisaMarie A. July 20, 2017
When I see shrimp scampi recipes that tell you to cook the shrimp at a high temp for over 15 min..
 
OneMinuteMom July 20, 2017
I have tried this recipe because I thought it would be a nice, quick, family-friendly crowd-pleasing dessert, as Hallmark channel's typically are. I have to admit that I must have used the wrong kind of bagels (the recipe didn't specify which brand or flavor) because my Tiramisu cake turned out a bit gritty and more savory than I would have liked. However, if a recipe can save even a bit of time compared to "the hard way," then I say, "All is fair!" Besides, the kids still loved it and actually ate every last morsel. My advice-- use the right bagels, but good luck guessing which one it is!
 
Luciana July 20, 2017
You're a gem!
 
mrwmrw July 20, 2017
The apologies from the Food 52 staff in the comments are nothing but BS. Just an attempt to CYA after getting some heat for another poorly written, uninformative garbage piece. I agree with the commenter who said that the author is condescending and biases the reader into presuming that this is a bad recipe. There is no way to read this garbage without coming away thinking that this author is looking down on this recipe - he has decided it is the worst recipe and he is mocking it. The same commenter said that the author is wishy-washy in his condemnation of this recipe. Commenter is correct. At the very least this writer could have some guts and take a stance instead of portraying the recipe in a negative light but leaving the door open for him to backtrack in case the public sentiment is against him. He is also arrogant. He takes great pains to "(sic)" what is written incorrectly ("forgive a few standard issue typos...") yet his writing is not perfect. The writer uses "internet's" - a made-up contraction for Internet is. Ridiculous! The defensive tone of the two employees who responded is an indication that they know this article was crap and they are trying to spin it. This was just meant to promote a discussion? The statement "meet the recipe that may have earned the title"'of worst recipe on the Internet is far from an unbiased, untainted statement. There is a judgmental tone to that statement. At the end of the article when the author asks readers to "set the record straight" he is indicating his acknowledgment that this is regarded as a bad recipe. The tone of the article reads as if the author agrees with the opinion that this is a bad recipe. Notable is the opinion that the recipe includes ingredients that "make some of us bristle". Some of us? That's an agreement with an opinion. There is no way to read this without surmising that he writer is in agreement with the opinion that this is a bad recipe; so bad that it deserves his passive-aggressive mockery. The comment from the employee, Nikkitha, that said "this would have been more constructive as a suggestion" is just a weak attempt to bully the commenter. The writers and editors at Food 52 never thought tontest this recipe and see how it is for themselves? These professional food bloggers need that suggestion from readers? Preposterous. The writer and editor(s) didn't want to test this recipe - they wanted to condemn and mock it. It's all there in the tone of the article and the responses from the employees. I am rapidly losing confidence in the quality of content coming from this site.
 
Joanna S. July 20, 2017
We believe this was a fun and interesting conversation (about tiramisu! made from bagels!), which started on Twitter, to share with our community. (We also wanted to lend more nuance to where the discussion was heading on Twitter.) Writing about current topics on cooking, and learning from each other’s opinions about them, is a nice way to encourage each other to be thoughtful about the food we cook and eat. We trust that our readers take the time to read posts thoroughly and completely before making any comments. But inappropriate use of this platform, and name-calling, are not tolerated. If you continue to use the comments section to attack our writers/editors, we will remove your comment or take further action if necessary.
 
mrwmrw July 20, 2017
Have at it, Joanna. There was clearly no name-calling or inappropriate use of the platform. Just an opinion that your article was not well done.
 
nancy E. July 21, 2017
At least they did not tell us "You are making your Tiramisu All Wrong"
 
Glenda July 22, 2017
You are way to uptight! It was a fun piece and quite frankly these are likely the crappiest recipes on the net. There is nothing snobby about it. How ridiculous! The only way someone would react in such an over the top manner is if the stupid bagel recipe was theirs.
 
HalfPint July 20, 2017
Kwanzaa Cake
 
Donna H. July 19, 2017
Anything - I mean anything with instant pudding and/or "whipped topping" 😖
 
Steven W. July 20, 2017
I have to disagree. My daughter makes a really wonderful and easy filling with heavy cream, instant pudding confectioners sugar and vanilla. Easy to whip up, tinker with flavors, ahs very adaptable for filling ecaires, Napoleons, cup cakes or cakes.<br /><br />Instant pudding is useful.
 
witloof July 19, 2017
YAY! I get to be the one to post this gem:<br /><br />https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we2iWTJqo98
 
nancy E. July 21, 2017
You win this one. That was amazingly bad
 
Hayley E. July 19, 2017
I haven't found the worst recipe, but I have found what is probably the worst ethnic ingredient mistake. Hubby and I LOVE pad Thai, and decided to diy after I received a wok as a Christmas gift. We went to the Asian market for fish sauce, palm sugar, and other ingredients, in an attempt to make an authentic version at home. The fish sauce aisle was rather intimidating. We came home with what seemed a simple one, and got to work. As soon as we opened the bottle we decided it smelled a lot like butt and stank up the whole kitchen. After searching the Internet we decided fish sauce just smells bad and kept going while we held our breath and prayed it was a magical ingredient that wouldn't taste like it smelled. Our pad Thai turned out to be mediocre, and not worth the scary fish sauce we used. We have since (7 years ago) discovered that there is in fact less putrid fish sauce out there and we have used it, with caution, since then.
 
melissa July 20, 2017
ugh white women
 
LisaMarie A. July 20, 2017
Fish sauce smells awful but tastes great
 
Nanette July 20, 2017
"Scary fish sauce"?I love fish sauce. It adds so much to so many dishes. In antiquity, it was a respected condiment used by Romans, Greeks, and throughout Byzantia. It's made a comeback in recent years. Garum. Look it up.
 
Hayley E. July 20, 2017
We have used fish sauce since then and enjoyed it. We are not afraid of fish sauce. ;) The one we tried was abnormally strong smelling and stank up our kitchen for a week. It just seemed like we bought a weird version the first time.
 
Zed July 19, 2017
This would have been more interesting had you tested the recipe, and discussed the results. As is, this article doesn't seem to know what it's doing. It seems as though it wants to condemn/mock the recipe outright, yet makes wishy-washy comments lauding experimentation. It makes a point to call out basic typos in the recipe (really, this is low-hanging fruit). The article feels uncomfortably classed and gendered. Many "new" recipes are born out of the economic need to rework the originals that call for costly ingredients by using less expensive convenience foods. And yes, these chefs are women appearing on the Hallmark channel. I wonder what the reaction would be if a high-profile male chef had come up with a bagel-and-cream-cheese "tiramisu" recipe? I really expect more from f52 articles than this. If you're going to write about it, at least test the recipe for the readers, and remember that not everyone can afford to cook with/have access to expensive and, for some, hard to find ingredients.
 
Nikkitha B. July 19, 2017
Thanks for your feedback. Please note that these posts are just meant to be news briefs that inform our readers of what's abuzz in food media; they're not recipe posts. It would have been more constructive to receive a suggestion :). You can make suggestions by emailing [email protected]
 
Author Comment
Mayukh S. July 19, 2017
Zed! I'm glad you raised these points. You're correct to read ambivalence. The tenor of the conversation surrounding this recipe being labeled "the worst" also struck me as having some pretty classed and gendered assumptions (namely, as you say, regarding beliefs about who watches the Hallmark Channel and who has access to what ingredients). I wonder if that'd be better directed towards where this discussion began—on Twitter, from a food writer with an immense following and those who participated in mocking the recipe pretty gleefully—than a blog post that's looking to prompt discussion.<br /><br />Also, heh, FWIW, I think I'd be 10000x more critical and inclined to call a recipe out like this as "gross" if some dude who think he's an culinary iconoclast did it.
 
LW.ATX.78 July 19, 2017
Zed- agree that you make some really good points. <br />The response from F52 was kind of surprising... guess that's what happens when people get defensive.
 
Ginger July 19, 2017
I was going to say the same thing- I'm surprised at the defensive responses.
 
Nikkitha B. July 20, 2017
Our replies are not meant to be defensive; I apologize if mine came off that way. Zed makes a smart point that classist undertones are at play. We just want to clarify that we do not believe this recipe is "the worst," and that a formal suggestion for a taste test would be helpful to us, as we could then consider addressing it in a different type of post (like we do here: https://food52.com/blog/20092-easy-ways-to-slice-pie).
 
Zed July 20, 2017
It's common for the onus of responsibility to be placed on the person(s) that provides a critique (i.e. YOU make a formal suggestion, why don't YOU reply on Twitter); in this way, the F52 editor's and writer's defensive replies are disheartening. I totally agree that the original tweet is rough, but the thing is, if you also find it problematic, it's important to spend a couple of lines mentioning that. When you discuss something that's carrying some problematic cultural baggage with ambivalence--that is, without critique--you end up reproducing that problematic cultural baggage in your writing. It goes without saying that food and cooking are inherently loaded with all kinds of cultural weight (class, race, ethnicity, gender &etc). My critique here is meant as a reminder of that fact: something I consider more useful--constructive, even--than making a "formal" suggestion via private email. You wanted a discussion--you got it! :)
 
melissa July 20, 2017
great zed, hope to see you around here more standing up for POC and immigrants, who make up the majority of targets on Food52.
 
adambravo July 21, 2017
Sorry, but aside from mentioning the name of the recipe creator, what is "gendered" about this article?
 
nancy E. July 21, 2017
I believe bagels are more expensive then ladies fingers<br />
 
Glenda July 22, 2017
I found the article to be fun and not the least bit elitist. Some people have no concept of cooking or good taste. Obvious some are readers of your blog.
 
ChefJune July 19, 2017
Ick. Why would anyone want to call attention to such an abomination?