10 Of The Worst 'Food Hacks' On The Internet
The hot thing on the internet is super-easy cooking "hacks" -- weird food tricks using a few ingredients that are just intriguing enough to share, but not actually try. They're often delivered in the form of sped-up videos or GIFs, leave out key details, and are interesting precisely because they don't seem like they should work. But they do ... right? I mean, you can't lie on the internet. It's against the law. In the name of science, I picked out ten of these and actually tried the ones that seemed at least somewhat plausible. The results were predictably disastrous.
The Food Network's "Edible Candle"
The Food Network website has a recipe for an edible candle that is somehow both not really edible and not really a candle. The ingredients are "cheese, nuts, and a little imagination" (a pecan serves as the wick). So it's edible if you want to eat a giant hunk of raw Velveeta or burnt pecans, and it's a candle if you like the smell of burnt pecans. This actually sounds like it might smell good, but please let me assure you it does not.
I tried making the candle myself, and since the video says you can make it any shape you want, I chose Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket taking off in two glorious plumes of smoke. When I lit the candle, my husband ran into the kitchen asking if something was burning and found me standing over this:
I'm pretty sure if this were the 1800s, I would have been sent to the country for several months to deal with my "exhaustion." Luckily, I remain free to decorate my house with edible candles. I tried placing this on my kitchen table for a few days, but was never able to get it to burn for more than 90 seconds. Also, my cat kept trying to lick it.
Melt Cheese In The Toaster, And Also Melt Your Kitchen
Spoiler: I didn't actually try this one, because I didn't want to see everything I know and love turned to ashes. A viral grilled cheese hack encouraged people to save themselves from washing a pan by turning a toaster on its side and inserting the cheese and bread at the same time. It quickly spread to seemingly every cooking and life hack outlet on the internet.
It worked really well, if what you wanted to accomplish was making a small fire that you could then put a pan over so you can cook a grilled cheese like an adult. But before I even get to that, where is the butter in this hack? Grilled cheese is all about that butter, and there is no butter here. Nobody makes grilled cheese on dry white toast. Spoiler warning for the rest of this list: Lots of internet life hacks involve taking simple tasks and making them harder and worse.
But rather than any of us trying to verify this, let's listen to the London Fire Brigade, which has made a public statement asking everyone not to after multiple people complained of their toasters bursting into flames. This was presumably due to flammable cheesy fat dripping down onto exposed heating elements. It's almost as if the device wasn't meant to be used this way.
Dissolving Gummy Bears In Water Makes Jell-O, Somehow
While in the 1950s, everything was Jell-O, today our fast-paced lives allow no time for that jiggly time-waster. Luckily, 5-Minute Crafts, a YouTube channel with, let me check here ... 58 million followers, has a time-saving solution for Jell-O lovers. Or at least, I think it's meant to save time, but I tried it, and in practice it takes forever, doesn't actually work, and tastes like pediatric cancer.
This is from one of those videos that just assaults your eyes with dozens of "cooking life hacks" that come so fast that you don't have time to stop and marvel at how stupid any individual project is:
For example, this particular recipe calls for you to add an unspecified amount of gummy bears to a pan and cover them in water that is maybe already hot. Is that important? Your guess is as a good as mine. How much water, you ask? Amounts are just a number, man. Anyway, you simmer until the bears are completely dissolved and let cool for ? hours. Not refrigerate it, just let it cool. This is starting to feel like a waste of already-edible gummy bears.
The gummy water does thicken up, but when left to cool, it doesn't achieve the suspiciously Jell-O like texture the video shows. It's more like chunky swamp water. I tried refrigerating it overnight to see if I could get it to thicken up more, and all I got was a sludge that presumably resembles what gummy bears turn into once they're in your digestive tract. Look at all the chewing time you've saved!
Bake Cookies In Your Car On A Hot Day
Blossom, a YouTube channel with 11 million followers, suggests that you can leave chocolate chip cookie dough in a hot car for an hour, and it will be baked and ready to peel off the cookie sheet with your bare hands to eat. I had previously believed that cook time and temperature is the most important thing in any recipe, but this video posits that hot dough makes cookie, and that other nonsense is a myth invented by the people who sell oven temperature dials.
First of all, how is this any better than making cookies in an oven, other than that it's way less precise and takes about seven times as long? Do you have all of the tools to make cookie dough, but no oven in this scenario? Regardless, no, I didn't feel the need to make this one. We all know what globs of car-temperature cookie dough taste like. Plus, science tells us that actually baking cookies in a car would take about four to five hours, and the internal temperature would have to be at least 180 degrees (which would mean it would need to be at least 95 outside). Or, you know, you could try the oven, where cookies bake in eight minutes at 350 degrees and don't come with that new car smell.
Impress Your Fancy Friends With These Shot Glasses Made Of Cheese
OK, when did the internet's life hack mills decide that we're all looking for alternate uses of solid cheese? Cheese has one job, and it does it well. Yet PopSugar's YouTube channel has a recipe for melting cheddar cheese in the microwave, then using a mold to make it into a shot glass, which you then fill with wine. You can tell it's great because the woman who eats it clearly loves it.
I suppose I could scoop a hole in my cheese candle from earlier and pour some wine into it. Let's check the comments first:
It appears that 100% of the people who watched this decided there was no positive outcome here. Even if consuming it is a pleasant experience, do you want to be the kind of person who now enjoys drinking alcohol out of solid cheese? The call to action at the end of the video is "If you have any friends or family members that you know would love wine and cheese shots, be sure to share this video with them." I'm just trying to imagine the great offense I would take if anyone in my life sent me this video with any message other than "Do not watch -- cursed."
Microwave Marshmallows Into "Flan"
This one comes from Blossom again, part of another montage of minute-long "unusual" cooking hacks. It suggests putting four marshmallows and two raw eggs into a half-empty quart of milk, shaking it, and microwaving it for ten minutes, then chilling it for an unspecified amount of time to create the perfect microwave flan.
There are so many issues with this recipe that I don't even know where to start. Ten minutes is forever in microwave time. Blasting marshmallows with radiation for ten minutes makes them more likely to come out as the monster from Ghostbusters than anything remotely edible.
Also, scrambling eggs is hard! You really have to get in there and break them apart, not gently shake them eight times like in the video. I shook mine way longer than it suggested to try to make the recipe work, and I still ended up with two cooked eggs in a pile of milk, plus a small milk explosion and what I'm assuming was marshmallow skin, though didn't look like marshmallow at all. I'll just let the pics speak for themselves:
Open Wine By Heating/Exploding It
Do you want to open a normal bottle of wine, but also crave the danger of holding something that could explode at any moment in your bare hand? Well, DaveHax, a YouTube channel with 4.8 million followers, has got a life hack just for you!
To open a bottle of wine in the most dangerous way possible, simply use a blowtorch right underneath the cork to heat the air inside the bottle. The heated air will expand and expel the cork. Or, you know, explode the bottle, which is what happens when this guy tries it:
This is the kind of thing I wouldn't attempt without a full MythBusters setup involving a remote-controlled robot arm and bulletproof glass. Experts say this method is not recommended because it steams the wine to create pressure, which can somewhat alter the flavor and aroma, and also could send shards of flying glass into your eyes. That plus the several hundred other things that could go wrong when somebody kicks off a night of drinking by whipping out a blowtorch.
Egg + Banana + Cinnamon = Pancakes
Buzzfeed's Tasty section is devoted to churning out several recipe videos a day, and it's gone well for them! They have 15 million YouTube followers watching videos like this one, which promises an astonishing 43 easy three-ingredient recipes (the video is 20 minutes, so we're getting a whopping 28 seconds per recipe). Gas-station-sandwiched in the middle of that video is a recipe for banana pancakes that is nothing but one mashed banana combined with two eggs and 1/4 of a teaspoon of cinnamon. Well that's certainly something I can manage with what I have on hand.
I don't know what the legal definition of a pancake is, but calling this one should be a felony:
This is a fried egg that tastes vaguely like cinnamon. Egg is a strong flavor, and when desserts taste eggy, that's not good. With no sugar to speak of and just cinnamon to contribute any real flavor, this ends up tasting like Christmasy eggs that once thought of a banana. Are all of these rapid-fire cooking hack videos just an elaborate prank?
Melted Ice Cream And Bread Make Bread Pudding
So Yummy has 7.3 million YouTube subscribers and a lot of cooking videos that, as others have pointed out, don't always work. Take this recipe for strawberry bread pudding, featured in a video of 12 equally implausible recipes delivered in under 11 minutes.
I made this one, but it was suspect from the start, as it provides no baking time or temperature, and the final product shown in the video was clearly made on a different planet than the batter they cooked, somehow transitioning from a pale pink to solid red. Batter doesn't get darker in the oven; the color lightens as it expands. It's almost like, I don't know, they lied about what it actually took to get the end result shown.
In practice, if you mix bread and strawberry ice cream (can't tell you how much, because the video doesn't say) with three raw eggs and then bake it for 30 minutes at 350, you get this:
LOOK AT IT. It actually holds together better than I expected, but it tastes like hot bread that a strawberry sneezed on. The recipe I used is 80% my own guesses, though, so who knows, maybe there's a better way of making it that the video is keeping a secret. Maybe it's the dessert da Vinci Code, and I couldn't interpret the clues right.
Infuse Vodka With Grilled Cheese
Thrillist has 5 million Facebook followers, and yet not one person reported them to the police for the crime they publicly committed against grilled cheese when they posted a video encouraging people to soak it in vodka. The step-by-step instructions below the video actually contain the sentence "You can also fish out the sandwiches and squeeze out the liquid soaked up by the bread". As if anyone on Earth would want to paw through a jar of vodka-soaked bread and wring it out into a coffee filter before drinking the resulting gruel.
The opinion of the recipe in their comments ranges from "WHAT ARE YOU DOING STOP" to "I'm sorry but this is the most terrible thing I have ever seen in my life and I really wanna die now thanks yall." Both of which I completely agree with. I'm not making this one, because the best possible outcome is that the grilled cheese mercifully sets your toaster on fire before you can even make it to this point.
Lydia yells at other food on Twitter.
For more, check out 6 Ways The Food Industry Tricks You Into Eating Garbage - The Spit Take:
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