5 Do-It-Yourself Fast Food Recipes Tested for Accuracy
I've never quite understood the appeal of making fast food menu items at home. The entire point of fast food is that it arrives quickly, with minimal effort on your part. Nevertheless, you can find countless recipes online for just about every menu item from every restaurant imaginable, even the terrible stuff.
We debate some of the best and worst fast food items ever on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by Diana Cook, who runs the Cracked Twitter account and is also the love of my life, and Jeff May, a comic who likes nothing but hockey.
As for this column, instead of talking about overrated fast food, I decided to make some of my own. I tracked down five of the most popular online recipes for famous fast food items and took a shot at cooking them up myself. First up ...
Krispy Kreme Glazed Doughnuts
Let's get the confessions out of the way right up front -- I'm not a fan of Krispy Kreme. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, actually. That said, it's National Doughnut Day, and who am I to spit in the face of that kind of accidental search traffic? So, I guess it's time to make the doughnuts, so to speak.
The stupid kind.
For the purpose of this column, I'm speaking about and dealing with the famous Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. If you show up when they first take a new batch out of the gallons of grease in which they're cooked, employees emerge from the shadows and give out free samples, like crack dealers campaigning for new customers at an after school program. They turn on a red neon sign to let people know that time has arrived, which is appropriate, in that eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut is like whoring your pancreas out to diabetes.
Krispy Kreme franchises have been dying off at an alarming rate in recent years, though, so those hot doughnut encounters are few and far between these days. If you were the type who'd jump a median at the sight of that hot-treat beacon, learning to make a Krispy Kreme doughnut at home might be your only option.
The Biggest Hassle of Making It:
For brevity's sake, instead of me retelling the entire preparation process, if you're truly interested in the technical details of making your own doughnuts, you should just read the recipe I'm basing this on at some point later when it doesn't involve diverting your attention from me and the important work I'm doing right now.
Instead, going forward, I'm going to use this section to tell you what you really want to know about making fast food items at home, which, of course, is how much of a goddamn hassle it's going to be.
In the case of a Krispy Kreme doughnut, it's a whole lot. The directions involve 24 separate steps, and you could watch pretty much any movie that isn't directed by James Cameron in less time than it takes to make a batch. By far, though, the biggest burden is the dough.
Still more fun to watch than Titanic.
The best invention before sliced bread was bread you didn't have to make yourself, because that shit is a tremendous hassle. Doughnuts are a member of the bread family, obviously, so they're just as much hassle in that respect as anything else.
So, if efficiency is your concern, this is not the recipe for you. If there's no longer a Krispy Kreme in your town, you're just going to have to take heart in knowing that whatever substitute you find will probably be a million times better anyway.
Here's the thing: As much as I dismiss Krispy Kreme doughnuts, they're still doughnuts. Provided you can navigate your way through the intricacies of making yeast rise, the rest of the steps from there aren't too labor intensive, and the finished product ... tastes like fried dough covered in a glaze of sugar. That's almost always going to taste delicious. My problem with Krispy Kreme has always been that they put that glaze on everything.
Now I can too!
As standard glazed doughnuts go, theirs is as good as any. The differences in a hot glazed doughnut from place to place are going to be about as noticeable as the difference between $299 headphones and $350 headphones. It's a doughnut. It's as fine as any, I suppose, but definitely not worth the time it takes to make one yourself.
If you're under the age of 30 or so, Orange Julius might be relatively foreign to you. Sure, they're still around in some form or another, but not like they used to be. There was a time when there was an Orange Julius in damn near every mall in America, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that Satan was their mascot for most of the '80s.
Their flagship product is the eponymous Orange Julius drink, an orange-based smoothie concoction that was once available with an optional whole raw egg for added protein, because everything we knew about fitness back then came from Rocky movies.
After salmonella presumably killed off most of their customer base, the chain was bought out by Dairy Queen, and a good Orange Julius has been hard to come by ever since.
The Biggest Hassle of Making It:
If the fall of Orange Julius is something that impacted your life, I have wonderful news. Making your own is absurdly easy. So much so that, as far as hassles go, I'd say the biggest is cleaning the blender when you're done. Everything else is just standard smoothie-making shit. Read how to do it here, if you're so inclined.
Following the instructions provided by the Food.com recipe produced an icy, refreshing smoothie-type treat that tastes exactly like children's aspirin.
Now available in adult flavor!
In other words, it was a rousing success. That's exactly what an Orange Julius is supposed to taste like. I'd recommend whipping up a batch for your next '80s-themed party, if you do stupid things like that. Otherwise, just make them whenever you're in the mood. It's a lot less hassle than finding a mall that still sells them.
Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits
It was announced recently that the Red Lobster restaurant chain would be sold for $2.1 billion. If you're wondering why someone would pay that much cash for the Olive Garden of seafood restaurants, then you've probably never tried their garlic cheddar biscuits.
Red Lobster's only redeeming quality.
They put a big basket of them on every table, as far as my recollection of my last trip to Red Lobster goes. That was sometime in the early '90s, though, so things may have changed. Money is tighter now than it was back then; it wouldn't surprise me a bit if at some point Red Lobster started making people pay extra for these delicious little proofs that "even the blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes" is an accurate rule of life.
In short, these biscuits are the only thing Red Lobster does right.
The Biggest Hassle of Making It:
If there's one flaw in Red Lobster's garlic cheddar-based business model, it's that, much like Groupon, it's absurdly easy to replicate. In fact, going to Red Lobster is way more work than just making these things yourself. Once again, Food.com comes through with a fairly easy-to-manage recipe, if you're into that kind of thing.
In my travels, I've also found that the Pillsbury version you sometimes find in the freezer section of your local grocery store is equally delicious.
Just stop going to Red Lobster is what I'm saying, I guess.
Either way, this is a pretty straightforward recipe that doesn't require too many theatrics. It does call for a wooden spoon, like it's the 1800s or something, but I decided to roll the dice on that being totally optional. Other than that, it's just basic cooking stuff.
It might have something to do with my staunch refusal to track down that wooden spoon, but my version turned out a little more ball shaped than biscuit shaped, but whatever, man, they're still delicious. If you're looking to completely immerse yourself in the Red Lobster experience, bake up a batch and serve them piping hot alongside whatever your local grocery store has marked for clearance in the seafood section.
Outback Bloomin' Onion
The Outback Bloomin' Onion is the McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese of sit-down-restaurant menu items. Its status as the most calorie-packed way to take in vegetables is the stuff of artery-clogging legend. That Outback sells it as an appetizer instead of an entree to be shared by a family of four or more borders on involuntary manslaughter. All of this would be just cause for swearing off the Bloomin' Onion forevermore if not for one little hitch -- it is unspeakably delicious.
The Biggest Hassle of Making It:
On top of being life-threateningly tasty, the Bloomin' Onion is also kind of neat to look at ...
... which makes for a perfect segue into the most difficult thing about making one. How do you cut the onion? The Food Network comes through with the recipe this time around, and they also have a handy slideshow that walks you through the process.
And it is a process.
It's worth mentioning that a few comments I've seen online from former Outback employees suggest that, before you do anything, soak the entire onion in water first to make the cutting easier. That didn't seem like crazy advice to me, so I did it. I can't really say either way if it actually made the onion easier to work with on account of the fact that I've never made a Bloomin' Onion before. I have no references to work with here.
Oh -- I suppose that, since the recipe literally calls for a gallon of cooking oil, safety might be a concern for some. If you're under the age of 18, make your parents cook it for you. It's still their job, for now.
Yeah, I mean, unless you start a grease fire or completely mangle measuring out the spices or something, there's no reason for this to be anything other than a rousing success. It's a deep-fried onion. This one doesn't look particularly great, but historically speaking, deep-fried onions are always delicious. When things go awry, it's usually a matter of bland batter. Seeing as how this recipe calls for more spices than I actually had in my kitchen at the time, that's definitely not a problem here.
Nothing a small business loan won't cover.
Outback Bloomin' Onions kill millions of people every year (citation needed), but we eat them anyway, and it's not because they're laden with nicotine. Whether you're making it at home or eating it in a traditional Australian eatery like Outback, it's going to be delicious, unless something goes terribly wrong.
A.1. Steak Sauce
Listen, I know it's not technically a fast food item, but I don't care, because A.1. Steak Sauce is the greatest condiment of all time, so it's welcome anywhere. Sure, it tastes disgusting on anything that isn't made of beef, but that's a good thing. For the price you pay, it would probably save you a few bucks to just pour pure gasoline on everything you eat.
Still tastes better than Worcestershire sauce.
It's worth every penny, though. A.1. is one of those rare products that, much like Kraft Singles, would never be mistaken for one of their lesser competitors in a blind taste test. A.1. is A.1., and everything else is just steak sauce. Its importance to a steak dinner is such that their slogan is "A.1. It's how steak is done."
A lack of modesty you can taste.
Former NBA legend Chris Webber got kicked out of a steakhouse once after becoming enraged when they told him they didn't offer A.1. It's essential eating.
So, with that combination of indispensability and exorbitant cost in mind, why not take a shot at making a batch of A.1. sauce at home?
The Biggest Hassle of Making It:
Well, because "expensive" and "unable to afford" are two totally different things. A lot of people who are more than capable of cleaning their own home still hire someone to come in and do it every week, you know?
That said, it is surprisingly easy to make. The recipe I used is from a site called Two Dogs in the Kitchen, which would make a great restaurant name if frequent surprise visits from the health department are something you're into.
Anyway, while the ingredients list required to pull off a batch of homemade A.1. is kind of extensive and pricey ...
Finally, a reason to use those golden raisins you accidentally bought six years ago!
... I imagine it ends up being cheaper in the long run if your actual goal is to replace store-bought A.1. with homegrown. I'm not personally willing to contribute to anything that might lead to A.1. being less readily available than it is now, though, so that's not a switch I'll be making anytime soon.
Still, "He makes A.1. sauce from scratch" is a line that would be right at home in any Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercial, so even if you don't need to do it for financial reasons, I'd suggest that any dude reading this take a stab at it anyway, if for no other reason than to have it on your resume.
I'm not going to lie; I was not expecting much here. There are so many steak sauces out there, and every single one that isn't A.1. tastes like ass. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that even the varieties of A.1. that aren't just A.1. can be included in that blanket dismissal.
The real A-1 is ashamed to be seen with them.
All that said, this isn't bad. I'm not going to suggest that you should stop buying the real thing and just make this instead. Again, that's a shit-ton of work that someone in a factory somewhere would much rather be paid to do for you. Still, this did turn out fairly close to the real thing.
Making A.1. sauce from scratch isn't something I'll be adding to my usual list of weekly tasks anytime soon, but it's good to know I now possess a skill that will make me indispensable to my group of fellow survivors should I ever find myself in a post-apocalyptic survival scenario of some sort.
Adam would like it a whole lot if you'd download the latest episode of his podcast and/or check out this video of him telling a bunch of jokes. Then come see him do that in person the first and third Tuesday of every month at Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. Once you have all of that out of your system, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.