In an age where almost everyone agrees that “homemade is better”, it can be tempting to never want to set food in a store again. With so many warnings about nasty additives and hidden sugar, homecooks are arguably more edgy than ever when it comes to using anything that comes out of a packet.
Though there are many cases where this approach is more than justified, it isn’t always true that the store is your enemy. In fact, there are some cases where many experts agree that you’re much better off cheating with something ready made than trying to figure it out for yourself. Here are seven foods that you should never ever try to cook at home.
Perfect with a wedge of something sharp and tangy, crackers are the ultimate cheap and cheerful cheese receptacle. However, it turns out that they are a massive pain to make yourself. According to The Daily Meal, the endless rolling, slicing and baking required just isn’t worth it when stacked up against the excellent alternatives available in almost every store.
2. Puff Pastry
Making pastry of any kind is a whole lot harder than it looks, and puff is no exception. What makes this type particularly tricky is the endless cycle of folding butter in between different layers, all while maintaining a consistent temperature so that the butter doesn’t melt. Not worth the faff when a roll of shop-bought will do the job.
3. Cake Mix
This might come as a shock to all you artisan homecooks out there, but none other than Alton Brown swears that there is no point in making your own cake mix. Speaking in an episode of Good Eats, the celebrity chef revealed, "As much as I hate to admit it, it is darn tough to bake a cake from scratch that is better than a cake made from mix. That's because these designer concoctions contain high-tech ingredients that average cooks like you and I can't get our oven mitts on."
4. Potato Chips
On paper, potato chips should be incredibly straightforward. But, as ever, there is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes in your average pack of Walkers. According to Food Network, around a pound of potatoes will yield a measly four ounces of chips - definitely not worth it when you can pick up a pack around the corner.
A classic of Vietnamese street food, pho is famous for being hearty, delicious and cheap, something that should make it a doddle to prepare at home. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Real pho contains an array of ingredients that are next to impossible to source outside of Southeast Asia. On top of that, the process is so laborious that it just isn’t worth doing unless you plan on feeding several hundred guests.
A classic all-American snack, dried beef jerky has been around for centuries. That does not mean, however, that it is in any way easy to make. A complex procedure of slicing, salting, marinating and drying means that high-quality, homemade jerky is extremely unusual. Your best bet is to stick with shop-bought.
If you’re feeling creative, you may feel tempted to have a crack at recreating some of your favourite sweeties in the comfort of your own home. Don’t do it. Major candy makers have more tools, chemicals and equipment than you could dream of in order to produce their product. Anything you can do will only end up being a disappointment.
After a few successes in the kitchen, it can be tempting to think that anything is possible. But, no matter how impressive your homemade jam or freshly baked bread may be. There is a limit to what can be accomplished in your kitchen. Save yourself the time and disappointment and steer clear of these seven.