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Recipe Search Techniques


I didn't really ever think of this as a post, but I casually mentioned it in yesterday's review of LRS and a few people expressed interest in knowing the methods I use to research recipes online. This may be old news to many of you, but I hope these few small tips help you find that recipe you are looking for! The main reason a guide like this is necessary, is there is a LOT of recipes out there. Millions and millions of recipes. Not only that, 90% of them are crap! Sometimes it can be overwhelming when you are looking for just the right one, especially if you are not familiar with the particular dish or cuisine.

There are 3 main tips I have for you. The first one is simple: know what you are looking for! That sounds pretty obvious doesn't it? But it isn't as obvious as it might seem. What I am talking about here is just to make sure you know everything about the dish you are looking for. Here is a story. I searched for an hour for arepa recipes thinking the whole time that Masarepa, or Harina PAN was the same thing as masa harina. After all that looking I literally typed the simple question into google "is harina PAN the same as masa harina?" and I found my answer as the first word on the first result. I was so deep in my research that I decided to cook arepas anyways and was destined for failure before I even began.

So what I am saying here is before you start researching recipes, start researching the actual dish or cuisine. Instead of searching for "Mole Recipes" or "Sri Lanka Recipes" on google, search for "Mole" or "Sri Lanka cuisene" and check out the Wikipedia page or any other informational website. Read all about it and narrow your search for later. On the Mole wiki, you can see a bunch of different varieties so you can narrow your search further. You can see that Mole Amarillo has green tomatoes and tomatillos which you happen to be in the mood for, and onion, garlic, and cilantro that you actually have at home right now!

Second tip: know how to search. After doing the above legwork, you can often just then google something as specific as "Mole Amarillo" and get some decent results. But what about something more obvious or common? Most searches will yield the same bunch of sites on the first results page of google. You know them well don't you? Allrecipes, Cooks, RecipeZarr, CDKitchen, About, Food Network, and Epicurious. Nothing against these sites, I often use the FN and Epicurious for recipes (more on these two sites in a later paragraph), but most of the time you find just that - the recipe. When someone else's words have a direct impact on the quality of your dinner, I want to see some real passion! I want to see a picture, read a paragraph and think to my self, ok this guy really knows what they are doing! I have had failures too lame and boring to even post based on things I have cooked from the above sites. As I said, there is nothing wrong with these sites for the general public, but you read the Food in my Beard and you deserve better. You clearly seek out the best, and the best you shall have!

Google has this neat little hidden tool that will only search blogs. I use it all the time in this situation. On the upper left where it says more, click the drop down and then choose blogs. Because of the massive amounts of food blogs out there, I'm positive you will get better results. The only downside to this method, is that it google organizes these results in a semi chronological order, so the best results are not necessarily first. This brings me to my third tip.

Look at AT LEAST 5 recipes! Read the little write-up preview on the google search results page and if it sounds ok, right click it and open it in a new tab. After you have AT LEAST 5 tabs open, start checking them out. You know what you are looking for. A recipe that suits YOU best. You already know a lot about the recipe from your research earlier, so you can immediately get rid of the phonies. Close out that pad thai recipe that has ketchup in it and never look back. You know you want your tamales extra spicy, or a recipe for dough with a certain type of flour. You know some moles don't have chocolate in them, but you want one that does. This is the easy part! The reason I capitalized "AT LEAST" earlier, is because I usually look at probably 15 or more when I am doing research, but I thought if I suggested more than 5, people would think it was too many right away.

Back to FN and Epicurious for a minute. They are great tools and have some great recipes, but there is a ton of stuff on the sites! Make sure to read the comments on the recipes to get a better sense of if you will like it, if there are any errors on the recipe, and how easy or hard it is. The commenters are usually very helpful with tips on these sites. If you are searching the FN site, have a certain chef in mind. For example, if your making tex-mex, look for Bobby's recipes, Italian - Giada, Southern - Paula, Dessert - Ina, Tablescape - Aunt Sandy, etc. Still take into account the fact that you need to look at multiple recipes! Use the ones you find here as a standard to check the blog recipes against.

At this point, I either find the perfect recipe that I follow exactly, or make my own based on all my searching!

Some last random tips

If you have more of an idea of the type of dish you want, just throw more words in the search. Ex. Tacos fish chipotle green onion grapes, or pickle pepperoni broccoli pizza.

Same goes for if you have a certain chef in mind. Ex. Madhur Jaffrey curry, or Jacques Pepin scallop pancakes.

Sometimes you have an idea for an original recipe but you need to finalize it. Use google for flavor combinations! I knew I wanted to make coffee pasta with cream sauce, so I searched savory applications of coffee and found what sort of other ingredients would fit in the dish by looking at unrelated recipes.

Don't be afraid to just ask google a question - is there normally fish sauce in chocolate cake? Does this food in my beard guy know what he is talking about? Chances are someone out there has asked the same question as you, and you will get your answer right away.

There are many food specific search engines out there, but I have not had any luck with any particular one.

Did you guys find this informative at all? Or yesterday's news. Does anyone else have any tips? Let me know in the comments! Now that I have told you guys about my methods for finding recipes, are you all going to abandon me start finding recipes on your own? Do you have no need for me anymore? I hope you still do...


Dan, I won't abandon you.

I will forever read your blog and get hungry, and email you with dumb questions about how to make stuff.

The tips are great, though, thanks!

There is a pretty cool custom google search that was made by a few very notable food bloggers to help with this problem.

I didn't make the search, but I've found it pretty helpful.

It not only just searches food blogs, but the blogs listed in the search have to be approved by one of the moderators, so you know you are getting quality sites.

Right now it indexes about 2700 sites which is a very small % of the large number of food blogs and other crap out there.

That's my tip!

PS. Dan it appears that TFIMB isn't one of the 2700 sites being indexed... or at least I couldn't find it.

I don't like to promote my eternal rival too much, but you should submit it to the search obv.


Dan -

I use tastespotting all the time. There are fewer recipes to search, but they are usually drool-worthy as there has been moderation.

Tastespotting is how I found your site!


Jimmy -

I never use tastespotting as a search tool, mainly because I have submitted some excellent recipes to them that have been rejected! Now I understand it is all about the picture, and I totally agree that my picures could use some work, but it makes me wonder how many great recipes arent on there because they dont have a good enough pic. The other thing is that there are a lot of things on there that arent really good recipes, they jsut look good. like some beautiful raviolis and you click it and half the ingredients are store bought. or when you submit an amazing post/recipe and a picture that you think looks great with cool angles and focus and they turn you down and when you get the rejection email you go to tastespotting and see hotdogs or a crappy looking pizza that has an excelently composed picture with perfect lighting and you think, mine was better! and you stay awake at night tossing and turning and yelling in your sleep "SARAH WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO???!?! WHEN'S GON BE MY TIME?!?!?!?!!?!?!!"

errr... um

I do look at tastespotting however almost every day, just to browse and see whats out there and maybe be inspired by dishes or ingredient combos. I would just suggest using it at the begining of your search in the figureing out what your making phase, rather than the actual recipe research part.

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