Why Dishes Like Sushi and Pad Thai Should Never Be DIY


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homemade tortellini

Do Not Attempt

We've all been there. Neck deep in a complicated recipe when we come to a moment of clarity: Why didn't I just go and buy this from my favorite restaurant or bakery? People often learn the hard way that there's an economic advantage to buying these hankered-for dishes — ones that require costly, quality ingredients coupled with a more-than-usual amount of time and effort in the kitchen — from professionals who get it right every time. We spoke to food experts and learned that sometimes, you need to take off your chef toque and apron, make a reservation, and let people in the know make the magic happen while you relax. 

Related: 11 Most Expensive Restaurants in America

lobster bisque

Lobster Bisque

Greedy Gourmet food blogger Michelle Minnaar says: "If there is one recipe to skip at home, it's lobster bisque. Lobster is expensive and messing it up is a dear mistake. Salvaging all the meat is a feat in itself. You must crush the lobster shells after cooking to obtain the stock flavor. The concoction needs sieving to obtain the desirable consistency of a bisque. The end result? A tiny amount of liquid for a lot of work."

Dim Sum

Dim Sum and Asian Dumplings

"Avoid making any kind of steamed dumpling or dim sum," says Anna Rider, food writer and recipe developer at Garlic Delight. "The rice skin on prawn dumplings (har gow) is hard to make from scratch. You need an expert folding technique to make the steamed dumplings beautiful, plus the effort required to mince the ingredients and eventually steam the dumplings with special steaming equipment. You're better off paying $5 for 4 dumplings."

Pastel de nata

Portuguese Egg Tarts

Rider also recommends that home cooks avoid making pastel de nata, aka Portuguese egg tarts. "The crust is laborious to make and very difficult to master as it's supposed to be puffy, flaky, and crispy yet weightless. These crispy, cream custard-centered tarts were adopted by the Chinese and Brazilians from Portuguese explorers and can be found in many Chinese restaurants, too."


French Macarons

Pretty pastel colors of uniform-in-size, crispy, chewy cookies, Rider says, are also "notoriously difficult to master without cracking, splitting, or crushing the macarons." She adds: "Avoid making these precise looking treats and let the pros bake them. Even a small amount of contamination can ruin the meringue so they require a lot of baking skills, attention, and real kitchen experience.

Related: 50 Beloved Hometown Bakeries Across America



Rider also shares her avoidance advice for all soufflés — sweet or savory. "Soufflés require a lot of ingredients and techniques from beating the egg whites to not overmixing to collapsing the aerated egg whites. You also run the risk of overflowing a soufflé, which can cause a big mess in the oven."


Basque Croquetas and Italian Arancini

Similar in appearance, arancini are little fried balls of rice and cheese, and croquetas are made of cheese and potato and can include spinach or ham. They both seem easy but the texture and consistency issues for batches large enough to feed a small group can be maddening. Better to order these fried treats in a restaurant known for its perfect appetizers than cover your own kitchen in flour and oil.

pad thai

Pad Thai

A Thai favorite that is both colorful and ingredient-rich, a craving for the unique, fresh flavors of one of the most popular take-out dishes oftentimes calls for up to 20 ingredients — and exotic ones at that. There are several steps and techniques most people never use in their normal cooking repertoire that take time to master. The cost to purchase from a restaurant is far cheaper.

homemade doughnuts


Who doesn't love a good doughnut? Like anything fried, however, you need a large amount of high-quality oil for the proper depth in a fryer to make them at home. You also need adequate time for the dough to rise. There are baked donuts recipes, of course, but nobody wants those. You'll spend far less time and money buying from your favorite doughnut shop.

Related: 49 Unique Doughnuts You Have to Try 

street garlic noodles

Authentic Hong Kong Street Garlic Noodles

Travelers and those lucky to live in cities with large Chinese communities know the joy of eating perfect street garlic noodles. Try making it at home, however, and the balance of chicken bouillon, fish sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, using the right noodles, and then getting the perfect consistency will make you want to lobotomize yourself with a chopstick.



Super simple to make, right? Nope. Making consommé on paper seems not that difficult, but it requires time, patience, and a technique in straining that is something most people are unfamiliar with. Plus, during the clarification process, you must simmer the soup at a certain temperature without boiling. All in all, this soup sidewinder gives even professional chefs nightmares to get it right.



With most sushi restaurants' relaxing ambiance, this feast is as much a venue-driven event as it is a healthy meal. Plus, freshness is the sushi chef's secret weapon, and they have access to fish and shellfish that the average consumer would never find. The cost of ordering what you want versus buying ingredients and then trying it yourself won't add up in your favor — flavor- or relaxation-wise.



There are dozens of layers of pastry rolled out, interspersed with layers of butter. Despite the few ingredients, you must proof the dough, roll it to a sheet-like consistency, and make sure there is just the right amount of butter. Then the oven has to be just so. Even Julia Child eventually admitted she often bought hers from a baker because of this fussiness.

French Fries

French Fries and Onion Rings

The perfect crisp of a properly fried potato and the crispy flaky crust of an onion ring made by hand is a special-occasion treat that pairs perfectly with a steak or a burger. Like the aforementioned doughnuts and arancini, however, it's best to let the fry cooks manage the oils, coatings, flour, and mess required to make these at home. Neither are expensive, but both are time-consuming to do at home.

Related: Taste Test: The Best Fast-Food French Fries

beef wellington

Beef Wellington

The cost of this dish is driven by the quality of the chateaubriand cut of beef, the center cut portion of the tenderloin, which is first seared, then coated and wrapped in herbed mushroom shallot duxelles, prosciutto, and puff pastry. Getting the meat to the correct temperature without overcooking it takes experience. Though it's quite costly to order in a restaurant, consider treating yourself rather than trying to make this — and potentially failing — at home.

Related: Beef Wellington and Other Old-School Recipes Making a Comeback at Restaurants

creme brûlée

Crème Brûlée

The classic dessert is a master class in understanding the variances of egg- or cream-based custards. A proper brûlée demands a hard, caramelized crunchy crown, which needs a chef's blowtorch for best results, while the center must not be overcooked. It is the high wire act of baked custards and requires a fancy finish that a home broiler isn't adept enough at accomplishing.

baked alaska

Baked Alaska

Most people never attempt meringue, much less the act of making it on top of a dish that requires putting ice cream in an oven without melting it. The key to this dessert is timing: Keeping the ice cream as cold as possible to begin with, then assembling the dessert quickly enough that it doesn't thaw. There are many variations and recipes, but the first time you make this will not be an effortless piece of cake. It requires a deft hand, and it might be better if that hand is attached to a chef.



Unless you grew up with a Greek grandma, this is a complicated filo dough construction job. It requires expensive ingredients, the copious buttering of paper-thin pastry sheets, and a labor-intensive filling. How often do you eat baklava? Why chance it? Go to a Greek wedding, festival, or bakery, spend less, and enjoy the treat without the sticky kitchen mess and fuss.


Cream-Filled Pastries

Pastry cream and crème Anglaise are some of the first things pastry chefs must master — and they are not easy. Cheaters use vanilla pudding mix and whipped cream combinations, but that is neither as authentic or tasty. Napoleons, Gateau St. Honore, eclairs, and choux pastries are time-consuming and difficult to make, and the expense of fresh butter and cream can cost you. So, for the occasional indulgence, support your local patisserie.



Outdoor cooking blogger Steph Young of Camping Cooks  recommends people forgo making their own turducken. "It never comes out terrible, but very often one of the three meats (turkey, chicken, duck) will end up drier than intended while the others are juicy. Not to mention the intense prep work of deboning, stuffing, reassembling the Turducken correctly … it might be worth it to get the pre-stuffed/spiced kind delivered to you."

Related: Deep-Fried Disasters and Other Thanksgiving Mistakes to Avoid

yule log

Christmas Yule Logs

The classic Yule log cake — or Bûche de Noël — is a rolled Christmas cake shaped like a log. The classic recipe features a flourless chocolate cake rolled with chocolate ganache and a whipped cream center. It is decorated with confectioners' sugar to resemble snow, and handmade mushrooms, leaves, and other things added as decoration can take a week to make. Order one online or find a good French baker.


Mexican Mole

Authentic Mexican mole is a symphony of ingredients — many of which you probably won't be able to find in a typical grocery store. Oaxaca's seven varieties — mole negro, poblano, rojo, coloradito, amarillo, verde, chichilo, and manchamantel — are famous for combining chocolate, chili peppers, onions, garlic, the herb hoja santa, and many other ingredients. Try a well-reviewed Mexican restaurant and have a margarita instead.



The holiday tradition of tamale-making is fantastic to happen upon if you are fortunate in your friendships or family. An abuelita (grandma) making these treats is something the entire family waits for every Christmas Eve, which tells you everything you need to know about how delicious they are. However, the main ingredients can be hard to come by, and the fillings and construction are a multi-person effort. As with mole dishes, go to a well-regarded Mexican restaurant and order yourself another margarita.

Related: Traditional Christmas Dishes From Around the World

Максим Крысанов/istockphoto


A masterpiece of shellfish, fish, and perfectly flavored and cooked rice, classic paella is as unique as the chef's take on these simple ingredients, but the trick is in understanding ratios and cooking methods so the flavors are pitch-perfect. It's not an easy or cheap dish to make. This is one of those special occasion meals best left to a chef who has a flair for it and has done it many times.


Pates and Terrines

The difference between a pate and a terrine is primarily texture and ingredients. Pate is smoother, mostly liver and fat, and a terrine is usually chunks of duck breast or minced pork and baked in a mold in a heated water bath, or bain-marie. There are many ingredients required for both, and the decadent indulgence is easier and cheaper to buy in fresher, smaller amounts from a gourmet charcuterie or well-stocked grocery.

peking duck

Peking Duck

Most restaurants require advanced notice to order this or add more wait time to serve it, so you know making it at home requires a lot of forethought and preparation. Traditional Chinese methodology is three days. There are shortcuts, but in the end, the flavors and marinade for this are worth having an experienced chef handle.

Related: Best Chinese Restaurant in Every State

peruvian cuy
Jenhung Huang/istockphoto

Other Exotic Foreign Meals

"Avoid making dishes unique to a specific culture or region," says Tom Crowe of travel, food, and culture website Travel Food Atlas. "It's difficult to find the ingredients used in traditional authentic dishes, and local cooks have been preparing delicacies for their entire lives, — they know what they're doing." Examples, Crowe adds, include Peruvian Cuy (guinea pig), Guyanese Pepperpot, and Smalahove, aka sheep's head — "from Norway for obvious reasons!"

Homemade pasta


Most people, at some point in their lives, get a pasta machine as a gift. Then they try to make one batch, and the thoughtful gift is quietly stuffed back into the box and shelved until garage sale time. There are fantastic fresh pastas easily purchased, as well as dried pastas of all types, including those made of grains, gluten-free, or even keto-friendly for the carbohydrate-averse. Save time and money and go for the professionally prepared pastas or experiment with those you can buy in your local grocery store.

homemade bread


Baking bread is a time-waster that no one needs — and a bread machine another appliance that, for many, just takes up a lot of counter space that could be put to better use. For the occasional indulgence of really good bread, buy from a professional baker.

Related: 24 Kitchen Accessories You Didn't Know You Needed

german chocolate cake

Bobby Flay's German Chocolate Cake

We're not picking on Bobby Flay ... except in this case. The recipe is an insanely intricate one that had one news reporter chronicle her days lost trying to adhere to Flay's strict steps in the recipe. Reviewers note it requires mortals up to five hours to make — Flay claims just over three hours, but most of us are not French Culinary Institute graduates — as well as nearly 30 ingredients to manage. Instead, find a bakery you love and watch Flay on TV.


Lobster and Clambake

New Englanders, take note. This summer staple involves a very detailed traditional build of steaming hot rocks and seaweed, as well as getting the timing of it all nailed down. Why go through all that when there are numerous catering companies and restaurants all over the region who can give you a fair per-person price? This route lets you enjoy the moment and not sweat about over- or undercooked corn, potatoes, and shellfish.