Share and share alike

Top SecretMost cooks have at least one special recipe, where an unusual ingredient or technique helps set the dish apart from similar recipes. A few cooks are more possessive about these secrets than others. Some family recipes now exist only in the mists of memory, because Grandma or Aunt Betty would never relinquish the cherished mystery ingredient. Professional chefs and cooks are also reluctant to give out recipes, not only because they don't want to share their secrets, but also because cooking in a restaurant kitchen can be completely different than home cooking. The dish might turn out poorly in the hands of some home cooks, who then blame the chef.

Sometimes a cook will offer to share her secret, but provide a recipe with ingredients omitted or errors introduced so the dish won't turn out properly. Receiving satisfaction from someone oohing and aahing over your treasured secret is understandable; however, pretending to give it up but withholding vital portions is just plain mean.

I don't have secrets (well, not recipe secrets, anyway). If someone asks me for a recipe, I will give it to them lock, stock and barrel. For instance, the "secret" to my citrus cakes is coriander. I add coriander to almost every cake that has lemon, lime or orange flavors.

Here are some "secret" recipes in the EYB library:

Serious Eats' Secret Ingredient series: Chutney grilled chicken
Secret Ingredient French Onion Soup
Top Secret Chocolate Mousse
Michael Romano's secret-ingredient soup
All of Gordon Ramsay's Secrets

Do you have secret ingredients or recipes? And if you do, are you a keeper or a sharer?

7 Comments

  • Christine  on  2/9/2014 at 5:50 PM

    I'm definitely a sharer and I take it as a compliment if someone asks for the recipe of something I've made. Though I definitely do find it interesting when swapping recipes to see whether or not it actually comes out the same as the "original" or not. It seems different ovens and possibly even individual cooking or baking habits/practices we're not even fully aware of can affect the final result. For example, no matter what I do, I just cannot get my Grandma's crumb cake recipe to turn out quite the same way as hers. We've double and triple checked the recipe, but it just may be her gas oven that does the trick. Other recipes seem to be replicated much better, so who knows!

  • Rinshin  on  2/9/2014 at 9:20 PM

    Life is too short. No point in keeping recipes secret for most people.

  • hillsboroks  on  2/9/2014 at 9:58 PM

    I am firmly in the sharing camp too. Why not let others enjoy recipes you find in a cookbook or online and then put your own spin on? I know a lady in her eighties who jealously guards her recipes. She has no children so all her recipes that were passed down in her family will be lost forever when she is gone. It seems like such a selfish waste!

  • deucemom  on  2/10/2014 at 7:04 AM

    It is not a secret and I have shared it many times, adding a Parmesan cheese rind to broth soup as it simmers. My grandmother taught me that when I was young, it gives the soup a wonderful, deep flavor.

  • boardingace  on  2/10/2014 at 8:45 AM

    I don't have any "secret" recipes, but I am a sharer. I think that there are billions of recipes out there, and the shortage now is time to cook them, not the lack of a good recipe. I love to scan recipes on our printer and email them to friends/family who request them. Most people are too busy to cook anyway and will probably never make most of the recipes I share, but if they do, I think that's great. It's a chance for them to "try" the recipe and see which they like best. And there's always the small chance they'll make it for me and I can enjoy it again :) I do understand guarding recipes in the past, when cooking was a more personal reflection of one's talents (less cookbooks out there, more home cooks), though I think it's sad when great recipes were lost to time as a result. Some guarders have also been rewarded when they ended up opening a small business selling that food product, possibly generations after the first "Guarder" kept the recipe a secret from non-family members. So I can see both sides of it. But these days, with so many great recipes out there and most people not having enough time to cook anyway, I think that sharing is the way to go :)

  • Queezle_Sister  on  2/10/2014 at 10:56 AM

    Sharer here, too. (cream of tarter in oatmeal scones) But I wanted to mention the great sharing that occurs on sites that review recipes, such as the notes here on EYB and <a href = http://www.cookbooker.com/>cookbooker</a> cookbooker</a>. This information helps us to know which published recipes work, and tested tweaks to possibly improve them. @boardingace is right, we lack time, and so any help pointing toward recipes that work is useful.

  • Cubangirl  on  2/11/2014 at 2:49 PM

    I am a sharer as well. I tend to include pitfalls in comments when I share recipes. My MIL made chess cakes, my SIL's favorite dessert, but did not share the recipe and our multiple efforts to recreate have not been successful. I try to keep track and to share fully. I believe the only time not to do that is if one is planning to publish a cookbook or enter a competition. In those cases just being honest and stating that is better than sharing an incomplete recipe.

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