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How do you recognize a bad viral recipe?

How do you recognize a bad viral recipe?

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Cheez-Its might just be the perfect snack. The toasted, salty rectangles that are already out (are you ready for this?) 101 years, excel not only in their crunchy, buttery flakes, but also in their ability to be grabbed easily without even making eye contact with the box. The toast bubbles? incomparable. Their composition of mainly cheese? Exceptional.

So when I saw a viral video on TikTok explaining how to make them at home with just two ingredients, I knew this experiment was in my future. Why would you want to make a small batch at home when they can be bought en masse for $3.29, you ask? Well, a few reasons.

Some of us like to feel the simultaneous coziness of baking and the self-sufficiency of a snack frontier. As someone who prefers Cheez-Its to sweets for an after-dinner snack every day of the week, it’s also problematic for me to have full boxes in my pantry that can be mindlessly consumed to excess while watching. Bridgerton after a perfectly healthy dinner. So a finite tray of freshly baked cheese chips sounds like just the right amount — which matches my review of an ingredient list with just two items.

I followed the instructions of a video I can’t find anymore because as anyone who’s been on TikTok knows, if you don’t like a video or save it in real time, you’ll never find it again. But here is a similar one explanation of the method.

As mentioned, the ingredients are simple:

  • Slices of cheddar cheese
  • flaky salt
  • Parchment
  • A straw
  • Baking tray

The original video recommended to use Ultra-thin slicesbut I used what I had on hand in my cheese drawer (yes, it’s a whole drawer): some Sargento Medium Cheddar and 365 brand mild cheddar (slightly thicker slices).

How to Make Your Own “Cheez-Its”

Cut each slice of cheese into four squares. Place the squares on a baking tray lined with baking paper. (Leave at least an inch between the squares or they will bake together, which they won’t) worst thing, just more effort to pull them apart.) Stick each square in the center with a straw and remove a small amount of cheese to create that signature Cheez-It look. Sprinkle with flaking salt and bake in a 275°F oven for 22-25 minutes.

The results

So, did it Cheez-It? No not really.

What came out after 22 minutes was more like those thin, textured chips with a cheesy flavor, but not the hard crunch of a Cheez-It. (The straw was also useless; when the cheese melted, the holes disappeared.)

While the first bite exudes a satisfying crunch, subsequent bites were much chewier and saturated with traces of rendered milk fat. Were they terrible? Not at all. But they weren’t Cheez-Its.

the takeaway

Why didn’t it work? In the words of Lifehacker’s senior food editor, Claire Lower, “This is just a bad recipe.” Okay, fair enough. But how should a non-food expert? do you see a bad recipe like this?

After pointing out that the main problem with the recipe was the lack of flour, Claire went on to say, “First, look at the ingredient list of the product you’re trying to replicate. If your ‘hack’ recipe is missing major components, that’s your first clue.” (First ingredient on a box of Cheez-Its? Flour.) Instead, she recommended this DIY Cheez-It recipe by pastry chef and writer of Serious Eats Stella Park as a better option.

Bottom line: If you’re trying to replicate your favorite snack or mass-produced junk food at home, and a viral recipe hack might seem too good to be true, it probably is. Read the label on the original. If the hack recipe doesn’t contain any version of the main ingredients, proceed with caution.