The streamliner

Many modern recipes are actually several different smaller recipes that are then combined at the end. Think anything written by Yotam Ottolenghi, whose food is amazingly delicious, and whose recipes can appear heart-stoppingly complex, particularly to an inexperienced cook. (For example a composed salad that requires cooking garlicky chickpeas, making croutons, assembling the fresh vegetables, roasting squash, and whipping up a dressing.) Comments can help you streamline or cut unnecessary steps.

Even simple recipes can sometimes be edited. After reading notes from other cooks on Melissa Clark’s chocolate oatmeal in NYT Cooking, I decided to take their advice and skip a step in her instructions (removing the toasted oats from the pot, then whisking milk and cocoa together, then adding the oats back in). The commenters were right—it worked just fine to combine everything together at once. Next time I’ll probably skip toasting the oats in brown butter, too.

The endorser

At its most basic, recipe commentary can show you that a lot of people liked how a recipe turned out. A slew of “my family loved this” comments is always a good sign.

That chocolate oatmeal, which looks like mud in a bowl when you finish, is nearly impossible to take an appealing picture of—so it was reading what other cooks thought about it that convinced me it was worth making, in the absence of photographic proof of concept. This is a new weekend go-to in my house, healthier than pancakes, but special treat-worthy, too.

The rage-filled non-cook

Enough said.

The collaborative commenter

Probably the most useful type, you’ll find this commenter on the sites that serious cooks and foodies frequent. Food52‘s whole conceit is that it’s a community of home cooks and professionals, all sharing and talking about recipes. The New York Times’ Cooking site has civility and usefulness baked in. Visitors leave recipe “notes” rather than comments, as though they’re annotating a family copy of Joy of Cooking with a suggestion to add a half-cup of chopped walnuts to a favorite bundt cake.

“We felt that asking for ‘notes’ on recipes would lead to a more collegial and fact-based atmosphere than one filled with mere comment and opinion,” editor Sam Sifton told the Times Insider Reader Center column. “That’s worked to a large extent.”

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