Foods you should never prepare yourself

"What items do you find are not worth preparing yourself, because store bought is just better?" That's the question that started a lengthy thread on Reddit, and for the original poster, that item was ketchup. "Heinz Ketchup is the only ketchup as far as I am concerned," they explained. "Every time I get homemade ketchup at a restaurant it does not stand up."

That pro-Heinz sentiment rang true with plenty of Redditors, along with other iconic foods that were deemed not worth preparing yourself, due to the simple fact that the store-bought versions have a certain taste that is impossible to replicate at home. Others cited foods that cost too much money or take too much time to make at home, like labor-intensive pastry dough and a certain Vietnamese soup that the one and only Chrissy Teigen famously griped about.

So what items are you really better off buying? Take a cue from these Redditors (along with some food industry pros who happen to agree), and skip the whole Martha Stewart routine when it comes to these foods.

Cake mix

There's just no need to make cake from scratch according to this Redditor, who said, "Cake mixes. You can make your own, but for most people it'll end up being less flavorful and much more dense than a store bought mix." And Alton Brown happens to agree.

But what gives? Isn't homemade always better? In an episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown explains why mixes are superior, saying, "As much as I hate to admit it, it is darn tough to bake a cake from scratch that is better than a cake made from mix. That's because these designer concoctions contain high-tech ingredients that average cooks like you and I can't get our oven mitts on." That high-tech ingredient he's referring to is polyglycerol esters (PGEs), which according to Bakerpedia, are used as an emulsifying agent in baked goods. PGEs allow the water and flour to mix, resulting in a far moister cake than your homemade version.

It's not just home cooks who reach for the box, either. Even professional bakers rely on cake mixes but — and Alton Brown agrees here, too — they also say that homemade frosting is a must. Moral of the story: Buy the boxed mix, skip the canned frosting.

Pho

On the subject of homemade pho, many Redditors agreed that it's just not worth making at home. One commenter bemoaned the fact that they were never able to replicate restaurant quality soup, saying "…haven't been able to make anything edible in comparison." Another complained, "I made a decent pho before, but it was expensive in both time and ingredients. Totally not worth it unless you're making a huge batch for a party or something."

It's true… traditional pho does come with a long list of ingredients, and some can be a bit harder to obtain, like beef shin and oxtail. There's also three other kinds of meat to buy, meaning your trip to the butcher will likely have a hefty price tag. And if you do check off all the items on your extensive grocery list, you're looking at many hours of cooking. Chrissy Teigen fell into the homemade pho trap, and even the author of two best-selling cookbooks quickly learned that she bit off more than she could chew. "I'm making pho tonight and just finding the ingredients has me positive a bowl of pho in a restaurant should be 87,000 dollars," she tweeted. Teigen later followed up with an Instagram post, warning, "20 HOURS LATER, I HAVE COMPLETED MAKING MY OWN PHO AND I WILL LITERALLY NEVER DO THIS AGAIN EVER. GO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PHO PLACE UNLESS YOU FEEL LIKE RIPPING YOUR HAIR OUT." 

Puff pastry

Look, you're already buying boxed cake mix, why on earth would you attempt homemade puff pasty? One Redditor explained, "Puff pastry is incredibly difficult to do well, in bulk, and simply isn't worth the labor cost the vast majority of the time."

Serious Eats describes puff pastry as "one of the most grueling pastries to make at home, requiring patience, precision, time, and a whole lot of space." Most of us don't possess even one of those necessary requirements, let alone all of them, and according to this Redditor, even bakeries use the frozen stuff: "I used to work at a bakery, and still do a lot of baking at home, and my personal opinion is… no [making it from scratch is not worth it]. Hell, we didn't even make it at the bakery. We used Pillsbury," they dished. "It takes FOREVER and never comes out quite right, and you're left feeling slightly bereft because something that took that much time should be perfect, right? So yeah, store bought is kind of expensive, but worth it to save you from wasted time and tears."

Ketchup

One condiment that popped up again and again on the thread was ketchup. "I once made ketchup. It was hard, time consuming, messy, and in the end was just not that great. I think I spent like ~20$ on ingredients when a ~4$ bottle of Heinz is just perfect. Never again," one Redditor complained. Others agreed that due to cost, time, effort, and maybe most importantly, taste, homemade ketchup isn't worth making at home. After all, Heinz is synonymous with ketchup, and that Heinz flavor is what we expect when we slather our burgers with what what the company itself has deemed "America's Favorite Ketchup."

Claire Lower, writing for Lifehacker, summed up what the masses are thinking, saying, "Ketchup is not something that needs to be elevated… Though it contains tomatoes, ketchup is not tomato flavored; nay, it is ketchup flavored. It should be sweet…, tangy, and impossibly smooth. Homemade ketchup is rarely all of these things (or any of them to the proper extent), and I wish people would quit making it."

So… Can you make homemade ketchup? Sure. But will it be cheaper than a bottle? No. And will you ever replicate Heinz in the comfort of your own kitchen? No. Proof that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Filo dough

More finicky dough, and this time it's filo. As one Redditor so aptly put it: "I will never ever attempt filo at home. It's so cheap at the grocer that it's not worth losing my sanity over." Even working with pre-made filo dough is a test of patience, what with all the rips and tears, and the need to keep it constantly moist, but not too moist. Imagine actually making the paper-thin dough from scratch.

Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry can't imagine it. She explained to The Daily Mail that it simply "takes too much time and skill," saying, "I never make filo pastry because it takes so much effort and I am short of time. I think the last time I did make it from scratch was when I was a teenager training at cookery school. Instead, I buy it for about £2 from Greek shops in London. I then use what I need and keep the rest in the freezer." If frozen filo dough is good enough for Berry, it's good enough for us.

Mayonnaise

When it comes to mayonnaise, it's the familiar flavor of the brand names that the masses are accustomed to. So while you can make homemade mayo fairly easily, it's not going to have that certain taste we all know and love. As one Redditor explained, "Hellman's taste is so deeply embedded in my mind that only the regular full fat Hellman's tastes right."

Another problem with from-scratch mayo is its short shelf life, which this Redditor pointed out: "My issue with homemade is storage. I whip up a batch, seven days later it's dead, I throw it away. The next day, I want a sandwich, remember that I threw out my mayonnaise, and the cycle starts again… If it's for something specific or that I want to really use the best for, absolutely. It's easy and quick. But, I still keep that jar of Hellman's in the fridge for when I'm just making a turkey sandwich." 

Since most recipes call for raw egg yolks, you can't shove your jar of the homemade stuff to the back of the fridge and forget about it — at best you have a few days in which to use it or lose it. Store-bought, on the other hand, generally has around a one-year "best by" date, so unless you're using a lot of mayonnaise on the regular, it's probably best to buy. 

Sushi

Sushi chefs train for years to achieve master status, so what makes us think we can just whip up some rolls at home on a whim? One Redditor who won't be attempting the complicated process, said, "I get that people want to make it for the experience or what have you, but to source sushi grade fish, buy the nori, avocado, cucumber, whatever else is involved, oh man, I'd rather just pay the bill at a sushi restaurant."

Aside from the skill involved, there can also be a lot of ingredients to buy, of which you only end up using tiny amounts for each roll. And let's not forget about the potential of parasites and bacteria. According to Serious Eats, most fish needs to be frozen for a specific period of time to kill any parasites present before consuming raw, and home freezers don't get cold enough. "Temp-abuse" is also a concern — that's when fish is kept at unsafe temperatures allowing bacteria to grow. Is the risk worth it? If you're still hellbent on making homemade sushi, The New York Times has a simple solution: Skip the fish. Veggie rolls, anyone?

Croissants

In his song "I Am a God," Kanye West rapped, "In a French-a** restaurant/ Hurry up with my damn croissants." Sorry, Ye, but croissants aren't exactly fast food, and that's why nobody wants to make them at home. As this Redditor so succinctly put it, "If you're making croissants on the reg you crazy."

On The Impatient Foodie's "Worth It/Not Worth It" series, Ally-Jane Grossan tried her hand at the very involved process of making croissants, for which she needed special equipment and a whole lot of time — two days to be exact. Though in the end she deemed her finished product "divine," Grossan ultimately landed on "not worth it" when it came to making the pastry at home. "I'll leave this one to the professionals," she decided. 

Even seasoned bakers don't see the value in from-scratch croissants, like this Redditor, who said, "I've been baking bread and pastries regularly for over 10 years and getting croissants to the quality of ones you buy in a decent bakery or even a supermarket isn't worth the time and effort."

Jam

Making jam isn't overly complicated or hard to do, but the general consensus amongst Redditors is this: "I can make good jam and have plenty of times. But unless you're overwhelmed with some specific fruit it's probably not worth the effort." Others lamented the cost of all the canning supplies, saying that unless you're making jam every week, it isn't particularly cost-effective. "My venture into preserve making was EXPENSIVE. Canner, cans and all the other paraphernalia. Yes I can make jams, chutneys and pickles. But I at least regret getting all the kit at once," explained one Redditor, and another agreed, saying, "Yeah, it's not a cost efficient process if you're having to buy the ingredients as well."

Jennifer Reese looked into how cost-effective is it to make homemade pantry staples for Slate, and when it came to jam, her conclusion echoed these sentiments. "Make it, but only when the fruit is free or close to it," she said.

Mac and cheese

How could store-bought mac and cheese possibly beat out homemade? Well, for some, the taste of that classic blue box is exactly what they want when it comes to their mac — yes, even with its powdered cheese and neon color. This Redditor explained, "Something about a box of Kraft Mac' just does it for me. Probably just nostalgia." Another Redditor agreed, saying, "Kraft flavor is mac and cheese to me. Eating real mac and cheese seems like a different food." And these Kraft devotees are far from alone — entire articles have been written on the subject of its appeal. 

Even those who appreciate a homemade version can admit that there's something to be said for the boxed stuff. "They are both good in different ways, but the Kraft stuff should be called 'noodles and yummy yellow sauce.' It's good, but it's not homemade mac and cheese," one Redditor said. We couldn't agree more — it is indeed yummy yellow sauce, and it gets bonus points for being super easy to make.