Lies Martha Stewart Made You Believe About Cooking

Whether you love her, hate her, or want to be her, everyone knows Martha Stewart. She's the media mogul, domestic goddess, and convicted felon who looms large over the "lifestyle brand" universe. Would Goop exist without Martha Stewart? Pinterest? Most of Instagram? Moreover, Martha is, according to her friend Snoop Dogg, a "true baddie" who made crab apple jelly in prison. You do not mess with Queen Martha.

At first glance, it might seem like finding any flaws in Martha Stewart's many recipes, tv show appearances, and pieces of advice that she's doled out in interviews over the years would be next to impossible. Martha doesn't make mistakes. She's a type-A perfectionist who thinks through every single detail. She lives in Westchester County, New York and grows her own citrus in a greenhouse, a single detail that encapsulates the "live generously" ethos of Martha Stewart: do everything the best that you can, down to the last detail. It's that sort of commitment that can make you feel like a real slacker when the recipe you're making calls for fresh lemon, and you reach for the grocery store lemon juice in a bottle. 

But even Martha, patron saint of perfect dinner parties, has misled us a few times.

Her polenta recipe is too fussy

We have a bone to pick with Martha Stewart when it comes to polenta, but in her defense, this is an old wive's tale/kitchen myth that should be put to rest. Too many people buy precooked polenta, a rubbery facsimile of the most delicious, gooey dinner staple because they are intimidated by the idea of polenta. People reach for pre-made tubes of polenta because they think it's like risotto, an actually finicky, easy to screw up dinner starch. Polenta is dead easy. You can make it all the time without Martha Stewart's help. Combine 1 cup of polenta with 3 cups water, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and stir every couple of minutes to avoid lumps. After 30 minutes, you should have a very nice, very easy blank canvas for the rest of your dinner that goes with just about everything. 

Martha's polenta recipes – of course she has more than one – are a bit over the top. You must bring the water to a boil, whisk the polenta into the boiling water with one hand while carefully sifting it through your fingers with the other. And then, of course, finish it with cheese, butter, and heavy cream, which is a great idea if you want to have a polenta hangover.

Martha Stewart forbids you from using truffle oil

Martha Stewart hates truffle oil. She describes it as "horrible" saying in an interview on The Today Show: "It clings to your tastebuds, it's a hideous thing. Forget truffle oil." She also pointed out that truffle oil is synthetic, and that most oils marketed as truffle oil do not contain any actual truffles.

Martha Stewart does make a good point: Truffle oil does not go with everything. It has a strong, overpowering taste, and many professional chefs avoid it because it is so artificial. But Martha Stewart's target audience is not made up of professional chefs with access to real truffles. Black summer truffles are "cheap" for truffles, and they can cost $250 per pound. Martha Stewart's audience is made up of home chefs who want to elevate their dinner party game. Let people put a little truffle oil in their mac and cheese, Martha. To quote Martha Stewart's catchphrase: It's a good thing.

Her s'mores recipes read like a Martha Stewart parody

Do you really need a s'mores recipe? S'mores are so easy that small children can make them on camping trips. Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows smushed together in a sandwich don't exactly seem like a prime candidate for the Martha Stewart treatment. Still, Martha Stewart Living and marthastewart.com have tackled the campfire favorite – more than once. Even if you are an overachiever who's willing to make your own graham crackers, these recipes read like the work of a mad scientist: "Cut chocolate crust into nine 3-inch squares. Top each square with a marshmallow, and place assembled s'mores under the broiler just until marshmallows turn golden brown, about 20 seconds." Chill out, Martha.

Martha Stewart's special technique for making perfect marshmallow roasting sticks – no, she will not use any old stick – got roasted (get it?) on an episode of Whatever, Martha!, a show hosted by her daughter Alexis and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt. In a vintage episode of Martha Stewart Living, Stewart shows how to make a marshmallow roasting stick by taking a birch twig, whittling it to a fine point, and then adding a little strap. She also recommends soaking the wooden sticks before roasting to avoid charring. Martha, have you ever taken a Girl Scout troop camping? They're not going to wait 30 minutes to soak a stick.

Martha Stewart thinks you should blind bake a pie crust for 30 minutes

Martha Stewart's pie advice is, for the most part, on point, and her pie crust recipes use butter, not shortening — a pie crust move that most bakers would 110 percent endorse. And if you're going to make a pie, be like Martha and make your crust. It's not that hard and you will seem like the second coming of Martha Stewart, aka a total dessert champion. And you should absolutely blind bake your pie crust to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom if you're making a pie where the filling is unbaked – you don't want to serve raw dough to your guests – or is very moist, like an apple pie. You can even add a little egg wash if you really need to fortify the curst.

But where Martha Stewart and most pie crust recipes diverge is that she suggests blind baking a pie crust at 375 degrees for thirty minutes, and removing the pie weights to cook the crust an additional 10 minutes. Most recipes will tell you to bake at higher heat for a much shorter time. Blind baking Martha's way will give you a brown but not crisp crust, described in her pre-baked pie crust recipe as "a deep amber," which sounds like a polite way of saying "burnt."

Martha Stewart thinks you should only eat organic, non-GMO food

Martha Stewart believes that a good cook should always carefully select ingredients, and it really is pretty difficult to disagree with that. But in a 2015 interview, Stewart said, "I like to know where my food is coming from." Same, Martha. Sounds reasonable. But she takes it a step further: "There are so many things in the grocery store that I would never ever buy. I mean, a lot. Factory-farmed meat – forget. Non-organic milk. And GMO [genetically modified] vegetables."

Martha Stewart is right, even when she's wrong. She's just that amazing. It's arguably better for the planet and for your health to eat organic, non genetically modified food. And if money was no object, a lot more people probably would prefer to not eat factory-farmed meat. But it's a fact of life that for most of us, money is the deciding factor in what we buy at the grocery store. Is it healthier for you to only eat organic produce? The jury is out. Is non-GMO food better for your body? Not necessarily, and some genetically modified crops taste better. Martha, most of us don't live on vast estates in Westchester County. Cut your fans a little slack.

Martha Stewart is sort of a pumpkin spice hypocrite

During an appearance on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Martha Stewart was asked, "Martha, is pumpkin spice everything delicious or for basic b*****s only?" And she answered, "The latter." The audience screamed, Andy Cohen freaked out, and it was, according to Cohen, the greatest moment in the show's history. But Martha: thy name is hypocrite! Type "pumpkin spice" into the search bar on marthastewart.com and you will get 225 results.

She has a recipe for pumpkin spice cake with honey frosting (Yum). A pumpkin spice latte cake (Double yum). Under Martha Stewart's recipe for a pumpkin spice latte, one disgruntled reviewer left the comment: "Where's the pumpkin?" Pumpkin spice isn't made of pumpkin, but rather, from the spices that go into a pumpkin pie, which Martha Stewart definitely knows, because she also has a recipe for pumpkin pie spice. Stop pretending to be too cool for pumpkin spice, Martha.

That brining a turkey is essential

There are lots of ways to cook a turkey and this might be a controversial statement, but brining is the most overrated, needlessly fussy part of Thanksgiving. Stop brining your turkey! A brined turkey might be moist, but it will also be rubbery and lacking in flavor. And if you've had the misfortune of brining a turkey, you know that it is not exactly a pleasant experience. You have to put a large bird in a huge bucket and somehow fit that in your fridge. But by all means, feel free to dry brine your Thanksgiving bird. It's really easy, and your turkey will have flavorful, crispy skin.

Martha Stewart is a fan of brining, specifically of the wet, messy variety. She has a basic how-to for brining a turkey, a recipe for a heritage turkey with an "aromatic brine," and a recipe for a turkey brine with brown sugar. Long story short, Martha Stewart is a big believer in brining. If you want to wrangle a big bird into a salty bath, go for it, but it's not really necessary.

Martha Stewart's marshmallow snowflake recipe isn't as easy as she makes it out to be

Martha Stewart does not buy marshmallows, and she doesn't make lumpy, ugly marshmallows. She cuts them into decorative stars, and so should you. But her recipe for marshmallow snowflakes left out some important tips for home cooks that — judging by the angry reviews — left some Martha Stewart fans with sticky kitchens and was declared "the worst recipe ever" by some on Reddit.

In all fairness, there's nothing wrong with this recipe, but it reflects an overall issue with a lot of Martha Stewart's recipes: the proper technique is not described in enough detail for your average home cook, and the wording of her recipes can be a bit misleading. You can't really "pour" a marshmallow mixture into a greased pan as the recipe specifies, and it doesn't, to use Martha's word, "spread" easily once in the pan. Marshmallow is incredibly sticky. Use a greased spatula or spoon to remove the marshmallow from your mixing bowl, and press the marshmallow mixture flat with greased plastic wrap or parchment paper instead of spreading it to save yourself a major headache. Not all of us are kitchen wizards, Martha.

Her taste in snacks should make you doubt her overall cooking philosophy

Stars, they're just like us, or at least that's what some of them would like you to think. Even Gwyneth Paltrow claims to occasionally indulge in Doritos and a beer. When Martha Stewart got the "Show us how down to earth you are" question of "What are your favorite guilty pleasure foods?" in an interview with Town and Country, she started strong with a spoonful of peanut butter and American cheese. Then, Stewart shared a favorite snack that ruined her snack credibility: "I eat pickled herring as a late-night snack before I go to bed because it's savory and good." 

It's bad form to yuck anyone's yum, and anyone who comes from similar Eastern European stock - Martha's maiden is the very polish Kostrya – can probably understand the appeal of pickled herring. But before bed? You'll wake up with the worst fish breath in the world. Martha, no!

Speaking of fishy, Martha Stewart's favorite plane snack is a bit inconsiderate. She very understandably eschews airplane food, but she claims that she likes to bring hardboiled eggs (another smelly food) as a snack, and on longer flights, it's even worse. "I'll take some very good food that I know I'll want to eat on the plane. I might make a delicious smoked salmon sandwich on seven-grain bread."  Smoked salmon is great, but it's not okay to bring a fish sandwich on a plane. Again: Martha, no!