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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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To Taste
Look, recipe, if I knew how much was gonna taste good, I wouldn't need you.
Title text: Look, recipe, if I knew how much was gonna taste good, I wouldn't need you.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: First draft

Adding some ingredient "to taste" is a common instruction found in cooking recipes. Cueball incorrectly interprets "to taste" as meaning "according to your preference." While preferences do play a role, "to taste" is also an instruction to add a little at a time, tasting after each addition. The reason for this, besides varying preferences, is that the ingredients of a dish are supposed to work as a whole, and the recipe writer can't know exactly the composition of the other ingredients. How ripe are the strawberries? How bitter are the greens?.

The imprecision of recipes is often a sources of frustration to culinary novices, especially the more analytically-minded. Cueball expects a recipe to provide instructions precise enough that by following them carefully, a cook can create a dish exactly as the recipe author intended. Unfortunately, exact replication is impossible in cooking because of the natural variation of ingredients as well as differences in equipment. In addition, most home cooks lack the tools needed to make precise measurements, such as scales and thermometers. Thus, a recipe for strawberry smoothies might read "add sugar to taste" because the recipe-writer can't specify precisely how ripe the strawberries are to begin with. In addition, a smoothie recipe would typically specify imprecise quantities of fruit such as "1 banana" or "1 cup of strawberries" (much less precise than specifying the weight). Thus, it is impossible for the cook to determine the correct amount of sugar without actually tasting the drink.

The instruction "to taste" can also be used for ingredients that alter a simple aspect of the food's flavor, such as saltiness, sweetness, or spiciness, without affecting the quality of the overall dish. Individual preferences can vary wildly and it's not possible for a recipe's author to predict how much the reader will want. Specifying any exact amount in these cases will inevitably lead to the food being too bland for some, while being too strong for others.

In this comic, Cueball is shown as possibly having a massive sweet tooth, and adding large crates of sugar to a small pot, because sugar tastes good.[citation needed] However, this would most likely make the recipe very overly sweet. Alternatively, he could be simply bringing in enough sugar so he will not run out of his ingredient before it reaches the correct level of sweetness for his taste.

The title text indicates that bringing in this much sugar is out of ignorance: Cueball (Randall) does not know how much sugar would be appropriate for his taste, and expects the recipe to specify an exact amount. In his view, mixing in imprecise or "use your own judgment" language makes it less of a "recipe" for the dish, and thus less suitable for those looking for the specific instructions to make the dish because they either have no cooking experience, feel they don't have the expertise to make their own decisions, or simply want to follow clearly defined steps without any decision making required.


[Cueball is standing near a pot on a stove. He is reading a recipe.]

Recipe: ...and add sugar to taste.

Cueball: ??

[Cueball walks off-panel. He returns with a dolly loaded with 3 crates labeled "SUGAR".]

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