Online recipe ratings are broken

Recently, I have noticed that any cooking recipe that I find on the internet is either not rated or rated very highly (between 4 and 5). I did a quick check of the data to confirm my suspicions. On 2 of the top cooking websites ( and I polled the recipes that had exactly one rating. On 75% of recipes were rated 4 or 5. On 91% of the recipes are rated 4 or 5.

This is not good for the end user. Everything they search for is rated somewhere between 4 and 5. However, these websites are not doing anything to solve the problem. Take a look at their rating forms:

Neither guides the user as to how to rate the recipe or what the rating even means. Am I rating the quality of food, the clarity of the instructions, how tasty the image looks, etc? It is not surprising that there is a correlation between recipes having a image and having a higher rating. These web properties don’t want a more even distribution of the ratings. They want to be the best place to find recipes, or at least have that illusion.

So how does the user actually find the best recipe for a particular dish?  I think the solution is simple. Make a recipe rating widget/javascript bookmarklet, (this brings a standard recipe rating system to all recipe websites) which has a rating system that means something. (ie 0-inedible 1-edible 2-good 3-would make again 4-will make regularly 5-one of the best things I have ever eaten) What does everyone think?

rating number of ratings percentage of ratings
1 144 5.86
2 122 4.96
3 345 14.03
4 895 36.4
5 953 38.76 that have images)

rating number of ratings percentage of ratings

51 1 4.53

48 2 4.26

135 3 11.99

433 4 38.45

459 5 40.76

rating number or ratings percentage of ratings
1 403 1.16
2 570 1.64
3 2158 6.2
4 9059 26.01
5 22638 65 that have images)

rating number of ratings percentage of ratings

1 21 0.23

2 51 0.56

3 427 4.65

4 2286 24.89

5 6401 69.68

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  1. Manuel
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    I think the only right way is some kind of this solution:

    You have to rate it twice.
    One rating for the recipe descripton, pictures etc…. and one rating for the prepared product, which you created with this recipe.
    This is the only think to avoid confused user.

  2. restruct
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Your tables are confusing.

    In the “recipes that have images” tables, the first two columns are flipped, and for all the tables, maybe “number or ratings” should be “number of ratings” (I’m not sure).

  3. Kris
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    @restruct I just fixed the tables.

    @manuel Interesting idea. It would be interesting to implement it while keeping things as easy and usable as possible.

  4. John
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Why not just get users to rate each aspect of the recipe seperately, than aggregate the data into an overall rating.

  5. Priti
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I agree with John. You could rate tastiness, readability, difficulty, etc. like people can rate clothes of size/fit, material, style etc. on some sites.
    Rating recipes is difficult because a talented cook could make it amazing, while and untalented cook like myself can ruin it, even when it seems impossible. Several ratings on different aspects would be very useful. I like the idea of then combining the scores to make an average, but I can see why others might not like that idea. A delicious recipe could get a low rating because it is just very difficult.

  6. Kathy
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I review recipes at RZ or (stupid name) frequently–why would I make something if I didn’t think it would be okay or very good in the FIRST PLACE? What experienced cook is going to waste time and money on a recipe they are certain they would NOT like? I would think most cooks feel the same way I do. And I DO review new recipes there too but am very careful.

  7. Lori
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink


    1. On recipezaar (rip), I remember some forum discussion a few years ago noticing that so many recipes had such high ratings, and it mostly came down to that people are usually able to make good choices in selecting recipes that they are likely to enjoy. (I would also agree that people want to validate their choices, and also that there is sort of a community “supportive” feel to handing out 5 stars.)

    2. Interesting idea about standardized rating systems, and also about rating the various aspects of a recipe. These systems could be designed, but I can’t imagine everyone agreeing on what the stars should mean, or imagine them being implemented across the broad spectrum of internet recipes.

    Just to start, you mentioned a rating system: “ie 0-inedible 1-edible 2-good 3-would make again 4-will make regularly 5-one of the best things I have ever eaten”… right there – #4 – what if it’s a specialty thing, so you weren’t going to make it “regularly” anyway, but it was a pretty good dish of what it was, and #5, not just for “best thing ever eaten”, but a GREAT recipe for whatever it is…

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