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5 American Dishes with Catastrophic Design Flaws (and Their Solutions)

Did you ever eat a cupcake? I bet when you did you took a massive load of frosting and a mouselike nibble of cake in the first bite. Here, 5 foods with design problems, and how to fix them.

1. The Hard Taco
By “taco,” I mean the hard-shell taco, of course. Inauthentic, mass-produced and despised by foodies, we’ve all eaten one, and some of us have done so in the past 24 hours. But the taco—this taco—has a problem so basic that I still am amazed by it. Typically meat goes in, followed by some kind of plastic lettuce, and finally shredded cheddar-flavored cheese food. You then tilt it and your head at opposite angles, and hope all the cheese doesn’t fall out. Worse still, the cheese that does remain is cold and waxy and pointless and gross.

Solution: Insist they mix the cheese and lettuce in with the meat; that’s the whole idea anyway. The cheese should give the lean and gnarly meat some much needed fat, and the lettuce some much needed texture. No taco place will ever do this, of course.

2. The Roast
We now switch gears to the very heart of home cooking: the roast. It doesn’t matter what kind, because they all have the same problem. You can do whatever the hell you want to the outside, be it glazing, seasoning, spreading herb butter. But the inside will stay exactly the same as if you had just unwrapped it and thrown it into a cold oven. This depresses me.

Solution: This problem was solved once and forever by meat guru Adam Perry Lang, who prescribes a “board dressing.” You cut the roast on the cutting board, spilling its juices all over. To these, you add herbs, seasoning, garlic, you name it. You mix up all the pieces with this potent mix and—finally!—every bite is equally flavorful.

3. The Hamburger
“Now hold on a minute,” you must be saying. “Are you out of your mind, Ozersky? You have said yourself on countless occasions that the hamburger is perfect and can’t be improved!” And how right I was when I said that. But that was the ideal hamburger. In the real world, most burgers are served on buns that are split two thirds of the way down. The thinnest part, therefore, bears the entire weight of the burger, along with—more importantly—it’s whole grease load. Madness!

Solution: Obviously, the solution is to use a bun cut neatly in the middle. But since all food-service buns come presliced, that isn’t an option. So I sometimes turn the burger upside down, which also has the added benefit of keeping the various toppings from sliding off the meat.

4. The Cupcake
Again, it’s a wonder to me that something as stupid as a cupcake exists, at least in its current form. Did you ever eat a cupcake? I bet when you did you took a massive load of frosting and a mouselike nibble of cake in the first bite. You then wiped the frosting off your moustache, did it again and were then left with a narrow, dry cake stump. Which you then threw away.

Solution: As carefully as possible, cut the top layer of cupcake away, and flip it upside down. You now have a symmetrical layer cake with a bulge in the middle and easy to hold, and bite, cake on either side. Thank you.

5. The Fruit Pie
Traditional fruit pies are sublime in theory. Homemade crust, so delicate and savory. Warm, caramelized seasonal fruit. A delicate dusting of sugar on top. Love, tradition and technique, all coming together under a mother’s loving hand. That is, until you go to serve it, at which point it immediately self-destructs, leaving behind something that looks as if it were hit by a grenade.

Solution: There is no solution.

Related: Incredible Cupcakes
Fantastic Roasts
America's Best Burgers

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