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The Best Recipe Search Engine On The Internet Is About To Disappear

Today a recipe aggregator called Punchfork announced it's being acquired by Pinterest and eventually shutting down. This is very sad and here's why.

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I have spent the past six years of my life looking at recipes online all day every day. And Punchfork was my favorite website for discovering recipes. But now it's been acquired by Pinterest, which intends to effectively shut down Punchfork. This is THE WORST.

Punchfork was founded by Jeff Miller, an very smart engineer in the Bay Area who started the site in January 2011 with $20,000 of his own money. He used social data like tweets, Facebook shares and Pinterest pins (ding ding!) to measure which recipes are going viral then aggregated them on his site with a bunch of extra bells and whistles.

Read carefully, Miller's acquisition announcement suggest that this whole thing is an "acqui-hire" — meaning Pinterest bought Miller and his skills solely to improve Pinterest, not to integrate Punchfork into Pinterest or use Pinterest's vast resources to make Punchfork better. Here's why this is terrible:

Miller found a way to pare down the Internet and highlight recipes from sources that I trust. Smitten Kitchen. Oh She Glows. The Kitchn. CHOW. Whole Living. Not every single home cook blog in the entire universe.


A quick and dirty and probably kind of rude rundown of why everyone else is sort of awful:

Gojee: Like staring at a billboard. I'm paralyzed. Where's the search bar? OK I just searched for duck breast why am I looking at a 2000-pixel wide picture of a red onion?

Yummly: Ugly. Not enough photos. Where do these recipes come from? Quit trying to sell me stuff.

Foodily: Ok not bad but SO BUSY and why am I only looking at four recipes at a time?

Epicurious: Epi I love you so much and you have the best recipes on the entire Internet, but it's 2012 and you haven't really changed since 1995. Those search thumbnails don't even count as real pictures. Neither do any of the photos anywhere on your recipe pages, even on the photo tab. Clicking a "next" button to see the next 10 search results makes me lose my mind and so I just haven't really been using you anymore. Gotta go, byeeee.

Allrecipes and UGH gross too many crappy recipes that don't work. Ugly.

Food Network: Same problems as Epi? But with somehow even uglier photos. And only Food Network recipes so not as cool.

Delish: Ok, not bad, but the search thumbnails are too small.

Foodgawker and Tastespotting: GOOD but not as good as Punchfork for finding recipes I really want to cook because they pull from too many random sources, but this is pretty nice.

Punchfork: Ahhhhh, relief.

(I know this isn't a totally thorough list — I'm sure I forgot some — and please let me know if there's another one you use.)

This is a scary time for food magazines, cookbook authors, and all the other people who make a living by creating trustworthy recipes that work. It takes time and money to do it right — especially to also produce good pictures of those recipes — and as traditional media struggles to adapt to digital publishing, there are less and less ways to get paid well for developing recipes. Plus, you can't actually copyright a recipe, or more specifically, its list of ingredients.

Punchfork was an aggregator, yes, and people complain about aggregators. But for a user to see the full recipe, her or she had to go back to the actual source — and Punchfork aggregated only from original sources. Also, Miller worked directly with recipe publishers to help them maximize traffic and improve their product. When I was at Bon Appetit, he sent us spreadsheets breaking down the total clicks and total saves our recipes got each day. It also told us how many shares a recipe got broken down by Facebook, tweets, etc. That was awesome. Those hand-crafted stats will most certainly disappear at Pinterest.

And look there's a photo credit with Deb Perelman's (the author of Smitten Kitchen) name under that photo! That's really something.


It loads fast. It feels thorough without being overwhelming. The pictures are big even if they are blown out. (I don't care I just want to see what I'm getting before I click.) The newest stuff finds its way to the top. The recipe titles are big enough without intruding on the photo. The logo appearing next to each source makes it easy to browse and know what you're looking it. You can sort by diet (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo) (paleo! hahaha). You can sort by popularity or newness or rating.

Boy do I love Pinterest, but when it comes to finding recipes, it has its issues.

1. I could click on a photo of food on Pinterest and twelve clicks later I'm still not looking at its recipe — if one even exists on the Internet, who knows. Pinterest doesn't.

2. Looking at the search results for "duck breast" on Pinterest, I have no idea who the recipe creator is. And that's something I use to quickly judge the quality of a recipe when I'm in a hurry.

3. I could also be looking for duck breast recipes on Pinterest and end up looking at a breast cancer awareness bathtub duckie. Actually that's very charming, so it's ok.

Miller made all this great stuff happen. Now he's going to work at Pinterest, it seems. So maybe he can make recipe search really awesome on Pinterest? GET 'ER DONE MILLER. We're counting on you.

Food Editor

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