The Ultimate Lasagna Cook-Off: AR vs. AI
Allrecipes' most popular lasagna faces off against robot-generated recipes, and the results surprise us all.
Unless you've been hiding in your pantry behind electromagnetic shielding and vintage Tupperware, you've probably been hearing a lot lately about artificial intelligence chatbots coming on the scene in many different ways, including to help us in the kitchen.
Whether you think of these technological advances as a benefit or a burden depends solely on your personal outlook. I was very dubious, especially after hearing accounts on how it can all go terribly wrong, "Terminator"-style. But the tipping point for me more recently was realizing that, on the flip side, it’s kind of fun to interact with robots—like a grown-up version of SmarterChild (IYKYK).
So I jumped aboard and started experimenting. A friend sent me a poem she prompted ChatGPT to write that was compelling, to say the least. My kids asked me a question (“Is there an animal that lives on every continent?”) that my chat window easily answered (“No single animal species is known to live on every continent….”). I've even used a bot twice already for this very article to check on a synonym and an AP style rule (though the writing is all mine, for better or worse).
But, the real reason we’re here now is that a colleague sent us AI-generated lasagna recipes he thought were worthy of a face-off. In true Allrecipes fashion, we were curious to put these lasagnas to the test.
To really make it interesting, we also wanted to see how they would stack up against Allrecipes' tried-and-true World's Best Lasagna recipe, and determine which recipe reigns supreme. In the battle of AI versus AR, whose lasagna will come out on top?
The AI Contenders
In the artificial intelligence corner, we have ChatGPT from OpenAI which, "interacts in a conversational way...[with a dialogue format that]...makes it possible for follow-up questions," and Bard, "your creative and helpful collaborator, here to supercharge your imagination, boost your productivity, and bring your ideas to life," from Google.
The lasagna recipes produced by the AI contingent were pretty similar. At first glance, Bard's seems to be the most basic, with only one type of meat, the least amount of tomato products, and no egg. But it did encourage us to "Enjoy!" at the end, so bonus points for that. ChatGPT introduced its recipe with a little context and gave the option of using two kinds of meat, along with some added seasonings to the sauce. Both recipes are formatted clearly and are easy enough to read and follow.
Bard's Lasagna Recipe
ChatGPT's Lasagna Recipe
The Home Cook Contender
Allrecipes' World Best Lasagna
For starters, the World's Best Lasagna recipe page is so much more than a recipe. There is a video and lots of helpful tips to answer any question you may have while preparing this dish—plus over 17,000 5-star reviews to back it all up. I was most excited to make and try this one, as it's been on my list of recipes to test out for a while.
The Lasagna Cook-Off Taste Test Results
To put these dishes to the test, I cooked all three at the same time, with the same brand of ingredients, and followed the recipes exactly as written. The process of making the three different lasagna recipes was pretty similar: Prepare the sauce, cook the noodles, make the cheese mixture, assemble, and bake.
The Bard recipe was the easiest and quickest, and I could tell, even before baking, that it would also be the simplest in flavor. The Allrecipes version was the longest to put together, but only because the sauce cooks for over an hour. Because of this, it also stands to reason that it would pack the most flavor. I was most curious to see where the ChatGPT recipe would land.
Once all three were baked and rested, I had a group of friends and family help me tackle the pans of lasagna and vote on their favorite in a blind tasting. Here are the results.
Bard came in last with very little love. In fact, I still have most of the pan left as I write this. The flavor just wasn't there for us. As mentioned above, when I saw this recipe, as a human, I knew it needed some tweaks. Longer cooking time for the sauce, more seasoning, fresh herbs, and the like.
It did have two things going for it though; It was done in under an hour, and it was actually the top pick of the kids under 10 who tasted all three lasagna choices (in my experience, younger taste buds like more plain food so this made sense to me). The only way I would use this recipe again is if the AI could actually assemble and bake the lasagna for me.
Second Place Runner Up
ChatGPT got second, but it was much closer than expected to our first-place winner. It was actually pretty spot on, flavor-wise—and though there seemed to be a lot of sauce in proportion to the other components, it worked in the end, making for a balanced slice of lasagna. It feels like ChatGPT scanned the World Wide Web, full of all its lasagna iterations, and spat out an average sum of all the parts.
I would say if you wanted to skip sausage, this would be a fine recipe to use. But there are so many quality lasagna recipes out there, ChatGPT's might just get lost in the shuffle.
First Place Winner
We can all breathe a sigh of relief, our World's Best Lasagna recipe came out of top. Everyone went back for more and the pan was quickly emptied. It was hard to compete with the flavor bomb created here with zesty sausage, rich tomato paste, fresh herbs, and good ol' human touch. It took the longest to make but it was worth the extra effort. This recipe was clearly created with love and it came through in the finished product.
There's something to be said for a family recipe that has stood the test of time through generations of cooks, reading the same words, making similar measurements, and savoring the balanced flavors. Since AI will never physically understand this, though it might intellectually grasp it, it's no wonder robots can't compete in the kitchen with home cooks like us.