If you’ve spent any time at all on TikTok, you’ve definitely come across food-related content. Some of the creators are trained chefs, producing dishes that look as good as they taste. Others are home cooks, demonstrating basic recipes to viewers who want to improve their own cooking skills. Then there are the chefs who cook up controversy, specializing in one thing: rage bait.
What is rage bait, you may ask? It isn’t a dish or a pastry, but rather a technique that involves purposely preparing the grossest recipes imaginable. When viewers see the creator drinking hot cocoa prepared with hot dog water, or eating a sandwich made with pickles and Hershey’s bars, they instantly run to the comments to vent. And guess what? This technique works extremely well to drive engagement, even if much of the feedback is negative. Even if a lot of people hate what they see, they still can’t take their eyes away. They compare it to watching a car crash – it’s just so horrifying they have to watch it.
Of course, since this is TikTok, the broader niche of rage-bait chefs has given rise to several smaller niches. Here’s an overview of what they are.
Creators who just do it for the mayhem
Some people can tolerate disgusting tastes, smells, and textures more than others, which makes them the perfect candidates for this category. Not only do they come up with awful food combinations (like the ones listed above), but they also eat and drink them on camera for their viewers. Not every food creation is consumed, but since that provides half of the shock value, most creators do their best to film themselves at least tasting what they made.
As you can imagine, reactions range from anger to horror to interest. According to some of these creators, a common question they get asked is “are you just doing this for attention?”. In many cases, the answer is “yes, of course I am”. After all, who can claim otherwise after filming themselves eating bologna with a Jolly-Rancher-based sauce?
Experts who are trying to redeem terrible recipes
There are plenty of expert cooks, bakers, and more on TikTok – it’s actually a fairly saturated market. Even though they could impress followers with their amazing skills, some of them choose to go a slightly different route. Rather than buying regular (or gourmet) ingredients to prepare a normal recipe, they challenge themselves to turn things like fast food, frozen food, or low-quality processed food into something that could be offered in a top-notch establishment.
When they’re able to pull it off, viewers are genuinely amazed by the prowess of the chef. When things go awry, viewers are just as vocal about how terrible the end result looked. Either way, the creator wins because they succeeded in entertaining their followers, and the followers win because they watched some genuinely engrossing content.
Creators who genuinely mean well
A prime example of this is Kay’s Cooking, who’s on both TikTok and YouTube. She’s been featured in multiple reaction videos for her horrendous dishes, with some of them going viral. Her comment sections are flooded with people criticizing her technique and talking about how nasty the dish looks…but they have even more positive comments, complimenting Kay’s good vibes, authenticity, and Northern English accent. Speaking of that last one, her account is worth a watch purely because of the way she says “honions” instead of “onions”.
On this type of TikTok account, you might see such unforgivable sins as starting a fried rice recipe by sautéing dry rice, baking recipes without combining the wet and dry ingredients separately, and making Tex-Mex food with little to no seasoning. You’ll still be horrified by most of the results, but the odd success here and there will have you cheering with the rest of the viewers.
TikTok is full of trolls, and many of them are firmly established in the platform’s food niche. In contrast to the creators who cook up disastrous dishes and admit that everything about them is wrong, these creators combine ingredients that should never be combined, and pretend that they taste delicious. Unfortunately, many of these videos are so successful that they turn into viral trends that countless other creators decide to imitate. Who wouldn’t want to mix Hot Cheetos, ground beef, raw eggs, and other ingredients in the Hot Cheeto bag and cook them as is? In theory, it’s possible to imagine some combination of these ingredients tasting good. After all, they’re all savory and flavorful when properly prepared.
However, all of these dishes are missing the “properly prepared” part. Some creators microwave raw eggs, which is extremely dangerous when they’re still in the shell. Others stir up controversy by boiling expensive steaks, putting caviar in flavorless smoothies, and other wasteful practices – all while denying that anything’s abnormal. Not only is this misleading to viewers who may believe that these are legitimate recipes, but they also encourage food waste. Who’s going to eat those recipes once they discover how disgusting they are?
Creators who try to corrupt familiar recipes
Sacred cows make the best hamburgers – unless those hamburgers are made with weird ingredients that don’t blend together. There are countless dishes that people hold dear from their childhood, from mac and cheese to chicken fried steak. There are also countless TikTok creators who decide to recreate these dishes, but with a twist that leaves viewers wanting to tear their hair out. Mac and cheese gets turned into spaghetti in Velveeta, and chicken fried steak gets turned into microwaved beef encased in flour-based glue. Just like with the other types of food creators, these videos get high engagement rates thanks to all the negative comments.
Not wanting to eat it doesn’t mean not wanting to watch it
Despite the controversies surrounding trolls and food waste, these niches are still going strong on TikTok. The fact is that even though very few of these dishes look edible, viewers will always have an appetite for this type of content.