Fake 'kitchen hack' videos are getting billions of views

‘Kitchen Hack’ videos are about novel ways to use everyday ingredients and items in the kitchen. These videos are very popular but the ‘hacks’ are sometimes fake and can be dangerous.

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Murray Hinton
April 23, 2021 12:50 am

I am happy to share some insight about my experience with kitchen hacks. I’ve been on an interesting weight loss journey over the years, where I’ve learnt more about nutrition and myself. Usually kitchen hacks are associated with quick, easy and unexpected ways to make something – like making a grilled cheese sandwich by turning your toaster to its side (mentioned by ). But another type of kitchen hack is to make a popular food item with a few basic ingredients. These popular food items can be cookies, pancakes and ice cream, just to name a few.

Kitchen or recipe ‘hacks’ have often been a big part of my weight loss journey, usually stemming from hunger. As the diet would kick in, so would hunger. It was at these times I’d open the laptop and search for hacks to make some of my favorite foods. Ice cream is one of my favorite foods. I can eat a tub in one go. I’m sure many people can. But eating a tub of ice cream wasn’t great for my diet given that a tub would contain over 1,000 calories.

I would always get excited when I’d find an ice cream hack. I’d see a video with hundreds of thousands of views claiming I could make ice cream with 3 basic ingredients. Perfect, I thought to myself. Now I can diet, enjoy some sweet ice cream and still lose weight. Unsurprisingly the images of the ice cream in the thumbnail and video were mouth-watering. Maybe this is the hack I’ve been waiting for!

The problem was the end product would never come out as expected. It looked perfect on screen, but mine would be sludgy, runny and not taste anything close to what was described. It was demoralising in that the hack didn’t meet my expectations – these expectations were set incredibly high from the video description, claiming to share a hack that will give you heavenly tasting ice cream to sate your cravings. But it was also demoralising in that I questioned my culinary ability. It looks great on screen, why can’t I get it right? I wonder what impact these kitchen hacks will be having on aspiring cooks and bakers who plunge into a new hobby, only to be left disappointed; not by their lack of ability, but because of a fake kitchen hack.

The other problem is that these kitchen hacks would be counter-productive to my diet. Sure, they would use zero or low calorie ingredients but what I have learned over time is that volume of food is not always the most important thing. You will hear this a lot from diet gurus. Try to eat high volume, low calorie foods. This will fill your stomach up and will reduce your hunger. This is valid advice, but the problem is that it ignores nutrition! As an example, I have stuffed myself with iceberg lettuce before. Very low calorie and a high volume food. But after eating a large amount of iceberg lettuce, I would always be hungry. Sometimes I’d even order a large pizza afterwards because the lettuce didn’t really do anything. Why is this? It’s because lettuce isn’t hugely nutritious. It’s certainly not bad for you, but your body needs a lot more nutrition than what comes from lettuce. And that’s the key point!

These kitchen hacks would use ingredients that just didn’t satisfy me. I would eat large amounts of nutritionally-deficient ice cream, and still be very hungry afterwards. It led me to understand that giving your body the nutrition that it needs is a better strategy than just ‘filling’ your stomach. And this is another problem I have with kitchen hacks. They will lead to demoralisation of another kind. The kind of demoralisation you feel when you can’t stick to your diet. The kind of demoralisation you feel when you feel like a failure because you didn’t have the willpower to stick to your diet. This is why I feel these kitchen hacks are irresponsible. They claim to provide shortcuts to help you achieve your dieting goals but actually end up doing the opposite. In my experience, kitchen hack videos getting billions of views is not a positive thing and I feel we’d all be better off without them.

Jason Ng
April 20, 2021 10:25 pm

Last year when the Covid-19 pandemic first started spreading and we were confined to our homes, I decided to have a go at being a YouTuber. I spent money on a tripod, microphone and video editing app. I spent time on writing scripts, recording myself, editing footage and uploading my videos. I would be exhausted after just one video. And the response? Maybe 1 view. Perhaps 2 or 3 if I had a lucky day.

Why am I sharing this? Because it brought to the fore how difficult it is to break through on YouTube. Not only does it require consistent effort, but also you need to stand out. But how do you stand out in a gigantic ocean of content that is uploaded every minute? For many YouTubers, creativity is the answer. Do things differently. Or find a space that isn’t too saturated. But for those who are intent on being YouTubers and haven’t had much luck, their choice is to push the boundaries to greater extremes.

If a 500lbs bench press was impressive in 2015, it now has to be a 700lbs bench press. If a 30lbs weight loss transformation was impressive in 2015, it now has to be a 50lbs weight loss transformation. While these are impressive feats and will generate attention and views, they’re not always feasible. I can tell you that if I trained for 100 years, I still wouldn’t be able to bench press 700lbs😅. And this is where viewers get hoodwinked.

Kitchen hack videos are supposed to be simple and easy to accomplish. Some really are useful and save a lot of time – the perfect ‘hack’. But then some leave you thinking something is not quite right. One hack I’ve heard of is the grilled cheese sandwich hack that instructs you to turn your toaster on its side and then put bread and cheese in it. The video makes it look simple. After two simple steps, out comes a picture-perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!

Except it doesn’t work like this. One unwitting viewer of the hack decided to try this with their toaster and it burst into flames. The grilled cheese sandwich is the ‘kitchen hack’ equivalent of the 700lbs bench press. Many people’s toasters aren’t designed to be put on their side. Just like many people’s bodies aren’t designed to bench press 700lbs. In both cases you can get seriously hurt. But this is the reality of a YouTube channel competing for attention. Stick with a regular, tried-and-tested hack that isn’t very impressive? Ok, but you won’t get many views. Or you could embellish your hack and produce an incredible result. It’s potentially dangerous but you could go viral. For some of these channels who are finally getting a taste of success after many failed attempts at getting recognition, they have reconciled themselves with promoting potentially dangerous hacks in exchange for views and subscribers.

Abi Ortega
April 23, 2021 10:47 pm

The popularity of kitchen hack videos is one of the reasons why there is growing discontent on YouTube. This isn’t because people hate kitchen hacks per se, but because of the inconsistency of YouTube’s demonetization and removal policies. Many users complain that reasonable and harmless content gets demonetized and taken down while dangerous kitchen hacks are kept up.

To my knowledge the best example that has caused anger is a kitchen hack by 5-Minute Crafts, a YouTube channel with 72.2 million subscribers. In one of their videos the viewer is encouraged to dip a strawberry into bleach so it loses its color. If viewer comments give any indication, the video has been reported hundreds if not thousands of times. These complaints were ignored by YouTube.

It goes without saying that dipping a strawberry into bleach is not very wise, and could be very dangerous if a child were to replicate this. After mounting pressure from users, this part of their video has been cut out. So why did it take thousands of angry comments from YouTube users for 5-Minute Crafts to remove the clip, yet no action was taken by YouTube?

Most speculate that it’s to do with ad revenues. YouTube would be reluctant to take down a video that is getting millions of views from a family-friendly channel that companies want to advertise on. I very often hear from YouTubers I follow that they would like to move to another platform but without a viable competitor to YouTube, they have no choice.

But I don’t envy YouTube’s position. They have a monumental task on their hands. With 30,000 hours of new content uploaded every hour, there are bound to be some slip ups. Also if a platform has billions of users, even a tiny proportion of unhappy users will still be in the millions. So it’s also an issue of perspective.

The strawberry bleach kitchen hack has now been removed, but it’s still top of mind for may viewers. Yes, the criticism comes from the very dangerous suggestion of dipping strawberries in bleach, but it also stems from YouTube’s blatant dismissal of valid complaints from its users.

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Kaitlyn Mora
April 24, 2021 2:15 pm

Because these kitchen hack videos are getting billions of views, many content creators have taken the opportunity to debunk these hacks. The most recent debunking video I’ve seen is from How To Cook That by Ann Reardon. She talks about a viral video in which someone heats an orange with a blow torch. Yes, seriously. They spin the orange around using a power drill and cut it open to reveal a form of orange jelly. Ann replicates this procedure and the result is no orange jelly. It’s just… an orange.

This leads people to question, why do videos that debunk these hacks only get a fraction of the views? Why are misleading and dangerous hacks favoured over videos that reveal the truth? At the time of recording the video, Ann says the blow torch orange hack had over 20 million views on Facebook.

From a behavioural perspective, it makes sense. You see something quick, novel and useful, so you want to share it. In Jonas Berger’s book, ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’, he talks about 6 principles that encourage sharing. These are Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical and Stories. A kitchen hack that shows someone using a blow torch on an orange spinning around on a power drill fits the Social Currency, Emotion and Practical criteria. Importantly these criteria aren’t able to distinguish if something is fake.

So then the criticism is directed at platforms like YouTube and Facebook, who have made commitments to fight against misinformation. While Ann Reardon is certainly doing well for herself on YouTube with 4.65 million viewers subscribed to her How To Cook That channel, these figures pale in comparison to channels that promote misinformation. , you mentioned 5-Minute Crafts in your insight. A channel that tells you to put a strawberry into bleach has over 70 million subscribers. Ironically, channels that tell you not to do this have a lot less subscribers.

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