Recipe recommendations and menu planning essentially have the same problem on different scales. With recipe recommendations, there are a lot of different variations on a given recipe. With menu planning questions, there are a lot of different dishes you could decide to make. Either way, it's difficult to keep things objective and sufficiently brief to work in our format, and you end up asking people "what do you like to eat?" So both are routinely closed as off-topic.

For recipe recommendations, we have a canonical close reason:

Requests for recipe recommendations are off-topic; everyone has their own favorites. However, if you have a recipe already you can ask for help improving it - just be specific about what you want.

I sometimes apply this to menu planning questions, because it applies in a sort of fuzzy way: menu planning questions are asking for people to recommend a dish or recipe (or many of them), except minus the specificity of asking for a recipe for a single dish, so they're kind of like really bad recipe requests. But it's not perfect, and a couple times I've had people read it literally and say "but I wasn't asking for a recipe."

So: should we revise that close reason to more explicitly include menu planning? If so, what is your proposed wording?

Note: if you don't think that it should be added to that close reason, that's a totally fine answer. I'm not asking for a separate close reason in that case, though, because (a) menu planning is less common than recipe requests, so I doubt it merits a close reason all to itself and (b) we've already used our default allotment of 3 (nutrition/medical advice; recipe recommendations; what can I do with X) so we couldn't add an additional one even if we wanted to.

Another note: please take it as given that custom close reasons are a good idea, that we will use them, and we will strive to make them as good as possible. Any side discussion of whether custom close reasons are useful in the first place is out of scope for this question. If you wish to discuss that, please ask a new question.

2 Answers 2


This is a draft wording to try to get discussion going. We don't have to use this, but it might be easier to decide whether we want to make a change if we hash out a reasonably good possible wording first.

Requests for recipe recommendations and meal planning are off-topic. Whether you ask "how do I make X?" or "what should I make?", there are plenty of possibilities, and everyone has their own favorites. However, if you have a recipe already you can ask for help improving it - just be specific about what you want.

And a straw man for consolidating with the "what to make with X?" reason since it was suggested:

Requests for recipe or meal recommendations are off-topic. Whether you ask "what is a recipe for dish X?", "what should I make with ingredient Y?", or "what should I serve with dish Z?", there are a lot of recipes and dishes you can make, and everyone has their own favorites. However, if you have a recipe already you can ask for help improving it - just be specific about what you want.



a) I think "primarily opinion-based" is sufficient as close reason.

b) Why stop combining recipe recommendations with menu-planning? What about flavor-pairing? This applies in a fuzzy way, too, it is like a recipe recommendation, just with a higher focus on flavors. (This is a rhetorical question, I know why it is a bad idea to include multiple items in a single reason.)

c) I think custom close reasons would be improved if we incorporate the primarily-opinion based reasons in a single custom close reason according to the "Everyone has a favorite answer that are all equally valid and so this is a never-ending question." motto. This would include the "What to do with this ingredient?" custom close reason. The text would either list the most famous primarily-opinion based off-topic reasons or link to the help center off-topic part. This would free up a custom close reason for "food safety", which occurs much more than menu-planning.

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. (Removing all discussion since it's there.)
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 24, 2015 at 22:02
  • (a) is missing the point - "opinion-based" is not entirely sufficient, and even if it is, that doesn't mean it's ideal. As for (b), remember that "slippery slope" isn't really an argument, and that we already have "What can I do with [ingredient]?", which implicitly includes many types of flavor pairing questions, and if did want to make specifically flavor pairing more explicitly off topic, that's the one we'd fold it into.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 24, 2015 at 22:33
  • My answer never stated that custom close reasons are counterproductive. My answer stated that off-topic is used to explain why we consider something primarily opinion-based. Nov 24, 2015 at 22:50
  • Okay, apparently I misinterpreted several things that you said that all pointed in the direction of you not liking custom close reasons and not wanting to touch them. Now that I understand that you're totally happy to try to improve them and use them well, we're all good.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 24, 2015 at 22:58
  • (c) - I think we're getting back to a slight misunderstanding of the purpose of these reasons. These are categories of questions that we've declared off-topic, partially because they tend to be opinion-based, but also partially because they tend to be broad, and also because the category as a whole might include a few that are tolerable but most aren't, and we're sick of debating where to draw the line.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 24, 2015 at 23:32
  • It's plausible that we can consolidate recipe recommendations with flavor pairing/what to do with X in addition to menu planning, and if we can find a way to clearly word it I might be in favor, but I'm afraid it'd get a bit confusing, and I also don't know that we need to. What food safety off-topic reason are you proposing? Food safety is on topic, and we have all kinds of questions and answers about it.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 24, 2015 at 23:33
  • @Jefromi Well, the help center does state that food safety questions are off-topic and will be closed. Nov 24, 2015 at 23:35
  • It's a lot more specific than that: "If you ask a question on how long improperly stored food will be safe (e.g. "I forgot meat on the counter overnight), it will be closed. Please refer to our food safety faq to learn the basic rules of food safety." and we don't close those as off-topic, we close them as duplicates of a handful of canonical questions. So we don't need a custom reason for them - in fact, we already effectively have custom close reasons, which point the user at a page (a canonical question) with general information which addresses the question.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 24, 2015 at 23:40
  • @Jefromi "Can I store a fresh turkey in my garage for a few days?" is on-topic and "I left my turkey in my my garage for a few days" is off-topic? I'm not surprised that nobody gets the rules. Nov 24, 2015 at 23:53
  • Again, the food safety questions are not off-topic. Most of them are duplicates of canonical questions, and if you actually manage to ask a new food safety question (e.g. about time to make meat safe at a given temperature with sous vide) it's totally on topic. The decision is always just "is this covered by an existing question?" which I don't think is a terribly complicated rule, and is also a fundamental part of how the site works, food safety or no.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 25, 2015 at 0:10
  • @Jefromi I'm quite sure that after 5 years all rules will be very simple for me, too and it will then make total sense for me to declare topics as off-topic but close them as duplicate. Anyway, there is one kind of off-topic/duplicate food-safety that would be better handled as custom close reason, which answers your question which kind of food safety I had in mind to close with a custom close reason. I refrain from preparing a text suggestion for the new recipe/menu custom close reason due to the likelihood that it gets shot down anyway. Nov 25, 2015 at 0:24
  • What is this one kind of off topic food safety question you want a reason for? And why do you say off-topic/duplicate? A duplicate question by definition is on-topic: we're saying it's the same question as one that was already asked and answered and thus was on-topic. I see now why you're confused: the food safety questions are under the "off topic" section in the help center, despite that not really being site policy (we basically never close them as off-topic). That clause was also added just one week ago, which explains why I was totally unaware they'd been implicitly declared off-topic.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 25, 2015 at 0:31
  • And of course, if you have any wording in mind, please feel free to propose it. Again, I'm in principle fine with any consolidation as long as we can manage to make it really make sense to people. If it feels like we've forcibly glommed things together, no good. If it feels natural, awesome.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Nov 25, 2015 at 0:39

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