Part of our Getting Started with BigOven blog series
One important job we have here at BigOven is putting you in touch with just the right recipe, as quickly and conveniently as possible. At this writing, there are over 350,000 public recipes in the archive, with hundreds of thousands more stored privately*, and hundreds more being added every day. So how do you make sure you’re finding the best one?
You’ll find the search box at the top of every BigOven.com page.
The short answer is that you can use BigOven like a Google for recipes: simply look at the top of any page on www.bigoven.com, type your search term and press return, and you’ve generally got the recipe you’re looking for on the first page. But it goes way beyond Google, since the recipe results are actionable and mobile — you can build up your own collection, store them in folders*, make grocery lists, menu plans and much more.
But it can also help to know the nitty-gritty of how BigOven recipe search and sorting works. So I wanted to take a moment to explain that, and provide a few tips to help you locate the right recipes straightaway.
- BigOven’s default search is a title search. That is, BigOven first looks in the recipe’s title for the search keywords you enter. In the image above, I’ve entered “chicken teriyaki”, and the keyword(s) I entered are echoed back to me at the top of the search results page (marker 1 in the image above.)
- If you go to BigOven and type “chicken teriyaki”, it will first display a list of all the recipes that have some form of the word “teriyaki” and “chicken” in the recipe title. This restriction is by design. With an October 2014 update, the keywords you enter no longer need to be a precise match — for instance, a search for “stir fries” will show recipes for “chicken stir fry” in the title.
- Our usability tests indicate that the vast majority of times, people enter (parts of) recipe titles into the search boxes, so defaulting to title-based search often yields great results right away. But there are some searches (for instance, an ingredient or technique-based search (“oranges peanuts beef”), or an appliance/technique search (“slow cooker chicken”). For these types of searches, be sure to click the “Broaden Search” button (marker 3) before evaluating the results.
- The search results page will show you the number of recipes found (2) and tell you the default sort order, as well as the number of recipes in each course (main dish, appetizers, etc.) (5).
- Noise words like “the”, “for”, “recipe”, “is”, and “dish” will be ignored.
- You can broaden the search by clicking the “Broaden search” button (3) that lives at the top of the search results. This will execute another search, examining the entire recipe, including instructions, title, ingredients, and more. On that “broad search” page, you’re also offered the one-click “narrow search” option, to go back to a title-based search, so you can toggle back and forth between them.
- Power-user tip: You may notice that there are regular, predictable URLs that are generated for “title” search and “anywhere” search. A search for chicken teriyaki recipes by title looks like this: http://www.bigoven.com/recipes/chicken%20teriyaki/title. A search for recipes with the words “chicken” or “teriyaki” anywhere in the recipe document looks like this: http://www.bigoven.com/recipes/chicken%20teriyaki/best.
- You can search for a particular cook’s recipes by including their username in the search, but you must click that “broaden the search” button to see them. (And you will not see the recipes they post privately, unless you’re signed in as them.)
What about sort order? You might think a great way to sort is simply to sort them by average rating, highest-first. In our usability tests, we find that many people, particularly those brand-new to BigOven, expect this sort order, so we’ve made it one click away (3).
However, we don’t think average-rating-descending is the best sort order for most situations.
Why not? Well, let’s say you’re looking for Apple Pie. For one thing, we think you’d first want your Apple Pie (the one your grandmother used to make) first on your list, regardless of what the star rating is, followed by all other Apple Pies. And then, we don’t think that an Apple Pie recipe that has, let’s say — just a single 5-star rating from one cook — deserves to sort higher than a recipe that averages 4.98/5 from 6,000+ cooks.
- So instead, BigOven uses a sophisticated sort-ordering system to try to present you the best and most relevant recipes for your query first. Among other things, BigOven will always first show you the recipes that you’ve added which meet your search terms first in any search result. So, if you’ve added a recipe for grilled chicken, your grilled chicken will sort above all other recipes. We also take into account the average review, the number of people giving it high marks, the presence of a photo, how many people want to try it, our editorial assessment of photo quality, the relevance to your keywords, and more. These rankings are changing all the time, which over time helps bring the cream to the top.
- You can change the default sort order, and refine your search further by clicking the “Refine or Sort” button (4) on the right hand side of the page. Doing this will open up an advanced search filter — just enter the terms you want to apply and press Update:
Looking for a recipe that you’ve added, or marked “Try”, saved to a Folder*, or made before? Rather than searching, you might want to head over to your “My Recipes” area, found by clicking the open book in the toolbar:
This is often the quickest way to find a recipe you’ve added, marked favorite, try soon, or made. On any of those sections, just click the appropriate folder and then start typing a keyword from the recipe title, as you’ll see in the brief video below:
Did you mean “Chicken Teriyaki”?
BigOven now offers suggestions for simple typos. For instance, if you type in “chicken terriyaki” [sic], BigOven.com will suggest the correct spelling, and give you a handy link to the corrected search term:
To our friends abroad — we use the generally accepted American spelling. (Sorry mates, we had to agree on a convention, and that’s where 70%+ of our cooks are… :-))
Learn More about Ingredients and Techniques at Bottom of Page
You’ll also find links to helpful articles at the bottom of the search page — so, for instance, your chicken teriyaki search includes links to articles on chicken (storage tips, freshness tips, what the various USDA Grades of chicken mean, etc.), as well as teriyaki sauce:
Bonus: Look for Related Cooking Tip at the Page Footer
We love learning and sharing cooking tips.
At the bottom of your search, you may find a tip related to ingredients in your search. In the case of our search for “chicken teriyaki,” BigOven shares the following tip about chicken:
“Tip: For crispy chicken skin, sprinkle salt over the chicken the day before you plan on cooking it. Leave the chicken uncovered on a plate in the fridge so the air and salt can draw out excess water.”
There you have it! A few explanatory bits about how BigOven recipe search works. Questions or comments? Leave them in the reply area, below. Happy cooking!
*Private recipes and recipe folders are a feature of BigOven Pro membership, which removes all ads and unlocks special features.